With the first snow already on the ground and winter in full swing, the rush for pre-season ski conditioning is on. But in the Flathead we’re blessed with a wide variety of outdoor snow sports, many of which you may not consider a workout until you’re sore the next day.
Snowmobiling is one sport that creeps up on you with muscle fatigue and soreness. A few moves added into your regular fitness regime can help build strength and endurance needed for muscling around a heavy piece of equipment, staying strong and stable on the ups, downs, twists and turns of the ride, and just the endurance of the extreme weather and movements. Not to mention, the cardiovascular endurance and muscle stamina needed when you’re hiking up the mountain to dig your buddy out.
Core, upper body and hip stability are big factors in your ability to manhandle a heavy piece of equipment through and across some beautifully rugged terrain. Added in to your regular workout, these basic exercises will help prepare the body for a season of fun on your sled.
SWISS BALL STABILITY PUSH-UP: Pushing and pulling are essential exercises, especially when it comes to muscling a sled through snow and at high speeds. Adding in push-ups on the stability ball not only strengthens the core muscles with a static hold, but also builds the chest and small stabilizer muscles in the arms and legs as you work to maintain form.
HOW TO: Use a large Swiss Ball for a push-up with your hands directly underneath your shoulders, before stepping back into a strong plank position. With fingers spread wide to help grip the ball, keep your body tight and in a straight line before lowering your chest to the ball. Exhale on the way back up. Make sure you keep your legs and core engaged and your chest between your hands, not behind them or in front of them, elbows moving slightly back toward the body, versus straight out to the side. Do between 8-12 reps.
TO MAKE IT EASIER: Place the ball up against a wall or in a corner.
SWISS BALL UP DOWNS: Another great exercise for building strength in the upper body and shoulders, while working the core stability, is up downs.
HOW TO: This time the ball goes against the wall and you come into plank position on your hands on the ball. Then lower onto the elbow of the left hand followed by the elbow of the right. Now, keeping your core tight and your body strong, come back up. That’s one rep; do 12-15.
TO MAKE THIS EASIER: Modify by dropping to your knees.
MEDICINE BALL MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS: These teach core and hip stability. The sled is always moving and not always in the same direction. The core and legs have to be able to stabilize the upper body while you maneuver the sled, and vice versa. The medicine ball adds instability to the upper body, but the movement of the legs teaches the hips to stay strong, tight and mobile, so you can hold on and handle the sled while it’s flying through the air.
HOW TO: Using a small medicine ball, bring your hands to either side of it as close together as possible. Keeping your shoulders over your wrists and your hips low, engage the core and drive the right knee forward toward the chest, then back, following with the left; that’s one rep. Do 25 reps.
MEDICINE BALL JUMP SQUAT: This adds explosive power in the legs needed to help ride the jumps, bumps, twists and turns of whichever route you may be on. Leg strength and power will help you manipulate the sled, keep you strong, and also enable you to hike more easily through the snow up the mountain to your riding partners who may or may not be slightly stuck.
HOW TO: Taking a four- to eight-pound medicine ball between your hands, squat down, keeping your chest high (you should be able to see your chest if you’re in front of a mirror) – reach the ball toward the floor only if you can keep your chest high. Then, explosively jump upward, extending the medicine ball overhead. When you land, squat until your elbows hit your thighs and quickly shoot back upward. Do 15 reps.
TO MAKE IT EASIER: Don’t jump; just lift onto your toes.
Whether you’re a weekend warrior, just playing in the snow for the fun, or a competitive rider, a little preemptive work before and during your winter season will help keep your body strong and able to shift and adjust with the constant changing conditions of being on a sled on the side of a mountain or up in the trees.
Jenna is a trainer and competitive physique athlete with a passion for yoga. She can usually be found at Flathead Health and Fitness in Kalispell helping others reach their health goals either in class or through one-on-one sessions. She also offers personal training. Contact her at www.innerpowertraining.com.