Sorry, but now that there's a chill in the evening air in New England, I can't help myself. As you can see, I can get pretty excited about skiing. That's me in 2005 upon reaching one of my dream ski destinations: Lake Louise, in Alberta, Canada. Like so many things we might dream about and plan extensively for, reality didn't quite measure up to my expectations, but I'll save that story for another post.
Anyway, the point I was going to make is that if you're planning to go skiing this winter, NOW is the time to start preparing your body for it. There's an old saying in the sport: You have to get in shape to ski, you can't ski yourself into shape. I've always been a firm believer in that.
Skiing is a dynamic sport that uses a lot of muscles throughout the body. Many people make the mistake of regarding it as primarily a leg sport, but think about the effort it takes to pole and skate your way along a flat surface to get to the chairlift, before you even start to ski. If you haven't been preparing your entire body, you're going to feel that in your shoulders, arms and back the next day.
And not to be grim, but I think preparation for skiing demands to be taken a little more seriously than, say, golf or bowling. People do sometimes die skiing. Fortunately, it doesn't happen often, despite what my non-skiing friends seem to think, but with its speed and obstacles and weather-related challenges, it is a higher-risk sport than most in which the weekend athlete typically participates.
"You have to get in shape to ski, you can't ski yourself into shape."
I like to keep risk in perspective, and I've always considered driving to work on I-95 a far riskier activity than skiing. In the 25 years that I've been skiing, I've suffered only three injuries that required medical attention — a sprained thumb, a broken rib and a concussion (in my pre-helmet days). I think that's a pretty good record considering the many hundreds of times I've skied, including participation in recreational races and race leagues. I've always made a pre-season ski-specific workout a priority, and I think it has served me well.
Getting in shape beforehand — for any sport, really – will help you avoid injury.
Ski magazine has some excellent suggestions to help you get ready for the slopes this winter, which you can find here. In case you're tempted to not even touch that link because you think it's going to be another one of those grueling regimens involving lunges, plyometric jumps and wall-sits, think again. No, this is FUN stuff that you can do outdoors, while it's still warm and sunny, such as trail running and mountain biking.
I've always been partial to mountain biking to help me prepare for the skiing season, and for the sheer joy of it even when I'm not thinking about skiing. Mountain biking may be done on two in-line wheels instead of two parallel boards, but the similarities with skiing in movement, balance and mindset are amazing.
So there's no reason for you occasional skiers to be mad at me for mentioning winter so early (the hard-core skiers will completely understand). Get out there and play this fall, whether on a mountain bike or in your sneakers.
Trust me — you'll have fun, and without even knowing it, your body and mind will be ready when those first flakes start to fall.