TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Winter’s coming and, with that, the myriad of classes and regiments to “get us ready for ski season.” The choices can be daunting, and picking the best one for you can be difficult. Rather than jumping at the first one you see, do a little analysis first.
What are your goals for winter? Do you want to ski in-bounds terrain all day buzzer to buzzer? Are you looking to ski leisurely on Sunday and be pain free at your desk on Monday? Or are you just trying to shovel the berm without hospitalization?
While many of the training principles are the same, it is important to know the end results you seek and where your priorities lie.
Once your goals are established, evaluate your current fitness. What were your summer activities? Someone who has mountain biked all summer will have different strengths and weaknesses from someone who has paddled.
Are you strong but stiff, or weak but flexible?
While there are many ways to categorize, to make it simple I break up physical health into four basic categories: strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity and coordination. Not everyone needs equal training in all these areas.
Finding the balance that elevates your fitness and allows you to reach your winter goals is key.
While all of these areas are integrated, two are especially intertwined: strength and coordination. Strength is not just about going to the gym and putting up weight. Establishing the correct patterns and strengthening the right muscles is key. Faulty patterns will not correct on their own.
In many cases, proper strength is more about challenging the small stabilizer muscles than it is about the big ones that often get the most focus.
Working with a health professional can evaluate these patterns and make sure you are working smart, not just hard.
Just as important as strength is flexibility. Yoga is a great choice for improving this. When choosing a type of yoga, again, keep in mind your current abilities. For people with good movement patterns and decent flexibility, faster, more strength-oriented classes such as Vinyasa flow are a good choice.
For those with current injuries and those with limited flexibility, a slower, more gentle type may be more appropriate.
Any quality studio will be happy to discuss what classes are most appropriate for you.
Cardiovascular fitness has different focuses as well. Do you need sustained, moderate level exertion for snowshoeing, or short, intensive burst cardio for aggressive downhill skiing? You will want to train differently for these different requirements.
Good self-assessment and a clear understanding of one’s goals can help you make smart decisions and effective usage of your time and money. For those without as much insight, professional help may be necessary to evaluate current strengths and weaknesses and create a balanced and effective plan.
Dr. Spencer Cruttenden is a chiropractic physician and certified strength and conditioning specialist, Elemental Back & Body, www.elementalbodies.com.