It's already the beginning of October. Summer stuff is safely being stored away and anticipation for the winter is building. The first snow has already fallen in the Alps and many high altitude glacier resorts are now opening. Within a few weeks the ski shows will have rolled into the UK's major cities and rolled out again. It's hard not to love this time of year if you're a skier or boarder!
Many of you may be taking your first 2010-2011 ski holiday in a matter of weeks, and many more will be watching weather reports, looking out for availability and planning when to take your ski and snowboard trips.
We thought it would be a good idea to ask our Ski Gurus what kind of wintersports preparation people could be doing right now.
Q: What type of physical preparation should people be doing?
Roddy Willis, Alpine Mojo:
If you are leading an active life and doing regular exercise (3-4 one hour sessions a week) and you are not planning on heading to the Olympics next winter then you you should be fit enough for your holiday skiing. However if you are expecting to perform like an Olympian on your next ski holiday but have a training regime consisting of ‘two pints of lager and a packet of crisps PLEASE’… then you should look to start your pre ski fitness program 6 – 8 weeks minimum before heading out to the mountains.
You could head to your local gym and treat yourself to a personal trainer for a couple of hours, he or she will help you with a personally designed fitness program leading up to your holiday.
Simon Halliwell, All Mountain Performance:
Running is great as an aerobic exerciser. Cycling is also good. Do some hills with interval training too if you can. Even regular brisk walking is something you can do which costs nothing.
If you're not already exercising regularly then improving your aerobic fitness is a start - a session or two with a trainer would help you set realistic goals for yourself and give you something to work towards.
If you can get to the gym it'd be good to work the quads, ham-strings and glutes in particular, and to strengthen up the knee joints too. If you don't know what you're doing though always seek advice from a professional.
Q: What about beginners – do they need to be doing something in particular?
Beginners need no real specific fitness skills – if you have sat in an office chair for the last 51 weeks then it might be a good idea to do some exercise before heading out to the mountains! Maybe start with walking or cycling for 30 minutes everyday for 4-6 weeks before your trip.
It is amazing how many people new to skiing turn up at their 1st lesson, having arrived late in the resort the night before and then headed out for a few too many glasses of the finest local brew, a little out of shape, and then expect their bodies to perform! Yes it is very tempting and fun to start the après ski party before the skiing has even started but it is not the best way to start your love affair with skiing! And it will be a love affair!
Without some muscle tone before, you could be aching for some time afterwards.
Q: What about balance exercises? Will this be useful for ski preparation? Eg using a fit ball, wobble board, cool board?
But ultimately skiing and snowboarding are about balancing on a small amount of metal edge whilst travelling at speed over unpredictable terrain.
So all off snow exercise that increases your ability to balance are great and will help your technique on and off the piste!
Q: Does core strength come into the equation?
Very important. A lot of people don't even know this exists. Core strength means that the small "hidden" muscles are also strong, which means they will better be able to support the bigger muscle groups in thighs, calves, buttocks etc. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so if there is a big imbalance between muscles the weaker ones will suffer.
Pilates and Yoga are good for this! Getting good instruction in Pilates or Yoga means you can practice easily at home. These kinds of activities will also improve flexibility.
Q: What about stretching - post workout stuff? Is this important?
When we exercise we use our muscles – muscles work by contracting (shortening). If you spend the day using muscles you are constantly asking them to get shorter and at the end of the day they will tell you that they are shorter! However without stretching, your muscles will decide to stay short because you asked them to do that didn’t you!
So at the end of the day take control of your muscles and stretch them out and let them relax they deserve a rest!
I try to warm up again when I get home after skiing in order to do some stretching every night to avoid injuries. Don't stretch muscles cold - they need to be warm, so if you've spent the last 2 hours on apres ski a swift walk back to your chalet could help getting them warm again.
Food for thought! The important thing to remember is that skiing and snowboarding are physical activities performed at altitude. It's going to pose some physical challenges to your body if it's not used to it. You don't have to have tri-athlete fitness, but if your's is a sedentary lifestyle getting out and getting moving will increase your enjoyment and you'll certainly feel better for it!