I have two words for you… La Niña. In terms of weather, it typically means cold and wet for the Pacific Northwest. For those of us who love to get outside in the winter months, it can mean lots of snow. Good news! La Niña is supposed to be back again this year.
To enjoy that snow – whether that means downhill or Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, or something else – you will want to be physically prepared. Whatever your winter activity, an aerobic base is a vital component. When you are fatigued, injury is more likely, and you don’t want to be sidelined when it’s dumping snow! If you can get your aerobic work done in a way that simulates the activity you want to do, that is a bonus. For example, if you enjoy cross-country skiing, an elliptical machine will more closely approximate your winter activity than a stationary bike. Whatever activity you pick, you will want to work at 60-80% of your target heartrate for at least 30 minutes.
Lower body and core strength are also keys to performance and avoidance of injury. The activity you choose will determine what you will want to focus on. For example, if you ski downhill, your emphasis will be on your quadriceps. Maintaining soft knees while absorbing the forces of changing terrain and gravity are essential and your quads are the key. If you are a Nordic skier, the quads will be active during downhill portions, but your hip extensors (hamstrings and gluts) are essential during the rhythmic motion of either traditional or skate skiing. No matter what, you need a strong core. A wise instructor of mine once said, “You can’t fire a cannon from a rowboat.” Basically, you can have strong legs, but if your core isn’t strong, the extremity strength can’t really be utilized.
Here are several exercises that combine challenges for both the core and the legs. These exercises can be modified to increase or decrease the challenge. Enjoy yourself this year…who knows when La Niña will be back.
Squats are great for developing quad strength. In this version they are done while standing on a ball. The ball provides an unstable surface, which encourages the core to activate. The difficulty level can be increased by adding weight (e.g. holding a kettle bell overhead) or decreased by standing on a BOSU or a stable surface to start. Emphasize the lowering part of the movement – this is where the quads are most active. You can also hold the squat position.
Complete 1-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions every other day.
Anchor a rubber tube (if you tie a knot on one end, you can put this between the door and doorjamb to secure it). Stand parallel to the anchor point in a split stance – one foot forward and one back. The leg farthest from the anchor point should be forward and bent. Extend your arms out in front of you and rotate your arms away from the anchor point. Return your arms to the starting position and repeat. This should be a controlled motion and only your trunk (waist up) should rotate – your hips and legs should stay still.
Complete 1-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions per side every other day.
Anchor a rubber tube (if you tie a knot on one end you can put this between the door and doorjamb to secure it). Stand parallel to the anchor point with your outside foot (the foot farthest away) on a furniture slide (a plastic plate or anything that slides easily will work). Extend your arms in front of you and hold. With a slow/controlled motion, slide your outside foot out to the side and then back to the starting position. Keep your trunk neutral (don’t allow rotation and stay upright).
Complete 1-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions per leg every other day.