Indoor Workouts for Your Outdoor Adventures

It’s easy to justify pre-season dry land training, but once the snow falls, muscle groups that don’t involve handling moguls or placing an ice ax might as well hang back until spring. For alpine skiers, that means hamstrings and glutes get weak; telemarkers, ankles and knees; and ice climbers, one trainer points out, are generally stiff as boards. The repetitive motions of your favorite sport will lead to overuse injuries and tightness in all the wrong places—and that could end your winter season before it’s over. So, go further, ski faster and last longer with five ways to use indoor workouts to keep all of your muscle groups toned.

The Gym

Focusing on only one sport means that your go-to muscles are overtrained and the rest are too weak to support them properly, says Angela Muzic, certified personal trainer and winter sports conditioning coach at The Vitality Center at Vail Mountain Lodge. The most popular winter activities like skiing and snowboarding use muscles on the front side of your body, and if powerful quads aren’t counterbalanced with strong glutes and hamstrings, knees have a higher risk of hyperextension and as a result, ACL issues.

A gym membership gives athletes a smorgasbord of options to improve muscle efficiency and activation though lifting, TRX training, cardio or strength classes, and more. It’s the best bang for your buck, and even if you don’t have a personal trainer, there’s a good chance they’ll be on the floor and willing to correct your poor form. The gym can also be a community center for other outdoor enthusiasts willing to be your lifting buddy one day and lift mate the next.

Personal Trainer

Even though she’s a professional trainer, Muzic works with a personal trainer of her own twice a week. “Like all of my clients, I need feedback from someone else,” says Muzic. “The average person can’t see their own weaknesses. We all have different bones, muscle density and history of injuries. You need an outsider who can break all of that down for you.”

Besides the one-on-one attention, a personal trainer will create progressive routines that allow you to continue gaining strength and endurance. Perhaps more importantly, a personal trainer keeps you accountable—a big benefit when it’s snowing and willpower to stay indoors is waning.

Yoga

There are few outdoor enthusiasts unacquainted with the mind/body benefits of yoga, but the over 5,000-year-old discipline becomes even more important with the days you log on snow and ice. Without stabilizing muscles working together, you’re more at risk for injury and getting stuck below your athletic potential. And without the flexibility to allow those stabilizing muscles to move, you’re toast. Yoga works on 360-degree flexibility and balance.

Besides the activation in opposing muscles, you’ll have focus others don’t, says Babsi Glanzig, international yoga instructor, free skier and 2013 USA Powder 8 champion. Glanzig teaches Ashtanga, a form of yoga that focuses on breath more than others. The increased awareness of it keeps athletes in perilous situations from freaking out, she says. “When people get nervous, they begin to breathe shallow and not enough oxygen gets to their brain to make good decisions. With focused breathing, a couple of deep breaths will calm your mind so that you can think clearly.”

Pilates

The basic tenet of Pilates is movement with resistance. It goes beyond the scope of yoga and adds in the reformer—a device that looks torturous, but in fact uses a system of pulleys and springs to strengthen the most power center of the body: abs, glutes, low back and hips. The eccentric workout lengthens and stretches muscles, creating a flexibility that enhances muscle reaction time. Besides the muscles, Pilates will also improve your spine alignment.

“People don’t know when they have twisted vertebrae because there’s no pain associated with it,” says Muzic. “But because the brain sends signals to the nervous system via the spinal cord, when the spine is misaligned, the athlete is unable to recruit muscles efficiently.” A clearer signal means better muscle recruitment for quick turns or catches, and a tremendous ability for counterbalance.

CrossFit

The fastest growing strength-and-conditioning workout is popular because it does away with machines and instead focuses on functional fitness. The fast-paced, short classes are intense and meant to push limits. The 20-minute workouts rapidly build strength, agility and power while evening out imbalances and weakness. It’s an especially effective workout for power sports like ski racing. In fact, Stratton Mountain School in Vermont—a school that has pumped out several Olympians and U.S. Ski Team members—has made the popular discipline part of its curriculum.

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