By Sylvia Karcz, Contributing Blogger
You may be thinking that summer isn't even technically over, and the winter days of fresh powder are still a long, unpredictable road ahead. But we’ve seen this amongst our peers before, and before you know it, you could be that person who ends up sitting out an epic chute on the mountain or turning back early on a burly 15-mile trail because, whoops, you’re not quite as in shape as you thought and the leg-burn has overcome you. So trust us when we stress that strength and endurance do not build overnight, and right now- like, stop reading this and give us twenty jumping pushups!- is exactly when you should start putting together a training program for whatever winter pastimes fire you up.
No matter if you're stoked on ice climbing, cross-country skiing, black diamond runs at resorts or split-boarding in the backcountry, or, find your groove snowshoeing and on multi-day backpacking trips in the snow, here are a few of our favorite ways to start getting your body and mind ready for an active winter outdoors. The stronger you are, after all, the stronger -and longer- you'll adventure.
It makes sense that most winter sport fanatics incorporate mountain biking and road cycling into their pre-season training regimen; you’re making moves on hills and mountains all the same, just with a slightly different set of equipment. Being on a bike for longer periods is one of the best ways to get your quadriceps in shape- and all leg power, for that matter- in preparation for full days on the mountain, and skiers and snowboarders in particular will attest that it’s one of the best cross-training endurance activities you can commit to before the first snowfall. Cycling is not only a solid total-body workout and cardiovascular grind that builds stamina, but it also helps with focus, coordination and challenges your brain to navigate through multifaceted terrain and any unforeseen obstacles within it.
Some winter athletes practice yoga for breathwork and increasing lung capacity, while others find the greatest benefits are reaped by toning muscles with longer poses and softening notoriously tight areas of the body like hips and shoulders, which really need to be on the top of their game for most snow sports and pastimes. No matter what your style and motivation are, having a consistent yoga practice makes you more flexible, gets you in tune with all the finer movements of your frame, and provides balance and clarity, both in body and mind.
Burpees are the exercise you love to hate, but if you nail down the form- it does take some time to perfect, so if something feels off, watch a tutorial!- and keep them consistent in your winter sport workout routine, we promise you’ll see results that transfer into the snowy outdoors. It’s a full-body calisthenics experience and works wonders by not only toning your thighs and shoulders and glutes, but it helps your balance and loosens up muscles that have calcified a bit. If you do enough of them, they turn into a comprehensive aerobic exercise, too.
Everyone from snowboarders to snowshoers to Nordic skiers will find that even if you just spend a few hours at your local rock gym or crag each week, you’ll feel nearly every area of your body activated, from your forearms and shoulders to your calves and lower back- not to mention supplemental muscle groups you probably forgot you even had! Rock climbing greatly helps in decision making and critical thinking as well, since chances are, you’ll be stimulating those neurons trying to figure out your next hold in mere seconds, or contemplating the risk-reward balance of new routes and power moves- which especially comes in handy for those who plan on venturing out into higher-risk backcountry terrain during the winter season.
A strong, stable core is essential to any high-performance wintertime activity, and some even go as far as to say that all strength begins with those very muscles. Athletes with strong cores often have fewer injuries, better postures, and healthier spines, all of which are critical to nearly every winter sport from downhill skiing to high-speed ice skating. Not to mention that a solid core often means a solid diaphragm, which in turn, can aid in better breathing techniques while exerting yourself in the snow. A few of our favorite core exercises are the 8-point-plank, side plank, the Superman hold, or any of the many variations of the boat pose.