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Train for ski season while you’re stuck inside!

private backcountry ski guiding in lake tahoe with professional mountain guides
Written by Matthew Beals

Behind every #influencer summit selfie, there’s a journey filled with thoughtful moments assessing risks and hazards, steep leg-and-lung-crushing approaches, and occasionally, some unforeseen challenges. We find ourselves at the receiving end of one of the hard lessons the mountains teach us: sometimes things don’t work out the way we envisioned. “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” to quote the great Mr. Tyson.

As we face another unprecedented California fire season, there is a tangible feeling of loss for the homes and forests in the path of the fire, and on a smaller scale the personal loss for the adventures, vacations, and time outdoors that is impacted by smoke from these fires. This whole Delta Variant thing isn’t great either. And then there’s the opportunity to pivot. Winter will come, fires will die down, and there is always a way forward. Sometimes it just takes some imagination.

So let’s talk about how we can keep moving towards all those future adventures, and, specifically, how to get ready for a Winter of skiing and snowboarding.


Big Picture

To be ready for an epic Winter, you will need strong legs. Modern research in strength training tells us there are many ways to do this, but to be effective at any of them, you have to work hard. Whatever exercises you choose, be prepared to feel the burn. Research also shows that we need about 24 sessions to see significant change, and the bare minimum to make progress is one workout per week. At that rate you’ll be training for next Winter, so get out your day planner and pencil in 3 or 4 time slots to train each week. If you overplan a little, you can miss a session once in a while without losing overall momentum.

Your strength training session should be about 45-60 minutes from start to finish. It might seem short, but longer sessions increase the levels of hormones that break down muscle. This applies to all your non-strength training as well: long sessions of arduous cardio will muffle the results of your strength work. Slow your roll or shorten your runs, at least temporarily.

And it should go without saying — trying to gain muscle while dieting to lose weight mixes about as well as tequila and red wine. Just don’t do it. But you don’t have to go bear-mode either; eat when you’re hungry, and follow the Golden Rule of Adult Eating: “more vegetables, less beer.”


Okay! So what do I do?

Show up at the gym in your most stylish kicks and your favorite mask (if your region requires it), and get ready to get pumped.


5 mins any cardio

Get your blood moving and heart rate elevated. Jumping rope is amazing — 5 minutes a day has been shown to be very effective at preventing lower leg injuries (sprained ankle, etc). Mark Wahlberg does it so it must be good.


10 mins dynamic warmup

Impersonate your favorite action hero stunt sequence: roll, kick, swing, jump, holler. Other gym goers should be thoroughly intimidated by the time you are done. Skip the static stretches for now.


The Big One

Squat or Deadlift (alternate each day), whether it’s with a barbell or some machine based equivalent, and heavy enough to really vex those people over at OSHA. Heavy enough that a set of 5 leaves you a little wobbly, but you can still finish safely and in control. Do some abs, catch your breath, and repeat until you’ve done 3-5 sets. Don’t look at your phone between sets — I know you! Breath deep and visualize epic powder runs.


The Other Stuff

Finish off with a mishmash circuit of unilateral and plyometric movements. Huh? Lunges, curtsy lunges, side lunges, split squats, pistol squats, shrimp squats, lateral bounding, box jumps, hip thrust, kettlebell swings, abs, abs, more abs, any kind of abs. Throw in some curls and pushups if you’re single. It’s all good, just pick 4 or 5 movements and keep moving, without blowing a gasket, for 15-20 minutes. Slow, steady, quality.



Now you can stretch. Put away your gear, right back where you found it. Seriously, nobody likes a messy weightroom. Salute the front desk attendant with your choice of hang loose, devil horns, or phantom high-five (if you’re old). Go home, eat something that grew out of the ground, and drink one less beer than usual. Skip Netflix and go to bed early. Dream sweet dreams knowing that all your hard work will make this Winter extra rad.

As always, consult with your primary care provider before starting any exercise program. It’s also not a bad idea to book a couple of sessions with a personal trainer at your gym.

Stay safe & work hard!