Dec 10 2012 / Chemmy Alcott

How I prepare for the slopes

So it’s finally December and it’s snowing in Europe, which means you ski fantatics will be counting down the days until you will be ripping turns on the white stuff. If you haven’t realised by now, sorry to burst your blissful ‘eat all you can eat, it’s Christmas’ bubble but you need to get in some sort of shape. This isn’t just me being a pushy ski dictator it really is me trying to help you get the most out of your upcoming holiday.

There are so many daunting and scary ski injury stats out there (sadly a lot of which push people away from even trying this fabulous sport.) And yes, like my accident a few years ago, sometimes injuries just happen regardless of how well you have prepared but MOST of the time they are avoidable.

Skiing is a gravity sport and if you stand there and point your skis down hill you can kinda just go with the flow. But, then racers and leisure skiers alike need to be able to handle some big G forces, the altitude, the permanent squat position, the power needed to flex the ski to carve, the need to suddenly dodge other mountain goers, the list can go on and on. Whether you realise it or not as you zip down the slopes, skiing is a very technical sport.

Monarch ski brand ambassador Chemmy Alcott at Lake Louise 2012

Most people spend their year working their butt off so that they can afford to go on that yearly ski holiday. So why not do a little preparation every day for a few weeks prior to your trip so that instead of the usual first day burn out, you can ski longer and harder every day and get more snowy miles for your buck?

It is easy for me to say. I mean, on the days I ski I still have hours of downtime in between physio and video where I can easily fit in a weight lifting session, a bike interval, a recovery and core session!

The below programme isn’t exactly what I do (I need to keep some trade secrets secret!) and I’m not recommending you follow this as my needs as a professional skier are likely very different from most of yours. Just thought you might find it interesting to see what’s involved!

Off Season

Mid April til the end of the month
My yearly 2 week holiday (normally me and Dougie are chasing the waves with Miss Julia Mancuso somewhere!)

May 1st – mid June – Aerobic base
During this 6 week period is the main building blocks for our aerobic training through the year. Many people underestimate a skier’s need to be aerobically fit. Of course people know about squat training and other strength work but tend to forget that spending almost 6 months day-in-day-out at altitude means your cardiovascular efficiency needs to be right up there. During this period your gains really are measured in how many hours daily you put in on your bike! We mostly use cycling since it builds up your quads and VMOs (these help protect against the dreaded ACL injuries!) But also I sometimes use the cross trainer or roller blading with poles. Giving the body time away from heavy weights means I tend to get lean and flexible during this period.

Mid June – Oct
This is obviously the main bulk of summer. Having said that end of July normally entails long ski camps on either the European Glaciers or down in the Southern Hemisphere. But although we are skiing there is a big emphasis on strength gains. Lifting during this period will start with lighter weights and more repetitions three times a week till the end of October when I’m doing single reps of ridiculously heavy weights (normally pushing the 120kg mark). During this time there is a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the gym which we all secretly love! The days in between (for me Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – Sunday is off) are normally spent doing bike intervals, recovery and pilates with one session of ‘free sport’ added.

On Season

From October to April skiing and racing is obviously the focus but we still have to (at least maintain) build on our fitness to make sure we peak at the right races. We have a four day standard rotation that goes like this:

  • Recovery 40 mins low heart rate on bike, stretch
  • Pilates-based movement, recovery spin
  • Games
  • Lifting session

Then every night before a race we have our own individual pre-race lift which is basically to wake up the muscles and for toning. I want to tell you all more but this is as in depth as I get since somethings have to remain a secret from the rest of the World Cup girls!!!!

Tips for your own training

Like I say, you don’t need to commit to such a strenuous training regime as professional skiers do. However, there are some warm up tips and fitness exercises on the J2Ski.com site which you might find handy. Let me know what you think and tell me what works for you in the comments.

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About the Author: Chemmy Alcott

Number one British woman skier, Chemmy Alcott, is the the brand ambassador for Monarch's new ski routes which launch winter 2012. Chemmy is making her return to the slopes following an accident in Canada whilst practicing for the World Cup event in 2010. She is currently training for the forthcoming World Championships in Schladming.

1 Comment + Add Comment

  • Awesome post Chemmy! I’ve been interested to follow some of your pre-season training through Twitter, and have to say that part of my wanting to lose weight & get fit this year was because my Jan 2012 ski trip was fun, but I became convinced it could’ve been better if I’d been in better shape. I’ve never trained before going on a ski trip, but in the past I was skiing on a regular basis at my local dry slope & racing with my school (which shows how long ago it was lol).

    For the last 4 months I’ve been losing weight, getting toned & doing strength training – along with regular Spin sessions – and I really feel so much fitter and healthier and am convinced that this is going to be my best trip ever! I picked up a knee problem in my school racing days which I’ve never shifted, and yet now, through specific training, I feel that I’m getting stronger and that the knee is going to be less of a problem. So I’d wholeheartedly agree that training and getting into shape before you go is a really good idea :)

    Thanks for being such an inspiration, seeing you come back from your injury has convinced me I can overcome my minor issue!

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