Want to race up those hills and pound down like your heart is pumping gorilla blood? You can do yoga till your tendons scream like wounded eels, or thrust weight stacks like you just jacked a squirt of Durabolin. But if you really truly want to fly though the mountains it is cardio that powers your wings.
We humans love to complicate things. Own a quiver of skis instead of two pair. Research goggle lenses till every one you see on the hill is better than yours. Buy fancy heartrate monitors and extended gym memberships.
But you know(personal trainers groan in unison) that you don’t need the complicated, the fancy, the gimmicks. All is quite simple. Do something nearly every day of the week that raises your heart rate noticeably, for an hour or more. Along with that, do a few moderate core strength floor exercises and stretches three or four days a week. If you combine that stuff with going skiing once in a while (one or two days a week at the least), you’ll feel great.
Extending above, you can satisfy your inner geek by figuring out your target heart rate, and keeping an exercise journal recording your heart speeds (resting, exercise) That’s how I got fit for the big Denali trip we did in 2010. I lost some of that cardio during the long drive up to AK, but my base was still good and got me up the peak and back home alive.
What if you live where you can’t ski? While only a few of you might admit to that shameful existence, I know you’re out there.
In the land of noski (or during summer), you’ll have to add a few things that mimic skiing (both up and down). First, don’t be shy about using a workout vid such as the one we reviewed recently. But you need more cardio than that for backcountry skiing fitness, and you don’t want to do the intense strength training more than three days a week or so. Instead, for the climb, rig up something like a Nordic Track, treadmill set to an angle or a Stairmaster (yeah, perhaps at the gym, but you can find those things used and set up at home). Training for the down is tougher. For that, I recommend a combo of rollerblading, cycling, and a small but consistent amount of weight work for the legs. In the latter case, don’t neglect the ultimate in ski training exercises, the wall sit. Enhance with an exercise ball behind you and your feet on a balance board.
One other thing. Sorry to bring up the sore subject of diet, but body weight is key to how you do in most human powered sports (including backcountry skiing). Unless you’re performing major carb burns nearly every day, watch that caloric consumption (including the brews). If you need to cut consumption, one thing that works well is bulking out snacks and meals with lower calorie stuff like salads. Eating a good breakfast and lunch but a minimal dinner is an effective technique as well.
Any other tips you guys?