Be Fit to Ski

A Complete Guide to Alpine Skiing Fitness


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Readership Questions

Posted on November 15, 2018 at 2:25 PM

I'll do my best to answer the thoughtful questions asked by one of my readers.

1. Are you working on or considering on a Second Edition? You did a really good job of annotating the book and it would be nice to update it with the latest research. Maybe a project for 2020?

Be Fit to Ski: I considered a 2nd edition as soon as I had finished this book. However, completing this book took a tremendous amount of time, which I don't really have now. I have thought of other platforms to continue the work such as a phone app or handbook with QR codes for exercises. I'm also in the planning stages of a ski-fitness seminar for 2019 to be held in Pennsylvania, working with the owner of Nittany Custom Fitness.

2. What are your thoughts on proprioceptive training? I understand this is a hot topic for elite athletes in other sports. Are elite skiers training this way? What are your suggestions for proprioceptive training?

Be Fit to Ski: This is a great question and agreed, a hot topic not because it's controversial but because it's effective. I have seen footage of elite skiers and elite athletes using proprioceptive exercises to supplement other types of exercise. Let me explain what it is first before making any suggestions.

The body has many (!) sensory receptors, called proprioceptors, whose job it is to "sense" and coomunicate to the brain where our body is in space. Snesory receptors tell the brain when the ground is slippery or rocky or tilted. The messages travel to the brain which then sends electrical impulses to fire muscles with intent. Intent to avoid slipping or to engage in slipping. Intent to resist being pulled down a slope or to allow gravity to pull us. Through time and repetition, we develop an habitual way of reacting to the physical world around us and sometimes these habits are detrimental to the overall health of our joints. For instance, when landing a jump or flexing to pre-jump, many young athletes allow the knee to fall excessively to the inside rather than to make it track over the toes. Overtime, this becomes habit and at some point in time, the ligaments just can't suppport that torque and the ACL tears. Proprioceptive exercises done properly help to re-train the messsaging so that the muscles contract in ways that keep connective tissue intact. 

Suggestions for Proprioceptive Training: Yes, video is worth many words and there's a ton of free video on youtube. My recommendation is to improve balance on one foot; do anything on one foot. First establish the ability to stay in balance on each foot for 1 minute. I chose to use the Yoga Tree Pose for this. When you can do it for 1 minute, close your eyes and add on another minute. This is tough to do because we take in so much information from our vision. Once this is accomplished, add instability underfoot: Stand on a BOSU ball, hop, squat, make circles with the other leg, cook a meal on one foot. While you're doing this pay attention to form. Keep enough muscluar tension on the standing leg to prevent the ankle and knee from rolling inward. This is where the re-training happens. Studies have shown that those who have injured the ACL can prevent re-injury through the implementation of proprioceptive exercises. Personally speaking, when I tore up my ankle last summer from trail running, these types of exercises were crucial to getting back on the trail this summer and fall. Hope this helps! 

As always, keep it fun and you'll get fit.

Repost of Eccentric Strength

Posted on November 6, 2018 at 7:00 PM

I'm reposting this from a while back because it answers the primary question that people ask me. And that is, "I ride my bike all summer long so I'm in really good aerobic shape. Why do my legs burn when I go out and ski?"

One consistent finding from research on elite skiers is muscle activity in alpine skiing is dominated by eccentric contractions of the knee extensors and flexors (quads and hamstrings). To control the impact of the pending "landing", the muscles contract eccentrically, meaning they elongate under tension. If the quad muscles in the outside leg don’t contract eccentrically during the ski turn, we'd just crumple to the ground in a heap.

During the summer months I love to get on my road bike but I also know that the pedal stroke is primarily dependent on concentric rather than eccentric leg contractions. To train specifically for skiing, set aside some training time for building eccentric strength. It's not too late to add lunges and squats into your indoor routine.

During resistance training exercises, take 4-6 seconds on the lowering portion of the exercise be it squats, leg extensions, or hamstring pulls. Essentially you need to control the descent. Novice weight lifters should start with 50% of 1RM and experienced lifters can go as high as 80% 1RM. The same approach applies to body weight exercises like lunges or single leg squats.

See you on the hill!


Four for Four Challenge

Posted on September 26, 2015 at 12:05 AM

How about FOUR Challenges in FOUR Weeks?

Challenge #1- Push-Ups to test Upper Body Strength

Do as many push-ups in 1 minute. Record the number. Do the 1-minute Push-Up test 2x-3x /week for the next four weeks. Try to increase the number by at least 3.

Challenge #2- Plank Hold to test Core Strength

 Hold the plank position for as long as possible while maintaining form. Practice the plank 2x-3x/week for the next four weeks. Try to hold the position for 15 seconds more than in the 1st week.

Challenge #3- Squat Jump to test Anaerobic Power


Squat jump as many times consecutively as possible for 30 seconds. Do this 2x-3x/week and try to increase the number by at least 3.

Challenge #4- Tuck-Hold-Jump test for Leg Strength


Hold a tuck position for 30 seconds and then jump as high as possible. Repeast. Do as many as possible until you can't hold it for 30 seconds. Try this 2x-3x/week and increase the number by at least 2.

Sport Specific Training Session

Posted on August 27, 2015 at 5:05 PM

I set up a really fun session on my road (which is a dead end- no traffic). Using pieces of firewood for "gates" I set them up so I could sprint up the hill and then run "slalom" down the hill. I did that about 10 times.

Using a cinder block I jumped over as high as possible 10 times to start improving explosive power in my legs. I alternated this station with the next one.

This is a version of the plank where I hold the position for 15 seconds and then alternate lifting the opposite arm and leg. It's beneficial to switch from the exlposive jumps to holding still in the plank.

Thirst and Dehydration

Posted on August 7, 2015 at 3:50 PM

Thirst and Sodium

For most athletes, there’s no such thing as a low salt diet, especially if the training environment is hot and humid. Many endurance athletes know that hydration is the key to lasting performance however, without the necessary replacement of sodium and key electrolytes, what started out as a hard-core goal (long distance race), may end up with an emergency trip to the ER from a condition known as hyponatremia (seriously dangerous low levels of sodium).

Sodium is one of those teeny tiny particles that truly is necessary for life. Sodium is essential for muscular contraction, nerve transmission, and balancing the body’s pH. It’s the main ion (charged particle) used to maintain the volume of fluids and osmotic balance (amount of solutes in fluid) outside the cells. Fluids within the body are particular about their sodium content (135-145 mmol/L) and so the body does a miraculous job at making sure that the sodium concentration within bodily fluids remains constant. If you notice slight swelling of the hands and feet then chances are that there is too much sodium present and the body is trying to dilute it by storing extra water. Communicating via receptors, the brain sends messages to the kidneys to either retain or excrete fluids depending upon the sodium levels in bodily fluids. A slight change in plasma tonicity (2-3%) is enough to trigger the thirst response making us very sensitive to levels of sodium. If too much sodium is present, the thirst mechanism is activated until the athlete is adequately hydrated. Low levels of sodium will trigger the kidneys to excrete fluid. In extreme cases, too little sodium, which can happen when fluid replacement is in the form of straight water, can be fatal.

How much sodium should you ingest? This is the tricky part because the sodium concentration in all individuals is, well, individual. Also trained and heat aclimatized athletes can train themselves to reduce sodium losses. The ACSM and NATA* recommended amount, which is like something your grandmother would tell you, is to just replace what you lose in sweat. Easier said than done. One way to test yourself is to get a weight -lost amount: weigh yourself both before and after exercise (sans clothing). Each pound of weight lost is equal to a pound of sweat or 2 cups of fluid. Endurance events lasting 2 hours can result in can result in 1.6 g of sodium lost. For perspective, ¼ teaspoon of salt (1.4g) contains 480 mg of sodium.The recommendation for sodium concentration in fluid is 460 mg/L for endurance exercise and intense exercise lasting more than 2 hours. One 12 oz bottle of Powerade contains 150 mg of sodium. It’s possible that the sports drink of your choosing does not completely replace a sodium deficit. This is why eating salty, healthy snacks is also advisable.

Proper hydration is serious business for endurance athletes and athletes involved in high-intensity stop and go activity. It’s no wonder that in 2014, sales from sports drink in the U.S. totaled nearly 7.4 million dollars. With 46% of the worldwide share of the market and 69% of the U.S. market, Forbes values Gatorade at $4.8 billion. It’s also no wonder that on Gatorade’s Sports Science webpage they posted an article written by ACSM faculty stating that “Thirst has very little to do with [the] sort of daily fluid-in, fluid-out calculation… Even when we do experience thirst, the sensation is not well correlated with the body's fluid needs (Hubbard et al., 1984).“

These statements suggest that we need more fluid than our bodies are telling us we do, which would help Gatorade’s bottom line. This might make sense if our thirst mechanism was compromised or if our sweat rate was on the extremes of the sweat-loss spectrum.  If hyponatremia is said to be the most common metabolic disorder maybe we should rely more on the sensation of thirst to replenish lost fluid and sodium. The issue with relying on thirst alone to hydrate lies in the kind of beverage being consumed. Research has shown that dehydrated and hyperthermic subjects who drank very cold water (5-10°C) satisfied the physiological need to cool, but voluntarily stopped drinking because once the body began to cool the thirst mechanism stopped, leaving the subjects still dehydrated. Hydration was achieved when these subjects drank water that was about 16° C (60° F).

Because sport drinks are flavorful and contain a little sodium this makes them more palatable, and therefore we stay hydrated. Drinking just plain water, for many endurance and high-intensity sports leads one to stop drinking altogether. I have personally found this to be true. More research is showing the push to hydrate is placing folks with low sodium because they are drinking so much water relative to the sodium level. Consider this- many elite marathoners finish a race being nearly 8% dehydrated. Yes, they are trained but they also have all the facts and are still choosing to compete in this state. So, the bottom line? Establish sweat averages by weighing before and after workouts, and pay close attention to thirst sensations and what beverages alleviate the thirst. 

Key Points:


  • The Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) of sodium is 1500 mg for healthy, active young people < 51 years old and 1300 mg for people ages 51-70, and 1200 mg for folks over 71 years old. The DRI Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is 2300 mg.
  • As much as 5g of sodium can be lost in a high-intensity workout. Highly active people need to consume enough sodium to replace what gets lost through sweat.
  • For every 1% of body weight lost due to sweating, there is an increase in core temperature of 0.15° to 0.20° C.
  • When dehydrated, heart rate increases an additional 3-5 beats per 1% of body weight lost to sweating.
  • Drink moderately cold fluid rather than very cold fluid to rehydrate.
  • The sodium concentration of the replacement fluid should be 0.3 to 0.7 g/L. 
  • Drink 2-3 glasses of fluid up to 2 hours prior to the activity.
  • A person expending 2,000 kcal per day requires 2 liters of water.
  • One pound of weight lost from exercise equals 2 cups of fluid lost.



*American College of Sports Medicine and the National Athletic Trainers Association 

Week 7

Posted on July 7, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Last was pretty busy- as for training sessions, I increased the intensity levels on a couple of days and most definitely felt the consequence. I've changed my forward lunges to diagonal lunges- just enough to use different muscles. On another day I ran halfway up our local ski area, and ran down. The combined effect of these two changes lead me to think about delayed onset of muscle soreness or DOMS. Because that's what I experienced for two days afterward. Perhaps some folks out there have also felt this type of pain. 

So, what is DOMS? This type of muscular soreness occurs a day or two after the training session and is different from muscular fatigue that’s felt during or right after exercise. The cause of DOMS is thought to be from eccentric rather than concentric muscle action. During DOMS there is actual structural damage that occurs to the muscle. When this happens, enzymes flood the area and then issue an APB for help. The pain felt during DOMS may be caused by a subsequent inflammatory response from the injury coming from white blood cells flooding the injury site to repair the damage and help with muscle regeneration. In severe cases, the muscle fiber membrane ruptures, spilling out the cell’s contents. Yikes! This sounds really bad and may be debilitating but the outcome of such microscopic injury is a stronger and bigger muscle because the muscle cells not only repair themselves but also grow bigger and stronger.

Week 5

Posted on June 24, 2015 at 8:00 PM

This week marks the beginning of the 2nd macrocycle. That’s a four-week block where workouts become more ski-specific rather than general fitness oriented. For aerobic workouts start to integrate 60-120 seconds of high-intensity blasts. For strength, increase intensity to 60% to 95% of your maximum (depending on your baseline fitness level). My approach to this macrocycle is part step-loading and part-flat-loading: This week’s overall training load (OTL) target is 70% but the 2 weeks after are 80% OTL and the final week of this macrocycle dips back down to 70% in order to prepare for macrocycle #3 when things really start to heat up.

Week 1

Posted on May 27, 2015 at 7:40 AM

So the start of the training year has officially begun. In additon to spending time on my bike, I've added some FUNctional strength exercises and took a creative approach to doing sets. I decided that I'd do my individual exercises in a top-down approach. Meaning, I started with upper body, then went to core, and then the legs. The exercises included using the medicine ball for upper body twist, down to plank and plank with punching, then squats and lunges.  One minute AMAP sit-ups (as many as possible) was added to the end of each set. Repeat and rinse 3 x. It was fun! The timed sit-ups will be part of the testing done at the end of the week to get a baseline for the year. And as always, I continue doing PT exercises for my back and hips.

The whole idea of this book is to be able to make intelligent decisions for your own training based on industry standards. That being said, I personally don't like to follow the same routine but I do know that for the next few weeks or so, I need to build up my strength. By staying withing the 50%-60% intensity level small but steady gains will be made without injurying myself.

Chop Chop, time to go!

Week 51

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 12:10 AM

We're still in the stages of recovery from the season. Focus on building back an aerobic base as well as improving core strength. Spend 3-5 days doing cardio for at least 30 minutes. This also happends to be the recommendation for cardiovascular health. In addition to the cardio, spend time strengtheing the hip flexors and stretching them out. Spending 8 hours a day in ski boots places the hips in a relatively fixed flexed state, which can ultiately lead to weakness. And we can't have that!

Week 50

Posted on May 8, 2015 at 7:50 AM

Just back from the beach so it's time to get started on the Postseason phase of training. This week and the next 2 weeks (Macrocyle 14)  will be about continuing to recover from the long season and slowly building back an aerobic power base. The weather has been too nice for training indoors so running and biking will be the theme for me.