As an alpine skier, you may be asking yourself why focusing on aerobic capacity is pertinent to a sport that requires between one and two minutes of all-out effort. The answer lies in the fact that training yourself to have a powerful engine will give you the ability to ski a greater volume of quality runs day in and day out.

 In the summer, focusing on aerobic conditioning like running, biking, and hiking challenges your body’s ability to better take up and use oxygen to fuel exercise.

Although endurance training doesn’t seem like the intuitive thing to do to train for skiing – in fact, it may seem more akin to what our cross-country brethren might be working on this summer -the changes happening inside your body are the following:

  1. As your heart gets stronger it can pump more blood and carry more oxygen to working muscles. This means more fuel for your muscles and increased output with aerobic efforts.
  2. Aerobic training helps the growth of tiny new blood vessels (called capillaries) within the muscles, which results in faster delivery of oxygen and faster removal of fatigue-causing waste products. In other words, your body becomes more efficient.
  3. As you hammer the lungs, you also increase cells (called mitochondria) within the muscles that convert oxygen to energy while also minimizing the amount of fatigue-causing waste products that are produced.

In other words, these adaptations will result in an improved ability to ski at higher intensities. You’ll also be able to recover faster between runs. This means you’ll be able to push harder during the actual run, and by the time you get up the lift and back to the start, you’ll be fully recovered and able to ski again at the same intensity. Being able to ski repeated high-quality efforts will create positive change in your skiing.

A weekly off-season conditioning schedule might look like this:

Click photo to see full-size graphic.

During the off-season, perform these aerobic conditioning sessions 4-5 times per week alternating between high, medium, and low-intensity sessions. Two days per week should be complete rest.

While running, hiking and cross-country skiing are great options for conditioning, biking is the preferred method. The effort of biking is directed all to the legs – your skiing muscles. Also, the low impact of biking is easier to recover from than running and therefore has less of an interference with your gym training.

Work up to 4-6 hours of aerobic conditioning per week. After 2-3 months of consistent training, you will see tangible results in your ski performance. Double-sessions, triple-sessions, 5-days on-snow, 6-days on-snow – no problem! Your heart, capillaries, and mitochondria will be there to take your skiing to the next level.

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Alex Bunt
- Alex is a High Performance consultant for Red Bull and the private trainer for Olympic Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn. Prior to working with Red Bull and Lindsey, Alex was in charge of strength and conditioning coaching for the University of Utah Pac-12 Alpine ski, Nordic ski, and cross-country running teams while attending graduate school at the University of Utah for exercise physiology. When not traveling, Alex resides in Venice, CA.
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