If winter sports are your passion, you can still train and even boost your skill level once the temperatures rise. Staying in tip-top shape during the off-season will prevent injury and allow you to start the skiing, snowboarding and hockey season off right. A solid off-season fitness routine will not only keep you in shape, it will increase your strength, stamina and flexibility, which will all pay off when winter returns.
When creating your off-season fitness routine, make sure to incorporate activities that encourage strength, endurance, flexibility, mobility, balance, and skills training. Mixing up your activities will help you to achieve the right balance of skill and performance training. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Strength and Endurance
Nobody wants the first few days of their winter sports season to be cut short because of tired, sore muscles. There are countless exercises that can be done during the off-season that build strength and provide aerobic benefits. Here is a sampling:
- Squats: Squats increase the strength in your legs and buttocks and can be done just about anywhere. Perfect for skiers, squats simulate the action you’ll be using on the slopes. Squats are also great for snowboarders and hockey players because they improve your coordination and balance.
- Lunges: Lunges can yield great results for skiers, snowboarders, and hockey players. For hockey players in particular, lunges can improve your stride. When done correctly, they not only increase leg strength, they also improve overall balance and agility.
- Cycling: When it comes to endurance, cycling can really benefit winter athletes. Cycling also builds strength in your legs and abdominal muscles. Cycling is a great outdoor sport, but using a stationary bike will also give you the same benefits.
- Swimming: Swimming increases endurance while working just about every muscle group in your body. Because swimming is so low impact, it is a terrific way to work out without risking injury.
Mobility and Flexibility
Using targeted exercise to increase mobility and flexibility for winter athletes shouldn’t be overlooked. Skiing, hockey and snowboarding all require your body to be limber and able to achieve a full range of motion. Here are some activities that boost flexibility and mobility:
- Yoga: Practicing yoga is a great way to increase your mobility and your flexibility, all while gaining strength. Yoga relies on multiple muscle groups and with regular practice, can help winter athletes to prevent injury. Yoga is a great exercise for snowboarders, skiers, and hockey players because of its focus on balance. This full-body workout not only increases flexibility, it also incorporates breathing and mental techniques which can enhance your athleticism and focus.
- Targeted Stretching: Stretching decreases the likelihood of injury, so most winter athletes include stretching as part of their in-season training routine. It is just as important to stretch during the off-season. Stretching the ankles, legs and arms is particularly beneficial to skiers, snowboarders, and hockey players. Hamstring stretches, oblique twists, glute pulls, and chest stretches should be a part of any winter athlete’s daily routine.
- Hula Hooping: It might sound and feel a little strange, but using a hula hoop regularly can improve posture, flexibility and coordination. For winter sports that require balance and concentration, hula hooping can boost focus while building core strength.
Balance and Skill Training
Maintaining top performance and skill level, year-round, is important to all athletes. There are some specific activities that are particularly beneficial to winter athletes, though. These activities provide balance and skill-boosting benefits:
- Inline Skating: Skating is not just for hockey players. Inline-skating is a great summer exercise for skiers in particular because it mimics the skiing motion and encourages balance and range of motion.
- Balance Exercises: Working on balance during the summer months is vital for snowboarders. Static exercises like standing on one leg work well, but incorporating the use of a balance board, balance bar, or even a skateboard can boost your efforts. Basic leg exercises, when done on equipment like a bosu ball can increase leg strength while improving balance.
- Leg Whips and Walking Lunges: These exercises are especially helpful for hockey players – a group whose players spend much of their time hunched over. Increasing core and back strength helps the body remain stable, especially during contact. Targeted movements like leg whips and walking lunges can increase strength and help you to achieve a more efficient crossover motion and a more powerful stride.
- Forearm and Grip Strength Training Exercises: A powerful grip is essential for skiers and hockey players. Using squeeze balls, wrist rollers, and crushers/grippers can improve your grip.
Whether you are a skier, snowboarder or hockey player, keeping your fitness level high during the summer months will keep your body winter-ready. Building a summer workout routine that incorporates strength training, aerobic exercise, stretching and skills training will ensure that you are ready for the first snowfall.