Sunday, June 23, 2013

It’s finally summer, and us ‘adults’ are balancing our desire for outdoor fitness activities along with good ol’ work, kid's needs and housekeeping/yard work demands and achy knees and hip joints. What to do? What is the best way to improve ourselves in the winter sport we love, with limited time and individual body limitations?

Speaking from one month into my 54th year of living, these are my suggestions and I would love to hear yours. Everyone’s schedules, time demands and mental determination are unique but there are things we all have in common and hopefully some of these suggestions will help.

You must commit to a consistent workout plan. Just like eating well, you have to want to workout and be willing to accept things you cannot do to fit workouts into a busy life.  Whether you commit to a 5 day/week, 4 day/week or 6 days of working out, stick with it as best as you can. Make the sacrifices necessary to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes per day. Commitment to a plan becomes habit forming and will allow you to reap enough benefits from it, to continue with it.

All rollerskiing, all running, all biking, all gym work, etc., will leave you burnt out before ski season begins, or the repetition will create injuries or boredom. In the very least, you  will not be as fit as you had hoped. Crosstraining is the key to reducing repetitive injuries as we mature.

I have been wrapped up in the sports world thru retail since I was 25. (Oh dear, that dates me). To begin with there were limited fitness choices, especially for women.  Workout options available to us now? Lots! For both men and women, they are only limited to time and money. When I first opened a bike store in ’85,  products available were only road bikes and black lycra shorts. There were no Powerbars, mtn bikes, aero bars, minimal shoes, stretchy hip fabrics, left and right socks, skate skis, coffee shops, … (computers!)! Today we can spend more time selecting workout outfits to best match our aerobic activity than we actually workout!

My suggested crosstraining workouts for skiing are: 
1) Core strength training (gym weights, outdoor playground strength) or, of course, classes offered thru LifeTime, or CrossFit, Kettlebell / Barre classes or Discover Strength or any of the myriad of independent gyms and associated fitness classes. 

2) Running / jogging / Nordic walking (vigorous). Weight bearing, aerobic workouts that tie directly into fitness.

3) Swimming. Great overall recovery and fitness training. Helps prevent injuries, stretches out the body and strengthens the arms and core.

4) Biking. Obviously. Mtn biking is even more ski specific as it taxes more body parts and raises the heart rate in short anaerobic bursts. 

5) Paddling sports with canoes, kayaks, surf skis, Stand-Up paddle boards, rowing shells. All require upper body strength and aerobic power in a fun way that introduces you to the beautiful lakes outside of power boats. 

Last and most important….

6) ROLLERSKIING! it’s a must if you want to improve your technique before the ski season. Rollerskiing is a fantastic workout since it is weight bearing but not knee jarring. It strengthens both the upper and lower body including the torso and is is perfect for specific ski strength workouts.  Because rollerskiing  best simulates ski movements (unlike roller blading) and you can focus on technique without freezing your toes and fingers The fact is, anyone who rollerskis with some consistency will improve their ski technique tremendously. BUT, you must rollerski with good technique, or at least understand the movements of good technique and set goals towards achieving it.

Checkout  Gear West Summer Nordic Camp
What a great way to renew your enthusiasm to workout! Join others to learn, relearn or tweak your basics in ski technique. These types of mini camps, just like joining a strength class or spin session, will sharpen your focus on training.  You will brush up on how to train effectively, using good technique and increase your desire to train when there are goals to achieve.

If you do the same thing, at the same speed for the same duration your fitness improvements will be limited.  Who wants SAMENESS?! Examine your week or a 10 day period as a puzzle where you attempt to fit in the different works below into your allotted free time.

Simply, this is how it’s done:

Over Distance Workout.
Do a longer than average workout. For some it will be 1½ hrs, for others 2-3 hours. Choose an activity that will tax your aerobic system. This can be done rollerskiing, biking, Nordic bounding….

Short Intensity Workout.
Usually 15 min to 45min with a warm up and cool down sessions. This workout raises your heart rate, period. It’s tough to do but fun and exhausting and leaves you with a satisfied feeling. And you complete it quickly! Workouts like this are best found thru indoor classes like Zumba, or Crossfit, or any group activity that pushes you to your limits. Yes, you can do intensity on your rollerskis but often times joining a group makes it easier to achieve your goal. 

Hills and Fartliks.
By incorporating both anaerobic and aerobic workouts into one hour or so, you can simulate a race environment. Sometimes you push hard, then you recover and then push hard again. Many times this is best done running or rollerskiing. Incorporate the outside terrain into the workout, using hills to stress the body and then flats and downhills to recover. It’s fun and builds strength and speed.

Strength Workout.
Yes, this can be pure lifting or a hill workout can overlap into the intensity workout as in Crossfit WOD. Build arm strength, core-body strength and leg strength by pushing your body in a controlled and focused way.

Introduce a plan for each workout. Understand what you want to achieve from the above. If 75% of your workouts have a fitness goal, then relax.  Allow the other 25% to be your ‘fun’ workouts with friends. Sometimes after work it’s all you can do to get out of the door and if that is achieved, great!

Stuff can help make the workouts informative, challenging, more fun, more comfortable… it all depends what stuff and who you are.  Learning about what works for your sport allows you can enjoy it better. Who wants to train and run/walk a 10k with ill-fitting shoes such as a hi-stability shoe when you are a neutral forefoot runner? Don’t choose a trail shoe when you desire flexibility and cushion when you are running on roads. Who wants to ride HillFest, a hilly 100m bike ride in Wisconsin on a Huffy? Don’t enter your first paddle race in a carbon fiber pro-boat on a windy day. Don’t attempt a double pole rollerski workout without rollerskis gloves to prevent blisters. Women, consider training with a water bottle waist belt before you carry it on a trail marathon and rub a raw spot on your back because the bottle was too high and you are short-waisted.

Experience has provided me with many helpful suggestions about sports, mostly because I have worn the incorrect clothing, or shoes at one time or another. I have paid the price with blisters, chafing, and struggling. Back in 1985, I completed the Hawaii Ironman on equipment that now, I would not suggest to my worst enemy! I used a bike that was loaned to me from a pro-triathlete who was 4” taller than me; strap down pedals that created numbness on the upper and lower foot parts (clippless pedals were not invented); an ill-fitting round, non-vented helmet. I knew nothing about nutrition and only ate on the bike, Quava-jelly sandwiches premade weeks ahead of time by the volunteers. I used drop bars; a hard bike seat; no wet suit, heavy Brook ‘Beast’ shoes… oh my.

Heartrate Montitors and GPS devices give you super useful information on workout levels, and mileage and speed goals. All are ways of increasing one’s interest in exercise. Again, gadgets do not make the athlete and don’t use the lack of gadgets as a reason for not joining a class or completing a workout. 

Carry your stuff in the car to eliminate excuses about why you cannot fit in an impromptu stop at the woods or gym. Build in friends or events to commit you to a consistent reason to get moving. Reward yourself with improved training equipment or cool clothing as you stick to a plan or sport(s).

Then enjoy the intangibles of feeling healthy! Your energy levels will be higher, your speed will improve.  As you are working out your mind will be occupied by learning how to do things better (like your skiing technique) and wow! Life is way more fun and rich when your body and your mind remain flexible and youthful.

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