November 22, 2010 / 11:08 AM / 7 years ago

Before the slopes, winterize your workout

<p>A Bosu Bootcamp class at Crunch in New York City is seen December 2009, in this handout photo.Crunch/Handout</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - For much of the northern hemisphere, it's time to put away summer things.

If the chilly autumn air turns your workout thoughts to skis and snowboards, experts say now is the time to finesse your summer routine to meet the demands of winter fitness.

"Long and steady is great for summer cardiovascular fitness. But for skiing, it's good to tweak that schedule and go higher intensity, shorter durations," said Dave Merriam, director of mountain recreation at the Stowe Mountain Resort in Stowe, Vermont.

"Skiing and snowboarding are more like sprinting: you breathe then you rest. That's really different from running or riding a bike, where you're tooling along in your zone," he said. "So physiologically it's good to do less aerobic, more sprint."

Merriam also recommends spending an extra day or two in the weight room.

"Muscularly, skiing and snowboarding are very static," he said. "The quadriceps and hamstrings are fired at the same time, in co-contraction, to stabilize the knee. So if muscles aren't strong you take stress in the ligaments and tendons."

And that's when you can get pain in the ankle or lower back. Adrenalin may carry you for the first day or two, according to Merriam, but day three may find you out of balance, leaning on your equipment, and in need of a sports massage.

"Skiing and snowboarding require good physical as well as mental focus," he said. "If you get tired you can get loopy and then you hurt yourself."

So the time to gear up is now, even if you've yet to see a flake of snow.

"If you're planning to come to Stowe for Christmas," he said, "in six-to-eight weeks you can have a pretty dramatic impact on your ski fitness."

Pete McCall, of the American Council on Exercise, recommends activity-specific tone-ups, like balance drills, even one-footed hops and bounds.

"(The) main thing is to train specifically for activity you'll do. If you're skiing, squat. Train specifically for that body position," said McCall, an exercise physiologist.

<p>An Indo Winter Boarding class at Crunch in New York City is seen December 2009, in this handout photo.Crunch/Handout</p>

Meanwhile, fitness centers are busy fine-tuning their winter schedules to accommodate aspiring snow bunnies.

Marc Santa Maria of the national health club chain Crunch, said seasonal group fitness classes gear workouts to winter sports.

"In winter we'll flip Bosu balls (which resemble half-sphere stability balls) over so it's more unstable, like you're snowboarding."

Another class, called Indo Winter Boarding, has would-be skiers balancing on a board that sits on a roller.

The Winter Conditioning class at Equinox fitness stresses interval training.

"Most winter conditioning is interval," said Lashaun Dale, creative manager for group fitness at the luxury chain, "a little cardio, a little weight, start-stop, stretch recovery."

Another class highlights core stability.

"You need core stability before you have joint mobility," Dale said. "We spend a lot of time on the lower legs."

Dale added that even the yoga instructors program their sequencing with winter in mind.

"Running in cold weather or on slippery surfaces makes different demands on your body so you need to prepare yoga classes in different ways," she explained.

Dale agrees that winter activities are really demanding on joints and muscles, so preparation is essential.

"The better prepared you are the more you'll enjoy," Dale said. "Don't just grab a hot chocolate and hit the slopes. Don't go at it cold," she cautions.

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