Train and Conquer
Train and Conquer Author: Marjo Rankin Bliss Train and Conquer The secret to success in June is a killer workout in January By Marjo Rankin Bliss A season on the water can leave you messed up. Your muscles feel mangled, you can’t bend over to pick up your ski, your legs get sore just crossing the living room. Don’t spend the off-season licking your wounds — lick your wounds. Devote some time to training while the lake is frozen over, and you can blast out next season better than ever.Successful training comes down to one word: balance.“Skiing makes you very imbalanced,” says top pro Kristi Overton Johnson. “Your back is very strong, but your chest muscles are weak and your shoulders get rounded.
So what I do in the off-season is really work on strengthening the muscles I don’t use when I ski. I can get those strong so when I start skiing, I don’t injure the weaker muscles.”Balance in the body means balance in the workout. The days of only 500-pound squats and 300-pound bench presses are over for water skiers. Instead, they’re supplementing that hard-core weight lifting with hard-core flexibility training. More and more, the elite skiers (especially those who’ve been counting buoys since before there were pregates) have evolved their off-season workouts with a holistic approach.
We talked to five pros about their secrets to those workouts. If you want to train like them, grab a stability ball, a Pilates video, maybe even a hangboard (see “Star Workouts”). And pay attention to what the experts say. Dr. Randy Schwartzberg, an orthopedic sports-medicine specialist, and Lynn Teachworth, a massage therapist who has worked with wakeboarder Darin Shapiro, gave us the breakdown on the do’s and don’ts of training off the water. Oh, but don’t think this means you can give up the gym. Balance, remember? Pro Workout:Andy Mapple’s “Evil Gym” Regimen Andy Mapple is an intense guy. Whether he’s mowing down buoys at 41 off or mile markers on a road bike, he’s competitive.
His off-season workouts include serious running, biking and weight lifting, but he doesn’t do anything just because it will translate to the water.“I’ve ridden bikes for a lot of years. In the off-season, that’s what I do because that’s just what I enjoy doing,” he says. “I don’t have anything I go do just specifically because it’s going to help my skiing. I think it helps my life.”The gym is one training tool, but he’d rather be somewhere else.
“I think the gym sucks!” Mapple says with a laugh. “It’s a pain in the rear, but it’s a necessary evil. When you put those kinds of loads on your body in skiing, you need to make sure you’ve got some flexibility. You’ve got to work on little muscles in the shoulders and stuff like that just to be preventive. Whether it works or not, I don’t know, but as long as I’m not getting hurt, I’m going to keep doing it.” Pro Workout: Photo below, Cy Cyrh Kvisti Overton Johnson’s Stability Ball Rehabilitation is part of life for Kristi Overton Johnson. After several operations, she now works to be in the best physical shape possible to lessen her recovery time.
Her training has transformed over the years from nothing but skiing, to lifting free weights and circuit training with her husband, to today’s balance training.Last fall, she started with the stability ball, sort of a cross between a medicine ball and a beach ball. She felt the results in her back and abs when ski season rolled around. “I can really tell I’m a lot more powerful on the ski,” she says.Seventy percent of Overton Johnson’s workout is on the ball, which complements her cardio work and weight lifting. Her routine runs the spectrum, but highlights include:Bridge work: Put feet on the ball and arch the back.Kneel on ball: Squeeze legs together and practice balance.Squats: From squating, stand with arms out in front with no weights, and do squats.
(Note of caution from Overton Johnson: “I wouldn’t recommend these. ... I have a spotter because you could really get hurt.”)Bench press: Have head and shoulders on the ball, back arched, feet together, and bench press with dumbbells.“You don’t realize how much skiing is balance, reaction time and just being focused,” Overton Johnson says. “That’s what I think all those things on the ball do.”She does report a downside: Her better balance and increased strength threw off how she used to find her place on her ski. But she worked through it and feels that the off-season ball work paid off.Now she treats the ball regimen as if it were a game, and that has improved her attitude, too. “I enjoy going to the gym; it’s like the highlight of my week,” she says. “Isn’t that sick?” Pro Workout: Photo below, Tom King Wade Cox’s Pilates to Presses Wade Cox knows pain.
Fifteen years as a slalom professional have left their marks, even if you can't see them. Cox started working out year-round in 1998, and started transforming his workouts in 2001 after deciding chronic back pain was interfering with his life. That’s when he took up Pilates.Cox is in the gym. A lot. He works one or two body parts a day all year, though he increases the intensity in the off-season. He emphasizes technique, proper breathing and stretching between exercises every time he works out. And he doesn’t go for huge weights. Here’s his full body rundown:Chest: Incline bench with flat bar and dumbbells; decline bench on a hammer strength machine (joint-friendly); cables, working three to four exercises from high to low. (Note: no flat bench press, which Cox says is bad for the shoulders.)
Shoulders: Overhead press; shoulder raises with dumbbells; shrugs; reverse flies.Triceps: Pulldown; close-grip bench press; line-of-sight curls; overhead triceps extensions.Biceps: Standing flat-bar curls; hammer curls with thumbs up; hammer curls where thumbs rotate outward at top; preacher curls with spotter to do negatives.Back: Flat bar lat raises or bent-over rows to warm up; seated rows; overhead pulldowns with wide grip; narrow grip, alternating each week whether palms face in or away. Alternate routine between low to high one week and high to low the next.Legs: Seated leg press using very light weight; one-legged leg press; abductors and adductors on machine; lunges with dumbbells; straight-leg dead lifts with dumbbells.Abs: Basic crunches; leg lifts lying on bench, pointing toes and lifting legs about two feet, with no hip movement; Roman chair; knee lifts.
Pro Workout: Photo below, Thomas GustafsonJamie Beauchesne’s Snow Skiing and Rock Climbing Slalom specialist Jamie Beauchesne might have the most unique off-season conditioning program in water skiing. A true outdoorsman, he snow skis and climbs rock walls while wintering in his native New Hampshire.“For me,” he says, “the ultimate off-season tool would be to snow ski three months in the winter and supplement that with indoor climbing — or outdoor climbing if you’re in the right place.”Believe it, Beauchesne is in the right place. He can walk out his back door and climb a rock. When it’s really cold, though, he stays indoors and gets a full upper-body and core workout with a $70 apparatus called a hangboard. “It’s basically like a pull-up bar made of rock-climbing holds,” he says. “I do different pull-up workouts and lockoffs on it.”
The board mounts to a door jamb and has grips of various widths, some that isolate the fingers for forearm strength. The boards are advertised as low-impact, tendon-friendly and pain-free. Photo below, Bill DosterHis pull-up routine includes lockouts, in which he pulls himself up a quarter of the way, then halfway, then all the way, pausing for two seconds at each stage. He then works his way back down the same way. He does leg raises, too.He also likes to work on a vertical wall and a 45-degree wall, the latter primarily working the legs. “The new-school style of skiing, or the style that’s going to run you the most buoys, I believe, is a lot more lower body and core,” Beauchesne says. “I believe snow skiing in the off-season is pretty much the best workout you could ever get for that. Just supplementing it with some indoor climbing or some hangboard workouts is pretty much ideal.” Pro Workout: Photo below, Cy CyrDavid Small’s Body Pump England’s David Small crossed over from the barefooting universe to the slalom stratosphere a couple of years ago and ended up with a broken ankle.Now he barefoots.
And he spends more time training. Small is into classwork. He steers away from routine weight lifting and goes for Body Pump classes.Body Pump combines the energy of aerobics with the body-shaping results of resistance training. Set to music with an instructor up front, the program uses specially made barbells that can be adjusted from 3 to 91 pounds.“It’s like an all-over workout,” says Small, who also does Spinning classes. “It’s lots of repetitions with kind of light weights. It builds stamina and strength rather than getting all muscular and not very flexible.” Muscles are good, but don’t get bulky like a football player.Teachworth says the off-season is the time to add muscle mass. “That’s when you do get back to the traditional squats and power lifting,” he says. But skiers can get into trouble when they start building muscles for a Sunday afternoon on the football field, not a Saturday morning on the lake. “
A lot of athletic trainers are starting to transition away from the old football workouts of hard-core weight training,” he says.Sure, you may look like you could crush a helmet with your bare hands, but try water skiing with that physique and you’re headed for trouble. “A lot of times people get hurt when they just go out and do bench presses and squats but don’t take care of the musculature that they’re really using,” Teachworth says. “The muscles you need to be strong don’t get exercised and get weaker when you’re doing big movements like that, and that’s what sets a lot of people up for injuries.”Besides, the movement of lifting a 500-pound weight off your chest doesn’t translate to the movement of navigating the slalom course. Extra bench presses don’t mean extra buoys. “It’s hard to find any exercises in the gym that can really translate to slalom skiing in traditional power lifting,” he says. Endure power sets for stamina in sets.What you can use the weight room for is stamina.
That is, unless you like panting and aching on the water. “Anything that’s going to improve their stamina, their muscle stamina and their ability to generate power to handle more difficult tasks is going to be advantageous,” Schwartzberg says.To brace yourself for the rigors of the ski season, Schwartzberg recommends a general weight-training regimen supplemented with running or biking for your legs. For your upper body, he’s a fan of power sets.“Power sets are where you do a lot of reps of one type of exercise and quickly move on to another and do a lot of reps of that,” Schwartzberg says. “You’re really trying to fatigue the muscles because that’s what’s going to happen on the water. It’s not so much that you need a lot of power as much as you need strength and stamina.” Improve what you use, including your butt.Tailor your strength training to those muscles that are ski-specific.
You can even hone in on certain zones used in jumps and tricks. “If you’re a ski jumper, you need to do the explosive-type squatting exercises, also called plyometric exercises,” Teachworth says. “You want to build the overall strength and explosive movement because that’s what’s going to give you the pop off the jump or off the wake.”Slalom skiers should take a look at their posture, from shoulders and knees to pelvis positioning and leg strength. “If you try to run a slalom course without having your core musculature strength, you’re good for two passes and you need to rest, or that’s when the injuries really start setting in,” Teachworth says. Get those elements in top shape, and you’ll be able to hold your form better while zipping around the buoys.
That includes the sometimes-neglected glutes — work your butt off to get your butt working for you.To strengthen muscles in the pelvis and shoulders, Teachworth likes to put skiers on a Bosu, which looks like a stability ball cut in half. That improves balance and range of motion, which can even help trick skiers reduce lower back fatigue. Pilates isn’t just for Madonna and Julia Roberts.The Pilates stretching regimen may sound like the latest Hollywood exercise fad of Zen over body, but it can really help your skiing. The goal is to increase flexibility and agility while toning your muscles without bulking them up. You also work on better breathing and powers of concentration.The emphasis is on figuring out how best to use your body. “The Pilates method isn’t really so much about maintaining muscle mass,” Teachworth says. “It’s about strengthening and lengthening the body to get the body into proper alignment, and strengthening it through those functional movements. That’s what’s so brilliant about that type of workout and why it’s so popular.
People are getting results with that for chronic pain and increased strength that they can’t get from any other type of training.”You don’t need a personal Pilates trainer, just a video to get you started. The tapes are everywhere, though don’t confuse Pilates with Sweatin’ to the Oldies unless you want to ski like a grandma. Ease off after the off-season.Once you’re back on the water, you don’t have to be such a gym rat and you can press “stop” on the Pilates video once in a while.
Teachworth advises carrying some low-key training tools into the season, such as yoga and other advanced stretching. But excessive weight lifting can actually be counterproductive, overtraining you when you’re skiing again. Even during the season, it’s all about balance. Want to know more? Check these Web sites:Pilates: www.pilates.com and www.pilates.com.sgStability ball: www.fitlaunch.com/articles/rollin.htmBosu (stability ball cut in half): www.bosu.comHangboard: www.mgear.comBody Pump: www.bodypump.com