How to Beat Those Off-Season Blues

It’s that time of year for most North Americans. Put away your skis and boards. Wax ‘em up, buckle or tie your boots, and put everything away in a clean, dry place until things get rolling again late next fall.

But it’s not time to sit around and mope about it all.


First thing, if you really want to ski, check out South America.
Remember—it’s winter down there. Argentina and Chile have some pretty fine
skiing to offer. Friends of mine took a package deal to Chile last August
with Dan and Miki Egan and the DesLauriers brothers Eric and Rob. The photos
they showed me of their off piste powder adventures still make my mouth water.

But if South America isn’t to your liking, try Europe. That’s
right—Europe in the summer!

There is some excellent glacier skiing and boarding in France
at Tignes, Switzerland at Verbier, Italy at Val Senales and Austria at both
Stubai and Hintertux. And hotels in each of these places offer half-board
(breakfast and dinner), lift ticket and, above all, European ambiance at prices
that won’t break the bank.

They also afford you the added advantage of traveling in Europe
during the summer. You can ski and board for a few days and then try hiking,
biking and roller blading in places with incomparable views. Then,  there
are various music and art festivals, museums, archaeological finds—like Otzi,
the five thousand year old “Iceman” in Bolzano, Italy, near Val Senales.

And remember, you can put together a pretty cheap but tasty
lunch in Europe by simply stopping by the local market for some bread, cheese,
sliced meats and fruit.

However, even if you go the South America or Europe, you can’t
ski or board all summer long, unless you’ve got a rich uncle or something
like that. In which case, you probably won’t be reading this article.  You’ll
be sleeping in, dreaming of following the snow.

But for the rest of us, let’s try to keep fit. After all, it’ll
improve your skiing and boarding for next season and like most things that
require both moral fortitude and physical effort—it’s good for you.

First off, keep up your aerobic fitness. For 20 to 25 minutes
three times each week stress your heart by getting it to beat at 65 to 85
percent of its maximum. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age
from 225 and then find both 65 and 85 percent of that number. For instance,
if you’re 25, subtract 25 from 225, leaving you 200.  65 percent of that is
130, your lower heart rate, while 170 is your higher rate.

Try jogging, swimming, biking or roller blading outdoors.  If
you want, stay inside and use a treadmill, Stair Master, Versa Climber or
Orbitrek. Mix it up if you want with your own program incorporating several
of these techniques. Remember to rest one day in-between these workouts. Also,
alternate a hard day, working at 85 percent max, with an easy day, 65 to 70
percent max.

For example, you might do a hard day on Monday at 85 percent.
Have some active rest Tuesday by walking, hiking, golfing (no cart) or playing
some very light tennis or basketball. Do an easy day on Wednesday at
65-70 percent max. Get total rest on Thursday. And do a hard day on Friday.
Hike or walk on the either Saturday or Sunday. Then the next week, do Monday
and Friday as your easy days, with Wednesday as your hard one.

Do this two week cycle from May to the end of October and you’ll
be amazed at your fitness for next season on the slopes.

If you want to take it up a level, in early September start
to gradually phase back your hard days one minute each week until you reach
15 minutes. Replace those aerobic minutes with some 100 meter anaerobic strides.
These are sprints done at ¾ speed. The first week do two, with a one minute
rest in-between. The next week, do three. The next four, until you build up
to five or six by the end of October. If you can’t sprint, substitute a near
flat out effort on you machine of choice for 20 seconds and then go really
for a minute. Again, build up to five or six bursts 20 second bursts
by the end of October.

If you want, get even more involved and work on some specific
fitness items to make you even better, specifically, agility and flexibility.
To help you in these areas, two excellent books are Cross Training for
by Gary Moran and George McGlynn and Training for Speed, Agility
and Quickness
by Lee Brown, Vance Ferrigno and Juan Carlos Santana. Note
that Cross Training’s alpine skiing section is really for ski racers
during the ski season, but you can put together your own off season fitness
program from the tremendous variety this book offers. Also, bear in mind that
one of the keys to Alberto Tomba’s training was his intense and extensive
agility work. This gave him the coordination to adapt to the unbalancing that
naturally happens when you ski on the edge of your limits.

Finally, if you don’t want to mess with all this fancy technical
exercise stuff, just buy Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo tapes. These are about
as close to a total fitness package that you’re going to find. I have physical
therapist friends who use Tae Bo for their own personal fitness programs.
Curious, I started doing it, too.  I’m glad I did. Blanks puts in all into
a holistic aerobic workout: stretching, flexibility, anaerobic bursts—all
with a tremendous emphasis on core fitness in your hips, glutes, lower abdomen,
sides and lower back.

Whatever you do in the off season, don’t despair. There’s lots
to do, lots to learn and lots to enjoy.  Remember: Have fun out there!

Marc Cirigliano
is a 47 year master racer, all-mountain skier from western NY and an International
Sports Sciences Association certified Specialist in Sports Conditioning.. He
teaches art history, literature and general humanities at SUNY/Empire State
College in Rochester, New York.

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