Counting the days to that ski trip? Unless you're a regular on the trail or in the gym, you may not be ready for the slopes, which means you won't get the most out of your vacation. For those who've been remiss, here's a one-month crash course of low-key activity and simple nutrition to get you ready for an epic winter.
"Improving your fitness level is easier than you think," says Jake Dicus, strength and conditioning expert for The RockResorts Spa at The Arrabelle at Vail Square, A RockResort.
Week 1 – Ease into it
• General: Drinking water is like an oil-change for your body. Make it easy by keeping a water bottle on hand. Divide your weight in half and drink that many ounces a day. (200 pounds equals 100 ounces).
• Breakfast: Switch from coffee to chai tea and take a multi-vitamin with a skim milk, frozen fruit, low-fat ice cream smoothie chaser. Eggs pack protein and are nutritionally fabulous.
• Daytime: Consider riding your bike to work. If you have to drive, park far away from the office and take the stairs once inside. Work on the 50th floor? Perfect. Remember: The trip down the stairs is just as important, working the qauds you'll need on the slopes.
• Evening: Unhealthy late-night snacks are your worst enemy, so set a time to stop eating for the day. Work backward a half-hour a week until you aren't snacking at all after dinner.
• Weekends: Walk your next 18 holes and take several laps around the field during your kids' soccer game.
Week 2 – Leg builders
• Breakfast: Mix organic vanilla yogurt and Go-Lean-Crunch cereal with fresh fruit.
• Exercise: Squats with dumbbells are a simple way to build leg strength. Do two sets of 12 repetitions every third day.
• Lunch: Have lean soups or salads, but don't drown your greens in fatty ranch dressing. Try balsamic vinegar on the side with a touch of garlic and olive oil for a lighter alternative.
• Dinner: Feast on high-protein, low-fat grilled fish or chicken with a touch of garlic butter, steamed broccoli with parmesan and a baked sweet potato.
Week 3 – Stepping it up
• Exercise: Add two sets of 12 lunges to your squat work out. Keep your knee over your ankle to target the right muscles.
• Power Snacks: For post-gym hunger pangs have a handful of almonds, but don't overdo it.
• Evening: Walk around the block (several times) after dinner to keep your metabolism going. If you have an exercise bicycle, use it.
Week 4 – Almost there!
• Exercise: Get your heart rate up by adding a morning run to your work out. Work up a sweat at your own pace and distance. Try the Plank, a simple core stability exercise: Lie face down, resting on your toes and elbows, elbows directly under the shoulders and with the body in a straight line. Hold it for three 30-second intervals.
• Power Snacks: Try celery and natural peanut butter for another healthy snack to tide you over between meals and keep your energy up for work outs.
• Evenings: Avoid injury by stretching your hamstrings; you can even do it during TV commercials.
While our crash course is not guaranteed to transform you from couch potato into the next Lindsey Vonn, it will make your ski trip more enjoyable and also decrease the risk of injury. Don't forget to maintain your well-oiled machine while you're on vacation. "The best medicine after a long day on the slopes is a massage. Your body, especially your legs, will love you," Dicus says.