The view outside my window might be a little different than what you see outside yours. Aside from the skyscrapers, it's flat. Pancake flat with roads that stretch for miles toward the horizon, which is great for producing a flat and fast marathon course, something Chicago is known for. But it's not so great when you're a skier who craves elevation-and not the kind that takes you to the observatory level of one of the tallest buildings in the world-and who hereby gets dubbed with the flatlander label.
Flatlander: flat·land·er, noun, one who's not native to a mountainous state. The Urban Dictionary calls it "a term used in the mountains to describe people from lower elevations." Vermonters define as one not born in the Green Mountain state, regardless of any contributions to or years spent in the state.
By definition, I am a flatlander. By geography, I am a flatlander. By plain knowledge of two "hills", slight inclines by Colorado standards, that we use for sledding and hill training, I am a flatlander. But that doesn't mean I have to ski like a flatlander, the one who potentially could get injured on the first day out because I put in the wrong training, or zero training, beforehand? No, not in the least. The right moves, in fact, could make me, and any other flatlander, a force to reckon with on the mountain. It's all about training your nervous system to communicate better with your muscles, says Nancy Fudacz,
the director of performance training at the East Bank Club in Chicago.
As for how to get started, you don't need mountains to mimic those movements. Fudacz explains that strength training, especially single leg drills and lateral movements, can serve as a rehearsal for all the movements you'll be doing once you're on your skis. And even if you're heading to the Rockies or Tahoe next weekend, you're not too late to reap the benefits. Here's how you can get strong on your skis when you don't have massive elevation gains nearby.
Work the hamstrings You're doing yourself a disservice by building up your quads and not strengthening these back-of-leg muscles. Try these hamstring curls and you'll be begging for mercy, but making yourself more stable on your skis.
JumpsKnown for their ability to improve nervous system functionality and produce faster, more powerful movements, plyometrics also help rev your cardiovascular system and get the sweat pouring. But you don't need a lot of jumps to reap those benefits, it's more about the landing, and doing it correctly, than anything else. That would mean absorbing through your hips and not just using your calves.
One-legged drills Balance not in check? Try one-legged squats, one-legged dead lifts and even one-legged lateral jumps and you're not only strengthening those key ski-specific muscles and how they fire, but you're also improving your balance. It definitely comes in handy when you have to hike up the mountain to retrieve a ski.
Clock lungesLunge out in a clock pattern to 12 o'clock, 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock, until you've stepped your way around a circle. It'll mimic every direction your legs could go when you're skiing, and it can help build strength in the hamstring and knee to ward off an ACL tear.
Circuit training There are only four minutes of pain in this Ski Stronger video, but the circuit was designed to make you feel like you're skiing without a mountain in sight. It delivers: the side-to-side jumps gave me my dream mogul run. If only I could transfer that to the snow.
We might be shy on altitude training but a flatlander doesn't have to be down and out on muscle strength and the mind-body connection before touching down in the mountain and strapping on those skis. Now get training!
Photo credits: vxla, expertinfantry, lululemonathletica