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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 18:41 GMT
Find out how to get fit for skiing
For skiing nuts and first-timers alike, a ski holiday is usually an unforgettable experience.

But most people only manage the odd trip to the mountains so you don't want to injure yourself on the first day.

Former British downhill skier Graham Bell has a few fitness tips to get you skiing all day and have enough energy left to party all night!

Cardiovascular fitness

The heart and lungs are the engine that drive your body and will keep you going all day on the slopes at altitude.

Graham's facts
Graham Bell
Born: January, 1966
British ski champion: Eight times
Winter Olympics: Represented Britain five times
TV career: Presents BBC's Ski Sunday

Try and start at least six weeks before the start of your holiday and you'll notice a big difference.

Any way you can improve your cardiovascular system will help to improve your skiing stamina.

If you're not a gym junkie, even going for a brisk walk will give you a decent cardiovascular work out.

Walk upstairs instead of catching lifts or walk up escalators instead of standing still. Try whenever possible to get yourself a little bit out of breath.

The best way to improve aerobic fitness - exercise using oxygen - is to train for a longer period of time at a manageable pace.

Little and often is better than charging like mad until you're blue in the face.

Cycling, running, rowing or stepping for 20 minutes three times a week will provide a solid base.

But skiing is also an anaerobic sport - where you don't use oxygen for short, fast bursts.

Hitting the treadmill pays benefits on the slopes
Hitting the treadmill pays benefits on the slopes

On your way down you're often working harder than the amount of oxygen you can breathe in, before resting on a lift and doing it all over again.

So interval training - short bursts of exercise followed by a rest period and then repeated - can also help increase your all-round fitness.

All of which will leave you with plenty of oomph to enjoy the après-ski activities your resort has to offer.

Building up your skiing muscles

Every skier is familiar with burning thighs after a long run, or aching muscles the next day.

To help you ski harder for longer, and to pack a punch into your skiing, you need to build your ski-specific muscles.

If you want to be on your feet all day, you need to build up your legs, specifically the quadriceps - the thigh muscles - the buttocks and the calves.

Gyms have plenty of machines to help with these areas, such as the leg press (but avoid knee curls as these put strain on the knee).

You want to build up strength endurance, so do a reasonable number of repetitions (up to 20 at a time).

Your lower legs take a lot of strain.

It's better to work on strength endurance rather than maximum strength - so work at 70% of your maximum.

Hamstring curls - lying on your front and pulling your heels up to your backside - are also an important but often-forgotten exercise for skiers.

It strengthens the back of the leg and protects the knee, guarding against possible knee ligament tears.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Sit ups with help with core stability

But if you don't go to a gym you can also work on your legs at home.

Try doing simple squats, crouching down with your back straight and knees forming a right angle and then standing up again.

Or you could do lunges - start with your feet together then step one leg forward and bend down so the front leg forms a right angle and the back knee almost touches the floor. Then go back up and switch legs.

Both exercises can be done for 20 repetitions followed by a rest. Repeat the procedure four times.

I'm not a fan of the infamous "sitting against the wall" exercise that many skiers try before their holidays.

It doesn't work a range of movement and is a very static workout.

Core strength - stomach, back and sides - is also a key area, especially for beginners or snowboarders who fall over a lot and use this muscle group to get back up.

Either use the machines in the gym or do sit-ups and press-ups at home - again for boarders who take a lot of hits strong shoulders are important.

A couple of circuits of strength exercises, combined with a 15-20 minute aerobic workout two or three times a week, and you'll be powering down the piste like never before.

Flexibility, balance and coordination

Increased flexibility helps prevent injuries - your body will be able to cope more easily with the strange twists which happen from time to time on skis.

It also helps to prevent soreness and stiffness during your holiday.

David Beckham and Ronaldo
Stretching will help when you have a wipeout

Calf stretching is very important, particularly for beginners, while hamstrings stretches and quad stretches are also vital.

A little stretch every time you do some exercise will increase your flexibility, and you will be glad of it if you have a spectacular wipeout.

Skiing technique needs to be learnt but you'll improve much quicker if you have good balance and coordination.

These assets can also help better skiers stay on their feet and recover from a potential wipeout at speed.

If you have access to a wobble board in a gym use that to practise balancing.

At home, one exercise you can do is to stand on one leg and with the other leg try and write in the air from 1-10 drawing numbers with the other foot.


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