As all serious slalom skiers know, the preseason is by far the most difficult phase of the year. The cold weather, coupled with sore and fatigued muscles from a long winter off, can make for an unpleasant experience if you don't follow the right training regimen. Here are several issues that I believe are important to address in this critical time of year.
Prior to your Expected Time of Actual Skiing (ETAS), it is crucial that you initiate an off-water training program. This period should last at least one month before your first ski ride and should consist of stretching, cardiovascular exercise and strength training (gym training and other fun sports). Shedding those extra pounds and stretching those stiff winter muscles are key to an injury-free and successful season.
Generally, I recommend you concentrate on the following areas first: 1) hamstring, upper back and neck stretches; 2) running, biking, stair climbing and team sports like basketball; and 3) leg and back weight training (squats, leg curls, leg press, lat pull-downs and seated rowing). Also, do whatever you can to improve your balance.
Once the ETAS has arrived and you are physically ready to begin on-water training, you must be careful. By that I mean taking care of early-season hindrances such as sore muscles, spray burn and sore hands. Plus, take a look at your equipment. Check for problems - like loose screws.
To combat sore muscles, begin with a thorough warm-up prior to your sets. Stretch your hamstrings, arm, neck and back and elevate your heart rate to get warm and loose. Omitting this routine can sideline your on-water activity for several days or even weeks.
To keep muscles limber, wear warm gear during the first few weeks of training. A full wetsuit or drysuit is a great asset, which will keep your muscles warm (and help prevent muscle or ligament injury), and can also alleviate another nuisance, spray burn.
The first few days back, you're bound to have hand problems too. Although there is no miracle product that will cure sore and blistered hands, there are a few precautionary methods. Try wearing two pairs of thin gloves or a pair of glove liners under regular gloves. Also, try a handle with a thicker diameter than you're used to using. This can help reduce tearing those baby-soft hands.
On-Water Training Pattern
Finally, you're ready to really train. But you need a plan. You can't just start on your opening line and run all the way down to your personal best on the first day. That's a sure way to create poor technique and maybe even force injury. The first few weeks should consist of several easy to moderate passes so technique can be established and muscles can have time to build without excessive stress or injury.
Your first training session should consist of free skiing six to 10 passes of eight to 12 wake crossings, broken into two sets. That should be enough for the first day. Once you're comfortable running that drill, which shouldn't be more than a couple of days, I recommend you take the first week slow. For example, train only at your easiest two passes (i.e., 32 mph, 34 mph). Ski each pass in groups of two or three successive passes, holding firm on a six- to 10-pass limit. Ski two or three sets for four straight days, then take a couple days off.
During the second week, ski two sets per day. For the first: Run your starting pass twice without dropping (a back-to-back). Next, ski your second pass twice without dropping. Then, work on your next pass solely with technique in mind, running it two to four times, dropping at the ends. For your second set of the day, run back-to-back passes on your opening line, two or three times. Next, work on pass No. 2, technique being essential, and run them back to back.
With a proper training regimen in place and followed closely, consistent sound technique will evolve and you will be in shape to begin the season with a sound foundation.
Rising slalom star Doug Ross was featured on our February cover. He is sponsored by HO Sports, Bare, Malibu Boats and MasterLine.