Your first set of the season is the last place you want to get hurt. Put aside all that anticipation for just another 15 minutes to safeguard your body against cold conditions and movements that you haven’t made for a while. Heat your muscles up by running, riding a bike, jumping rope or any other aerobic exercise. Yoga also makes a great warm-up, as it heats and stretches your muscles simultaneously.
NEVER GET COLD
Once you get cold, it is almost impossible to regain comfort. If your early season conditions mean toughing out some frigid water and crisp air, failure to properly prepare can quickly crush the excitement of being on the lake. When in doubt, opt for the drysuit instead of a wetsuit, or the 3-millimeter top instead of the 1. Trying to brave the water without the proper protection will put you at greater risk of injury and will hinder your enjoyment and mental game.
Make a plan for your set before you hop off the platform. Choose a couple of foundational keys that always work for you. Lack of focus on your first few sets will produce haphazard results. This advice applies double if you are plunging into chilly water early in the season. Cold water will slash your focus, making a premeditated plan of attack crucial.
Though you have been dreaming of that perfect 35-off you ran last year, don’t be discouraged if it takes the whole set to run your opening pass. If you have been off the water for a few months, you may want to start a rope length longer or at least 2 miles per hour slower than your usual opener. You can also avoid the slalom course all together and just enjoy a few sets in the open water.. Don’t stress out, thinking you’ve forgotten how to ski. Our sport is extremely difficult, and we all go through those early season blues.
JUST DO IT
With the right gear and proper precautions, you may be surprised at the conditions you are able to withstand. Don't let the fear of discomfort keep you off the water. Push yourself to ski in the harshest conditions you can tolerate. Doing this provides you with mental toughness come tournament time. Plus, any day that you ski while your competition rests gives you a leg up. So find a motivated ski partner and push the envelope a little. It can be fun to keep records of the coldest air and water temps you have braved.
DO LAND DRILLS
There will be days when skiing is simply not an option. If the air is 35 degrees and the water is 40, or your ski buddy has swine flu, you just aren’t going to be able to shred. This does not mean, however, that you can’t practice. Land practice provides the opportunity to pay close attention to your moves without being slung across the water at 50 feet per second. Tie a rope to your fence post or a tree in the backyard; secure a handle to a stud in your basement, or tie it to your dog and practice your swerving all the way down the street. No matter how you do it, one thing is certain: You will always have more time off the water than on, and you can use this time to take your skiing up a level.
PLAN FOR THE PAIN
We all know there is no workout on the planet that can prevent the soreness of our ski muscles after those first few sets. Be sure that you have all of your recovery supplies on hand so you don’t have to drag yourself to the drugstore. A bath with Epsom salts, followed by a good rubdown with Tiger Balm, should help your muscles.