by Jerry Vance
Early snow brings thoughts of fun times on the slopes. If you haven't started to work on your ski muscles, you better do it now. November is upon us, and the snow has started early this year.
In the Sierra, the ski season is long, from November through April, so you have a lot of time to use those muscles you're building. Getting a head start on the training of thigh muscles will mean an easier transition from water- to snow skiing.
One of the problems with skiing is the extra exertion placed on knees. Any bending or pressure placed on thigh muscles that are used constantly during skiing also places a lot of stress on the knees. So taking the time to ensure proper body placement before you bend your knees will put the main workload on the thighs, where it belongs.
"Wall sits" are one of the safest methods to strengthen the legs and back while you add muscle to your thighs. Stand with your back to a wall then slide down into a sitting position and hold for a few seconds. Slide back up, and bring one knee at a time up to your chest. Increase your time in the sitting position until you can hold the knee 15 seconds. This is not an easy exercise.
You can do a lean-back exercise to strengthen thighs by kneeling on the floor with a soft cushion under your knees and leaning back slightly and holding the position. This exercise puts pressure on the kneecap at a weak angle so do the exercise slowly and don't bounce.
Using weights on the ankles while you do leg lifts will add muscle and strengthen all parts of the leg, depending on which way you turn your knee. You can do legwork sitting in a chair with the same weights on the ankles.
The main concern with knees is doing weight-bearing exercises while your knees are bent past a right angle. The knee thus becomes weaker and more susceptible to damage. If you do squats for strengthening the thighs, be sure your knees don't go past the toes of your shoes. Slide back until you have the main body of your weight over your heels. Standing lunges are good, too, but the weight of the body should be on the thigh, not the back of the leg.
Remember to keep your knees "soft," not locking into a straight-leg position, especially while you are skiing. And don't forget to stretch your thigh muscles after you ski. If you tear a thigh muscle, you will be out of skiing for the season.
It pays to spend the time now to prepare thigh muscles for ski season.
Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Senior Center.