Ski conditioning: Go with the flow

Skiing used to be about perfecting technique so that it could be imposed on the mountain regardless of differing terrain. This, as well as dominating the mountain, achieving consistent, dinky yet beautiful linked-turns, Parisian bottom wiggles and endless admiring of perfect radius tracks in the snow. And, indeed, it still is in many peoples’ minds.

However, when snowboarding came along, it introduced skiers to the concept of freeride. Freeride is a style that adapts to the variations and challenges of natural terrain.

freeriding snowboarder

‘Freeriding is to seamlessly merge aspects of other skiing disciplines giving you the freedom to make the most of whatever terrain comes your way.’

Even if you want to keep to the pistes, you do not want others dictating a certain style, forcing you to impose a one-dimensional style on the mountain.  A more enjoyable way to ski is to let your skiing ‘go with the flow’ of the terrain, changing style and technique according to the lumps, bumps, weather and the friends you ski with.

man running by the sea

Photo Credit: Giuseppe Milo

Fitness conditioning has gone the same way. 

Fitness has been – and still is for many – about spending time indoors, using machines, going to spinning classes, doing Pilates or squats with a ball behind your back – the list goes on. But all of this is just rehabilitation and can be compared to the first week of ski school. I don’t deny that you need to learn key abilities, such as core coordination and then core strength because they are vital for freeride aspirations. But if you stay in the beginner group, sticking with rehabilitation exercises, you’ll hold back your movement ability i.e. you’ll create unintelligent muscles with unbalanced strengths in limited dimensions.

A well designed conditioning programme is one that allows for the contradictive skills of strength and stability versus dynamic and fluid movement.  This requires periodised programming with progressive goals: corrective exercise (strength/stretch), core strength, functional strength, power and power endurance.

swimming race

Photo Credit: Josh Dobson

‘A true craftsman is one who makes it look effortless but is actually giving 110%’

Once you have built your base through a periodised conditioning programme you can then introduce ‘going with the flow’ exercises. Going with the flow exercises are ones where you work your whole body as one (not the individual parts as per traditional training) in natural movements and in relation to the terrain.  The key natural movements are – walk, run, crawl, balance, jump, swim, throw, lift, fight.  Ideally, you do all of these movements in balance with each other, not just picking one or two.  The best place to do these is outside using natural terrain such in the woods, parks, obstacle courses, parkour, playgrounds.

You’ll know when you’ve got it right because it’ll be fun.

Written by Ollie Martin, Performance Director – 


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