Fall Ski Conditioning Outside of the Gym

Fall always seems to sneak up on me. As the summer winds down, I begin counting down to winter – longing for the thrill of the first snow. And every year, I’m torn between my love for the long, lazy summer afternoons and the knowledge that come December, my spindly summer legs aren’t going to cut it. So every September – with equal reluctance and excitement – I trade in my swimsuit for gym clothes and hit the weight room.


Until this season. This year, I chose portaging from lake to lake with a canoe on my head rather than a hill workout on the treadmill at the gym. The serene yet consistent paddling on the glassy lakes of Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada provided the perfect marriage between arm and core strength, while the portages ranging from 60 to 2800 meters through the woods strengthened my legs while improving my balance and cardiovascular fitness.

So save the gym for colder days, here are some activities that will get you skiing ready.

Whether on a lonely road or a winding cross country trail, cycling is a great way to tune up cardiovascular fitness while also improving strength. Throwing in some hills on a road ride can amp up the intensity for the major muscles of the legs and glutes, while taking to the mountain bike trails is good for targeting the core muscles and balance. The ride down will get your adrenaline in top shape for skiing.

Don’t let water sports fool you; the sleeping giants of canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding (SUPing) aren’t simply all about the arms. If paddling correctly, most of the strength actually comes from the abdominal muscles. Paddle boarding is a great way to combine an ab workout with testing your balance – try a SUP yoga class for the ultimate challenge!

While skiing is largely an anaerobic sport (the short runs don’t require us to maintain a raised heart rate for a long time), creating a solid aerobic foundation can greatly improve the stamina required for skiing. Mixing in shorter, faster runs with longer, slower ones can contribute greatly to overall cardiovascular fitness. For an extra challenge, add in some hill repeats at the end of the workout (before the cool-down) to hone in on those leg muscles, and remember to stretch.

I’m not suggesting that everyone throw a canoe on their shoulders, or purchase an expensive paddleboard to get ready for this year’s ski season, but rather to simply take advantage of the nice weather while it’s here and enhance the essential areas of your body needed for skiing while playing outside.