Getting in Shape for Ski Season

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of columns about getting in shape for the ski season. The final installment will run next Thursday.

I'm beginning the last two weeks of my "get in shape for skiing" program at the 24 Hour Fitness health spa off Highway 395. I already realize that six weeks is a good start, but it's not enough to really prepare me to meet my goal: skiing the Face at Heavenly's Gun Barrel with only two stops. So I've decided to continue the program indefinitely.

I can clearly recognize progress has been made. Reps of exercises have become easier, and my weight is down a bit. As fat is worked off, muscle grows. But muscle weighs more than fat, so the weight loss isn't that much.

Off course, this is just about the opposite of when one goes on a diet without exercising regularly. There muscle and fat decrease similarly. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the reduction of muscle means that the diet has to be even tighter to achieve the same results. And that is impossible in the long run.

I've now worked with three trainers: David, Gary and Miss X (who prefers anonymity), and I have been struck by their different styles and approaches.

All three use the plastic ball for such things as strengthening the thighs, improving body core balance and working the hamstrings. Miss X adds a couple of routines on the ball that work on the abs. These put me on the ball, face down for one, face up for the other, with lifting the body in each position while on the ball.

Gary has moved me into machines to a greater degree than the other trainers. On one machine I sit and grab handles that are just behind my shoulders. With 10-pound (now 20-pound) weights I extend the arms and bring the hands slightly closer together, then bring the handles back level with the shoulders (farther back puts stress on the rotor cuffs, not a good move). This goes for 25 reps, a break, then 25 more.

He's also got me working on a machine where I place one foot on a flat platform while reclining on the machine. Ten-pound weights are attached to the machine and I extend the leg to the maximum, then slowly retract it. Ten reps, a rest, then 10 more. I only do one leg at a time. because one leg is a half-inch shorter than the other and to do both would work my spine out of alignment.

David is strong on the jump rope, particularly when I can get it going long enough to jump from side to side as I spin the line. This is one that clearly will help running the moguls. But I still have to get to the point that jumping is automatic so that I can concentrate on the side moves.

David likes one exercise where I squat and return a ball to him in various positions around a semi-circle. Gary does the same thing with me with the ball against the wall and my back and my thighs parallel with the floor.

David also works on the ankles by wrapping a rubber tube around my instep, then having me flex the foot back towards me. This goes on until one of us has had enough. We started with doing both feet at once but quickly progressed to one foot at a time.

It didn't take long to realize that working with a trainer is not a luxury, something just for movie stars or professional athletes. All three trainers I have worked with are highly professional with a wide knowledge of the human body and how it can improve without risk. Their approaches are slightly different - Miss X, for instance, offers more encouragement, is more outgoing and simply good fun. The men are more businesslike. I think the mixture of the three gives me the best possible kind of training while having fun.

And that's something that grows on you. Early on I approached the sessions with a sense of duty. Now as I've reached the point where I know how to do the exercises correctly, I go to the club on days where I have no appointment with a kind of pleasure. It's habit forming.

It won't be as easy to go skiing now that I live in Carson City - Heavenly, Kirkwood and Mt. Rose are all about 30 miles away - but I suspect that I will hit the slopes more often than last year, the first year I quit teaching skiing. I feel that already there are some new worlds to explore if not conquer, some runs that I held back on where I now will be able to tackle more confidently.

At least I hope so.

Sam Bauman is the Nevada Appeal's Diversions editor.


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