Pritchard: Outdoor activity is a good reason to spend less time in the gym (column) |

Pritchard: Outdoor activity is a good reason to spend less time in the gym (column)

Jimmy Pritchard
Better Version of You
Bennett Levine skis a backcountry area outside of Vail on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Some areas of the state recorded record snowfall totals in October, kicking off an early start to the ski and snowboard season in Colorado.
Chris Dillmann |

Now that ski/snowboard season has arrived, people will be spending less active time indoors, and more time exploring the outdoor elements.

Unfortunately, less time indoors quickly turns to zero time indoors for many individuals, resulting in atrophy of all the hard-earned strength they previously obtained. I preach day-in and day-out to my athletes and clients the importance of punching the clock and maintaining strength, no matter the circumstances.

Certain times throughout the year, gaining strength is our primary focus, while others it is simply to maintain, but it never goes away. It is easier to maintain fitness than lose it and gain it back, plain and simple.

Minimum effective dose

It is well known that strength is the foundation underpinning all physiological qualities, and that strength reduces our likelihood of sustaining an injury.

And while strength requires dedicated months and years to properly build, it takes mere weeks to dissipate. For the average human in the absence of training, strength appears to deteriorate after two short weeks. This is known as the residual effect of training, and similar physiological qualities such as power/speed dissipate at an even greater rate, somewhere between 5-7 days. The rate depends on strength levels, experience, genetics, and a host of other factors but none the less, it is a rapid.

Conversely, maintaining strength does not take much. A proper strength training program that provides three to four sets of two or three heavy compound movements (done at appropriate loads), once or twice per week is adequate. The body will maintain strength if the minimally effective dose is provided because it is being asked to generate high levels of force on a frequent enough basis and cannot afford to lose that ability. It truly is the “use it or lose it” phenomenon.

What to do

A problematic issue this time of year is that most people believe they need to continue executing the same program they were doing when they weren’t doing all the outdoor activities.

It isn’t that way at all, however. Only the essentials should be included in your program, while the accessory fluff exercises can be eliminated.

Additionally, sports-specific energy system development can be virtually eliminated for obvious reasons once you start enjoying that sport again. Rarely, if ever, will I make my athletes perform intense anaerobic conditioning circuits within their sporting season, as they are already getting that through training on hill. Instead, I program what they aren’t getting on hill in the most efficient manner possible.

Furthermore, when executed correctly, strength sessions can often help to facilitate recovery between bouts of on-hill action. The biggest fallacy I see besides failing to show up at the gym at all is wasting ones limited time in the gym. If you can only carve out two times within a given week to make it to the gym and spend both days running a couple miles on the treadmill, you’ve wasted your time. In fact, you likely have only added to your accumulation of fatigue and made yourself even weaker.

I hope that the main point you take away from this article is that strength is paramount and should never be lost. Sometimes, it’s not always first in the priority list, but it should never be last. It doesn’t take much to maintain, and you will feel the benefits by maintaining it on a consistent basis.

Thanks for reading.

Jimmy Pritchard has a BSc in exercise science from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the director of strength & conditioning at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or Check out his website,

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