Ready for ski season? Try this….
“Welcome to lalaland … for those of you coming from the prison camp!” Lundberg yells. “What’s the prison camp? The leg workout.”The annual Winter Sports Conditioning Program is on at Aria Spa & Club at the Vail Cascade & Resort, and it’s already difficult to find a free locker in both the men’s or women’s locker rooms.The six-week program, now on its eighth year, draws dozens of people – mostly locals – who are willing to go through a 75-minute killer workout to get ready for the ski season.”It makes me do stuff I’d never do otherwise, like “abs’ and running,” says Pete Seibert Jr., 46, an expert skier who has done the program several years now. “I have to come in early and do an extra warm up, though. This program really helps.”The goal of the winter conditioning program is to be progressive, safe, functional and fun, says program director Jennifer Ralph Sage.”At the same time we want to challenge participants to push the envelope,” Ralph Sage says, “and achieve a level of fitness that will make their ski season better than ever.”Tell that to Jimmy Brenner, who says he couldn’t walk after the first class because his muscles were so sore.”I’m on my third class now and I’m ready to go skiing,” jokes the 43-year-old from Edwards as he enters the “prison camp’ (the legs).The exercises are based on sound physiology and training tenets, Sage says.”I’ve chosen exercises used by the U.S. Ski Team and that I’ve gotten from some local ski and snowboard team coaches,” says Sage, a certified personal trainer and ski instructor.The program, Sage says, is designed to be progressive, gradually increasing in difficulty.”We proceed from general exercises to establish a base level of fitness, and then become more specific and functional,” she says. “Many winter conditioning programs go too hard too fast, and unfortunately result in a lot of injuries.”Many locals, Sage says, have weaknesses in certain areas, especially the core and anything requiring lateral movements.”Skiing and boarding require powerful movements in the lateral and rotational plane,” she adds. “Most people in the valley, have spent their summers biking and hiking, which are movements forward, not laterally.”The program is a challenge even for people who are in top shape like Jeff Sage, 38, who exercises five times a week riding a bike and swimming.”The ski conditioning is a needed workout because it targets different muscles,” he says before entering the “abs chamber.’ “The balance drills help, too.”As tough as the program sounds, there are no age limits. This is the second year 55-year-old Pat Johnson of Vail ventures into the club’s basketball court, where the main part of the program takes place.”I’m probably the oldest doing it,” she says proudly. “I don’t do all the jumping, I guess I do 90 percent of the drills.”The program is divided in six stages: a warm up, 12-minute stations to work abs, arms, legs, a 12-minute cardiovascular workout that makes you feel you’re skiing down the bumps on Vail’s Highline trail, and a cool down. This routine, however, will have some additions every week.”But you just can’t jump into it with the same gusto that you’ve been riding your mountain bike all summer,” Sage says. “You’ve got to be progressive and smart about your training.”That’s one of the reasons why plyometrics, or high-intensity power exercises that are really hard on the body but are an excellent training tool, don’t begin until the fifth week of the program.”Very few people would be physically ready for them,” she says.”It does little to have strong legs and upper body if your trunk is not strong from the inside out. This doesn’t mean just lots of sit-ups and crunches; those just get one area and can even create a dangerous imbalance if they are over strengthened in relation to the other parts of the trunk.”A strong core is so important in skiing and boarding and helps to efficiently transfer one’s force in the direction of movement, Sage says.”There’s a lot more to training the core than just crunches,” she adds. “That’s why we incorporate hip and shoulder girdle stabilizers. We do this by using the stability ball in most of our classes.”Sage recommends coming early in the program and coming often to create and maintain a high level of fitness to carry into the ski season.After the 10-minute cool down, Bonnie Cole, 37, of Avon, says she’s happy she’s come to all the classes so far. The program started Oct. 15.”I feel energized,” she says heading to the locker room, “and … the hot tub awaits.”Class schedule:Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:30-10:30 a.m.Tuesdays and Thursday 6:15-7:15 a.m.Tuesdays and Thursdays 5:30-6:45 p.m.Classes are open to non-members of the Aria Spa & Club for $85 for the six-week program.For more information, call Jennifer Ralph Sage at 479-5954 or club’s front desk at 476-7400.Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at email@example.com.