Becoming a skier. Not-so-early training!

Just so you know, had things gone according to plan this article would have appeared in September and ‘not-so’ would not have been in the title.  But life seldom goes as planned and in early September I was scuttling all fall plans and rushing to California to await the birth of my third grandchild.

However, that is just the excuse d’annee!  There is always something that can arise to throw off getting ready.  This year preparation is particularly important because my ski season will be telescoped.  I will need to hit the ground running (preferably sliding) in top condition.

For one year short of a quarter century (that sounds really, really long) I have been a ski instructor at Sunday River.  For almost a decade I have spent a week in Vermont in mid-December honing the skills necessary to do so.  The week of instruction enhances my performance in two ways.  Most obviously, I return with a focus for the season in both my personal skiing and my coaching.  Probably more importantly, knowing I will be working with superb course conductors is an incentive to go into the program at the highest level of performance possible.

Working in a seasonal industry we can lose the high edge of proficiency with which we end in the spring. We are just the opposite of baseball players.  Fall is our time to get in shape.  Unless we are among the really dedicated people who go south, as in South America or Australia, for the summer, or have another highly physical activity when the snow is taking vacation.

Skiing is a physically demanding activity, whether one is a professional racer or an occasional slider.  There are four areas of physical preparedness, according to the Professional Skier Association of America:  (1) Cardiac function; (2) Muscular endurance; (3) Core strength; and (4) Agility.   When we think of getting ready to ski, we usually think of Number 4, and occasionally admit that we might also need some core strength.

However, I have learned that the horse really does need to come before the cart.  In fact, the horse has to be fed, brushed, hooves checked, and in top condition before we even think of getting the cart out of the barn.

Cardiac function is concerned with our use of oxygen.  On a cellular level muscular activity depends upon oxygenation.  We burn a variety of substances in our cells, but every reaction requires oxygen.  When we breathe in, the lungs put oxygen into the blood that the heart has pumped to it, then the heart pumps the oxygenated blood around the body.  The cells combine the oxygen with an energy source, releasing that energy which is used to accomplish the cell’s function.   We are particularly interested in the oxygen used by muscle cells.

Not all the oxygen breathed in is used.  The more our bodies can use, the more our muscles can function.  Volume of oxygen (VO2) is the difference between the amount of oxygen (O2) you breathe in and the amount you breath out. Maximum volume of oxygen (VO2Max) is the milliliters of oxygen consumed in 1 minute divided by the body weight in kilograms.  While there are some very specific tests that can be done to analyze the volume used, but there is also a very nice formula, complicated by really long decimal numbers, that will produce a fairly accurate estimate of what our body is doing.  Happily, there are several websites that will do the math for us.

The Rockport Fitness Walking Test was developed at UMass, Amherst in the early 1970’s.  To find your maximum volume of oxygen you need to do 3 things.  (1)  Weigh yourself.  (2) Time yourself as you walk around a one-mile track.  3. Count the number of heart beats in 10 seconds at the end of the one mile walk.

Please read the formula, but do not let it boggle your mind.  (When you have the data you can go to

VO2Max = 132.853-(0.0769xW) – (0.3877xA) + (6.315xG) -(3.2649xT)- (0.1565xH)

W= weight (pounds); A= age (years); G= gender(F=0; M=1); T= Time to complete 1 mile walk (minutes); H= heart beats in 10 seconds at the end of the walk.

The reason to read the formula is to get an idea of what influences our oxygen use. Athletes (and if you are a skier you are an athlete, although possibly not an elite athlete) need a high maximum volume of oxygen, mainly because they need to use a lot of muscle, but also to have oxygen available to the brain so they can make good decisions.

The formula shows that weight, age, speed, and number of heartbeats decrease the maximum volume.  We can do nothing about age or gender (politically we can change, but not readily physiologically).  Heart rate is beyond our direct control. We can change our weight and the speed at which we can walk, but notice how much more the Time influences the outcome.  If we want to increase our maximum use of oxygen, we have to move more and faster.  Increasing our rate of speed will influence how hard our hearts have to work.  It can also influence weight, but that is not the focus for the next few weeks.

Walk, run, climb stairs, dance, any movement that gets you breathing hard.  Start where you are comfortable, do not hurt any body parts, and move.  That is the first training necessary.  We want to be working at 70%VO2Max.

And.  We need to increase the amount of water we are drinking to about 8 glasses (32 ounces) a day.  The energy released by all that cell oxygenation has by-products that need to be cleaned out of the body, and water is the cleaner!  We want to get our bodies used to having enough water to eliminate the waste without needing to do so too often.  Think snow and tight lines.













Genie Jennings

About Genie Jennings

My blog, as my life, is composed of many interests. Because you are reading this, we must share at least one. They are divided into categories, so you can easily find others on our mutual topic. Also, you can avoid things on which we might diverge. Things labeled 'genie' are general life musings. When I took up fly fishing in earnest, I was struck by how much it was like skiing to me. It is an intricate activity that is easy to enter, and the more one knows, the more one realizes how little one knows. My comment was, "I would love to have something I love that does not require so much effort." I immediately knew that was not true. It is the striving that makes things valuable, and it is the striving that is life. I am evolving; I am becoming many things, a skier, a fly fisherman, an irrationally self-reliant human. I am becoming 'genie' whoever that might be.