Snowboarding and physical fitness

Do you have to go on strict training program to get ready for snowboarding? Probably not, though it would help. Please note: Consult your physician if you are not currently active, have heart trouble, chronic pain, are frequently short of breath, or have any other conditions that may raise questions about your fitness. Here’s another important thing to remember: some training is better than none. If you hope to walk 30 minutes a day but can only manage 10, walk for 10.

The Basics: Strength, Flexibility, Endurance

If you’re already a skier, you probably know what you need to know about fitness. If you’ve never been on the snow, you probably know what’s important anyway: strength, flexibility, and endurance.

If you’re just starting out on a board, remember some commonsense ideas.

Get plenty of rest the night before your first time on the board.
Whether your next day involves your first lesson in the flatlands or a day of riding in the mountains, get plenty of rest. If you’ve never been on a board before, you will be surprised at how much that first day will take out of you. You may find it hard to sleep in the mountains, especially during the first night or two, so you’ll be even more susceptible to fatigue

Be aware of altitude sickness.
If you’re in the mountains and not used to the higher elevation, don’t keep your motor running all the time, all day. Take rests as appropriate. See our altitude sickness page for more information. You may also wish to choose lower-altitude ski areas.

Stay hydrated.
Drink plenty of water, and little alcohol, especially if you are on a vacation to the mountains, where the effects of altitude sickness can be made worse by alcohol.

Take some snacks to the ski area.
You’ll be surprised at how much energy you need, especially during your first day on a snowboard. There’s an extra bonus of taking some food with you: you can save some money by not paying top-dollar at resort restaurants. Avoid chocolate, since it’s likely to freeze and become very hard to eat.

Stretch before you start.
You can get by without doing this, but it’s not recommended, especially if you’re a novice snowboarder. The reason? You may find that when you fall, or try to prevent a fall, you will put unusual pressure on your body.

Stop when your body says “I can’t go on.”
This point is hard to judge, since progress in snowboarding often involves moving beyond your comfort zone. But don’t overdo it. Ski patrollers will tell you that more accidents take place at the end of the day than at any other time, as people push themselves too far.

You can ride and otherwise in inactive. But it’s not the best way.
You don’t have to think of getting ready to ride like you’re training for a marathon. You may be able to get away with being inactive one day and riding the next. Lots of people do it that way. But remember that your work will be that much more difficult if you are sedentary. In other words, you’re making it more difficult to learn and make progress. Try to do some things before you hit the slopes–aerobic conditioning, strength training, stretches, and so forth.

Anticipate some stiffness and fatigue.
When you start riding, you’ll get tired more easily if you are sedentary, and riding, especially the early days, can be tiring. You may get “thigh burn” (skiers know what that’s about). Since you actually spend a fair amount of time on your toes, your calves may protest after a while, too. Your gut may get sore, too: getting up from your heels is, in effect, doing a lot of sit-ups if you fall down. Your arms may tire, too: if you get up from your toes, you may be doing a lot of push-ups.

Warning: You may enjoy snowboarding so much that you decide to kick the sedentary habit.
Once you start riding on a regular basis, you may find that the joy of sliding on the snow is enough motivation to get some exercise on a regular basis.

Some riders claim that they never lift anything heavier than a bottle of beer at the end of a day. Or you can use riding as an occasion to improve your overall health.

Take your pick.

A More Dedicated Routine

If you would like to have a more enjoyable time riding, consider making exercise part of your winter routine.

Warming Up Slopeside

Though you don’t need to do a full workout routine on the mountain, you might benefit from doing a few warm-ups. Here are some ideas:

Rotation – Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms stretched out in front of you. Try to look behind you, and twist your trunk and arms as far as you can in the direction you are looking. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat in the opposite direction.

Flexion – Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Squat all the way down and wrap your arms around your bent legs and hold for 30 seconds. (You can supercharge a squats exercise by using a barbell.)

Extension – Kneel on the ground and grab your heels with both hands. Look up towards the sky and push your stomach forward as far as you can. Hold for 30 seconds. Remember to breathe normally.

Hamstring Stretch Lay on the floor with your feet against the wall. Slowly walk up the wall until your legs are at a 45 to 60 degree angle with the floor. Making sure your heels stay in contact with the wall, bend your knees and bring your buttocks closer to the wall. Hold position for 3 minutes.

For more ideas, see our cross-training section.

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