We've been in the gym all summer long hammering on the treadmill, elliptical or Stairmaster for cardio, and perfecting our beach-muscle weight lifts. All of the sudden fall hits, your focus turns to skiing/riding, and you can't stop thinking about making those first-of-the-season turns.
You may feel like a gym hero, but the fact is our legs need to be re-wired for ski and ride-specific work. This means we need to perform exercises that will mimic skiing/riding as closely as possible. Start by getting back to the basics: Lunges, squats and wall sits.
There's a reason all trainers love to make their clients these three execrcies. It's because they bring results.
Start small and work your way up. Try doing three sets of squats, lunges, and wall sits with no weight three times a week. Go as slowly as possible and focus on form rather than number of repetitions. Add weight slowly as your strength increases, still keeping the focus on form and slow repetition.
Choose a stance for squats slightly wider than your hips and point your feet forward or slightly outward. Control the motion as you lower with your gluteus (buttocks), quadriceps, and hamstrings. Make sure your knee never goes out further than the tip of your toes. Perform the squats against the wall with a physio ball behind your low back if this motion is painful. Come down to 90 degrees or just above, then rise back up just as slowly and controlled.
Perform lunges with a similar form. Move forward as you do them instead of alternating legs in a stationary position. Bring your bending leg out far enough so when you lunge your knee does not pass your toes. Lower slowly and controlled to 90 degrees or just above and push off evenly from both feet as you rise forward back to standing. Keep your back straight, your hands on your hips, chest out, shoulders back and push downward.
Wall sits may be the hardest, but they are also the most ski/ride specific. Try putting a physio ball behind your low back if leaning against the wall is bothersome for your back or knees. The goal is to sit at 90 degrees for as long as you can. Start with a target of 30 seconds and work your way up.
Push your weight into your feet evenly, rather than pushing it all to the balls of the feet or all to the heels. Spreading your weight distribution across your feet will do wonders on the burning you feel in your quadriceps. Try to focus on engaging your hamstrings, as well. The more muscles you recruit to help, the less burning you will feel in one area. Remember to breathe, and breathe into the burn. Think of these sits transferring into your capability for non-stop powder runs.
Make these simple exercises a staple for your gym routine from now until the snow flies. Your gluteus, quadriceps, hamstrings, knees, shins, calves, ankles, and feet will thank you. You'll be happy you did when you're lapping your friends on the first big snow day of the season.