Whether you're Rosie Mittermaier on the world ski tour or Sammy Sitzmark on the beginner's run with your tips crossed, you'll at least try to use the same muscles. Few of us will ever be Mittermaiers, but speed, grace and style - the guts of skiing - depend on strength, flexibility, coordination and endurance.
Here are eight exercises to work on at least three times a week for the next four to six weeks. They are recommended by Colleen Powers, a physical fitness instructor who has taught ski fitness in Minneapolis and is now with the Washington YMCA.
How much should you do of each exercise? "I really hesitate to say how many times," says Powers. "It all depends on the individual. Do what is comfortable, or do an exercise until it's uncomfortable but not until it hurts. Pain tells you something's wrong. The rule is don't grunt and groan and hold your breath. If you follow that rule you'll be okay."
These exercises don't do much to build endurance, Powers says. For that she prefers bicycling, then jogging or swimming, to build the cardiovascular system. TWIST JUMP
With arms out to the side and eyes focused straight ahead, jump up and twist lower body 90 degrees to right; then jump and twist lower body 180 degrees to left; then 180 degrees to right. Continue back and forth, keeping upper torso facing forward. BACK AND LEGS STRETCHER
Sit with legs straight ahead and let upper body hang over. Let gravity pull you down; do not bounce. Relax and breath deeply.For an extra stretch in the upper back, clasp hands behind neck and hangs. For an extra stretch in the back of the legs, reach for the toes and clasp them if you can! Also try this exercise with legs spread as wide as comfortable to stretch the inner thighs.
Sit on floor, keeping back straight. If possible do this exercise without placing hands on floor to support your back. Draw knees up and outward so that soles of feet are together. Knees will be positioned out to the side. See diagrams for difference between flexing and extending feet. Keeping weight on outside edges on balls of feet, raise heels off the floor. (This is awkward.) Alternate flexing and extending the feet so that heels come together and go apart. It's very important to a) keep your weight continually on the outside edges of the balls of your feet and to b) push your ankles forward and outward when extending your feet. Flex and extend as far as rapidly as possible. Strengthens ankles, inner thighs and lower back. Promotes ankle flexibility. PHANTOM CHAIR
Lean with back against a wall. Sink so that you sit in an imaginary chair with thighs parallel to the floor and lower legs perpendicular to the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, front stand, relax; repeat two to five times. Strengthens thigh fronts. TOE BALANCING
With arms relaxed at sides, rise up on toes as high as possible, then lean forward letting arms hang toward the floor. Try to maintain balance for five seconds. Repeat twice. Ideally, if you are high on your toes, the front of your lower leg and the top of your foot will form a straight line. Strengthens calves and ankles; improves balance and foot/ankle flexibility. THIGH STRETCHERS
Sit on knees and lean back, supporting yourself with your arms. Gently push pelvis forward and hold. Repeat. IMAGINARY BOX JUMP
Imagine a box 16 inches high and 12 inches wide. Jump back and forth over this imaginary box from side to side, pulling your knees up on each jump to clear the "box." Focus your gaze straight ahead and go as fast as comfortable. Strengthens legs, ankles and feet, and aids flexibility and coordination. HIP TWISTER
Lie on floor on your right side. Support head with right arm. Place left arm and hand anywhere on the floor for support. Bending right knee, swing lower right leg back while keeping right thigh and knee in line with upper body. Raise left knee up to place toes of left foot on right knee. Keeping left leg bent, rotate left leg until knees touch and left foot is as high as comfortable. Rotate left leg back and forth, toes to knee, knee to knee, toes to knee, knee to knee, as fast as possible. Repeat, lying on left side. Promotes hip flexibility.