Getting Ski-Fit in Ireland – a guide.

Have you ever had it? You know? That burn in your thighs and that cramp in your calves? Well most snowboarders have, and believe me, it isn’t that pleasant. We look forward to our snowboard holiday all year, and at the end of the first day, all we want to do is put our feet up, gorge on cake and coffee and crawl into bed, knowing that the pain will be worse in the morning!

photo by Martin Queen

Don’t be put off though, it is all worth it in the end, but I am going to try and help you prevent this pain, and at least make it that your legs aren’t quivering on the second chair lift of the first day.
In the past year or so there has been the emergence of boot camps, which have been set up around Ireland to give you all the guidance you require. Just one of these is Bootcamp Ireland , they can be found in Dublin, Clare, Kerry, Kildare, Limerick, Meath, North County Dublin and Wicklow.

Be Realistic:
The main thing to do is plan ahead and give yourself a realistic goal. Don’t turn up at a gym and tell the trainer you want legs of steel a week before. Prepare yourself as early as possible, the more exercise you get in before you go, the better chance you will have of finding it easier when you get on the hill.
If you are doing it alone, then again, give yourself time, start in the summer even.
You should try and cover all the key, complementary areas of fitness:-

  • Endurance– This enables you to board for longer periods of time without breaks.
  • Strength – so you tire less easily and can maintain the correct technique.
  • Balance –This is to enhance your technique and ensure a good riding style.

The time aspect to getting fit shouldn’t be under estimated, and it is a commitment.


photo by Marin Queen

If you want to get your moneys’ worth out of that expensive lift pass, you’ll need plenty of cardio endurance. Most of us hit the slopes and plan on snowboarding all day, from first lift to last orders, even if it’s been months or years since you have last snowboarded. By afternoon, you’re so tired that you lose focus and this is often when injuries and accidents happen.

To prepare your heart and body for long-term snowboarding, your cardio program should include 3 to 5 days each week of your favourite activity with the best activities for snowboarding include running, step machines, step aerobics, elliptical trainers and cycling. Try to have a variety of workouts lasting from 20 to 45 minutes. As you get closer to your trip, you can also add time to one of your workouts so that you have one long workout each week. If the gym isn’t your thing, activities such as surfing, walking and roller-blading will increase cardio fitness and also work vital leg muscles as well.

All these do not need to be done in one chunk. If you struggle for time, try a 15 minute walk in the morning and one in the evening. Cycle to work or get off one stop earlier on the train or bus. As long as you are doing something, it will help.


What makes snowboarding such a great exercise is that is uses all of your major muscle groups. However, some muscles are used more than others. You will more than likely feel it in the legs, but the core muscles (those that hold you in place around your stomach, back and hip) will also get a big workout. The leg exercises are the ones you want to concentrate on when it comes to your strength workouts.

Snowboarding involves:

  • Quadriceps – Probably the most used muscle in snowboarding are the muscles of the quads. This group of 4 muscles hold you in position as you board and they also provide protection for your knees. Great exercises for the quads include lunges and squats. These are easily done in the gym or at home. Certain gyms such as the Ski Centre gym in Dublin are equipped with specific ski fitness equipment .
  • Hamstrings and Glutes – When snowboarding downhill, you typically hold your body in either a seated position or a forward lean – This requires great strength from your hamstrings and glutes as they help stabilize your body and the lower back. The Gluteus Maximus is the bodies’ largest muscle and plays an important role in heel side turns. Weak glute muscle can lead to knee problems and weaknesses in the ankle, so dynamic lunges, and squats will work this muscle. Work your hamstrings and glutes with deadlifts, straight leg deadlifts and bridging. The joy of these exercises is they can also be done at home too!
  • Inner and Outer Thighs – Your inner thighs work like crazy when you squat, especially if ride with a duck stance. Your outer thighs keep your body stable and help you steer. Exercises such as inner thigh squeezes, wide leg squats and side leg lifts can hit these muscles.
  • Calves – On a toe edge, you are effectively controlled by the stability of your calf muscles (specifically the soleus which is located just behind the main calf muscle) These are the muscles that burn when you are riding cat tracks on toe side, so calf raises are the main form of strengthening here. Alongside these, any leg exercise will help balance the calves.


Obviously balance is key for snowboarding, but whether you have it or you don’t, it can be improved with certain exercises, when practiced regularly. Core conditioning is a very important part of fitness these days, with kettlebells, Swiss balls, BOSU’s and ‘blades’ being just as easy to use at home.
The core muscles will help you balance, and by conditioning these, you will not only improve your balance, but tone your stomach and help your posture. The core muscle make up the base of your body, so regular exercising of these muscles will be beneficial in everyday life as well.
Pilates is a fantastic way to train these, and a good self working DVD or a course of classes will suffice. Needless to say, exercises such as ab crunches, static planks, back raises, side planks, and work on a Swiss ball or BOSU ball will greatly help. These exercises are not to be taken lightly, and require good form, and regular practise. You will be able to find a Pilates teacher in many areas of Ireland through Body Control Pilates.

So there you have it, an idiot’s guide to saving your legs from the aches and pains. Obviously, a good hot tub and sauna in a catered chalet will help!

There are also some excellent articles on the ‘web which will give you extra help on preparation and nutritional intake, such as “this article about “Exercise for Skiing and Snowboarding”.

Guest Post: This is a guest post by Michael Woodruff, a personal trainer and snowboarding fanatic, currently working as a ski resort specialist advising on catered ski chalet holidays at UK Ski company Interactive Resorts.

One thought on “Getting Ski-Fit in Ireland – a guide.

  1. Hi there,

    Thanks for the great advice.
    I went skiing for the first time last year and was almost crippled with the pain on the first day – think I may have cut off the circulation in my feet because my boots were too tight 🙂

    Plus I wasn’t fit at all and didn’t realise it was going to be so strenuous but it was fantastic fun and I’ll definitely go again.

    My friend did some Bikram Yoga before she went and she said it was a great help – she was the only one of us that managed to ski everday.

    I spent my last day sitting out, drinking beer and watching everyone skiing down the slopes which I know was an awful waste but at that stage it was about all I could cope with:)

    Anyway thanks again for the great tips


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