Featured in SVPN Magazine, Oct 2015 Issue.
Winter Sports Conditioning
By Bill Nurge
Alpine skiing, snowboarding, Telemark and Nordic skiing may be very different disciplines but they all have one obvious commonality ... they make us smile! If not for the huge fun factor, we probably wouldn't shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars on ski passes and equipment every year for the opportunity to spend a multitude of hours in subfreezing temperatures, gliding along on a microscopic film of liquid water. We ski because it makes us feel young, fast, and "most alive." For many of us, skiing is the best part of winter. It's a self-renewing compulsion disguised as play that makes Sun Valley the best place to be in the winter.
As part of a series on winter conditioning, we asked Bill Nurge of Hardcore Training Center to share his expertise. Bill holds a masters degree in Exercise Physiology, has won Baldy full ascent races 12 times, is a top 1 O finisher at the Biathlon Olympic Trials and World Masters Nordic Championships and holds the current American record (50-59 age) for the 500 meter distance on the SkiErg.
Skiing wasn't always fun ... 22,000 years ago, when the Cro-Magnon man first attached two sticks to his feet, it was not to race down a snowy mountain just for the thrill of it. Skiing began as a mode of survival. Over the years, skiing evolved from being a means of transportation to pure joy. In the 1870s, Sondre Norheim from Telemark, Norway revolutionized skiing and introduced the discipline we know today as Telemark skiing. Norheim began using stiff bindings around the heel so that the skier could turn and jump without losing his skis.
In 1924, the first Winter Olympics, featuring only Nordic events, was held in Chamonix, France. The winning time in the 50k classic event was 3 hours and 44 minutes. Not bad considering the heavy equipment and un-groomed conditions they had to contend with! Today's elite Nordic skiers negotiate 50 kilometers of groomed corduroy in a tad over two hours. In the dozen years after the debut of Nordic skiing in the Olympics, the growing love of downhill skiing resulted in the inclusion of alpine skiing in the 1936 Winter Games in Germany. That same year the first chairlift was invented in Sun Valley, revolutionizing skiing as a recreational activity. Sixty-two years later snowboarding made its first appearance in the Olympics and now snowboarders comprise just under 28 percent of visitors to U.S. winter resorts. Flash-forward 17 years and we're all gearing up for another awesome winter of skiing/snowboarding.
While skiing may seem like a very "old" sport, the fact is that alpine skiing and snowboarding are still very "young" sports and the human body has not had time to evolve and adapt to the rigors of high-speed turns while hurtling downhill on skis or a snowboard. Because the forces and physiological demands of snowboarding and Telemark skiing are so similar to alpine skiing and for the purpose of brevity, I will include them by default in all references made to alpine skiing.
Alpine skiing is an incredibly dynamic multi-dimensional skill set, requiring isotonic (dynamic), isometric (static), concentric (positive), and eccentric (negative) contractions of varying muscle groups in an attempt to effectively manage centrifugal force, acceleration, torque, and gravity. At 50 mph, alpine skiers subject their bodies to as much as 3.5 g's which makes a 200-pound athlete feel like he weighs more than 700 pounds. During turns, alpine skiers knees can sustain about 110 foot pounds of lateral torque almost as much torque as can be found in the engines of our local snow-removal trucks.
So what's the big deal? Humans, compared to many other species in the animal kingdom, are relatively weak. Even the strongest "trained" humans are lucky to be half as strong as our closest relative, the chimpanzee. Over the course of evolution, humans got weaker relative to other primates and essentially "traded" brawn for brains, which in the end was a good deal for us. Now we can use our aggrandized and metabolically expensive brains to design and implement training programs that reconcile the fact that alpine skiing necessitates a higher degree of strength, balance, stamina, coordination, and skill than the average person possesses without training .
Winter Sports Exercises:
Here's a handful of some favorite exercises for alpine skiing, snowboarding, backcountry, and Telemark skiing:
BOSU SQUATS WITH BULGARIAN SANDBAG (OR MED BALL: Perform a side-to-side chopping motion with a 10-30 lb. BSB or medicine ball while squatting. 20-40 reps/1-4 sets.
BONGO BOARD ISOMETRIC SQUAT HOLD WITH SPEED BAG DOUBLE FISTS: Keep legs bent at 90-120 degrees and alternate double fist hits on speed bag. 60 to 180 seconds.
45-DEGREE MEDBALL POWER SLAMS: With feet angled 45 degrees off centerline, slam med ball (8-20 lb.) and simultaneously jump and face 45 degrees in other direction. 20-60 reps.
SKIERG DOUBLE POLE USING ONE LEG WITH LATERAL JUMPS: Keep leg bent and jump in and out of agility ladder with foot facing in at 45 degrees when outside of ladder. Pull both handles simul- taneously at a rate of 1 jump every 1.5 seconds. Perform 60-120 seconds.
In spite of a plethora of gear innovations over the past 15 years leading to monumental gains in control, the demands on a skier's muscles and joints have actually increased. Every ski now provides arc-to-arc skiing, which is super sweet except for the fact that there's very little time for your body to recover between turns. Unless you are "trained" to manage the weighty forces of the hill, your body will likely flounder after consecutive hours or days of skiing. Every year in the U.S. dozens of people die in ski-related accidents and well over half a million end up hitching a ride with the ski patrol en route to the hospital. If those who died had anything in common it was catching an edge or losing control just long enough to crash into a tree on the side of a trail. While some accidents and injuries are simply bad "luck," there's no doubt that the more skill (take some lessons!!!) and ski-specific fitness yo have on the hill, the luckier you get and the more fun you have.
Having enough strength, stamina, and fitness to get through your work day is vastly different from having enough ski-specific strength, stamina, and fitness to get through a day of alpine skiing. Trying to defy the laws of physiology and physics on the hill without the pre-requisite training is like taking a fork to a gun fight. You may tough it out for a while but it's probably not going to end well. While some people can "get away" with skiing themselves into "shape," it's not nearly as effective as attaching your skis to a body that is specifically adapted to deal with the extreme forces that it will face on the mountain. That's why elite alpine skiers engage in year-round strength and conditioning programs to prepare for several months of actual skiing.
While each exercise is different, they all combine varying degrees of balance, agility, coordination, anaerobic power, aerobic power, transverse, sagittal, and frontal plane movement and eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle contractions. Proper warm-up and care should be taken in performing any exercise. The goal of training is to get better, not hurt You don't need to "kill" your body to make it stronger, but the sum total of the stimuli needs to be great enough to elicit an adaptation/anabolic response. Otherwise you are simply "going through the motions" and not necessarily making your body better, stronger, and more durable.
SLACKLINE SINGLE LEG MED BALL MASSAGE: one foot on slackline while the other foot moves a medball away and then toward the slackline. 10-30 reps.
45-DEGREE BENCH JUMPS WITH MED BALL (8-30 LB.): Jump off of two feet, angle 45 degrees away from bench, and land on bench 90 degrees the other way. Jump down and repeat 1Ox per side, 1-4 sets.
TRX AGIITY COURSE WITH DUMBBELL OR WEIGHTED BALL: Travel through straps and touch cup with weighted ball and repeat on other side. 60-120 seconds.
45-DEGREE ALTERNATING SQUAT JUMPS WITH ROPE: (Telemark skiers can do this in an alternating split squat stance): 20-80 reps.
MED BALL WALKING: Arrange med balls of varyin weights/densities at 45-degree angles and slowly walk from one ball to the next. Then go backwards!!! 60-120 seconds.
In spite of what many people think, off-snow ski-specific training does not have to consist of hours of mindless physical drudgery. To the contrary, an effective alpine ski conditioning program should be "mind-full" and utilize a wide variety of eccentrically-based multi-planar exercises that add an element of unpredictably to simulate what really happens on the hill. Powerlifting, planks, push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, and wall sits are perfectly symmetrical uni-planar movements that do not closely approximate the complex multi-planar combination of eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle contractions a skier's body must endure while accumulating lactic acid and making split-second decisions in finding the best lines, adjusting to terrain and variable snow conditions, and constantly controlling the skis. If this sounds like a lot it's because it is ... but there's good news! The take-home good news is that if you do the right exercises at the right intensity with consistent variety you only have to train off-snow twice a week to get results that translate into better ski performance and reduced risk of injury. More good news is that you don't need a lot of equipment or heavy weights. Unless you're planning to ski/snowboard with a heavy barbell on your back, there's no reason you "have" to do heavy squats or deadlifts. There are many effective exercises that develop ski-specific strength and power through a combination of variable-speed plyometric movements with lighter weights. Simply jumping off of a two-foot step and dropping into a tuck loads your body with the 3+ g's (g-forces) it would sustain in a high-speed turn .
Nordic Ski Exercises: Bottom line-the more fit you are the more fun you're going to have! We want you to have lots of fun this winter so here are some of our favorite Nordic ski-specific exercises to et your body ready:
SKIERG HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVALS ON ONE LEG JUMPING EVERY SECOND PULL: 15 seconds very hard/15 seconds easy for 1-3 minutes, 3-6 sets.
ROPE LADDER: Climb ladder up and down (hands only tt you can!) for 45-90 seconds.
Pull-ups ladder intervals: Using different grips and widths of hand separation do ladders of pull-ups (start with 1 and go as high as you can then back down to 1). After every pull-up do a side skip with med-ball (6-14 lb.) and throw against wall with side skip touch low. Perfom1 double the number of side skip med ball throws for every pull-up you do.
DIPS WITH KNEE RAISES 45 DEGREES ALTERNATING SIDES: 20-60 reps,
SPLIT SQUAT BALL SLAMS: Alternate which foot is forward and aggressively slam medball (6-12 lb.) to floor. 20-40 reps, 1-4 sets.
CONTRALATERAL SINGLE-ARM/ SINGLE-LEG PISTOL SQUAT PULL-UPS: 15-30 reps, alternate sides, 2-4 sets.
BOSU BALL BATTLE ROPE: Skip laterally over BOSU ball and mt ropes up and down aggressively every skip. 20-60 reps
SLED PUSH WITH SIDE ROPE PULL: Aggressively push sled in one direction and using rope pull sled facing sideways in opposite direction. 1-3 minutes per leg.
Nordic/cross-country skiing consists of two separate disciplines---classic/diagonal stride and the more recent skate ski or free technique, which first officially appeared in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Classic skiing is a more natural front-to-back motion like running, whereas the skating technique uses a lateral push to create forward motion. While there are a multitude of technique differences between the two disciplines there are several commonalities that inextricably link the two. To Nordic ski well and have fun you need a big engine/cardiovascular system, strong upper body, and powerful core.
Whereas alpine skiers need boatloads of strength in their lower bodies, Nordic skiers require ridiculous amounts of strength and power in their upper bodies. Of course the legs need high levels of power and endurance, but more often than not what separates the good from the great Nordic skiers is how much power you can generate with your upper body. The power generated by the upper body musculature must necessarily be transferred to the snow (and skis) via the core/front functional chain and anterior oblique slings. Trying to Nordic ski without a stable and powerful core is like trying to shoot a machine gun mounted to a marshmallow in a canoe. If you've ever tried this you know that it is an extremely inefficient and unsuccessful use of power!
The best way to get strong, stable, and powerful for Nordic skiing is to consistently (2x/week) practice a wide variety of multi-planar movements and exercises that incorporate balance, agility, core-dination (effectively linking upper-body power to lower-body power), strength, power, endurance, and mobility. Movements that link the upper body to the lower body via the front functional line and anterior oblique slings are particularly effective for simulating the total body core-dination that takes place on every ski stroke. Because Nordic skiing is performed at varying speeds, all exercises should be performed at a variety of speeds and tension levels. And don't forget that skiing on different densities of snow and ice takes more balance, agility, and stability than skiing on a treadmill. Train for variability!
While learning how to Nordic ski is not that difficult with good instruction (take some lessons at Galena Lodge or SY), the inherent physiological demands of creating your own speed with poles and skinny skis necessitates lots of aerobic training and a Nordic ski-specific strength and conditioning program. The upside of all of this training is a super-charged body that wants to go fast and have fun on Nordic skis for hours on end, all season long.
Nothing quite compares to the magical sensation of your muscles, mind, and mettle conspiring to create speed with carbon fiber sticks and skis while gliding on a hair's-width layer of water disguised as powdered corduroy. More good news is that compared to alpine skiing, the average velocity attained by Nordic skiers is relatively low, making Newton's Law a lot more lenient and thereby reducing the risk of injury. In addition to being super fun and hassle-free, there is no better way to challenge your entire body to burn maximum calories. Elite Nordic skiers can incinerate upwards of 1,200 calories per hour for hours
The Hardcore Training Center in Ketchum offers Private, Semi-Private, and Group Classes for Alpine Ski-Condioning and Nordic Ski-Conditioning.
Hardcore Training Center
200 First Ave N I Ketchum
SVPN Magazine August 2015
“HardCore Training is all about making people better, stronger, younger and more fit in the safest and most effective way possible. We meet you where you are and take you where you want to go.” - Owner Bill Nurge
Training Center's Power Couple
Bill & Naty Nurge
By Hayden Seder, SVPN Magazine, August 2015.
Power couple Bill and Naty Nurge are the owners, designers, coaches, class lead-ers—well, really everything—behind the HardCore Training Center in Ketchum. After moving into a new, bigger, and more equipped space in Ketchum, this duo have taken fitness to a new level. Both are overly qualified to transform the bodies of locals with Naty has an M.S in Engineering, certified (A.C.E.) Personal Training, two-time winning of the five-day multi-sport Eco Challenge Race, and World Record holder (40-49age) for the SkiErg 500 meter distance experience to complement Bill’s Masters degree in Exercise Physiology and his record of winning the Baldy ascent races 12-times. Bill is also a top 10 finisher at the Biathlon Olympic Trials and World Masters Nordic Cham-pionships and holds the current American record (50-59 age) for the 500 meter distance on the SkiErg. Who better to get people in shape, working better and harder, and having fun while doing it?
SVPN: WHAT EXACTLY IS HARDCORE TRAINING?
BILL AND NATY NURGE:
HardCore Training is all about making people better, stronger, younger, and more fit in the safest and most effective way possible. We meet you where you are and take you where you want to go. HardCore Training is th evolution of 30 years of studying, compet-ing and training humans of all ages and abilities distilled into FUNctional work-outs that change your body from the inside out. Whether you want to hike or bike faster, ski all day, be healthier or simply improve the way you look and feel, every goal starts with moving better. It doesn't matter how strong you are or how much endurance you have if you can't move well. That's why every HardCore workout in-corporates three-dimensional, multi-planar movements that build balance, mobility, stability, coordination, power, stamina and strength. HardCore Training is all about maximizing the reward to risk ratio of every exercise so you can reach your goals without over reaching your capabilities and getting injured.
SVPN: WHAT MAKES THE HARDCORE TRAINING CENTER DIFFERENT FROM OTHER GYMS?
BILL AND NATY NURGE:
This is a one of a kind FUNctional playground where it's the norm to kick, punch, run, row, SkiErg, rock-climb, slackline, sled push/pull, dip, and TRX your body into better shape in one session. At HardCore we train movements, not just muscles; systems, not just body parts; people, not programs; athleticism, not just weight lifting; for sports and life, not just to get better at training.
SVPN:WHAT MAKES YOU TWO UNIQUELY QUALIFIED AS TRAINERS?
BILL AND NATY NURGE:
We are both middle-aged, multi-sport athletes and trainers who have dedicated our lives to building better bodies
and improving athletic performance. We have a keen understanding of exercise physiology and biomechanics which enables us to create innovative FUNctional workouts without sacrificing safety and effectiveness.We know how to train athletes because we both have extensive backgrounds in a variety of sports.We know how to train older individualsbecause we have an empirical understanding of the aging process and its effects on performance. We know when to push, when to back off and when it's time to change it up.
SVPN: DO YOU ONLY WORK WITH HARDCORE ATHLETES ?
BILL AND NATY NURGE:
No. Although we do work with elite athletes and enjoy taking them to higher levels of fitness and performance the vas majority of our clients are 45-75 years old and not training for the Olympics.
SVPN: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON TRAINING MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE?
BILL AND NATY NURGE:
A lot of people think they somehow in-tuitively know the safest and most effective path to a leaner, stronger and better func-tioning body. Despite having an owner’s manual, most people would never consider trying to upgrade or fix their automobile or PC and yet when it comes to their most valuable possession, the human body, they somehow feel like they've got it figure out. Getting better without getting hurt is complicated and counter-intuitive which is why you want experts on your team. Rather than thinking of fitness training as an extravagant expense it should be consid-ered an intelligent investment in your most valuable assets; your fitness, your health, and your happiness!
Another common mistake is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. To elicit physiological improvements you must systematically alter the stimulus.