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Coaches Blog

Using Downhill Skiing/Snowboarding as Cross-Training This Winter

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

In the depths of your darkest winter days, do you wish for those times spent in the fresh air and sun? A few years ago, I felt the same way. A friend suggested that I try snowboarding - I laughed because honestly, I’m paralyzed on the right side and had never tried snowboarding, even back in my “two-sided days”.

But after thinking about it, researching how to learn this sport safely, and doing some initial balance strengthening work, I decided to take the risk, take a lesson, and learn how to snowboard. Four years later, I’m still on the bunny hill…but I’ve gotten some serious benefits from it! Here are three of the biggest improvements I've enjoyed (and you can, too)!


1) Using Different Planes of Movement

Running, biking, and swimming only allow the athlete to move in one plane of movement - forward. During off-season, when training allows for more creativity, changing the plane of movement can be a very beneficial way to strengthen the muscles in a different way.


When snowboarding, downhill skiing, or sit-skiing, the constant balance checks and weight shifting strengthen the lateral movement in ways that are different than routine training in running, cycling, and swimming.


2) Strengthen your “Learning Muscle”

As an endurance athlete, there is always something you can learn about a downhill winter activity. Each year, an athlete’s body will respond to conditions a little differently; every time you hit the slopes, weather and snow conditions combine to make a slightly new scenario.


These factors mean the athlete is constantly learning when they strap on their boots or into their sit-ski. It's also fun (and challenging) learn about a different set of equipment, clothing, and ski/snowboard/sit-ski basics. All this is great for the brain!


3) Get Outdoors and Change it Up!

Athletes sometimes report getting “stuck in a rut” and bored when training on their bike trainer or the treadmill/rollers. Getting outside and changing the winter routing can seriously benefit not only their physical health but their mental health as well.


Downhill skiing, snowboarding, and sit-skiing can be a fun and exhilarating experience but it can also be a bit dangerous… if you’ve never participated in a downhill winter sport, I recommend taking a lesson or two from an experienced instructor - that way you can have fun and be safe. :)

 

Coach Becky Piper is a USA Triathlon Certified Level 1 Triathlon Coach, Paratriathlon Coach, and Cycling Coach. She is currently on her way to Michigan but has made a little stopover in Wisconsin to see friends and family while her husband Sam is serving in the military. Her dog, Gunner, is with her on the long adventure across the country. She is the reigning national champion in the Time Trial and Road Race in women’s C2 Paracycling and is preparing for her debut in the Paralympic Trials, but her true passion is coaching. Coach Becky can be reached at becky@teammpi.com.


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