With every change of season comes the change of activities. Your crampons are replaced by rock shoes. Ski poles give way to your trekking poles. Your puffy is exchanged for a rain shell. The only thing common thread from one season to the next is you. So after ski touring all season, why does trail running feel so hard?
In this edition of Therm-a-Rest Beta, we give you the knowledge you need to make the transition from winter to spring sports as smooth as possible.
One of the great things about being an outdoor athlete is the ability to pursue so many different activities throughout the year. But there is always the endless cycle of – first-day slog, improving as time goes on, to feeling dialed by the end of the season, then starting the cycle all over again at the start of a new seasonal activity.
In this article, I wanted to give you a few ideas on how to carry winter fitness over to your spring activities and reducing the ‘slog’ by becoming more mindful in your movement.
Each sport requires a set of unique skills and metabolic profile. Knowing what you have gained from your winter endeavors, such as increased endurance from cross country skiing, can help direct your training or help direct you to a spring activity with a similar activity profile. Personally, I spend a lot of time working on my flexibility and using body weight protocols such as ring routines and hand balancing work to improve my general strength this winter. I know that this has laid a pretty solid foundation of movement strength, but I do lack the finger strength for bouldering. I will be transitioning to more specific climbing training as the summer gets closer, but I know I’ve set myself up for success because of the work I did this winter.
To start your training process, it’s always a good idea to identify your current fitness level. It’s like two points on a map, if you don’t know where you are, or where you want to go, you can’t make a plan. It’s not entirely necessary to test yourself vigorously, however, knowing your capabilities will at least give you a baseline.
You can choose to test yourself to see where you fall in each of these categories. The only thing you can’t test is specific skill sets. This is only done within the activity itself. However, if you are mindfully practicing motor control, skill can bridge between activities, albeit system skills such as belaying, setting up anchors, risk assessment, decision making etc.
Aerobic – 13-min ramp test
Anaerobic – 1 minute sprint (sprint using any machine or the outdoors for 1 minute and see how far you can go)
Upper body Strength – Pull up (minimum 2r-3r), dips (minimum 2r-3r) , bent over row (minimum 25% of BW per hand x 5r), push ups (5r) or chest press (at least 25% of BW per hand x 5r). Each of these movements you want to move as close to body weight as possible x 3r.
*To increase your squat flexibility, you can try this squat routine and toe opener sequence.
To give you an idea of the physical profiles of some general outdoor activities, you can take a look at the table below. The numbers indicate priority. 1 is the lowest priority and 5 is the highest priority. Based off of this, you can then start to choose which activity you’d like to focus on in the spring, even if you haven’t been doing much in the winter.
As you can see from this table, there are some very similar physical profiles of sports. If you decide to do a similar sport, then you will likely just have to focus on building the skills necessary for your spring sport.
Snowshoeing -> Backpacking
Let’s take someone who has been slogging up mountains with snowshoes, this person will likely be best suited for backpacking and hiking.
Things to work on if you decide to backpack:
- Focus on mild to moderate elevation change in the beginning stages of training/trip planning
- Introducing light weight to easy hikes, then progress to heavier packs and more aggressive terrain.
One thing to note about backpacking is that it does require you to carry all of your gear, so make sure to know your pack weight, then start working up towards that weight on test/training hikes. Add incremental weight each week, not exceeding more than a 5lbs increase in a week.
Ice Climbing -> Rock Climbing
Both of these sports rely heavily on skill and upper body strength. Not to mention aerobic endurance and anaerobic power, depending on what you want to pursue.
Things to focus on if you want to rock climb coming from Ice Climbing:
- The main component here is specific grip strength. Ice climbers have a death grip, and can easily be used for rock climbing, but some time focused on volume climbing, then later progressing to more difficult moves and holds will help build this up. Ideally you want to strengthen specific finger strength, which there are several tools available to do so, but do so with caution. Make sure to build your muscles in your forearms first (6-12 weeks) before even thinking about working the tendons on a hangboard.
- There is also a high risk of injury when rock climbing, make sure to progress at a slow pace.
I also want to discuss how mindful practice in your winter activity can transfer skill sets over to other activities for the spring and summer. Mindful practice means being present with what you are doing. If you slow down and increase your awareness of what the body is doing, you create more motor patterns in the body. Essentially, you create a ‘map’ from your brain to your body when you increase mindfulness in movement. Later when you go onto more novel exercises, you can use this map as a guide to create more motor patterns, but they will be done much more quickly, allowing you to accelerate the learning process.
With any new activity, it’s important to remember to go slow. It’s so often that we get excited and want to dive in head first, dedicating all of our time to a new activity. What normally happens? We get injured or we burn out. A few ways to be progressive about your training or new activity is to introduce it incrementally by manipulating volume or varying the intensity each day. Going all out all the time to failure will most certainly end badly. I challenge you to switch up your days, so that some days you feel super fresh post workout, and other days you feel totally worked. The more days you feel fresh, the faster it will be to recover for your next session. Be smart, train smart.