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Originally published Monday, January 14, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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Race into ski shape before hitting the mountain

Fitness columnist Kelly Turner provides tips for getting into great ski shape this season.

Special to The Seattle Times

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On Fitness

In order to perform your best on the slopes, you have to get into shape before you set foot on a lift.

The key to a great ski season lies in leg and core strength, endurance and balance. Sports-specific training, or training using the movements your sport requires, is the most effective way to improve your skills.

Do the following exercises two or three times a week for impressive results fast.

Wall sits

Wall sits are an isometric exercise, which means you hold a position instead of performing repetitions. Wall sits will help build strength and endurance in your legs, specifically the quads, which help you hold the crouched position necessary to downhill ski with ease.

Position yourself standing with your back pressed against the wall. Slide down into a seated position, with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle, making sure your knees don’t pass over your toes. Keep your weight on your heels, and hold your arms out in front of you, so you don’t use them to brace yourself. Hold for 30 seconds or up to one minute, depending on your fitness level.

Jump lunges

Jump lunges are a plyometric exercise that will not only train your body to absorb the impact associated with skiing but also help develop explosive power and agility.

Start in a lunge position, both knees at 90-degree angles, with your right foot forward and your hands on your hips. Spring upward and switch your legs, landing as softly as possible into a left leg lunge. Continue with your jump lunges, switching your legs each time, keeping your back straight and your hips low. Repeat 10-15 times each leg.

Stability squats

Balance is crucial to good ski performance, so instead of doing regular squats, perform your squats on an unstable surface, like a BOSU ball or balance board to engage the stabilizing muscles in your legs.

Carefully step onto the balance board and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up, slowly lower down into a squat and hold for three counts. Your legs may shake and wobble, but stay relaxed. The shaking is how your muscles learn to stabilize you. Keeping your weight on your heels, slowly return to starting position. Repeat with holds 10 to 15 times. For a little more of a challenge, hold a medicine ball under your chin or dumbbells down by your sides.

Planks

Arguably the best exercise to train your core, planks are another isometric exercise that will help you stay strong and steady on the slopes.

Lie face down on a mat with your elbows under your shoulders, palms flat. Push off the floor, raising up onto your toes and forearms. Make sure to keep your back flat and your neck neutral, so your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, depending on your fitness level.

This simple routine is not only well rounded and specific enough to ensure you see results on the slopes, it is a great core and lower body workout anyone can benefit from.

Kelly Turner: kellyturnerfitness@gmail.com. Turner is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified personal trainer and fitness writer: www.KellyTurnerFitness.com. On Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.

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