There are a lot of things we like to associate with winter… snow, ski holidays, doing a season, the first day on the mountains... getting first tracks and riding powder...
What we don't want to associate with winter is getting to the bottom of that first powder run wheezing, sweating profusely and feeling like we're about to throw up. To avoid these feelings at all costs, it's necessary to get fit or at the very least get less unfit.
But getting fit doesn't have to mean hours in the gym on top of an expensive membership, it can sometimes be fun. And since we know December is financially the worst time of year to start a new hobby, we've picked the cheapest things we can find. So get your exercise gear out and prepare to make leg burn a thing of the past!
Please note that that not everyone will find these activities 'fun' but they're all really good for you and it's a scientific fact that exercising makes you feel happier, less tired and is really good for your brain as well as your body.
Go For a Bike Ride
Ever noticed that riding a bike uses all the same muscles as skiing? It's really good for the environment as an alternative form of travel too, so something as simple as cycling to work a few times a week could do a world of good!
Cycling is also a really low impact sport, so if you have any recovering injuries or dodgy knees, it's the perfect way to get your strength back for the snow. And it's really good for your core, as well!
Bikes don't even have to be super expensive, especially if you get a second hand one, just make sure it's the right size and your legs will thank you later. Win, win.
Skating is ridiculously hard, and most of us will eventually have to admit to ourselves that we will never be good skaters, no matter how hard we try. But sometimes that works to our advantage.
If for example, like me, you're an inexperienced skater, pumping a mini ramp can provide hours of fun, and it's really good leg exercise, as well as balance practice. Longboarding is also super good for you if you're a snowboarder - going really fast on concrete is a great way to make you feel better about going really fast on the snow!
If you're not ready to brave the skatepark, a skateboard deck and a piece of plastic tubing, or a large bottle filled with water is a great way to build your leg strength and improve your balance.
Or... if you're in the London area, you could head to the Baysixty6 Girls Night Christmas Jam this Friday, where for only £5 you can hire a board, protective gear and have a lesson. The night promises appearances from some UK pros, food, fun, swag and the chance not to be stared at by 10 year old boys. Bonus.
If you're already really good at skating, you may well find snowboarding ridiculously easy and wonder why everyone else is struggling - a la Kim in Chalet Girl.
Walk up a Hill
Walking up hills is surprisingly good for your knees, which need to be super strong whichever snow sport you decide to do, and hiking is one of the most accessible activities, wherever you are.
It may seem like the kind of thing old people do on a Sunday, brandishing long ski poles and a Thermos of tea, but it can be pretty gnarly. Just check out this guide to challenge walks in Britain if you still need convincing, but maybe don't try the Three Peaks on foot first!
Other great benefits of hiking are that it's really good for your cardiovascular fitness, and apparently can increase your creative problem solving skills by up to 50% (according to this article from the Huffington Post). We all knew that being outdoors was good for us, but not by how much!
Do Some Yoga (dog optional)
We're all about the yoga here at Cooler - it's great for your brain as well as your body, and it makes you strong and flexible without you even realising it's happening. It's also a great way to cool down after riding - which is really important in order to avoid injuries!
There are SO many ways to get yoga into your life; last year our web editor Anna caught up with Lara Baumann of Quantum Yoga for some tips on how to tailor your yoga to your lifestyle. You can also head to your local yoga teacher, and there will usually be a few yoga classes wherever you're shredding, too - just make sure your teacher is experienced and fully qualified!
There is also heaps of free yoga on Youtube, and the same rule applies; take the time to find someone you like and who has lots of experience. Our favourite is Yoga with Adrienne because she caters to lots of different abilities and has a sequence for pretty much everything! Check out her Runners Cool Down because it's really great for cooling down after a shred.
It can also be a great chance to warm up with top yoga instructor Gabby Flemming and Crystal Ski's flip-reverse of Bikram Yoga; instead of taking place the traditional in a hot and humid environment, Ski-ram yoga is designed to be practised in the cold (-2 degrees!) and is specifically tailored to skiing and snowboarding. It's set to be the new big trend for 2015 and you can check it out here.
Follow a Plan
Seriously, if you're not sure where to start, why not try letting someone else do all the hard work for you? Getting fit for winter has become a big trend this year (and hopefully one that stays!) and there are heaps of pros and Joes alike sharing their fitness tips with the world.
These kinds of workouts are awesome because they're really just a series of exercises specifically focused on the muscles you use for snowsports, and they pay a lot of attention to your core, which is always working really hard when you're riding.
Among our favourites is Skifit, developed by Chamonix-based, world-renowned physiotherapist Neil McLean. It's an app with four different stages to improve your fitness for skiing, focusing on core strength, flexibility, cardio and balance. Prepare to fall over - a lot!
Skifit will set you back £10 a year, but there are also loads informative nuggets out there on the internet; Kimmy Fasani and Angel Collinson have both done some ski and snowboard focused training guides to help us get strong and flexible!
Take the Stairs
This may seem like a bit of weird one, but making small changes to your daily routine can make all the difference. Taking the stairs instead of the lift, getting off the bus/train/tube a stop early and walking, standing on alternate legs while washing the dishes or brushing your teeth... there are heaps if little things you can do every day to improve your strength, fitness and endurance. And it's totally free!
Most of these things have environmental benefits, too - as this poster from the New York Department of Health tells us!
Go for a Run
Running is a really good way to improve your cardio, especially if you're looking forward to a good bit of hiking or touring over the winter months. And one of the best things about running is that it's free, and you can do it whenever and wherever you like!
Contrary to popular belief, scientists have discovered that running isn't actually bad for your knees! It has the same benefits of regular exercise that all the other sports in this post do, like helping you live longer, keeping your brain well nourished and making you feel happy. It's just a bit more intense, so perfect for when you're in a bit of a rush.
There are also heaps of ways to tailor your running to suit your needs; interval sprints, varied terrain and carrying weights are all great ways to improve your fitness for the mountains - just make sure to cool down properly afterwards to maintain your flexibility.
Do Some Swimming
Swimming is about the most low impact form of exercise you can do, as well as being a great work out for the entire body and your cardiovascular system. It's also proven to help ease the symptoms of asthma, so it's a great way to increase your lung capacity for being at high altitudes.
Swimming is also one of the few activities that allows you to stretch and strengthen your muscles at the same time, which is perfect for snowsports! It's great to be strong but it also really helps to be flexible so your body can deal better with unfortunate incidents like rag-dolling through a mogul field, or scorpioning after catching an edge.
The mental effects of swimming are similar to the ones you get from doing yoga - so if you've had a stressful day going for a swim will sort you out mentally and physically!
Get down to the Local Dryslope
We say dryslope because it's the cheaper alternative to a snowdome, but domes work just as well! When you're riding indoors, you tend to get way more laps and can actually spend way more time riding than you might on a busy day in the mountains. Why d'you think those fridge kids are so good?
Actually going skiing or snowboarding is a great way to get your body used to which muscles you'll be using, and gives you a chance to strengthen them up a bit - so even if you're not doing a 2km vertical descent through waist deep powder, a few park laps in the dome will go a long way to prepare you!
Get a Buddy
Because exercise is way more fun when you do it with someone else!
And it helps you stay motivated...!
These super awesome whale necklaces are available from Iadornyou at Etsy.com