It’s a hard time for recreational athletes and others who enjoy outside action. It’s cold, and skies darken earlier. Most races and other events are finished. Worse, the lifts haven’t started running yet, so you can’t even go skiing or snowboarding.
But now, before resorts open for winter, is a perfect time to build skills that will make you a better athlete in every one of your activities. Don’t let cold weather turn you into a slug. Get thee to the gym!
Personal trainer Nick Remy says, “There are lots of things you can do in a gym for specific sports training. You can use medicine balls (heavy balls), the Bosu ball, all kinds of equipment that give you more functional training that builds balance and coordination.” When it comes to sports, whether it’s climbing, skateboarding or tricking it in the terrain park, he (or she) with the best balance, coordination and strongest core will survive.
The often under-used Bosu ball is a half-stability ball attached to a flat platform. Both sides are used to strengthen the core, as well as building up smaller stabilizer muscles that improve balance. For a quick Bosu workout, Remy says, “Put the flat side down, and stand on the round side. That’s a bit more stable, you won’t shake back and forth. But it makes your body move around to adjust for balance. You learn how you need to stand to be in a balanced position. Then, put your hands on the ball and do pushups, so your body is more inclined and a little unstable on your wrists. It’s changing the ‘ground’ a little.”
Next, turn the ball over for more advanced core and balance work. Stand on the flat side and—with less weight than you normally lift—perform exercises like dumbbell curls, shoulder presses and squats. Do the same free-weight exercises you normally do on a flat surface. The Bosu ball demands more work from your core-stability muscles, thus improving your sense of balance. Increase the resistance you use as your balance improves. If the wobbly flat platform of the Bosu is too difficult, work up to it by using two DynaDiscs, a smaller and flatter inflated round cushion that’s easier to balance on than a Bosu. Most gyms have this equipment. If not, ask your gym manager to get it.
PERSONAL TRAINER NICK REMY USES DUMBBELLS AND A BOSU BALL FOR A CORE-WORKING BALANCE DRILL. // PHOTO BY WINA STURGEON
There are some good machines in the gym that recreational athletes ignore, or else don’t use to the fullest potential, such as the smith machine, leg press or weight-assisted pull-up/dip machine.
With the smith, you can do heavier squats or change position to give more work to your glutes and hamstrings.
THE SMITH MACHINE ALLOWS YOU TO CHOOSE WHICH MUSCLES WORK MOST IN A SQUAT. AN UPRIGHT POSTURE PUTS MORE RESISTANCE ON THE BACK. FEET FORWARD WORKS THE CORE. PUT MORE PRESSURE ON THE INSIDE OF ONE FOOT AND OUTSIDE OF THE OTHER, THEN SWITCH TO WORK THE ADDUCTORS AND ABDUCTORS. // PHOTO BY WINA STURGEON
Using different foot positions on the leg press allows you to work different parts of your lower body.
PLACE MID-FOOT AND HEELS HIGH ON THE PLATE TO FOCUS MORE RESISTANCE ON LOWER ABS, GLUTES AND HAMSTRINGS. // PHOTO BY WINA STURGEON
DIFFERENT FOOT POSITIONS ON THE LEG PRESS WORK DIFFERENT LEG MUSCLES. PUT FEET LOW ON THE PLATE AND USE ONLY THE TOES TO WORK THE CALVES. CONTINUE REPS UNTIL THE CALVES BURN. // PHOTO BY WINA STURGEON
Weight-assisted pull-ups and dips allow you to work your entire upper body and core with a manageable resistance. You can even change which muscles you train by changing your grip.
THE WEIGHT-ASSISTED DIP MACHINE BUILDS THE UPPER ARMS (FOCUSING ON THE TRICEPS), PLUS THE CHEST AND SHOULDERS. ADJUST THE RESISTANCE UPWARD EVERY WEEK TO A WEIGHT YOU CAN HANDLE WITH GOOD FORM FOR AT LEAST 12 REPS. REGULAR USE OF THE MACHINE BUILDS THE ENTIRE UPPER BODY. // PHOTO BY WINA STURGEON
A wide grip on the pull-up bar will work your upper lats; a narrow grip will put more physical stress on your lower lats, and an underhand grip (palms facing toward you) will work your biceps.
THE WEIGHT-ASSISTED PULL-UP/DIP MACHINE ALLOWS YOU TO LIFT AS LITTLE AS 10 POUNDS. REGULAR WORKOUTS ON THIS MACHINE WILL BUILD THE LATS, TRAPS AND BICEPS SO THEY GET STRONG ENOUGH TO LIFT YOUR FULL BODY WEIGHT. // PHOTO BY WINA STURGEON
Even a treadmill has other options than just striding forward. “If you want to become a better athlete and you have no current injuries, then try changing your speed and incline around on the treadmill—don’t just keep doing the same old thing,” Remy says. “Play with it. Go way high with the speed, then rest for a few seconds. Then go way high on the incline and speed, then rest. Keep playing with your body.”
His advice is especially important to athletes who don’t want to lose fitness during this transition season. The body quickly adapts to whatever stress it has to deal with—as well as any slug-like lack of stress.