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.
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.
Using different foot positions on the leg press allows you to work different parts of your lower body.
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.
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.