Class makes conditions good before snow falls
November 22, 2005
On Thursday evening at the Aspen Athletic Club, 18 locals are pouring out sweat together as they envision themselves carving perfect turns on the mountain.
In one room, Aspen Club trainer Dana Laughren leads a group of 10 through a series of plyometric exercises on BOSU (both sides up) platforms. Participants jump from one dome-shaped BOSU to the next to practice their balance with each landing. Then it’s on to resistance-band exercises, followed by a series of lunges, crunches and leg lifts.
In the room next door, trainer Ted Keith leads eight class members though a rotation of drills that looks like skiing boot camp. One pair does frog jumps in the corner; another twosome does squat rows with resistance bands. There is also a station for medicine ball throws where participants stand on unstable balance boards. At another position a pair walks on a balance beam while tossing a ball in the air.
Laughren and Keith’s energy is infectious. After 25 minutes, the two trainers switch groups and start their rotations all over again. While her new charges circle through laps on the BOSUs, Laughren shouts commands and provides encouragement.
“Plyometrics,” she yells, “is Latin for measured steps. C’mon you guys, let’s concentrate.”
The class wraps up with some stretching, followed by an exodus to the water fountain.
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The most obvious observation to take away from the 90-minute class is this: Ski conditioning makes skiing look easy. And that’s the point, really.
The impetus behind the class at the Aspen Athletic Club, now in its 30th year, is to help locals make a smooth transition to the ski season by strengthening their bodies beforehand.
“We are all about injury prevention and about being strong,” Laughren says. “We have a lot of fitness goals, but that is one of the biggest ones is to prevent injury by having a strong core. It’s also about strength, endurance, flexibility and quick reflexes. It’s sort of a whole gamut of things.”
The class at the Aspen Athletic Club isn’t unique. The Aspen Club and Spa also offers ski conditioning classes, as does the Snowmass Club and the Aspen Recreation Center, whose once-a-week class meets at the Red Brick Center for the Arts. The Maroon Creek Club had planned to offer a class this year, but the offering was canceled because the instructor had other commitments.
Laughren, who has taught ski conditioning at the Aspen Athletic Club for the past 20 years, says the classes ” in general ” have evolved substantially since their inception.
Twenty years ago, ski conditioning classes included such things as running intervals up hard concrete stairs and plyo exercises on hard wooden floors ” both things that aren’t good for knees, Laughren says.
Nowadays, ski conditioning is more of an exact science, Laughren says. Instead of putting too much stress on knees and joints, the emphasis is building strength in those areas and helping participants gain increased balance.
“It’s entirely sports specific,” Keith says of the six-week course. “A lot of core strength and a lot of balance. When they’re finished, they’re a little bit stronger around the midsection, which is what we want with balance anyway.”
The ski conditioning classes are also popular because it’s easier to get ready for the season with a group of others as opposed to working out individually, Laughren says.
“I wouldn’t do it on my own,” says Lauren Albrecht, who singed up for the class to prepare for her first winter in Aspen. “It’s more motivation, plus you get a T-shirt. I just became a member here and everyone was raving about ski conditioning. I’m hoping to get muscle strength and balance. For the last couple of years, I’ve been commuting from the Front Range. I didn’t have to be in as good of shape as I do now.”
Glen McLeod, also a first-timer, says he’s noticed definite gains in balance and overall strength since he started attending the class. He says he feels confident about the upcoming season.
“It’s certainly still challenging, but a lot less painful than when I started,” he says. “I’d been pretty sore and struggling through the first two classes, so I guess ultimately it’s been achieving its goal of getting me in better shape.”
Laughren notes, more than anything, that the classes give participants a mental edge.
“I think that’s the main thing is that people feel they’re better prepared mentally,” she says. “All the balance work helps people a lot more than strength and endurance, I think. Balance is something that deteriorates as you age, so the balance work helps with confidence.”
Still, Laughren says, once the first pair of local mountains opens up Thursday, the best way for class members to gain added confidence with their technique is to be on the hill ” not in a hot workout studio.
“Nothing,” Laughren says, “gets you in shape for skiing like skiing.”
Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org