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Winter fitness – it’s easy as child’s play

Roger Marolt

So, you want to know about the latest outdoor wintertime fitness craze? It’s called Zware Mensen Op Slees, or “sleeing.” Its practitioners are young, hip and honed. It is something else! After only a few sessions, I promise you will feel much younger. It’s like slamming adrenaline and endorphin punch at the BALCO Christmas party. You’ll be energized and exhilarated. You’ll feel like Superman with Krypton in full retrograde. Seriously, the greatest thing about this workout is that it was developed by mountain people for mountain people. It’s a seasonal, high-altitude conditioning program that is designed around the natural, cold-weather environment that is oftentimes considered a hindrance to winter fitness in a place like Aspen.This program takes all of the usual negatives about wintertime workouts – the cold, wind, snow, etc. – and integrates them into necessary components. A very cool part of this fitness routine is that it is directly identifiable with our lifestyle here. You can only do it in the mountains! To get started, you need a fairly long, wide-open slope. It doesn’t require the vast spaces necessary for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. But, it does require terrain with specific characteristics. Local guides can help you find the best places. The hill must be moderately steep and about 50 yards long with around 8 to 14 inches of powder snow on it. Before beginning the routine, a path to the top of the slee zone is set. You can pack this out yourself, but a physical trainer familiar with sleeing will be able to make steps that are optimal to maximize the intensity of the workout while reducing the chance for injury. Your trainer should also establish a single, smooth track for descents. Again, a trained professional sleer knows how to ensure a good experience.Now you need to make sure you have a reliable slee. It’s not necessary to spend the extra bucks for a competitive model. A training slee can be purchased for about half the cost and will perform nearly as well under most conditions. I recommend the 100 cm length for most, but an experienced fitter can customize a slee to your exact specifications. That’s all you need! Now, you are ready to strap the heart-rate monitor on under your Gore-Tex clothing and get intense. For the first 20 minutes or so, you want to pay attention to your heart rate. Begin by walking up the packed trail at a comfortable pace. On the first trip, your pulse rate should stay below 50 percent of your maximum. When you get to the top and lie down on your slee for the first trip down, take advantage of the softness of the fresh track to get comfortable with the descent. Take deep breaths and relax. This is the recovery phase of the workout. Remember, the track will get faster with every trip. If you can’t control your heart rate now, it will be extremely difficult to do so when the speed increases.After the warmup, the intensity gets pegged up a few notches. Now you step just to the side of the packed trail and make your ascent in the deep powder snow. You should try to get to the top in about a minute and a half and no more than three minutes. Once there, do not stop and rest, but ride to the bottom as quickly as possible. If you really want to up the ante, you can try a running start and jump onto your slee in motion to gain even more downward speed. Yelling loudly may help prevent hyperventilation. Remember, try to relax and recover on the way down. On each successive lap, step to the side of your previous tracks so that each ascent is made through fresh snow. But, keep descending on the same packed track to make it faster. It will soon become obvious that, as the workload is increasing, your recovery time is shortening. Some experts practice an advanced form of the exercise by weighting their slees. This is accomplished by allowing packed snow to accumulate on the slee. The added mass makes pulling the slee up the hill behind you much more difficult and the rides down even faster. If you are really up for a challenge, you can lift the slee above your head and pump it up and down while trudging up the hill, thus adding an upper body component to the workout. It’s good for your coordination, too.After 30 minutes at this intense level, it’s time for the anaerobic-enhancement phase. Set the slee aside and quickly pack three snowballs in front of you. Begin rolling the first one through the snow. It will grow in size as you do this. Keep rolling it until you can no longer move it using a 100 percent effort. Sprint back to the second snowball and roll it until it’s about half as big as the first one. Do the same thing with the last one, rolling it until it is about the size of a basketball.Without catching your breath, squat down and lift the middle-size ball. Using good form, with your trainer spotting you, place this ball on top of the large one. Then, lift the smallest ball to about shoulder height. In one swift motion, thrust it up and place it on top of the other two.It is now important to cool off and bring your pulse rate down slowly. At this stage, all you need to do is find a flat patch of powder. Breathe deeply, relax, and fall backward onto the fresh snow. Lying thus with your arms by your sides, slowly bring your fully extended arms above your head. At the same time, slide your legs outward. Concentrate on your breathing and relaxation. Now, bring your arms back down to your sides while sliding your feet back together again. Repeat this motion several times until your pulse rate is at normal resting.That’s it! And, you won’t believe how good you feel. So, what are you waiting for? Call your personal trainer and get going today! It’s as easy as child’s play.Roger Marolt is heading downhill fast. Try to catch him at roger@maroltllp.com


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