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Tone up on the slopes: downhill skiing is a great way to stay in shape.

WHEN Ralph Waddy began downhill skiing nearly a decade ago, it was more for the challenge and the camaraderie than for the workout. But the Los Angeles-area resident quickly learned that it is a great way to keep fit, with all of the twists and turns and physical exertion that is required to maneuver down the slopes. Today, not only is downhill skiing a big part of Waddy's winter workout, it is a hobby. He is a volunteer ski instructor for Four Seasons West Ski & Snowboard Club in Los Angeles, an offshoot of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, the nation's largest African-American ski club.

"It's a great all-around workout," Waddy says. "It's great for anyone looking to change their winter workout. And the ski club is great because we don't normally see African-Americans tackling the slopes."

STRENGTHENING THE LOWER BODY

* Skiing requires a lot of lower-body action. So, many experts urge skiers to participate in activities that strengthen the lower body. Exercises include squats, which strengthen everything from the waist down. Lunges are also excellent. "Side lunges are great because they give you the lateral movement that mimics slalom skiing [zigzagging between poles]," says Allegra Feamster, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Bally Total Fitness in Chicago. If you follow these steps, you can increase the possibility of having a fun and safe ski season.

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GET FIT BEFORE HITTING THE SLOPES

* While downhill skiing might look easy, it takes practice, access to the proper equipment and a certain degree of physical fitness. Everyone, especially beginners, should consult a doctor before hitting the slopes, skiing and medical experts say. "The misconception about skiing is that because it looks so easy, you can get on a set of skis and just go," says Feamster. "But even the most seasoned downhill skiers will tell you that after the first day on the slopes, they are feeling muscles they forgot they had. Skiing is a good way to wake up those muscles."

Some of those sleeping muscles include quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. To avoid muscle aches and muscle tears, Feamster and other experts suggest stretching and warming up before putting on your skis.

A major part of preparing for the downhill ski season involves getting in shape before the season starts in December and January, says Feamster. In September, she says an influx of clients begin training for skiing. Most clients focus on increasing flexibility, improving cardiovascular endurance and building upper and lower-body strength, she says.

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BUILDING ENDURANCE

* Skiing requires a lot of physical exertion because mountain air is thinner and requires more effort, so Feamster encourages clients to do 20 minutes of activities three days a week, and gradually build up to longer periods and more days. Activities can include cycling, which is excellent because it requires the use of all of the muscles involved in skiing, Feamster says. She also suggests running and using the elliptical machine, which replicate the arm and leg movements of skiing.

8 THINGS TO REMEMBER BEFORE GOING SKIING

Downhill skiing is a great way to stay active outdoors during the winter. Here are a few tips to make sure your outing is safe and fun:

WARM UP and stretch before hitting the slopes.

DRESS for the weather. Wear layers of clothing appropriate for conditions.

USE proper ski equipment. Rent from a ski shop or the ski resort Do not borrow equipment.

BRING water to avoid dehydration in high altitudes.

WEAR a helmet to avoid injury.

SIGN UP for ski instruction. Even veterans should polish their skills.

SKI with a friend. Do not ski alone.

STICK to the rules. Avoid going off trail.

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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Author:Holloway, Lynette R.
Publication:Ebony
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Words:614
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