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Of Summits And Sex

Of Summits And Sex

Fitness
By Josh Dinar
posted: 08/09/2000

A ski vacation can be a wonderful way to rekindle your love life, to remove yourself from the daily grind and to fuel the exhilaration of togetherness, romance and sex. In fact, studies show a positive correlation between exercise and libido. "The average person is a better lover after moderate levels of strenuous exercise," says renowned sex therapist Dr. Joyce Brothers.

Several things happen to the body during periods of physical exertion that help explain this phenomena. First of all, a couple of hard runs will work to increase the body's level of testosterone, which affects the sex drive in both genders. The greater the level of testosterone, the greater the sex drive. Also, the exhilarating "high" you sometimes feel as you rush down the mountain-which is caused by the release of chemicals in the brain called endorphins-can make you feel more open to sex. "Even the heat generated by working muscles can make you feel more relaxed and more sexual," says Barbara Jones Smith, clinical psychologist, sex therapist and avid skier.

But as with everything, moderation is key, and experts say it's very easy to start with a bang, so to speak, and go out with a fizzle. "After a certain level of exertion, you're just going to be too pooped to want sex," says Brothers.

And while that level will vary depending on how fit you are, if you work too hard on the slopes, eventually you'll deplete energy that could have been put to use back in the room. "If you're on a romantic ski vacation," says Smith, "you need to focus on the 'vacation' part, as opposed to the 'ski' part. The skiing should enhance the vacation, not be the vacation." Smith suggests that comforts such as ski-in/ski-out houses or snug, private cabins can aid in the proper balance that will enhance the desire for sex.

The idea of balance is also important when it comes to that après-ski martini. Besides dehydrating the body and working against acclimatization, studies have shown that even a few glasses of wine or beer are enough to negatively affect sexual desire in both men and women. "A lot of people think that alcohol is an enhancement to sex because it lowers their inhibitions," says Smith. "But it's also a depressant. Particularly when combined with the physical exercise involved in skiing, alcohol can really depreciate the sexual experience-even if it makes you feel like you're more in the mood."

But while skiing and sex make the perfect match, sometimes Cupid gets fatigued or throws his back out in the bumps, and your romantic getaway can, well, get away. In short, there are some things you should take into consideration to keep your libido from getting frostbite.

The success of a romantic vacation, according to Brothers, depends first and foremost on understanding the areas of compatibility in your relationship, and not trying to push the limits of that attunement on the slopes. While an advanced skier and a beginner might navigate expertly in the bedroom, it doesn't mean things are guaranteed to work out as well on the mountain. "If one is better at skiing than the other or one looks down his nose at the other's techniques, it can exacerbate problems," says Brothers.

After all, skiing can give you a whole new set of things to worry about. Kids and money are easily replaced by trail choice and speed. "Really," continues Brothers, "it depends on what you pack in your bag. If you're packing aggravation and annoyance with one another, it's just going to get worse. If you're packing a chance to get away from the kids and your day-to-day routine, it can be just wonderful."

But routine might not be the only thing to change for you on a ski trip. In fact, you need to consider the very air you'll be breathing. While the phrase "Not tonight honey, I've got acute mountain sickness" might sound like a new spin on an old excuse, the fact is that one of four people who travel from low to high elevations will experience at least mild symptoms of altitude sicknesss. "If you come from New York to Colorado, the first couple of days you can get bad headaches and just be really lethargic and apathetic. That's enough to reduce anyone's sex drive," explains Ron Kipp, director of athlete preparation for the U.S. Ski Team.

"The best thing you can probably do for your libido," suggests Kipp, "is get there a day early, drink a ton of water and don't exert yourself until you feel better. People always think you have to exercise to acclimatize, and actually it's just the opposite, because when you're exercising, the body doesn't know if it's at sea level or 10,000 feet."

Once you've adjusted to the altitude, however, experts agree that a ski vacation can be an ideal getaway for a healthy couple. "You have so much in common," says Brothers. "You're enjoying the sport and the increased enthusiasm spills over into your love life. If you're getting along in your daily life, that's only going to be exaggerated on a ski trip." Brothers refers to the "honeymoon factor"-moving a relationship you're familiar with into a strange bed-and suggests that couples should try to enjoy the time it takes adjusting to new surroundings. "Don't try to force anything," she says. "After all, you don't have to be an Olympic lover any more than you have to be an Olympic skier to enjoy these sports."

HealthHit!
Men who exercised three hours per week had 30 percent more sex than non-exercising men.
Source: A study at the University of California at San Diego.

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