You've heard about feeling the burn. You've seen the muscle-bound iron pumpers on TV fitness shows. And you've dabbled in those work-out fads predicated on pain.
Forget it. That's yesterday's sweat. Skiers are getting older and are tired of pain. They want to pound their muscles in mogul fields, not in a weight room. Health clubs have gotten the message, and are offering skiers a new mix of alternatives to the traditional workout. "Clubs aren't about beating yourself up anymore," says Bob Moroney, manager of the Vail Athletic Club.
For many recreational skiers, working out was never a serious alternative when faced with a day on the slopes. But now, they're hitting the gym in increasing numbers at home and while on vacation, largely in response to nontraditional fitness routines that emphasize muscle control, stretching and balance. Yoga, T'ai Chi and Pilates favor mind-body work over brute strength and employ lower impact moves than the gentlest aerobics routine.
In Pilates, you use the resistance of your own body weight to strengthen muscles by pulling on straps and springs. Yoga and T'ai Chi, a defensive martial art, focus on muscle stretching and meditation to create a synergy between mind, spirit and body. All three utilize patterned breathing to keep you attuned to the rhythms of your body.
"There are so many baby boomers in our culture who have gotten older but want to continue to ski," says Gayle Brady, spa director for the Peaks Resort and Spa in Telluride, Colo. "Their bodies have been beat up. Now they're looking for something to center them."Peggy Judkins, 46, is a life-long dancer and a skier who wants to maintain her athleticism throughout her life. A regular at the Cliff Spa at Snowbird, she says Yoga has become her conditioning regimen of choice.
"It gives you a heightened awareness of how your body feels," she says. But it also improves your skiing. "The breath work becomes a part of how you move," Judkins says. "When you're on the hill, you learn to breathe with your movements."
Boomers at the White Mountain Athletic Club in Waterville, N.H., are also turning out en masse for these types of programs, according to club president Tom Gross. The T'ai Chi classes, offered three times a week during ski season, are particularly popular. "We're starting to see
people come into the resort who don't necessarily ski all day," Gross says. "We're trying to offer as many new activities as we can." Lifecycles, Stairmasters and free weights are certainly not out of vogue in ski towns. But it seems skiers have discovered a kinder way of keeping fit. And though some boomers are visiting health clubs and spas to pamper themselves, a growing number check in for more pragmatic reasons: They want to keep on skiing.
Calories burned in a day by the average American: 1,850
Calories burned in a day by a hunter-gatherer: 2,650
Calories burned in a day by the average skier: 2,800