Cakes and Snowflakes

When I spent a summer doing sprint triathlons back in 2011, with exercise fanatic and awesome training partner Jane, I thought I was pretty fit. That was really just the start.

Back on snow this season, after a summer of experimenting in the gym and dedicating my body entirely to getting fitter, I am thrilled (and relieved) to feel the benefits.

It normally takes me a few days back on skis to find my balance and my confidence, along with my outside ski and the fronts; I’m always running my file a few extra times down the tail of my ski, particularly at the moment as the conditions are rather firm.

Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning - Ohh such a tease.

Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning – ohh such a tease.

This year, I felt pretty good after the first couple of runs. The thrill of the first run of the season never gets old. There is always room for improvement technically, but intrinsically, I feel strong and that I am skiing well. My legs don’t ache and, normally, as a sufferer of slight sciatic type symptoms at the beginning of every season, I have barely had any pain. I could just not be trying hard enough or, now, with a new level of fitness, the time has come to challenge myself even more.

Nearly every evening, to keep myself in order, I have been stretching and doing a core workout. I use exercises from various sources – YouTube, FitnessBlender, from friends and other PT’s.

Here is a selection of some of the exercises I do:

  1. Normal sit-up – knees bent and as close to my bum as possible, back flat against the ground, fingers by my temples, I breathe in and as I slowly exhale, I draw my tummy button in and curl up, never keeping my eyes off the same spot on the ceiling. Slow and controlled is key. Challenge: try the negative version – sit up right and slowly lower to lying without completely lying on the floor and then sit back up and repeat.
  2. Side plank – with my body aligned on its side, I rest my forearm on the floor with my elbow directly beneath my shoulder and raise my hips to the ceiling. Hold for as long as possible. Challenge: Lower hips to nearly touching the floor and back up towards the ceiling. Repeat.
  3. Back extensions – lying face down on the ground, with my fingers by my temples, I engage my back muscles to slowly raise my chest off the floor, exhaling on the effort. It’s important I don’t push my stomach in to the floor and push myself up – cheating! Challenge: Raise both arms and feet so they are hovering just off the floor, and then raise and lower opposite arm and leg and alternate.
  4. Plank – hold the position for as long as possible. Challenge: Lift a leg, then the other and even opposite leg and arm. Make sure the hips stay parallel to the ground.

These are quite simple exercises, but done properly, they still work. Due to living by myself, and being a bit technologically challenged, I have been unable to provide some decent photographs/videos – but the World Wide Web is full of demonstrations to look at, if you wish.

Stretching my legs is important (quads, hamstrings, calves, back) and using my foam roller, despite the temporary pain, aids recovery.

I’ve also been back in the pool. Maybe to do with the fact I am a Pisces, but I love swimming and feel very at ease in water. The pool in the building is roughly 18m long (based on my stride) and is more than often empty. It’s my haven – I love it. When I grow up, I definitely want a swimming pool. A 50m one would be ideal, outdoors, just for me.

Last year, swimming was how I rehabbed my shoulder after an operation. The first time I swum after coming out of the sling reduced me to tears. I could barely swim a length. By the end of last winter I could swim 100 lengths of the pool in 30 minutes, doing a mixture of breaststroke, backstroke and front-crawl. This year, I can do 100 lengths in about 25 minutes and can feel that my lungs are much more efficient.

My haven.

Not having a BASI technical exam looming has liberated my skiing and having the opportunity to train the new instructors at Neige Aventure has been a real privilege. They have delivered a variety of great lessons and shared their experiences and knowledge so that the whole group has developed and learnt new things – maybe even when they thought that the training weeks would be a bit dull. I was also able to play and not worry extensively about whether my skiing was always ‘right’ or not. The only pressure was to not fall over. As my mother said when I passed my level 4 technical exam, with the no pressure of ski exams, my confidence is on the up and this is making me push my skiing to improve. I am looking forward to helping prepare those going for their exams in January, taking their first steps on that BASI treadmill for their level 1.

View from the top of Chassoure

View from the top of Chassoure

To thank, and bribe, my lovely group for their patience and participation over the past couple of weeks, I baked them a lovely chocolate Christmas cake with chocolate orange icing.

Christmas chocolate orange cake

Homemade Christmas chocolate orange cake

Happy cake-munching instructors

Happy cake-munching instructors

Snowflakes are forecast for Christmas day – let’s hope it is a white one. Merry Christmas!