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A question we often get asked:

"What exercise or fitness programme can we do prior to our winter holiday?"

As guides and instructors our work keeps us healthy and our fitness level high. But like our guests we too have to consider getting ready for the next season. A long life of snowsports can be maintained by adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, appropriate fitness training and an injury prevention programme. The latter for us all being of great importance.

Prior to a change of sport (like an up and coming ski holiday) or physical intensity level it's important to prepare the body accordingly. Here are a few tips during to consider prior to the winter season be it on skis, a board or snowshoes.

A fitness programme should train you aerobically and for strength. Specific strength, core stability and progressively challenging balance exercises should be prioritised into this training to help both performance and protect against injury: aim to include 2-3 strength and conditioning sessions per week.

As a guideline we recommend the following:

  • An 8-12 week training programme before your holiday
  • 2/3 hours per week of moderate cardio as a baseline increasing to higher intensity and duration
  • Cross train in different sports to prevent overuse/overtraining
  • Strength & conditioning 2-3 times per week – such as weights, pilates, core stability or SkiFit

Our physio friends at La Clinique du Sport in Chamonix (who also feature on our running camps) have just launched a specific pre-ski strength and conditioning program known as ‘SkiFit’. Designed for all levels of snowsports (but will also be useful for all other activities too) they have taken time to look at how we ski & board and broken the movement patterns down. The program has been developed to help everyone improve their strength and technique. This ‘pre-habilitation’ training programme is split into four phases over 8 weeks with the aim of improving strength in key muscles as well as developing flexibility and balance. Practised either in a class (classes are currently only available in Chamonix!) or with use of an 'app' can be done at home each phase builds on the previous one with over 100 individual ski specific exercises.

We are delighted to be able to promote SkiFit, part of the Be Fit Apps programme, as the perfect way to help you train specifically and adapt your body for your ski or snowshoe holiday. It's easy to set up & follow, enjoyable, affordable adding a trust worthy science to your pre-trip training.

Some of the Tracks and Trails team tried and tested it last year and really noticed the results that when stepping onto the snow for the first time that season the body already felt "prepped, ready and strong".

Prior to any change in exercise programme it is advisable to seek professional guidance to ensure its suitability however we feel that we've found the ideal pre-winter training programme that you can adopt anywhere.

If you have any questions at all about how to train for any of our holidays then please feel free to get in touch and we'll be happy to advise.

Make the most out of your winter holiday by feeling strong and fit before you've even touched the snow!

Jules

Preparation is underway in the Chamonix valley for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 2014 - just 10 days to go! The race always creates a unique buzz around the whole Mt Blanc massif, not just in France - but also along the winding trails in Italy and Switzerland. Clare Abram of ultrarunning.com has written a good intro article on preparing to run this epic race - to read it click here

Ailsa and Jamie's garden at Lavacchio in the Garfagnana of Tuscany is truly stunning! The grounds of the agriturismo are a wonder at that this time of year, with olive trees, vines, lavender, fig and plum trees. These last few days we've enjoyed gorgeous weather, making for a really relaxing time. We'll be back in autumn for some amazing hiking here in the Apuane Alps, just before the olive harvest. Read more on our Wild Tuscany trips in September-October here.

Read the latest on our trip availability this summer. We've also some updates on cross country skiing and snowshoeing this winter 2014/15. Download the newsletter here

Tracks and Trails caught up with lucky Torq competition winner Emma Attwood after returning from a week's trail running with us in the Chamonix valley to find out how it all went...

Emma, it was great to have you with us for a week's trail running in Chamonix! How did you find out about the competition?

I'd previously looked at the Tracks and Trails website and thought what a fantastic holiday it looked. It was a dream holiday that was financially out of my reach. I follow both Tracks and Trails and Torq on Facebook, and so when I saw the competition on Torq I had to enter!

I guess it was a surprise to discover out you'd won - how did it feel?

I was ecstatic, I couldn't believe it, and although I had email contact with Julie, I didn't quite believe it and kept in mainly to myself until it was officially announced on the Torq Facebook page. I really didn't' expect anything like this to happen to me!

Did you know what to expect?!?

I was expecting lots of running in beautiful scenery, and was hoping to learn lots of new skills to improve my running.

How did it feel taking part in all the different activities?

The week was so much more than I could ever have imagined. The team that Julia has put together were outstanding. All were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge. I have learnt so many new skills, gained so much knowledge. And the runs that we went on were truly spectacular. The scenery was like nothing I've ever seen. And on top of this I have made some fantastic new friends.

So, what's changed about your running after the trail week?

I am so enthused about my running, and have already put lots of what I learnt into practice. I have improved my nutrition and am really enjoying my food. I'm incorporating the running skills that we learnt into my routine and making sure I give more time to stretching. I thoroughly enjoyed the yoga classes and will continue with this. I have a heart rate monitor that I've never really know how to use properly but the session with Neil explained about heart rate training, so I will definitely put this into practice too. With my new map reading skills, I'm hoping to never get lost on a run again. And I will take away fantastic memories that will stay with me for a lifetime!

Thanks Emma, and happy running this summer!

Gretchen Reynolds has a good piece out today in the New York Times 'Well' section in which she interviews Mark Verstegen, the team fitness trainer for Germany's World Cup winning football team. Interestingly, his appointment was initially met with scepticism, but the results obviously speak for themselves. Here's a taster of his insight into improving your fitness:

Question:

Any suggestions on which aspects of the German team’s training program those of us at home might usefully incorporate into our exercise routines, even if we aren’t soccer players?

Answer (Mark Verstegen):

The broad elements of the training program apply to anyone. Concentrate on your mind-set, nutrition, movement patterns and recovery. On a practical level, get plenty of sleep, which is extremely important and often overlooked. Kick the electronics out of the bedroom. At the other end of the day, when you first wake up, do a few push-ups or yoga poses, anything that gets your body and mind primed for activity. You’ll be more receptive to activity throughout the day. Then try to do whatever exercise you do a bit better every day. You don’t have to be doing split squats with kettle bells, but do something that pushes you a bit. The point is that the body and the brain respond positively to having demands put on them. That’s really the key to fitness.

Read the entire article at the New York Times here

Update on trip availability and more info for our fitness and trail running activities here

Kirsty Reade, Run247 columnist and Berghaus Trail Running Team member, reports from the team's training camp in Chamonix - guided by our very own Julia Tregaskis-Allen. Read more on Kirsty's week in the Chamonix valley here.

Interested in improving your performance on a trail camp in the Chamonix valley - the new Mecca for trail running? Click here for for more info.

Tonight it's the World Cup Final in Rio, bringing to a close a month of frantic footballing action. Interestingly, aside from the skills and tactics, the finals have shown how sports medicine and, in particular, on the field advances in treatment, continue to push forward athletes' performance. A common injury amongst the players (and other athletes that high-speed stride, such as in basketball, baseball, marathons or even brisk walking) are hamstring strains and tears.

Thus news from Denmark on the advent of the Nordic hamstring exercise proves welcome. The New York Times has recently published a good article on the development of this stretching regime and a study of its benefits by the Sports Orthopaedic Research Centre in Copenhagen. Read more here.

Training at altitude over 1,800m has the ability to boost oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Even if you've only just a week to spare, training in the mountains can provide both physical and mental benefits that will last for several weeks after you return to a lower altitude. There's a good article on how altitude training can boost performance on the Runner's World site - click here to read more.

Find out more about our Tracks & Trails trail running camps this summer here

Wow, what a start to the summer season

450km's / 14,250m of Ascent and Descent

That's my training log and 'office diary' for the past five weeks! Some people's idea of hell maybe, but for a keen trail runner and mountain leader I guess you could say it's 'living the dream'. I'm lucky to be able to say that everyday the view from my office changes.

Following our spring break with friends and family in the UK's Peak District (where I love getting my running legs back!) I began my guiding summer in Slovenia's Julian Alps. For a small country, and one of Europe's newest nation states, Slovenia has plenty to offer for both active and more leisurely holidays. Joining me were a group of twelve women, all keen Nordic walkers, on a bespoke holiday arranged by Samantha Armstrong, of Core Concept personal training. With the help of local mountain guide Klemen Gricar our tour began at the country's capital of Llublijana for shopping, a traditional meal and cultural tour followed by three very different walks exploring the Karavanke Alps along the Austrian border and mountains and lakes Bled and Bohinj in the Triglav National Park. Klemen, like most Slovenians, is very proud of his country's history and cultural background. I enjoyed a few days prior to the group's arrival 'run reccing' numerous walks to add to my repertoire to find the 'Perfect 3'!

Next up, I can certainly say I was 'living the cream' on a week long trail running camp based in La Clusaz in the Aravis region of the French Alps. Staying in a gorgeous luxury chalet my job here, as with our Chamonix camps, is to offer a week of guided mountain running with specific training session in the art of trail running. As we ticked off the kilometres and soaked up the sun we explored the area's peaks, plateaus, lakeside trails and singletrack - certainly earning our subsequent Lake Annecy swims and ice cream!

Still in the French Aravis, my next 'job' was working with Olympian marathon runner Liz Yelling. Each year Liz hosts a unique, advanced running camp retreat. I joined to guide and advise on the trail running aspects. Liz is fun, inspiring and a true professional to work with. Using her vast knowledge, genuine enthusiasm and understanding of the sport together we help runners achieve their goals and find their running limits and future goals.

Rapidly becoming known as a world class trail running venue, the 27 to the 29th of June saw Chamonix host the Sky Running World Championships. World class trail athletes such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Emilie Forsberg (to name just a few from the Salomon team) could be spotted about the valley preparing to race the Mont Blanc Marathon courses. In conjunction with this marathon festival each year I run a Tracks and Trails Running Camp where all abilities can be a part of the running buzz! We train in the mountains, track and gym, meeting like minded runners to become gurus of the trails! Our runners stayed in the well located Runners Refuge enjoying superb healthy cooking and stunning views of Mont Blanc. I had a fabulous week guiding the trails in what has become my back yard, whilst also working with ultra runners and professionals Rebecca Dent, a performance nutritionist and clinical dietitian and physio Neil Maclean-Martin (both of whom work with Olympic athletes). We shared our insights and learned a great deal from one another!

Completing my running log this month was certainly no cool down - as I was joined by the newly selected 2014 Berghaus Trail Team. My brief: to offer a trail running camp around Chamonix and provide coaching, guidance and a trail route of up to 100km over three days. Sponsored for a year with kit, food and clothing by Berghaus, Torq Nutrition and LED Lenser the Trail Team are 6 non-elite trail runners carefully selected to be given the opportunity to enjoy some of the benefits usually reserved for professionals. On Day 1 the Trail Team were also joined by local Berghaus athletes Anna and Philip Gatta for an introduction to the Chamonix valley and perfect acclimatisation run, where we ticked off the Chamonix half-marathon course plus a little bit more! Then for days two and three we began on the Italian side of Mont Blanc in Courmayeur, where we ran 60km of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc's CCC® course from Italy to Switzerland over the Grand Col Ferret (2532m) with an over night stop in the mountain refuge of La Peule. Fuelled by French croissants, Italian coffee, Swiss cheese, Torq energy and a real passion for the mountains, the Trail Team completed an amazing 92km in three days with over 4,500m of climbing (and descending!).

That's what I call 'living the dream'!

Jules

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