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Running out of breath while skiing powder

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I am a fairly fit person (139lbs - 5'5"). This whole year i ran about 10 miles per week increasing it to 20 until late september when I had some knee problems. I biked regularly, stretched - regularly exercised at home for 45 min 4 times a week - (home gym, skipping, lunges, crunches, squats). So, i have a fair amount of stamina.

I notice that I seem to be running out of breath when I am skiing powder/crud. Also, my quads are screaming at this point. So i have to ski maybe 50 yards, stop, catch up on my breath and ski again. I don't run out of breath skiing groomed, packed powder !!!

I am toying with two theories:
1) is "muscle(quads) fatigue" causing my breathlessness - as opposed to my lack of stamina?

2) there may be 2 kinds of stamina - one that long distance runners have (like me) and one kind that is developed by sprinters (which I am not). If skiing powder is more similar to sprinting - then that would explain my breathlessness. And maybe I should do more sprinting to improve my skiing.

Am i making any sense. its very embarassing when I am skiing friends.

please help?
post #2 of 19
well, off the top of my head i'd guess you're out of balance and trying to muscle the skis from (probably) the back seat. crud and pow will highlight this tendency. so while you should be playing, you're working.
just a guess.
post #3 of 19
Sounds like you're fighting it too much. I have a friend who's really making leaps and bounds in improvement in the powder this year and she recently told me her best run was a result of finally letting her skis run and relaxing - then you can find a rhythm and things all come together. (Her husband had been telling her that for years but it's much easier said than done for most people.) Her initial problem was that she used to be too worried about being in control and trying to keep her speed down. In powder, speed is your friend - let yourself go fast and ski like you're doing railroad tracks. Find the right terrain so you're comfortable trying it at first. The more you try to skid or oversteer turns, slow down all the time, etc. the more exhausted you'll get. My best powder runs are the ones where I barely feel that I exerted myself at all (and it sounds like you exercise more than me - I gave up running completely after my knee injury) - I just turn my brain off and let things flow. It's not really a matter of stamina at all. I've seen plenty of older guys (like 70-80) who have a beautiful powder technique - you know they're not muscling it - it's balance, rhythm and experience. It's tricky to learn at first, so don't get frustrated.
post #4 of 19
the oft-stated dichotomy is true (or was for me), that it's a difficult technique to pick up - it's so unlike carving on the groomed - but once you get it...

it's the easiest skiing you'll do. and you'll smile a helluva lot. consider a powder lesson. in the meantime, really pay attention to how balanced you are over your skis.

[ January 08, 2004, 03:09 PM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #5 of 19
My first powder run this season was like you describe - out of breath; quads killing me - and that considering that I go to the gym 2-3 times a week and do 30 minutes of intense treadmill and then as part of my circuit I legpress 2x my bodyweight 60 times per minute in three 1-minute sets.

And then it dawned on me. No physical strength or stamina can prepare you for something that requires relaxation. After that it was a full day of fun, joy, and I forgot about breathing, quads, and anything other than being happy and laughing myself silly over it. Don't fight it. Go with the flow.
post #6 of 19
I tend to agree with the others. You are experiencing a problem with both tension/stress and technique.

A contributing factor is that alpine skiing is a more anaerobic (or maybe high output) sport than is a typical aerobic sport. My summer conditioning consisted of aerobic base conditioning through August then slowly converted to power, core/balance and circuits. The basic idea was to keep the heart rate in the aerobic zone throughout the workout but to do exercises that aggressively stress the CV system with little recover between. Anyway, I feel better conditioned for skiing now than at any time before. I have definite ideas for improving my program in the future but I believe the inclusion of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning has been the key for me this year.

As far as your running program is concerned may I suggest adding intervals or fartlek to your running? In your resistance training I suggest using a heart rate monitor and starting your next set just before reaching your minimum aerobic HR or some value slightly higher. It is tough at first but later it gets easier.

post #7 of 19
I'd also work some interval training along with what everybody else has said. I like em on the bike...going three minutes as hard as I can then three minutes easy spinning, repeating five times. Probably do it about once a week during cycling season, never done much training in ski season
post #8 of 19

Just a thought -- are you inadvertently holding your breath? It seems to be a natural reaction to hold one's breath when tense, but doing so makes everything much more difficult.

post #9 of 19
Originally posted by AlexG:
My first powder run this season was like you describe - out of breath; quads killing me - and that considering that I go to the gym 2-3 times a week and do 30 minutes of intense treadmill and then as part of my circuit I legpress 2x my bodyweight 60 times per minute in three 1-minute sets.
Hey AlexG, have you thought of slowing those down? Let the momentum of the weight stack do less work , and your legs more thereby? I mean powder is s l o w e r anyway, eh?

3setsx12repsx480, 3seconds/rep myself,
post #10 of 19
I agree with suebrown.

I have the same problem on steep and deep slopes. I have found that I do better if I start breathing hard at the start of a run and just continue to breath fast and hard as I ski down.

Another alternative is to whoop it up on the way down. "yeeaah, yeeehaaa, yeeesss, oooopppppssssss...

It makes you breath and relaxes you at the same time.
post #11 of 19
Let's use old terminology...
You must time your breath as to take air into the lungs when "extending" (think at as expansion) and expel air from the lungs while you are compressing (since you are sot of contractig your body anyway)...
This ought to be
Compression: the turn itself
Expansion: in between turns

No need to breath hard, I'm as unfit as anyone can be, but as long as I keep a regular flow of air intake, everything goes well. The quickest and shortest the turns, the harder it gets thought.
post #12 of 19
Originally posted by comprex:
</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by AlexG:
My first powder run this season was like you describe - out of breath; quads killing me - and that considering that I go to the gym 2-3 times a week and do 30 minutes of intense treadmill and then as part of my circuit I legpress 2x my bodyweight 60 times per minute in three 1-minute sets.
Hey AlexG, have you thought of slowing those down? Let the momentum of the weight stack do less work , and your legs more thereby? I mean powder is s l o w e r anyway, eh?

3setsx12repsx480, 3seconds/rep myself,
</font>[/quote]I do the slow presses too, but I want explosive power, not additional muscle mass. Pressing more than 370 lbs (2x body weight) would kill my sciatica. Pressing less is not challenging enough (no fun). For muscle endurance I do statics - when I stand by the wall with my knees bent at 90 degrees - got it up to 8 minutes.

[ February 06, 2004, 05:56 PM: Message edited by: AlexG ]
post #13 of 19
I read this thread and then had this thought the other day, any help?

When I ski fast at 8500' elevation in deep set up and cut up powder on steeps I tend to breath really hard by mid run. Is it my fitness or my technique?
post #14 of 19
Everyone has good insight on this. Its been my experience that there is usually not one correct answer. I'll throw in a few remote possibilities, that may be applicable.

Some people may have a very slght case of cold weather asthma. They often do not realize it, until they are exerting energy in the cold. Adding another dimension, lets say the same person is mildly susceptible to altitude sickness. On groomed slopes, in somewhat warmer temperatures, they will be pretty much ok.

But combine a mild case of cold weather asthma with a mild case of altitude sickness and put someone on a bump run, the effects may be somewhat more dramatic.

Then you can add in other factors. Sometimes people who are subject to mild levels of cold weather asthma are occaisionally subject to food allergies. Lets say this same person eats one of these foods at lunch, and them skis a bump run. That will add another level of discomfort.

Combine all of this with problems with technique, tension and fitness level,the effects are even more maganified.
post #15 of 19
Excellent thread.

All of the above comments are valid.

The main point is to breath deep, take it easy and don't stress over each individual turn. The more powder experience you have the easier it becomes...

One powder style point may make things easier- Try to ski the fall line. It sounds obvious but when I see intermediate skiers in the powder they spend too. much time and effort getting into and out of traverses.

The asthma comment by Lisamarie is what provoked a response from me. I have very mild cold weather asthma and the only time I notice it is when I cross country skate-ski. It is virtually imperceptable during each breath but the cumulative effect can be overwhelming. Asthma medicine relieves the symptoms 100% and can be used proactively (when prescribed by a doctor).
post #16 of 19
Not much more to add, but I think the "speed is your friend" concept is the key...let em run in the pow, and you'll find a nice easy rythm.
post #17 of 19
Hi Whitney,
I'm with Suebrown on this one...at least verify that you're breathing properly before moving on to more complex explanations. I had/have a similar experience and a fatigue explanation just doesn't add up. The more technical the skiing the worse it gets.

Poor breathing is natural in tense situations and will cause extreme muscle fatigue in addition to the obvious shortness of breath. Try doing a few dumbell presses (or other exercise) with moderate weight but don't breath between reps. This will illustrate how quickly your muscles will shut down without O2.

When this happens to me, I've been focusing on relaxing and skiing with "quite feet" and it seems to work. Now that I think about it, the relaxation is the important part because it probably results in resuming normal breathing.

I'm going to seek out some nasty New England spring crud as soon as possible and focus on breathing. Yes, our boilerplate is transforming to mashed potatoes... the end of the season is near.

Thanks for raising this topic, draw a breath, and have fun!

post #18 of 19
My first thought on this subject was the asthma & altitude angle discussed by LM. From my experience with adult onset asthma, it can kind of sneak up on you. Have you had a medical check-up lately? Even with a decent fitness regimen, suddenly one day I was asking myself, "why am I out of breath?" My condition was mild and it took me a few years and a notable flare-up to finally get a check-up specifically for lung function. Reflecting back, one of my first instances of a significant loss of breath was about 8 yrs before I knew about the asthma, when I had to stop and suck wind for 5 minutes during a tough run on a vacation in Aspen. The altitude obviously contributed since I'm a flatlander, but I think this was also an early indication of an underlying asthma problem I didn't know I had. I have also had cold induced asthma symptoms after vigorous cross-country ski sessions at low altitude. In recent years a puff or two of Advair everyday has helped me.
post #19 of 19
Lot's of good possibilities have been brought up here and I think each of them are well worth checking out. Yet, I think the main problem, as Ryan and Altagirl point out, lies in balance. If your quads are absolutely screaming while you're going through the pow and chop, you're leaning too far back and you're trying to muscle your turns from there. On groomers, you can get into the backseat and not fire your quads much at all, but once you get into the pow and crud, the snow isn't as firm so you work your quads a whole lot more just to stay upright. And also, if you're really firing your quads, you'll be sucking massive amounts of air. I noticed the exact same thing at the start of the season when I was trying to make it outta the pow fields alive. I would get in the backseat, fire my quads and would have to stop every so often to gulp down some air, in some cases, almost every 50 yards [img]smile.gif[/img] The trick is to commit yourself to the fall line and, as atlagirl points out, get centered and lay some railroad tracks. However, as you're laying railroad tracks in the pow, you'll want to divide the pressure between the downhill ski and the uphill ski at a respective 51% to 49% ratio. You should feel the pressure along the big toe of your outside (downhill) ski and along the little toe of your inside (uphill) ski. In doing this, you'll create a solid platform which will allow you to essentially steer your skis through the thick stuff. The essence of skiing powder is more about maintainging balance and pressuring your skis onto that platform than anything else. At least that's what I've found out anyway *sheepish grin* Enjoy [img]smile.gif[/img]
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