Are you struggling to pass your Eurotest? Are you having excellent coaching but can’t quite cut the mustard? I want to give you ideas and things to think about with your training and preparation.
I am not a ski racer.
I am not a ski instructor.
I am not a psychologist.
But I am a physiotherapist who has spent over a decade working in the ski industry. I also have a unique perspective on the Eurotest. I am married to a ski instructor who had to retake his speed test time and time again. Watching him train all autumn, spend a fortune driving to various Eurotests all around Europe and not succeed multiple times was soul destroying.
There were many things in his journey to become a ski instructor in France that were set against him. He didn’t start skiing until his late teens. He never raced. As a stagiere he focused on his clients rather than his training. He spent a lot of time in the gym but also a lot of time at the bar!
We were starting to look into relocating to a country that didn’t require the Eurotest to teach skiing. At this point my husband was already in his 40s. Age was definitely against him. As were our finances! But before we made any major life changing decisions he decided to change how he trained. He changed his focus, he changed his mind set and the night before his final Eurotest I told him he was going to be a dad………it turns out that was the motivation he needed!
I am by no means going to make any technical racing suggestions. The on hill training is best left to the experts. I am going to discuss what you could consider changing off the hill. However, this needs to be a gradual process and I do not recommend making big changes if a race is coming up in the near future.
1 – Change how you train for your Eurotest
- Are you unable to knock seconds off your training despite spending hours in the gym?
- Are you giving yourself enough recovery time?
- Have you had the same gym routine for weeks, months or even years?
- Are you forgetting to regularly progress your exercises to challenge yourself?
If so, its time for a revamp. Everyone has individual needs, so I cannot tell you how to train in this blog. What I can do is suggest that you cover the following in your off hill fitness training:
Mix this up. Don’t just spend hours jogging on the treadmill or sitting on a bike. Think about introducing interval training, longer runs / cycles, shorter sprints and hill sprints.
Again, look at how you are training. Obviously, skiers need to focus a lot on their legs but don’t neglect your upper body. Some key points to think about include:
- your alignment when you are squatting / leg pressing
- using heavy weights / high resistance to improve strength
- using lighter weights / low resistance to improve endurance
- vary the machines and equipment that you use. Don’t just gravitate to the machines that you enjoy. Challenge yourself with new exercises and equipment
- when and where possible, have a personal trainer check your posture and positioning to ensure safe management. Also, use a trainer to help develop a progressive program.
- Keep a training diary so you can monitor your progress over time
Core stability training
A strong core, means a stable platform to work from. With the high speeds, acceleration forces and changes in centre of mass needed for ski racing this is of great importance.
My favourite way to train the core is through pilates. Try a class, you’ll be surprised how much it can work you. Many of my skiing friends have said to me that they have tried pilates before and find it boring. My answer; find a different instructor who will inspire and challenge you!
Flexibility and mobility training
You need a good range of movement in your joints to allow for the extreme positions that are required from racing. You also need good flexibility to help prevent injuries and to give you a buffer when you fall. For example, to achieve good lateral separation you need to have good mobility in your hips and good flexibility in the muscles in your back, sides and thighs. Without this, your technique may suffer and your may find that your back starts to ache.
There is still a huge debate in the medical and fitness industries about the benefits of stretching, stretching for recovery, stretching to increase muscle length and stretching to warm up. However, current research suggests that a dynamic warm up may help before exercise, e.g. not static stretches (which may actually be detrimental if done before exercise).
After exercise, I do recommend static stretching. Ski racers should focus on their thigh muscles, calf muscles, hip flexors and back muscles. Don’t over look mobility of the upper back and shoulders which can become stiff. A foam roller can be great tool for both mobility and self massage.
Proprioceptive and balance training
You need excellent balance and writing reactions to help you recover from potential falls. You can train this. You can improve your balance. But don’t just train your static balance, for example by standing still on one leg. If you are racing, you need to challenge your dynamic balance as this is more important when you are flying down a mountain.
What do I mean by dynamic balance? I mean trying to maintain equilibrium whilst in motion. Some ideas include:
- stand on one leg and touch the ground either side of you. Gradually increase how far you reach away from your body and how quickly you do this.
- perform a travelling hop (hop forwards) and after the third hop pause on one leg and maintain your balance.
Some of my favourite adjuncts to balance training are
- a bosu ball
- slack line
Plyometric and agility training
I have saved the best to last. This is so so so important for ski racers and is often missed out of training programs. You need to practice explosive, powerful movements to help propel yourself through the gates, whilst working with and against huge lateral forces.
What is plyometric training? Think rebound training. Think jumping, hopping, skipping, fast feet and explosive movements. Think hurdles and squat thrusts. Think box jumps and burpees. You can do this with or without resistance but start gradually and build up as you get faster and stronger. If you have a pre-existing injury, go easy or avoid plyometric exercises until you have medical advice.
2 – Change your mindset
So much of the Eurotest is dependant on the weather, the conditions and your race number. And even more is related to your state of mind, your nerves and your confidence. If you have already tried and not succeeded before, self doubt may already be creeping in. So its time for a change. Positive affirmations and mental imagery can work wonders. But for those of you who are giving yourselves a particularly tough time, consider speaking to a sports psychologist who can help develop a mindset plan with you. Don’t underestimate the effect that not succeeding with the Eurotest can have on your mental heatlh.
3 – Change your pre-race preparation
Do you arrive at the Eurotest a few days before to ski the course or do you rock up last minute? Do you wake up early to start preparing mentally and physically or do you stay in bed as long as you can on race day? Do you go alone to focus or do you spend time relaxing or brainstorming the course with friends? What do you eat, both the night before and the morning of the Eurotest? Is this food that you are used to eating when you are training? Have you got snacks for race day?
The questions above are not set to give right or wrong answers. They are there to help you think about what is the best pre-race preparation for you.
4 – Stop drinking
I don’t mean just the night before, I mean weeks, if not months before your race. Alcohol affects our performance. Dehydration is well known to have a negative affect on our performance. Put the champagne on ice until its time to celebrate.
5 – Nutrition
Nutrition is important throughout your training, for recovery and for race day. Ensure that you have a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in your diet. Consider what you eat for recovery after a hard session. Ideally, eat something that is high in carbohydrates and protein within 20 minutes of training (whether on or off the hill). Think about foods that work well as anti inflammatories, for times that your muscles are particularly sore and tired. I love adding tumeric to soups and smoothies for this purpose and ginger has also been shown to reduce inflammation. Beetroot juice and tart cherry juice are trending at the moment as research has shown that they can enhance recovery.
6 – Recovery
Many factors that help recovery such as stretching and your diet have been mentioned above. However, the one thing that I haven’t mentioned is rest. Rest is crucial when you are training hard, both physically and mentally. Get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water (especially when training at altitude) and don’t train everyday.
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