Los Angeles Times health reporter Jeannine Stein spoke with Equinox trainer Matt Berenc on Dec. 6 in a live web chat to answer readers' questions about getting in shape for winter sports. Read more below about his tips about training for winter sports and minimizing injuries for a pain-free season.

Berenc is the personal training manager for Equinox Fitness Club and Spa in Century City. He has a degree in nutritional sciences with an emphasis in exercise physiology from the University of Missouri and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Assn. He's helped numerous clients get ready for sports such as skiing, mountain climbing and golf.

More chats: Ask the experts in our daily live health chats, moderated by some of the country's leading health journalists.

 Live chat: Getting in shape for winter sports(12/06/2010) 
10:59
Jeannine Stein: 
Hi, everyone, and welcome to our chat with Equinox trainer Matt Berenc. He'll answer your questions about getting in shape for winter sports. Matt is the personal training manager for Equinox Fitness Club and Spa in Century City. He has a degree in nutritional sciences with an emphasis in exercise physiology from the University of Missouri and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Hi, Matt! It looks like the mountain areas are getting some good snow already, and I'm sure people are planning their winter trips. Let's say someone is in fairly good shape but hasn't been skiing or snowboarding for a while--are there specific exercises you recommending doing to prepare? It seems that concentrating on large leg muscles such as quads and glutes would be important.
Monday December 6, 2010 10:59 Jeannine Stein
11:01
Matt: 
Definitely focusing on the lower body would be a big help. Doing exercises like squats and deadlifts will build the strength in the legs. But also, you can take it a step further and do single leg work, like squats or lunges or steps ups. Doing it with only one leg not only builds strength but also forces the hip to start working to stabilize.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:01 Matt
11:02
Jeannine Stein: 
Can you tell us how a one-legged squat or lunge is done?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:02 Jeannine Stein
11:04
Matt: 
If you have never done one legged work before and you want to try the squat the best way to start is by finding something to help support yourself and give a little extra balance. From there with one leg just sit back like you are sitting in a chair letting the up leg trail behind you.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:04 Matt
11:06
Matt: 
Another example of a one legged exercise is the step up. This would be a great place to start. You just need a plyo box or riser steps from group fitness (which most gyms have). Start off with just your body weight. If you place one foot on the box and using just that front leg, lift yourself up on to the box. Try to control yourself on the way down as well. This will build great control and strength from the lower body.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:06 Matt
11:07
Jeannine Stein: 
Just a reminder that people should feel free to post any questions they have for Matt. Thanks!
Monday December 6, 2010 11:07 Jeannine Stein
11:08
Jeannine Stein: 
What about upper body strength training? Is that important for winter sports such as skiing?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:08 Jeannine Stein
11:11
Matt: 
Absolutely, the upper body is just as important as the lower body in any type of winter sport. It helps create power and control while going down the slopes. Great examples of upper body work can be pushups, this is great to build both strength and stability through the chest and shoulders. If you are more advanced you can do medicine ball chest passes to build power.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:11 Matt
11:11
[Comment From JeremyJeremy: ] 
I'll definitely work on my lower body workout, but should it include running as well?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:11 Jeremy
11:13
Matt: 
Jeremy, great question and the answer is yes. When it comes to running you want to do both interval training as well as steady pace running. This way you are constantly working on your cardio but not buring yourself out with just high intensity work. If you are new to running, start slow and build up especially if you are combining it with a new lower body program.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:13 Matt
11:14
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Please discuss cardio conditioning and how to avoid altitude fatigue? Aerobic vs. anaerobic?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:14 Guest
11:16
Matt: 
As for overall cardio conditioning, it can be done on any peice of exercise / cardio equipment, be it bike or stairmill or elliptical. Using these other tools can help keep the stress down on the lower body. As for the best way to do it, it is similar to my answer regarding running, you want to anaerobic interval work as well as steady state. Both are going to help prep the body...
Monday December 6, 2010 11:16 Matt
11:18
Matt: 
As for altitude fatigue, one of the main causes for this is the bodies inability to get and process the oxygen available. Since the air is thinner the higher you go the harder this is. With that said, if you push yourself to get to the higher intensities as with anaerobic interval work you can train the body to be more efficient with the oxygen it is taking in and get prepped to take more in with each breath. This will help combat the affects of being at a high altitude.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:18 Matt
11:18
[Comment From KelseyKelsey: ] 
How early do I need to start training for skiing, winter sports? When is it too late?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:18 Kelsey
11:21
Matt: 
Kelsey, it's definitely never to early to start but at a minimum you would want to start focusing on specific training at least three months in advance. If you are starting from scratch, then you want to start as soon as possible. The more you are conditioned overall the easier it will be to get prepped for specific winter sports work. However if you are already working out regularly, then at that 3 month mark you want to start making your program more specific to the demands that you are going to face on the slopes.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:21 Matt
11:21
[Comment From CarlaCarla: ] 
What exc would you recommend for the hips/core for us snowboarders?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:21 Carla
11:24
Matt: 
Carla, this is a great question because the hips / core are basically the power house of the body. As for specific exercises you want to do movements that build strength and stability throughout the hips. Things like hip bridges with either both legs on the floor or only one. Also, doing deadlifts which can really build a great amount of strength in the hips and backside of core will really prep the body to snowboard...
Monday December 6, 2010 11:24 Matt
11:26
Matt: 
As for the rest of the core, everything between the hips and the arm pits, you want to work on stability exercises. Things like planks or side planks. Exercises that will teach the body to keep the core, spine / back in neutral. The core is the link between the upper and lower body so the more stable it is the better you will be able to use your whole body while doing some cool tricks on the snowboard.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:26 Matt
11:26
Jeannine Stein: 
Matt, for those of us who don't know, could you explain what a hip bridge is?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:26 Jeannine Stein
11:27
[Comment From CarlaCarla: ] 
What is a deadlift?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:27 Carla
11:29
Matt: 
A hip bridge is a great starting core exercise that works the backside of the core and it can be done anywhere. To do a hip bridge, you start by lying on the floor with your legs bent to about 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor. From there, you start the movement by driving through your heels to lift your hips off the floor. At the end of the movement you are looking to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Once you have gone as high as you can you let your hips come back down to the floor. Make sure when you do this that you use your glutes (butt) to do the work and not arch your back.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:29 Matt
11:32
Matt: 
As for the deadlift, it is a little more advanced movement. With the deadlift you are basically picking the weight off the ground and putting back down. The trick is that you need to make sure you are keeping your low back flat or in neutral and great all the motion for hinging at your hips. The best way to learn how to do this is to stand in front of a wall and keeping your back flat, push your hips / butt back to touch the wall. This will make sure you are using the right muscles and keeping your back safe. When you feel comfortable with this you can progress to using weight, which can be either a dumbbell or a barbell.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:32 Matt
11:32
Matt: 
Correction on the second sentance, I meant to say create all the motion from hinging at your hips. Sorry.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:32 Matt
11:33
[Comment From DerekDerek: ] 
Hi Matt, I'm a skier who hit the slopes for the first time this weekend. Although I've been working out arms/chest/legs for the last 4 months, I was amazed how sore my back muscles used for twisting my upper body were by the end of the day. What are some good exercises that specifically target these muscle groups.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:33 Derek
11:37
Matt: 
Derek, this is something that can definitely be addressed by doing some of the core work I had previous listed. But there is always more that can be done. For what you experienced you want to make sure that the work you are currently doing is done with free weights. If you are on machines right now, switching to free weights will force some of the stabilizer muscles that your not currently using to turn on and work. This will help with that soreness that you felt. Other movements that you can do are things like medicine ball chops in multiple directions (up and down and diagonally). Using the whole body to create this motion with the med ball, will utilize the same muscles that you use to twist on the slopes.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:37 Matt
11:38
Jeannine Stein: 
Let's talk about the nutrition side of winter sports. If someone is spending the majority of the day moving, what should they be thinking about in terms of calories and nutrition? Also, is keeping hydrated important, even though it's cold outside?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:38 Jeannine Stein
11:41
Matt: 
This is a very important issue that many of us can forget about while having fun. To start with the hydration portion first, because it is so cold out we can forget that we are sweating. Skiing and snowboarding is hard work and your body will sweat just like when you are running or lifting. To combat this you can make the conscious effort to stop after every 4 or 5 runs down the slop and grab a drink of water. Other things I have seen people do is either carry a backpack with them or a camel pack so they can have ready access to water without leaving the slopes...
Monday December 6, 2010 11:41 Matt
11:44
Matt: 
As for general nutrition you want to make sure you are keeping yourself fueled while you are having fun. This means trying to eat something every two hours. This doesn't have to be a big meal especially since no one likes to be stuffed while skiing. Good suggestions can be carrying a bar or a peice of fruit with you while you are out there or have it in a locker at the base of the moutain. Having enough calories in your system can make sure you are able to put forth the highest amount of energy and work. With out calories, your performance can suffer and your energy can drain.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:44 Matt
11:44
[Comment From jonijoni: ] 
do you feel a regular yoga practice can play a role in getting ready for winter sports? if so, what are the benefits?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:44 joni
11:47
Matt: 
Yoga is definitely a great part of an overall wellrounded program for general fitness as well as sport specific training. Some of the benefits from yoga can be in building good core strength but also in making sure you have a proper amount of mobility. Being able to go through full ranges of motion will make sure your body is ready to handle any unexpected changes in direction or terrain.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:47 Matt
11:47
[Comment From SinghSingh: ] 
What exercises can help improve balance for people that like to Snowboard?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:47 Singh
11:50
Matt: 
Balance is a very important element of snowboarding, no one likes to fall. Some of the best exercises can be those that incorporate both the upper and lower body at the same time. Since both are used to keep yourself balanced while on the board you want to make sure they can work together. A great example of this can be doing sqauts to a cable row. While holding on to the cable handles you go through a full squat and then when you are standing back up you go in to the row right as you are about to be completely back to your starting position. This will help create that link from upper to lower...
Monday December 6, 2010 11:50 Matt
11:53
Matt: 
Beyond combination exercises you want to may want to practice being on an unstable surface. Though I don't recommend doing heavy weights on any surface that your are not sure of or unstable on, using your body weight will be a great way to prep for the slippery surface that you will find on the slopes. This can be done with a bosu ball or an airex pad. Both are soft surfaces that put a greater demand on balance while going through exercises.
Monday December 6, 2010 11:53 Matt
11:53
Jeannine Stein: 
Just a quick note--because we have so many great questions Matt has agreed to stay with us a little longer today. So stay tuned!
Monday December 6, 2010 11:53 Jeannine Stein
11:54
Jeannine Stein: 
We know that stretching is an important part of exercise. What are your recommendations for stretching either before or after sports such as skiing, snowboarding and ice skating?
Monday December 6, 2010 11:54 Jeannine Stein
11:58
Matt: 
Stretching before and after the sport will make sure the body can handle all of the stresses it is about to encounter or has just finished with. If you are stretching before hand, you want to do so in a active fashion. This means that instead of holding one position for an extended period of time, you only hold it for about 2 to 3 seconds and then repeat. This forces the muscle to move and get warm, just what you want to do prior to sports like skiing or ice skating. A great example on one active stretch that targets the hips is the knee tuck. Standing in one position, grab one knee with both hands and try to draw it up as high as you can without leaning back. Hold for 2 seconds and repeat. This will help create hip mobility and warmth in a area that is going to see a lot of work...
Monday December 6, 2010 11:58 Matt
12:01
Matt: 
As for stretching after sport, this helps the body shut down, so to speak. When you hold the position for a long duration, the muscles start to calm down and relax. This is what you want after all of your fun is done. You want your legs to return to a rested state and really calm down. Another tool that is not stretch but can play a big role in recovery from winter sports is foam rolling. It is a way to "massage" the muscles on your own and help do away with an knots that may have built up or any waste that is lingering in the tissue.
Monday December 6, 2010 12:01 Matt
12:01
[Comment From jonijoni: ] 
thanks for answering my question, matt! and thanks for hosting this chat session, jeannine!
Monday December 6, 2010 12:01 joni
12:01
Jeannine Stein: 
You're welcome, Joni, thanks for joining us today!
Monday December 6, 2010 12:01 Jeannine Stein
12:02
Matt: 
No problem, thank you for being with us.
Monday December 6, 2010 12:02 Matt
12:02
[Comment From Jimmy MetzgerJimmy Metzger: ] 
What do you think about stretch cords?
Monday December 6, 2010 12:02 Jimmy Metzger
12:05
Matt: 
Jimmy, what I think you are asking about is the elastic tubing to create resistance rather than using weights. If this is the case, I do like to use them. They are a great tool that can be used anywhere and really lead to a great overall program. The downside to them is that it is not a consistant resistance throughout the movement. So for instance, if you are using them to do rows, the resistance will be lighter at the beginning and heavier at the end. So if you have access to weights then I would say use both. But again, stretch cords can provide a great and challenging workout no matter where you are.
Monday December 6, 2010 12:05 Matt
12:06
Jeannine Stein: 
Matt, what are some common preventable winter sports injuries you see among your clients, and how can they be avoided?
Monday December 6, 2010 12:06 Jeannine Stein
12:09
Matt: 
The most common area of injury or pain is with the knee. It is unfortunately at the mercy of the hip and if the hip can't stabilize properly or isn't working as good as it can, the pain can show up in the knee. However, there is an upside to this, it is correctable and preventable. When you are training and preparing for the slopes make sure your hips are getting a lot of work and getting strong. This means that when you do squats, for instance, your knees do not collapse inward. If they do, just think you want to push your knees out to the side when you go in to the squat. This will help turn on the muscles in the hip like the glutes (and who doesn't like a strong glute) which help control what the knee does.
Monday December 6, 2010 12:09 Matt
12:10
[Comment From guestguest: ] 
What are some precautions to take when running outside in the winter months?
Monday December 6, 2010 12:10 guest
12:13
Matt: 
The biggest precaution is to bundle up and make sure you are protected from the elements. If you are well covered and warm, the next thing to focus on is a proper warm up. This can be the active stretching that I mentioned previously or some light body weight movements like squats or lunges to get the muscles warm. This will ensure that you are not going cold in to cold running. And, if you don't like to run in the cold, some people don't like to breath in the cold air, then finding a gym with a treadmill is a great alternative. The real thing is always best but the treadmill is a good second.
Monday December 6, 2010 12:13 Matt
12:14
Jeannine Stein: 
Thanks very much, Matt, for doing this chat today. We really covered a lot of ground! And thanks to everyone who participated and sent in such terrific questions. This chat will be archived, so come back and check in anytime.
Monday December 6, 2010 12:14 Jeannine Stein
12:15
Matt: 
No problem, I loved doing this. I want to thank everyone for being here and asking so many great questions, I am sure you all will have a great time on the slopes or ice this winter. If you have any further questions you can reach me at Matt.Berenc@Equinox.com. Also, the website for my facility is Equinox.com and I am located at the Century City club.

Thank you again.
Monday December 6, 2010 12:15 Matt
12:16
Jeannine Stein: 
Please join us next Monday, Dec., 13th at noon (please note the time) when we'll be chatting with fitness trainer Jackie Warner, star of the Bravo television shows "Workout" and "Thinervention With Jackie Warner." She'll be answering your questions about making New Year's resolutions to get fit and healthy. In the meantime, feel free to join us for daily chats at our Tribune sister papers. Happy Holidays!
Monday December 6, 2010 12:16 Jeannine Stein
12:16
 

 
 
 


Photo credits (left to right): Matt Berenc; Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times