Build a Foundation

Building a foundation is definitely not “sexy” training. It doesn’t include jumping over fancy neon hurdles, throwing sledgehammers, or doing squats while standing on a fit ball. But, it is the essential first step.

Building foundational capacities is where about 80% of your training time should be spent.

Three Foundational Capacities

+ Movement

+ Aerobic Capacity and Power

+ Relative Strength

Let’s take a deeper look at each of these:


I define movement as the ability to display your physical potential.

Movement is critical because you have to move well to perform and not get hurt. If you have “tight” hips, back, ankles, or shoulders it’s just a matter of time before something bad happens.

Stretching and yoga* will not solve the problem. Those things may help you feel more flexible, but it’s almost guaranteed to be adding length to areas that are already unstable and creating larger issues in the future. (*note: an exception to this is Margaret‘s PRI-based yoga for athletes here at Rogue, which is one of the only programs in the country that does not fall into this category. It would help you, without worsening instability or imbalances.)

Your nervous system runs the show, so if you stretch a muscle without addressing the nervous system imbalance you aren’t actually correcting the root cause. I know that may sound crazy, but we promise it’s not voodoo – for an example of some of the methods we use, click here.

What to do

Do breathing (see below), soft tissue work, and when training start with simple exercises and dial in technique before adding weight. We have hundreds of video exercise tutorials that you can view here.

Breathing is the most important activity you do for your health and performance, and most of you need some work on how to do it properly.

Breathing directly affects the nervous system, cognitive function, movement, immune system function and a lot of other things. It’s important, and commonly neglected.

Now that may seem crazy, but it works.

Do breathing work daily. Check out these tutorials and try to do 2 sets of 8-10 breaths.

Before workouts
During workouts
After workouts

Aerobic Capacity and Power

Aerobic metabolism is the engine of recovery, work capacity, and all energy production.

Skiing and snowboarding is primarily an anaerobic sport (60 second to 3 minute runs with quads on fire). However, about 75-80% of your anaerobic power and capacity is fueled by your aerobic capacity and power.

Even more importantly, all recovery processes are aerobic in nature. The more aerobically fit you are, the faster you recover between runs, workouts, and days on the mountain.

What to do

+ Perform aerobic work (heart rate 130-150ish) at least 2-3 days per week for 45-60 minutes. This could be riding the bike, going for a hike, or anything else that doesn’t beat you up, keeps your heart rate elevated and uses the muscles that you use when skiing. We suggest Fartlek style training, like this:

“Wear a heart rate monitor and after a good 5-10 minute warm up at an easy pace perform 10-30 second “sprints” around 70-80% of max intensity and then back off for 3-5 minutes allowing your heart rate to drop in the aerobic zone (max speed with a comfortable breath in through the nose and out through the mouth).”

+ HICT (high intensity continuous training) work is also an excellent addition one time per week. These workouts target the aerobic capacity of fast twitch fibers. Traditional low intensity aerobic work doesn’t usually develop the aerobic capacity of fast twitch muscle fibers because the load (resistance) isn’t high enough to recruit them to contract. Below is an example of how to do HICT for the lower body – I suggest starting with one set of 10-15 minutes.

Relative Strength

The stronger you are relative to your weight the easier everything gets. For example, your ability to produce, absorb, and redirect the forces necessary to excel at your sport are intricately related to relative strength.

What to do:

The best way to increase relative strength will change a bit depending on your training history, but below are some basic guidelines:

+ Do a medium to large volume of total strength work
+ Medium intensity reps (sets of 1-5 reps) done with perfect technique
+ Always leave 1-3 reps in the tank. In other words, if you’re assigned sets of 3, find a weight that you could lift 5-6 times and just do the 3 reps. Never miss a lift or hit “failure”

Below is a sample month long program for a single strength day to give you an idea of what a foundation strength day might look like.

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Building a foundation isn’t easy and it doesn’t come quickly, but it will provide the necessary capacities to build a high level of fitness.

By Jonathan Pope