The time to condition yourself for snow skiing is long before the weatherman starts giving ski reports. Ideally, you condition all year long, but if you don't, begin your conditioning program two to three months before you plan to hit the slopes. You can avoid becoming one of this year's statistics for knee injuries, the most common snow-ski mishap, by doing exercises to increase knee stability. Do specific exercises to strengthen the primary knee-support muscles, quadriceps and glutes, and don't forget to stretch.
Spend five to 10 minutes slowly warming up your leg muscles. Brisk walking, bicycling or low-impact step aerobics increase circulation to the leg muscles and glutes, preparing your for more strenuous exercises. Use this same type of exercise for your 5- to 10-minute cool-down period.
Perform three different variations of knee-bend exercises. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees approximately 30 degrees. With a straight back, lower your body until your heels begin to lift off the floor. Return to the starting position. Practice this exercise until you can do three two-minute sets. Perform the same exercise for one-minute sets with one leg lifted during the knee bends. Do three sets on each side. Finish your knee-bend workout with the linebacker pose. With both feet on the floor and your knees bent, lean forward from the waist. Rest your elbows on your thighs. Slowly lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Come back up to your starting position. Continue this exercise in a slow rhythm until you feel a burn in your quadriceps.
Increase the strength of knee-support structures -- ligaments, tendons and muscles -- with supersets of strength and stabilization exercises. Perform two to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Do bar squats. Set the bar on a rack at a level just below your shoulders. Step under the bar and push up until the bar is behind your neck and across your shoulders. Grasp the bar with both hands, with your palms facing forward. Push up with your legs and straighten your torso. With your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward, lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Do not let your knees go past your toes. Push with your heels as you return to the starting position. Complete repetitions. Do single-leg squats. Stand with a straight back. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Lift one leg slightly and perform squats with the other leg. Do repetitions on each side.
Stretch your legs and quadriceps after your workout. Hold onto the back of a chair with one hand for stability and reach behind you with the other. Raise your foot on the same side of your body and pull your foot toward your buttock. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side. If you feel discomfort while performing your knee exercises, stop the exercises and consult a physician.
For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.