Snow Fitness in Japan
Each winter when the temperatures drop, some people jump for joy, as it means one vital thing—the ski slopes are open! Japan has some of the best mountains in the world, and people travel from all over the globe to get a piece of the action. For us it’s right on our doorstep, and there are many health benefits as well if you need any more enticing!
The two main winter sports in Japan are skiing and snowboarding. They have their subtle differences in regards to specific muscles used and skills required, but overall, they both have the following fantastic advantages:
Strength and Toning
In both activities, core strength and lower body predominates, so the abdominals (stomach), quadriceps (thighs), hamstrings, gluteals (bottom) and calves get a great workout. To get yourself fit and ready to carve up the mountains, add some squats, lunges, jump squats and core exercises such as planks into your workout. These can all be done at home with just your bodyweight, so no excuses!
Cardiovascular and Endurance
Beginners or advanced skiers and boarders can both get into great cardiovascular shape during the winter. Whether you’re a veteran speeding down the mountains or a beginner spending a lot of your time getting yourself up off the ground, your heart rate will be elevated, which is good for heart health and lungs, as well as burning anywhere from 400 to 1,000 calories an hour! This can be quite challenging on the body, so for some cardiovascular training to prep for the slopes, add in some jogging, jump rope or stair run sessions two to three times a week.
Balance and Flexibility
As mentioned before, the core is a very important muscle, good for general balance as well as any turning, carving and jumping. Having flexible muscles is also key, as it not only improves your performance but you can enjoy your winter injury-free. Focus on stretching your quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves, as well as core rotation exercises.
Fun and Outdoors
Whether you’re a guru and enjoying the adrenalin rush of the speed or laughing about the huge tumble you’ve just taken, being outdoors and using your body in a natural and fun way is the most important benefit of all. Being in the mountains, with fresh air and feeling away from life stressors really can revive and rejuvenate your body.
It is easy to get to the different snow areas from Tokyo. The major areas are in Nagano and Niigata (one to two hours on the bullet train from Tokyo) and in Hokkaido (a 90-minute flight from Tokyo). Tokyo Gaijins and Tokyo Snow Club organize some fantastic weekend trips for big groups, which are a perfect way for singles (or small groups) to get out in the snow without having to think about accommodation and transport. Plus, it’s a fun way to meet some new people.
Of course I can’t forget about the added incentive of the warm, soothing and healing hot springs that you can soak in after a long day out in the snow!
Photo by Yuichiro Haga.