Preparing for the Eurotest

Getting fit and strong with ski specific exercise programme can make the when preparing for your Eurotest.  In this article Neil Maclean-Martin, leading ski physiotherapist in Chamonix and clinical director of the SkiFit programme, discusses how specific strength and fitness leads to improved performance, reduced risk of injury and more chance of passing your Eurotest.

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The dreaded Eurotest stands as the main barrier for British Ski Instructors to prove their worth and meet the minimum standards required to become a level IV instructor and benefit from the same rights to work as their French counterparts.  In case you are new to the politics of ski instructing, only those who have passed the Eurotest as part of their training can progress on to instruct in France. Yes this is specific to France and to a certain extent it is to protect the French ski instructors, however whatever your stand point regarding what qualifies you to teach and be a good teacher all the Instructors have passed this test so the Brits aren’t being asked to anything extra, simply meet the same standards.

The test is raced over a GS (Giant Slalom) course under FIS control.  The qualifying time is a little complicated to work out, however it is set by ‘Openers’, these are skiers (normally recently retired world cup level skiers) who have all done their own testing and have a coefficient set for them each year that equalises their time to the equivalent of 0 FIS points thereby setting a standard.  At each test they ski before and after, with the two fastest times taken and averaged.  To pass, the men must be within 18% of this time and women 24%.

How to pass the Eurotest.  Obviously it is not possible just to rock up and give it a bash – this is serious skiing requiring not only well developed race technique in GS gates but also a significant level of strength and fitness for the race and also for the training it will require to develop the necessary skills.

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All training for high performance sport get separated into its component parts.  We no longer just ski to get faster – this results in all systems getting trained equally rather than separating them out and working harder with better focus and return on the main elements of: aerobic endurance, strength, strength endurance and power.  Essentially for those not up on their sports physiology this is the process of building an engine which has a large fuel tank, is efficient, is big and able to rev up to maximum force quickly.  Strength comprises the ability to generate and manage huge forces many times that of normal gravity in patterns of movement that we don’t routinely work.  Good GS technique requires the skier to have the hips facing in a different direction to the upper body – they also have to tip and roll as well in order to keep the maximum pressure on the ski during the turn.  This control of the pelvis, linking the lower body to the upper body therefore requires very high levels of core strength and control.

Planning of training is essential – once behind it is not possible to make up for a slow start without having one stage left incomplete.  Training response is individual based on starting fitness levels, experience, age, gender etc.  Common to all training programmes should be the result of a well trained athlete who is robust and adapted well for the specific need of the sport.  The specific requirements for GS skiing are similar to a 400m runner with about a 50/50% split in fast/slow twitch fibres.

PHASE I

phase-1General cardiovascular fitness – this comprises the aerobic or fat-burning base that allows for a constant background energy supply, a high threshold for carbohydrate burning, a good tolerance for the lactic acid produced and the ability to push repeatedly into these high intensity training zones.  Overall high VO2 max is less important than the ability to work at high percentages of your VO2 max (since even with specific training it won’t change as efficiently as the thresholds).

PHASE I SESSIONS

Some long sessions of more than an hour (run, bike row etc) that allow you to keep a steady pace and a heart rate at around 70-75% of max.  Then some stronger pushes for aerobic capacity of around 20mins and 85% of max and then finally some interval work that takes you into the lactate zones 87-90% of max for short repeated exposures to that intensity

Aerobic base – Continuous Greater than 1 hour 70-75% of Heart Rate Max
Aerobic capacity – Intervals 3x20mins with 2mins rest 85-87% of Heart Rate Max
Threshold – Intervals 4-6×4-8mins with 6-12mins rest 87-89% of Heart Rate Max

PHASE II

skifit-1Strength, this takes you through from starting to build control to building the characteristic big quads and glutes that are the engine of the downhill skier.

Start with basic movement patterns of body weight exercises, that prepare the soft tissues for adaptation – tendons take longer than muscle to adapt to new loads, so if you want to avoid some of the potential injuries that keep you off your training its good to work steadily through this phase of four to six weeks.

PHASE II Sessions x3-4 per week

Core mixed work out using straight planks, side planks, rotational work, on front, back, side, CLANKS etc.  A mix of Pilates and Ashtanga yoga can give you a great variation to the standard exercises. Body weight squats, lunges progressing to single leg work will bring on the strength and control.  Lastly come to the weights.

Core 15-20mins X3-4 per week
Body weight exercises 3×15-20reps X3-4 per week
Weights 5×5 reps with weights at 80-90% of one repetition maximum X3 per week

PHASE III – Power

phase-4Continuation of the above training with reduced weight and greater speed – this can incorporate plyometrics (hopping and bounding / explosive movements) to help peak for the race to get the best result of strength and speed for racing.

 

Phase III – sessions

Legs Explosive squats 4×6 at 75% of max X2 per week
core Medicine ball work out throw / catch X2 per week
Dynamic control Single leg hops with jumps and rotations. X2 per week

In conclusion talking the Eurotest is a big undertaking – the body must be sufficiently prepared to allow you to ski with sufficient technique that you can go fast enough and do many hundreds of runs without the body breaking down.  Plenty of time should be budgeted so as not to rush any of the stages.  The above sessions are a guide to illustrate the process and do not represent a full training programme.  An ‘off the shelf’ training programme that we recommend is our very own SkiFit programme which addresses all the phases mentioned above and provides good groundwork for your training. For personalised programmes a strength and conditioning coach should be consulted as they will help establish your base fitness and also your strengths and weakness that need to be addressed as part of the programme.

Without doubt proper physical conditioning improves your chances of passing the Eurotest – improper preparation leaves you wide open to injury and not meeting your goals.

Written by Neil Maclean-Martin. SkiFit

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