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How to Handle Fatigue on Your Ski Holiday

Mar 12, 2022

During my time racing I was pushing hard and I had a certain amount of adrenaline to push through the fatigue.  But, even with that, when hitting gates our training sessions were limited to 2 hours.  It was always on the last run that I lost my focus a little and made mistakes and crashed out.

I know this is a little extreme and hard to relate to as it is unlikely you are going to be racing on holiday,  however,  you are exercising in a recreational sport that is super demanding physically and psychologically.  We tend to underestimate this.  The mentality of  “just one more run”  is common and is when the vast majority of mishaps happen.

So,  why is it you get more fatigued in the mountains?  Well, altitude has a big impact on your body. The air is thinner,  there is less oxygen in the air and it’s the oxygen that you need to fuel aerobic activity in your muscles and brain.  Your body needs to make extra red blood cells to carry the oxygen and compensate for the altitude.  This takes a little time.  So,  for the time that you are away your body is working harder to get enough oxygen to fuel your body.  Your heart and breathing rate go up, even at rest.  So to exercise your body will have to work harder and will fatigue quicker.

The air is also a lot drier at altitude too.  Your body will be dehydrated even at rest.  Ever noticed that your hands get dry,  your lips chap,  your throat gets a little sore?  It’s the dry air!  This dehydration affects the performance of your body.  Just 1% dehydration impacts on your performance.  Now consider adding a few alcoholic beverages into the mix!

So for the next big question of how much water should you be drinking?  Well,  the jury is out on that one!  The gold standard of 8 glasses isn’t substantiated by much evidence,  however this blog isn’t about critiquing the literature on how much you need to be drinking daily,  but how much extra you need to drink on your ski holiday!  The air is drier,  you’re exercising,  maybe having an extra coffee mid-morning or enjoying a vin chaud in the evening!  These additional diuretics and loss of fluid from breathing and sweating mean you need extra water to balance your body again.

Aim to drink at least an extra litre of water every day you are away.  Now, you might be thinking,  ”but I don’t want to get caught short on the mountain”?  Most resorts now have good toilet facilities so make sure you have a physical map or a downloaded app so you know where the nearest loos are!  A quick and easy way to achieve your extra fluid intake is to carry a reusable water bottle or camelbak.  In the three valleys there are lots of water fountains to refill at.  Every time you refill you are helping to keep yourself hydrated and reducing the single plastic culture!

Hands up who had a go at and/or succeeded with the HealthHub sleep challenge?  During this challenge we aimed for 8 hours sleep and no blue light before bed to ensure you have good quality sleep. Whilst on your ski holiday sleep is even more important.  It is at night time that your body does all its important repairing and sorting of all the things you learnt during the day.  If you want to maximise your learning from your ski lessons and repair your body,  you’ve got to be even more on it with your sleep.  Your body and brain will need more sleep due to the demands of the exercise of skiing and the additional demands of the environment (reduced oxygen and moisture in the air).

Finally,  the more physically prepared your body is before you go,  the better.  It will boost your ability to do more without fatiguing.  I will be talking more about that in the next blog so stay tuned.  If you haven’t done anything about your fitness before your holiday (Vic, I hope you are reading this!),  just consider that you will be exercising far more than your usual levels and therefore this will have an impact on you.  Perhaps remind yourself you are in fact on a “holiday” may help!  Don’t push yourself so you are so exhausted when you come back it will take weeks to recover!

See you on the slopes!



originally posted 18th March 2018

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