If you’re a fan of winter sports and are waiting for the onset of snow sports season, you might as well use the time to prepare for an enjoyable time up in the mountains!
There are few sports out there that exercise as many areas of the body as skiing and snowboarding. Whether you’re going higher up in altitude for enjoying the sport or for serious training (still fun), it is important to prepare for your session to avoid injury and stay well around thinner air. Demands on your body during the ski season vary greatly depending on how long and how often you ski.
Although extremely fun and adventurous, skiing and snowboarding require a strong abdomen, and powerful legs. If these muscles are in relatively good shape, you’re less likely to grow tired. You want to avoid being fatigued, as your form can start to deteriorate and you will quickly lose strength; finding it difficult to last too long. An important principle to remember is that you must be stronger than what your activity requires.
Here are a few tips to prepare your body for a fantastic snow season in the mountains!
1. Proper Technique
To begin with, a solid tip is to work on your technique as much as possible. Engage yourself mentally with how you’re performing, and work on improving it. Proper form requires constantly engaged muscles as well. Especially if you’re a beginner it will seem hard at first. The more you are in shape, it will be relatively less stressful for you to pick up technique. Absolutely take lessons if you’re a first timer. Some take them a couple times too.
2. Avoid Fatigue and Discomfort
Skiing in attempt to push through fatigue can set you up for injury. For this season, basing your preparation on recognizing when you are fatigued and what amount and kind of activity led to that is a good way to avoid possible injuries and unnecessary fatigue.
It is also important to stretch the right muscles as part of your prep and warm up before hitting the pow. Tight lower leg muscles can change how your muscles absorb the impact and cause undue stress on the bones in your lower leg. Additionally, Linda Scholl, DPT Physical Therapist at University of Utah Orthopedic Center suggests that as part of your prep, a strong core, hips and lower legs allow easier ability to balance as well as absorb the impact of skiing, making the work on your feet/calves feel less taxing.
Do keep in mind that a big part of “training” for skiing is to prevent injury. The most common one is a torn ACL. Working on your strength symmetry is a great way to avoid one. Former U.S. Ski Team member Reggie Crist advises,"Your quadriceps and hamstrings are antagonistic pairs of muscles. If your quads are more than 20% stronger than your hamstrings, you're more likely to blow out your knee and end your season.”
3. Get the Right Shoes
Fitting into the right size can also make a big difference. “ When your foot does not have a proper foot bed, the lower leg muscles have to work harder... Movements are more sloppy and harder to make and can be very uncomfortable... to enjoy your time.” says Nick Monson, DO.
4. Types of Exercises to Prepare
As with any sport that you enjoy or are trying out for the first time; it helps to have a basic level of fitness to keep yourself from getting injured and to perform well. Since skiing, snowboarding and ice climbing require a general overall fitness, these will help you know what to focus on more.
- Cardiovascular exercise: Find one that works for you or switch it up. Hiking, running, cycling, or indoor cardio gym equipment are great ways to build your cardiovascular strength.
- Strength training: For snow sports, core and leg strength get priority.However not enough strength in your upper body, might leave your shoulder at risk for injury. Holding a plank for longer periods and bodyweight exercises- lunges, bridges or squats with both or one leg, is a must for any downhill skiing. Using a weight machine to work on the hamstrings, quads and buttocks are best! Deadlift variations are also a great way to build your hamstring strength!
- Flexibility: Having flexible hamstrings, quads and core is one way to help prevent injury! Perform exercises that loosen up your hips and helps move your pelvis to increase your range of movement; as hip flexors are often a tight and inflexible area.
- Mobility: Squats will strengthen your ankles,knees, and hips. Try them while holding a medicine ball and standing on a BOSU. One-armed cable rows—while standing on a BOSU—can also help to make your back and core stronger and prevent muscle imbalances.
- Endurance training: Practice endurance by running hills, stairs or jumping to help prepare for the impact of skiing; especially downhill snow sports.
“Research has shown that maintaining good balance on your skis and avoiding getting "in the back seat" with your weight too far backward, can decrease your risk of knee injuries during skiing.” — Dr. Stuart Willick
5. Post Snow Activity Session Recovery
You’re definitely going to be sore to some degree after having fun in the snow. Some people feel it more than others. It is nevertheless a good idea to indulge in some movement to relieve soreness. Take a walk, do some stretching after your ski, snowboarding or climbing session and even the day or two after. Just a couple minutes of sit ups, squats and walking up stairs along with some upper body movement will keep you feeling good. This helps to regulate the blood flow in your body to recover from soreness.
6. Drink Water and Eat Well
Make sure you’re hydrated and eat will before your snow activity, since you don’t want to feel fatigued or thirsty. Since you will be engaging in a enjoyable yet physically intense activity; treat healthy carbohydrates as your friend and fill yourself up with a balanced meal afterwards.
Now that we’ve touched base on the important stuff, don’t forget to have a great time in the snow. You’re there to have an adventure and enjoy the season. Keep it cool.