Well it’s that time of the year again. The snow is starting to fall up in the mountains and the crisp mornings are telling us that winter is almost upon us. Of course if you really want to enjoy the winter and not just hope for it to pass, it helps if you are going to head up to the hills and hit the slopes. For anyone who is going to ski or snowboard this year it is important to be physically ready for the demands that these sports require. It is always much safer to get into shape before your sport rather than trying to use a sport to get into shape. You are a lot less likely to get injured if your body is strong, flexible and balanced.
Skiing and snowboarding demand a high degree of strength, agility, balance, coordination and endurance. Having strong leg and core muscles will allow you to better control your skis/board and will enable you to adapt to different terrain without catching an edge. The better cardiovascular shape you are in the less likely you are to fatigue towards the end of the day. We all know how injuries tend to happen on the ‘last run of the day’ and this is often because our muscles don’t have the endurance to continue to perform optimally towards the latter part of the ski day. A study in Scotland looked into injuries on the ski hill and found that the most common type of injury was sprains (ligament tears) and strains (muscle tears). The study also found that during skiing the most commonly injured area was the knee and while snowboarding the most injured body part was the wrist.
So what should you be doing to prepare for the ski season? Some basic exercise ideas for skiing and snowboarding are: wall squats (leaning against wall with feet out in front and bending to 90 degrees and then holding for at least 10 seconds), single leg squats (making sure to sit back flexing at your hip so that your knee does not go beyond your toes), lunges (think of going up/down not forward) and bridging (lift hips up using buttock muscles while lying on back and with knees bent 90 degrees). In order to help with your endurance you should partake in some form of cardiovascular exercise (biking, running, swimming) for at least 30 minutes, 3-5x/week. Spending time balancing on one foot (5 minutes on each side everyday) will help improve your balance. Also make sure at the start of the season that you don’t push yourself beyond your limits. If you know you are getting tired, don’t head out for ‘one last run’. Give your body a chance to adapt and get into ‘ski shape’ over the first month of the season. If you have a chronic, nagging injury make sure to visit your physiotherapist so you can get it dealt with before it forces you to take a bunch of time off during the season.
Remember these are just basic exercise guidelines. Unless you are very experienced with working out it is always a good idea to seek professional guidance from your physiotherapist. So make sure to start preparation now for the upcoming season. Following these tips will have you spending less time in pain and more time out enjoying the powder!
Graham Gillies is a registered Physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield and is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Therapy and a certified Gunn IMS practitioner. He can be contacted at the Winfield location (250-766-2544) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org