As the weather turns colder and the snow begins to fall, you can start to see the ski runs laid out like a white carpet carving down the mountains. You and your friends or family are probably starting to pull out your skiing or snowboarding equipment to make sure everything still fits and isn’t broken.
You may also be thinking to yourself:
“I wonder if my body is ready for this snow season? I haven’t been working out as much as I normally do because of COVID shut downs. I don’t feel like I’m in as good a shape as I was this time last year. What can I do to make sure I’m ready to enjoy the slopes?”
This is a valid concern, and we want to make sure that you are ready for the ski season rather than seeing you later in the season to rehabilitate an injury. Having said that, we’ll certainly be available if you need us to help you rehab from an injury to get you back on the slopes.
Aspects of fitness that are important to reduce your risk of ski or snowboarding injuries are endurance, core and leg strength, balance, and mobility of the spine, hips, and knees. Unfortunately, we can’t claim that an exercise program will prevent ski or snowboarding injuries from occurring, but addressing these aspects of your fitness can certainly help to reduce your risk for injury.
Over the next few months, I’ll cover each aspect of your fitness so you can better assess if you are prepared for this snow season.
This month I’ll discuss endurance. Endurance is crucial for skiing and snowboarding because you are often out on the slopes for multiple hours at a time. You need to have a baseline level of endurance to be able to handle this, otherwise your risk of injury increases due to the effects fatigue can have on your balance and reaction time. It is a lot easier to correct a mistake or react to an abnormality in the snow when your muscles aren’t worn out.
That begs the question, what type of endurance exercise should you perform? Should you go for a run every couple of days or what?
My advice is to train as specifically as possible to the activity you want to perform. For downhill skiing and snowboarding, you often encounter intense bouts of exercise such as traversing a steep part of the mountain, and then transition to a less strenuous part of a run. The skier or snowboarder will typically alternate in this pattern for a total of 15-30 minutes to get all the way down the mountain. Training for this should consist of similar intervals of moderate to high intensity running or biking for several minutes, then lower intensity for several minutes and alternating in this pattern.
If you prefer long runs or bike rides, these are still beneficial for overall endurance and will definitely help, but the more specific you can be the better. I recommend interval training 3 times each week.
An exercise you can do at home to start training the endurance of your leg muscles is wall sits. The muscles involved in wall sits need to have a high amount of endurance, for both skiing and snowboarding. Performing this exercise for 2-5 minutes at a time with a 2-3 minute rest in between for 3-5 rounds is a good place to start. (You might not be smiling as much as I am after a couple of minutes)
In summary, I don’t want you to be afraid to get out on the slopes, but I do want you to be prepared. I hope this blog has given you some insight into one aspect of fitness that is important for the snow season, and some things you can start to work on now to become prepared.
Start your endurance training this week!
Next month I’ll be talking about strength training, another crucial aspect for prepping to hit the slopes safely.
For more information and training materials that are more specific to you and your body, schedule a visit with a Jackson County Physical Therapy physical therapist who can give you a more personalized plan.