Are You Ready for Ski Season? Part 4

Mobility – The Warm Up and Cool Down

This is the fourth blog in a series of four related to the important aspects of training for skiing and snowboarding. The topics covered so far have been endurance, strength, and balance. Please refer back to the posts on these topics if you are interested: Part 1: Endurance, Part 2: Strength, and Part 3: Balance Training.

Mobility

This week I am going to talk about mobility and the importance of a proper warm-up and cool down. Most people are either really tight or really flexible. For those of you who are tight, it is especially important for you to stretch after your day of skiing or snowboarding. For those of you who are very flexible, you will want to focus on increasing strength and stability in your workouts (see previous blog posts on strength and endurance).

A proper warm-up and cool down are crucial for everyone to have a good day and a good season on the slopes.

Why Warm Up Matters

Let’s first talk about warming up and why it matters. Performing a warm-up prior to skiing or snowboarding is essential for your short-term performance and long-term muscle and joint health.

You might be thinking to yourself, “I never warm-up and feel fine when I ski.”

While you might feel fine, you could be feeling better! Think about it like this; your muscles and ligaments have elastic properties similar to a rubber band. A cold rubber band is relatively stiff, and if you pull it tight very quickly, it might snap. It also won’t move very easily when it is cold. Your muscles and ligaments need a proper warm-up so they are ready to go. Warming up will increase the elasticity of your muscles and increase your overall mobility on your first few runs and will give you lasting benefits throughout the day. This will decrease your overall risk of injury and enhance your performance.

Other concerns you may have are, “How am I going to find time to warm-up?” or “What do I do for a warm-up in my clunky ski or snowboarding boots?”

My warm-up typically only lasts 5-10 minutes, and I do it in the parking lot when I’m about to walk over to the lift. It’s not tedious (because you would be less likely to do it). However, it needs to be dynamic and consist mainly of full body movements, using multiple muscle groups, that are going to be worked during a day of skiing or boarding. This will get blood flowing to those muscles that are going to be working so they are primed and ready to go.

It greatly benefits your first few runs and will have lasting benefits throughout the day and can make you less sore the day after.

Warm-up

In the video below are some suggestions for a quick snowboarding and skiing warm-up. The first half of the video will show a snowboard specific warm up and the second half of the video (at 3:00) shows a ski specific warm up.

Cool Down

Now let’s talk about the cool down.

This is the most common part of a workout that people skip. I get it; at the end of a long day of skiing or boarding you are tired and just want to take your gear off and go home. Stretching isn’t the most exciting activity, but bear with me a minute so I can explain why it can be beneficial and doesn’t have to take up much time.

Benefits of Stretching

Near the end of a long day on the slopes your muscles typically feel tighter than usual because they are fatigued. This muscle tightness can put pressure on your joints and cause increased soreness later that night or the next day. One benefit of stretching after exercise is to help muscles relax and take the pressure off of your joints and tissues surrounding the joints. It will also help your overall flexibility in the long run.

Another benefit of stretching is that it increases blood flow to the areas being stretched. This helps these muscles recover more quickly and reduces your chance of being sore or getting injured the next day.

Finally, after you have put your muscles through all the work of skiing or boarding, stretching allows your muscles to reset by restoring their length and decreasing tension, which puts you at less risk of injury in the future and will help you feel better after your day on the slopes.

Cool Down Stretches

A proper cool down should consist of prolonged stretching for at least 30 seconds combined with deep breathing to relax your muscles and decrease the tightness from a day of working hard. Your muscles are able to stretch and lengthen much easier when they are warm (think about that rubber band), so this should feel pretty good at the end of your day. Stretching is important for maintaining tissue health in your muscles and reducing pressure on your joints, so even though it isn’t the most exciting thing to do, it is important.

Here are pictures of stretches you should perform. Hold each for at least 30 seconds.

Quad Stretch: The first image (Quad Stretch 1) is if you still have your boots on, you can prop up your leg up on the trunk of your car. The second picture (Quad Stretch 2) would be when you have already changed out of your boots. Keep your chest upright for both!

Downward Dog: stretches ankles, calves, hamstrings, and spine

Downward Dog - stretches ankles, calves, hamstrings, and spine
Downward Dog

Cobra Pose: (if you are okay with laying in the snow) stretches chest, shoulders, abdomen

Cobra Pose (if you are okay with laying in the snow) - stretches chest, shoulders, abdomen
Cobra Pose

If you feel a particular restriction in any part of your body that these stretches don’t seem to help, then schedule an appointment with one of our Jackson County Physical Therapy physical therapists. Physical therapists are trained at identifying and fixing people’s mobility impairments with manual therapy mobilization techniques combined with exercises and stretches that are specific to you and your body.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for future blog posts!


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