WINTER SPORTS: GET IN SHAPE NOW TO AVOID INJURY

07-22-2010

WINTER SPORTS: GET IN SHAPE NOW TO AVOID INJURY

Ski season is just around the corner in southern California, as the weather gets colder and the mountains begin to get snowfall. Before you hit the slopes this year, be sure that your body is prepared to avoid injury. “Skiing and snowboarding are just like any other sport–they require training”, notes Dr. Alan Beyer, a sports medicine specialist at Newport Orthopedic Institute. “These winter sports utilize the entire body, not just the legs. Having a strong core, primarily the abdomen and back, is important because it provides stability. The core maintains a base of support while the arms and legs move. Strength training, flexibility and cardiovascular conditioning also help you to avoid injury and maximize your performance.”

Preparation training for skiing and snowboarding should cover three areas: core (trunk) strength, specific muscle strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular conditioning. A few exercises are included here to get you going, but you might want to be efficient and try enrolling in a well-integrated exercise and movement program, such as Pilates, that can address most of these areas efficiently at one time.

Core Strength:

1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Perform crunches (2 sets of 15 repetitions), but keep your pelvis stationary allowing only the upper body to move (the movement is small).

2. Lift the chest (again keeping the pelvis stationary) and twist your upper body to the right (think of pulling your shoulder toward the opposite knee – the movement is small again). Return to the center maintaining chest elevation, then repeat to the left. Try to do 2 sets of 15 repetitions.

3. Lying on your back, bring your legs up so that the knees and hips are both at 90° angles. Keep the knees squeezed together. Rotate the legs to the right, and then use the opposite side of your abdominals to pull the legs back to center. Repeat to the left. Try to do 2 sets of 15 repetitions of this exercise, as well.

Specific Strength:

1. Wall squats. Stand with your back against a wall with the feet out in front of you and bend the knees. Lower yourself, until the thighs are parallel to the floor, then return to standing position. Make sure the knees stay in line with your feet but don’t go forward beyond your toes.

2. Walking lunges. Take a large step forward with the right leg; lower your body straight down until the left knee is hovering off the floor and the right thigh is parallel to the floor. Push off from the left toes and step forward with the left leg; lower again. Make sure the knees don’t go forward over your toes or bounce on the floor on this exercise.

3. Calf Raises. Lift up on the ball of your foot, and then lower. Then progress to walking calf raises; take a step and lift onto the ball of your foot. You can hold weights in the hands on any of these exercises, as you get stronger. Try 2 sets of 15 reps on all of the above.

Flexibility:

1. Hamstrings. Lie on your back with the towel around the ball of your right foot. Keep the knee straight and lift the right leg off the floor until a stretch is felt in the back of the leg/thigh. Then lower your leg out to the side until a stretch is felt on the inner thigh. Stretch and hold for a minimum of two 30-second intervals on each leg.

Cardiovascular Conditioning:

1. To feel better on the slopes and enhance your stamina, cardio conditioning is essential. You can practice your ski moves on the cross-country machines at the gym. The elliptical machines provide good work for the heart with less stress on the knee joints. Try to do at least 30 minutes, with the heart rate elevated, three times a week.

Investing time in prepping your body now will pay big dividends later on in terms of performance and injury prevention. Preparing your body for winter sports may not guarantee that you’ll be the hottest thing on the slopes this ski season, but it can help you enjoy more time on the slopes and decrease your risk to injury!

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