Many of us will be packing our bags and heading for the slopes in the new year, but how do we make sure we come back injury free?
A week on the slopes can be exciting, exhilarating, and for most of us – completely exhausting! 6-8 hours a day of aerobic exercise requiring good balance, strength and flexibility – it’s often a lot more than our office jobs demand of us! So to get the most out of your holiday start your preparation early – ideally this should begin 6-12 weeks before your fit the slopes depending on your base level of fitness. If you have any niggling injuries try to get them seen to by a physio ASAP before you go to give yourself maximum chance of recovery rather than leaving it until the week before!
Key areas to tackle in your ski-fit workout include:
Aerobic fitness – cycling, running, cross trainers or step machines are great to build up your aerobic capacity and get those legs working at the same time, if your gym has a ‘ski trainer’ machine even better!
Strength training – focus on the quads and gluts with the following easy exercises you can do at home:
Step downs: standing with one foot on a step facing forwards, slowing lower yourself down to tap the heel of the other foot to the floor, then bring it back on the step. Try to keep your pelvis level and your standing knee in line with your 2nd toe as you do this!
Lateral step downs: with one foot on a step facing sideways, slowly bend your knee to tap te heel of the other foot to the ground. Try to keep your pelvis level and your standing knee in line with your 2nd toe as you do this!
Backward lunges: From a standing position step back into a lunge, dropping the back knee towards the floor. Try to keep your pelvis level and your standing knee in line with your 2nd toe as you do this!
Bridge: Laying on your back, squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips off
the ground, hold for 5 seconds then slowly lower.
Clam: Lay on one side with your knees bent and feet together, make sure your hips are stacked one on top of the other then slowly lift your top knee and lower.
Flexibility – ankle and hip flexibility is essential for efficient skiing, try these stretches:
Soleus stretch: Stand with one foot in front of the other, bend both knees until you feel a stretch in the lower part of the calf on the back leg. Hold 30secs.
Glut stretch: Lay on your back, cross one foot over the other thigh to feel the stretch in your buttock, to increase this stretch pull that other thigh in towards your chest. Hold 30secs.
Adductor stretch: Stand with your legs wide apart, lunge to one side taking the weight over the knee, keep both feet facing forwards. Hold 30 secs.
If you want to have some expert guidance in a more supportive setting, we run specialist exercise based group rehab, where we can put together a bespoke exercise plan for you to work on under our supervision in our Strong Room. You can read more about this specialist service here.
#2: Warm up
Preparation done, don’t ruin your hard work by forgetting to warm up before you leave the chalet. Get all your joints (ankles, knees, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders) warmed up by taking them through their full range of motion several times. Squats, lunges, heel raises and upper body twists are all great to start firing those key muscle groups. It’s worth spending a good 5-10minutes on this before you head out, then repeat a couple when you get to the top of that chair lift if it’s been a long ride!
If you’re carrying an injury be sure to strap yourself up; theres a huge range of knee braces, wrist guards and back protectors on the market so ask your physio if you’re not sure. And don’t forget that helmet!
#4: On the slopes
Remember you are most likely to injure yourself when your muscles are fatigued so regular breaks, good hydration (of the non-alcoholic variety!) and knowing when to call it a day are all essentials to not ruin your holiday on day 1! Well-fitting boots are also key to prevent blisters and sores that will hamper your ski style!
Stretching for a few minutes before you head to the bar is going to make your next day’s skiing a lot more comfortable, (see stretches above) and remember that alcohol is likely to affect you more at altitude, particularly after a full days exercise, so take it easy!
People who’ve read this article have also found the following useful:
Train for the slopes
The benefit of Pilates for Winter Sports
More about Physio Chris and his Snowsport experience