Poor preparation can lead to poor performance and accidents. It is necessary to get fit for the slopes before a ski trip, but once you're on holiday, there is also a simple daily routine that will ensure you get the most from your time on the mountain – and stay injury free.
When You Wake Up
Whether it's your first morning at the resort or you've been out on the slopes the day before, it's important to prepare for the physical exertion ahead after a prolonged sedentary period overnight. This is equally true if you're going straight to the slopes after a long journey.
Before breakfast, have a hot shower to help loosen your muscles. Once dressed try completing what are called bridging exercises on the bed or floor:
- Lie flat on your back and bring your heels towards your bottom until you achieve around a 120-degree knee bend.
- With your feet flat on the floor, draw your navel in and roll your pelvis backwards, tucking your tail bone in.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades and lift your bottom off the floor using your gluteals and hamstrings.
- Hold this position with a straight line between shoulders and knees.
- Maintain your breathing and hold this position for five to 10 seconds.
- Slowly lower your bottom back to the start position and relax.
- Repeat this 10 to 15 times.
When out on the slopes, it's important to stay alert and stave off fatigue. Skiers are most commonly at risk of a knee injury if they ski when tired.
Keep energy up by breakfasting and snacking on complex carbohydrates such as porridge, flapjacks, yoghurt, nuts, seeds and fruit. These slow-release carbohydrates have many advantages over their simple sugar counterparts.
They keep your body fuelled for longer, as they take a longer time to digest, and therefore provide a long-lasting source of energy. This can also aid weight loss by helping you feel fuller for longer.
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While Waiting For The Ski Lift Before Your First Run
At this point, the muscles you're about to ask to perform at a high level aren't expecting it. A good way to prepare your quads and gluteal region to ski is to perform slow, controlled body squats:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and slightly turned out.
- Slowly squat down as if lowering yourself on to a bench, keeping your back straight with your weight on your heels.
- Once your knees are flexed 90 degrees, drive back up by squeezing your gluteals together and pushing through your quads.
- First extend your knees, then drive your hips through, giving an exaggerated hip extension once in an upright position, as if sticking your groin out.
- Return to the start position and repeat 10 to 15 times.
Mid-Morning, After A Few Runs
Following a few runs, your body will have increased blood flow to fuel your muscles and will be using extra calories to sustain the high level of muscle function and maintain your body temperature in the colder conditions.
At this point, a small complex carb snack (for example flapjack, seeds or nuts) will help replenish used energy stores and fight fatigue.
It's important that you stay supple during this period, as well as preparing for the later runs as your confidence builds.
The iliotibial band is a ligament on the outside of the thigh that can become tight on the slopes. This can be a contributing factor to knee and hip injuries in skiers; keeping it supple will reduce the negative effects on these areas.
The following exercise is also good for stretching the trunk muscles that are mainly shortened during skiing:
- Stand with your weight on one leg while passing the other leg behind and across your midline.
- With the same arm as the planted leg, take it above and over your head with a slight side flexion of the torso added.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side.
It's very likely that after a high-intensity morning you will experience muscle and even joint stiffness following your lunchtime break. This will leave you prone to soft-tissue injury if you don’t gently increase soft-tissue length before hitting the slopes again.
For your upper limbs and back:
- Take your straight arm across your chest and use the other arm to apply a stretching pressure in a locking motion.
- Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat with the other arm.
- This will promote length in the muscles in your mid back that control shoulder blade movement. A correct shoulder blade rhythm is vital to avoid straining muscles while skiing.
For your lower limbs:
- Sitting on the floor or a low chair, keep one leg straight (which will be stretched).
- Bend the other knee 90 degrees for stability. Keeping the knee of your straight leg locked, reach down towards your shin in the direction of your foot.
- Maintaining a neutral spine and avoiding flexing the lower back too much, reach as far down your shin towards your toes as you can.
- Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
- This will stretch out the hamstrings, a group of muscles susceptible to shortening due to the flexed knee posture adopted during skiing.
In The Late Afternoon/Evening
If you are skiing until last lift each day, it's worth having another small snack to keep your energy levels up and prevent loss of concentration. Your muscles are likely to be fatigued now, so repeating the mid-morning and after-lunch stretches periodically throughout the afternoon will be beneficial in reducing the risk of fatigue-based overuse soft-tissue damage late in the day.
The final thing to consider is recovery. Try to avoid alcohol until you have fully rehydrated, as alcohol can reduce the recovery rate of soft tissue.
Remember to eat some more complex carbohydrates at dinner time to replenish your muscle and liver glycogen, giving you the energy to do it all over again tomorrow – but also don’t neglect your protein, like meat and eggs.
Muscles break down protein during contractions, and require this protein to be replenished to recover and grow. In order to stay injury free, it has to be an essential part of your recovery process.
This article was written by Andy Curtis, physiotherapist from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.