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Monday, October 29, 2012 - Safeguard Your Snow Days with Ski Fitness

 

By Patricia Moore, MA

“Don’t think you can ski yourself into shape.” That’s the number one piece of early ski season advice from Sue Ring, Director of Rehab Services at Yampa Valley Medical Center. With Steamboat Springs’ population of experienced skiers, how you approach the first day of skiing can make or break your entire season, explains Ring. “Skiing is a particularly muscle-specific activity.

“For the best skiing outcomes, it’s critical to do muscle-specific exercises that prepare the body for skiing, even if you’re staying in shape with running, cycling, hiking, weight-lifting and other activities like so many Steamboat residents.”

“If you’re 25 or younger, you might get away with just going for it, but Steamboat is filled with individuals who have played hard all their lives, and that can take a toll,” Ring notes.

If you don’t want to take a class, fitness DVDs and online instructional videos abound for those who prefer to huff and puff at home.  Whether you choose a class or the home-school ski fitness method, the reasons for this pre-ski season, whole-body tune-up are well established.

A life-long skier, Ring emphasizes stretching to help prevent injuries, while you’re preparing for a great ski season and just before you head up the hill or trail.

Building strength is key, as well, but ski fitness goes beyond leg strength, according to Ring. A ski fitness regimen should include core and upper body strengthening, too, to help you avoid injuries and have more fun on the snow.

It’s a fact:  The stronger you become, the better you can ski. Experts, enthusiasts and occasional skiers all experience the same physical phenomena that we lovingly refer to as “training.” The more you stress your muscles, and then recover well, the stronger you become. Some people start stronger than others, but it’s important for everyone to prepare so the first days on the slopes don’t cause major problems – during or after your initial downhill or cross-country adventure of the season.

“When you strengthen your core along with major muscle groups through ski fitness exercises, you give yourself the gift of balance – so vital to skiers of any stripe,” says Ring. “By getting stronger, you also gain the endurance you need to ski longer and better.”

Ring recommends plyometrics, exercises designed to build explosive muscle strength, for skiers whose joints can withstand the impact. People who need lower-impact conditioning can do plyometric movements in the water or using a gym trampoline.

No matter how long you have been skiing or what shape you’ve achieved through other sports, you can avoid injuries by taking it easy at first. “People who ski all day their first time out in deep powder conditions run the risk of medial and lateral muscle tears – soft tissue injuries that can take a long time to heal,” notes Ring. Hard snow brings skiers and boarders who may not have prepared adequately into the hospital’s emergency department with femur, tibia and wrist breaks, as well as shoulder separations.

“Prepare your body for skiing and don’t go out too hard at first,” says Ring, “And you will have a much better chance of enjoying your day – and your ski season.”

 Ski fitness classes are available at area fitness centers. “Our ski fitness classes are already sold out,” says Ring. “I would encourage anyone who is interested in having a great ski season to find a class or workout partners who will push you into ski shape. For more ski fitness information, Ring suggests that you check out: http://www.kopsc.com/PreventSkiingBoardingInjuries.htm

BEST REASONS FOR SKI CONDITIONING:

* Get stronger so you can ski better and longer

* Avoid common ski injuries caused by muscle imbalances

* Gain the core strength and flexibility that improves balance

* Enhance your aerobic capacity and endurance 

Patricia Moore is Marketing & Communications Specialist, Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at patricia.moore@yvmc.org.

This article was originally published in the October 29, 2012 issue of  Steamboat Today.