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Simple Steps To Snow Shape

Vew-Do-kid-Lorentz Balancing on a Vew-Do board as it moves over a roller in multiple directions helps build balance and muscle memory — skills that transfer to skiing and snowboarding. (Karen Lorentz)

It’s October and time to get in shape for skiing and riding.

“Getting fit will increase the fun factor for ski season by helping to prevent fatigue and lessen the chance of injury. It will also allow you to ski longer periods of time more safely because accidents do happen due to fatigue,” notes Maureen Gibeault, Physical Therapist and director of Vermont Sports Medicine Centers.

Strong Core, Strength Essential
Gibeault stressed that a strong core is essential to stability and mobility. “Your trunk is a base from which your hips and lower legs can swivel and move. If your core is not strong, it will affect your body control and ability to ski/snowboard in a good position.

“A strong core — transverse abdominal muscles, obliques — works to stabilize the body and is developed through exercises like squats and planks.”

A simple way to work the transverse abdominal muscle is to lie down on the floor and pull the belly button to the spine. Once you are comfortable you have a good contraction, you can move to doing these anytime sitting or standing. Do this before doing any exercise to engage your core, Gibeault advises.

World cup skier AJ Ginnis working out at the Center of Excellence in Park City. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard)

Skiing all day in a flexed position loads quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus maximus. Squats address this and avoid first-time-out quad “burn.”

When doing squats, it’s important to be sure your knees don’t extend beyond your toes and that your thighs are parallel to the floor. 

Olympian Resi Steigler ups the challenge and adds a jump up from the squat position. (U. S. Ski & Snowboard)

Wall squats are good, too. Slide back down a wall to a chair position and hold.

For planks it’s important to keep a straight line from toes (or knees) to shoulders — don’t let hips get out of line. Lie on floor with forearms under chest. Keeping abdominals tight, push up through forearms so chest, hips, and knees are off the ground. Easy version: do planks from your knees. Tougher: side planks.

World Cup alpine ski racer Breezy Johnson uses quick movements quickly to add cardio to balance/strengthening exercise. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard)

“If the cardiovascular system is efficient, it will provide oxygen and nutrients to the muscles in a more efficient manner and will allow you to function longer and at a higher demand level,” Gibeault noted.

Hiking is great this time of year and walking uphill is good aerobic exercise while downhill walking works your quadriceps in an eccentric manner, similar to the demand while skiing, Gibeault explained.

“Being active year-round and engaging in activities like tennis, swimming, jogging, soccer, hiking, cycling, and going to the gym develop cardio/aerobic capacity as well as strength and endurance and can keep you in shape during the off season. Off-season activities help maintain overall fitness levels,” she added.

Gibeault with a large exercise ball - good for many exercises that engage the core and build stability. (Karen Lorentz)

Bonus Benefits, Skiing into Senior Years
“Developing and maintaining a strong core early in life can mean you’re less likely to have low back pain or spinal issues later on,” Gibeault said.

Starting round the age 40, people begin to lose muscle mass. “Exercise can help mitigate that loss and help keep athletes in top shape. It’s possible for people in good physical shape to ski into their eighties or nineties,” Gibeault added.

The really good news: “You don’t have to give up a sport you love and even an injury shouldn’t preclude you from going back to something you love.

The use of a BOSU ball adds instability to whatever exercise is being done and forces you to use your core to stay steady; helps with balance and strength development, too.(BOSU/Facebook)

“Physical rehabilitation through exercise and treatments can get you back on the slopes after injuries or hip/knee replacements. Your therapist should be targeting your program toward attaining your specific goals,” Gibeault said, noting with good exercise staying on the slopes really is possible into one’s senior years.

Start with these simple steps and consult a trainer, join a gym, or take a class for more help.


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