Winter is coming and that means the ski and snowboard season is upon us! Whether you’re speeding down the slopes or trekking through the backcountry, snowsports always bring about a sense of adventure and excitement. However, it is important to consider the dynamic, active demands of skiing/riding. Each requires a fair share of strength, flexibility, stamina, control, and balance. In order to stay safe and prevent premature exhaustion on the mountain – saving you money on those STEEP lift tickets – it’s important to get your body in proper physical shape!
What kind of fitness is needed to be a good skier/rider?
Skiing and riding require an immense amount of cardiovascular endurance. Putting aside the physical demands of the sport for a moment, let’s discuss how simply breathing in the cold air puts a major strain on your heart and lungs. Low temperatures cause your blood vessels and arteries to narrow, restricting blood flow and reducing the flow of oxygen to the heart. Due to the constricted vessels, your heart must work harder in order to circulate blood to the rest of the body. This ultimately leads to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. The sudden spike in blood pressure, paired with exertion from activity, can lead to serious medical conditions such as heart attack or stroke. To prevent this cascade, be sure to wear appropriate face mask garments that will shield the inhalation of cold air. You’ll also need to train aerobically (maintaining a high heart rate) to account for the higher altitudes, strengthen your heart and improve your lung capacity. This can be achieved with lengthy distances of walking, running, swimming, and biking activities.
Let’s now focus in on the fundamentals of the sport and the significant strength required of specific muscle groups. Creating the angles necessary for high-quality carving requires flexibility, particularly in the hips and lower body. Equally, the constant vibrations and other forces acting on the body ensure that the leg and core muscles are constantly being used to make small adjustments to maintain your speed and balance.
Skiing and riding put massive amounts of pressure and torsional forces on your hips and lower body. Warming up properly before you start will help increase your available range of motion and decrease your risk of injury. Areas to target include the hip flexors, hamstrings and calf muscles. Participating in Yoga or Pilates can be a great way to initiate stretching while building up core strength and balance!
Skiing/riding requires a strong core and powerful, resilient legs. If you can keep these muscles toned with a good exercise regime, you’re less likely to experience early fatigue. As exhaustion sets in, your form can start to deteriorate and you will quickly lose strength. This puts you at high risk for serious musculoskeletal injury. Squats, lunges, and jumps are examples of some ideal exercises to implement in a training routine. These specific movements, in combination with stability ball work, will help strengthen your core stabilizers, gluteals, quadriceps, and hamstrings, as well as improve posture and balance.
For more tips and information regarding specific training, injury prevention, or rehabilitation, you can always reach out to our Physical Therapists at POST Physical Therapy. Stay safe and have fun this winter season!