The best preparation for any physical endeavor should have been done yesterday. But as we approach the opening of the ski hill, we can still do some preparation for our bodies to reduce the intensity and duration of “ski legs” that we will likely endure.
Trying to replicate the muscular and joint demands of skiing or snowboarding when not actively engaged in these activities is challenging. Undoubtedly, all of us will experience some degree of ski legs, but if we increase the capacity (i.e., the amount of work that can be done or the load tolerance of our tissues) of our bodies (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones), it can be hypothesized that we will decrease the intensity and duration of the ski legs we endure.
The best way to build our body’s capacity to tolerate the demands of skiing or snowboarding is to consider the positions our bodies will be in. Take a skier and a snowboarder, for example.
Examining these images below, we can observe varying degrees of hip, knee, and ankle bending. One exercise that incorporates all these motions in one compound movement is the squat. Hence, the squat could be an excellent example of a capacity-building exercise in preparation for the ski and snowboard season. For skiing, where our legs often operate independently, a specific preparation exercise could be the Bulgarian split squat – a squat that focuses on one leg. Additionally, staying upright requires back and glute strength while our hips are bent, which can be developed through exercises like the deadlift.
Healthcare practitioners, fitness experts, or professionals in skiing or snowboarding often emphasize the importance of activating your core for and in these activities, a multifaceted subject. Core strength involves more than just abdominal muscles; it encompasses your entire torso, back, front and sides. When you sit in a chair (similar to a squat), pick up your child or pet (similar to a deadlift), or reach for something on the top shelf (similar to a shoulder press), you are using your core to create a stable base to move your limbs. Thus to prepare your core for the upcoming ski season, we should incorporate exercises that replicate the positions in which you’ll find yourself activating your core. Cue the squat and deadlift exercises.
Tongue-in-cheek aside, the purpose of this post is to illustrate that preparing for a physical endeavor doesn’t need to be complicated or require fancy equipment or trademarked tools. It necessitates understanding the demands your body will face and finding movements to replicate those demands so your body can handle the load and movement.
When the ski lifts start running, the best way to warm up for skiing or snowboarding is to engage in activities that replicate the demands of the sport. If you’ve ever walked from the parking lot with all your gear on, you know that by the time you reach the slopes, you’re warm and your blood is pumping. If you have carried your children and their gear to the opening run, you’re likely sweating beyond belief. It can be easily said then that these activities can be considered warm-ups but they might not adequately prepare you for the upcoming demands of skiing or snowboarding. A consistent aspect of effective warm-ups is engaging in the activity of demand at a decreased intensity or volume. In the skiing and snowboarding world, everyone is familiar with the concept of a “warm-up” run. This translates to taking it easy/slower-than-usual run on a slope or grade lower than what you typically ride.
I’ll meet you in Town Hall where we can commiserate about our ski legs… or perhaps not, because of our preparation.
Chris Jahnig MPT, TPI Medical 2 Certified