There are a lot of years that ski season sneaks up on many of our clients. One day they’re playing golf and cycling, and the next they’re racing to Whistler because the ski hills have opened. I decided that I’d do my best to make sure everyone is ready this year!
Skiing well, and staying injury free, requires a strong, stable and flexible body. The last thing you want to happen is to lose your balance in a turn, causing you to injure a joint or tear a muscle during a fall. If you can get at least a few weeks of pre-season preparation in before skiing, hopefully you can increase your enjoyment, and reduce your risk.
I’ve decided to look at pre-season ski conditioning in 3 parts this season. First I will address flexibility in the lower extremities and hips, by sharing a few of my favorite stretches. These are static stretches that you can perform every day, with the intent of increasing and balancing your flexibility before you ever get to the mountain. You should also perform a good dynamic warm-up before each session on the hill, but I’ll address this later.
In week 2 I will discuss core function and movement, which will give you a solid foundation for explosive athletic movements while on your skis, while keeping you stable and balanced. Week 3 will cover a few great, ski-specific strength and conditioning exercises to get your legs and other muscles primed and ready to go.
As always, consult your doctor before beginning or modifying your training plan, and always perform a progressive warm-up before exercising.
As the largest muscle in your body, your glutes can be your biggest friend when it comes to powerful athletic movement. However, if they’re too stiff, or not firing properly, they can also be a problem. To connect with your glutes and keep them flexible, try stretching them regularly. This stretch can be done on a bench or table, or on the floor as shown. Start on your hands and knees, crossing your right leg underneath you. Support most of your weight on your hands as you lay the outside of your right lower leg on the floor, with your left leg extended behind you. Begin shifting your weight back into your right hip joint, while keeping your hips square and your spine and head as neutral as possible. Be certain to stop this stretch if you feel any strain in your right knee. If you don’t feel a stretch right away, use your core muscles to twist your left hip toward your right foot, while picking up your tailbone slightly. These small shifts should dial up the intensity of the stretch. Hold for 30-45 seconds on each side.
Also known as the modified hurdler stretch, this seated hamstring stretch is most appropriate for people with at least an average degree of flexibility. If you’re very inflexible you will likely be more successful performing a standing hamstring stretch on a low step. For this seated stretch, begin by sitting flat on the floor with your right leg extended out in front of your body. Bend your left leg so that the sole of your left foot rests against the inside of your right calf or knee. Sit as tall as you can, trying to extend your spine upward, and pivot forward at the hip joints. You can either reach for your toes with your hand, or hold onto your leg as shown. By pulling the toe of your right foot toward you, you’ll feel a strong stretch in your calf as well. Hold for 30-45 seconds on each side, progressing as you exhale.
Whether you’re skiing or snowboarding, one muscle group that gets a lot of work during a day on the slopes is the hip flexors. Because they connect your legs to your pelvis and lower back, these are important muscles to look after so they don’t cause you any problems. To stretch your hip flexors effectively, start by kneeling on your right knee on the floor, with your left foot on the floor in front of you, and both legs bent to 90˚ angles. Keep your core muscles engaged to prevent your pelvis from tilting forward or your abdomen from protruding. Once you’ve found this position, use your abdominal muscles to draw your bellybutton inward and your tailbone under, pressing lightly forward with your pelvis until you feel a stretch in the front of your right hip and thigh. Try to maintain the right angles at your hips and knees, avoiding the tendency to lurch forward with the hips to increase the stretch. Hold for 30-45 seconds on each side. Always pay attention to your posture and body position.
–Rob Williams is a kinesiologist, elite personal trainer and posture specialist. He has been practicing for 16 years and currently operates an exclusive private training studio Mixx Fitness Studio, with a team of 10 trainers, as well as a multi-disciplinary posture facility, Performance Posture Clinic. Rob is an accomplished writer and speaker in the fields of fitness, posture and nutrition, and can be contacted at Williams Health Group.