Thursday, March 29, 2007

The air is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, the holiday season is quickly approaching, and what comes to mind? The beginning of ski season, of course. Are you physically ready?
Skiing is a physically demanding and sometimes dangerous sport. Appropriate preparation can make your season more enjoyable and much safer.

There are 5 key fitness components of skiing:

  1. Cardiovascular Fitness: Your body’s ability to utilize oxygen efficiently. As your conditioning improves, you are able to exercise for a longer time period and/or at a greater intensity.  Poor conditioning leads to early fatigue, poor form/control, and may contribute to injuries.
  2. Flexibility: The ability of your joints to move through a specific range of motion. Improving ones flexibility is achieved through stretching.  Regular stretching will reduce muscle tension and allow the body to feel more relaxed, allow freer and easier movement, increase range of motion, and help prevent muscle strain.
  3. Balance:  Good balance is essential if  you want to remain upright on your skis; The muscles also need to be balanced. Skiers need good trunk strength to protect the back, and strong quadriceps and hamstrings to reduce the risk of knee injuries. 
  4. Strength: Strength improves the overall condition of the muscles which allows you to ski harder with decreased fatigue, thus decreasing the chance of injury. Core strength is essential for the biomechanics necessary to perform with this sport.
  5. Agility: The ability to move quickly and react to different terrain, which is essential to be a good skier.

The 5 key components of skiing can all be improved upon with the appropriate training. 

Here are some tips:

  1. Start with easing into an activity like a brisk walk, then, progress to some good functional stretches.
  2. When beginning to stretch, obtain a comfortable position and hold.  The feeling of tension should subside as you hold the position (if it does not diminish, ease off slightly).  Do not stretch to the point of pain.  Hold the entire stretch 15-60 seconds.
  3. Breathe slowly and deeply throughout the stretch. 
  4. Do not bounce.  Bouncing tightens muscles.  It does not relax them.  Stretch and hold.

Things to remember:

  1. Three to five repetitions of each stretch performed slowly are better than eight to ten performed quickly.
  2. Stretching is not a warm-up or conditioning activity.  Warm up the muscles before stretching by a low intensity endurance exercise such as walking for about ten minutes.
  3. It is best to stretch before and after activity.  If you have time for only one, after warm-up and before activity is the most important.