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Preparation Exercises (& Massage) for Skiing & Snowboarding

Preparation Exercises (& Massage) for Skiing & Snowboarding

First day snowboarding in Chamonix this season reminded me of how much more I could have done to strengthen my major muscles involved in keeping me upright, flexible and capable of absorbing impact of the terrain as we tore round Grands Montets – the first of the Chamonix Valley lift stations to open for 2010/11. Phew – I felt the burn!

Start Your Yoga / Circuits / Strength Training  / Massage Routine Now!

It’s never too late and it’s undeniably beneficial to really focus at least three hours a week towards muscle conditioning and strength training so that your skiing and snowboarding becomes even more fun and without the painful side effects of screaming quadriceps, taught IT bands and aching lower back/ glutes. Throw a weekly or fortnightly massage into the mix and you’ll feel more flexible and stronger for all your winter action sports. (And will reduce your likelihood of accident or injury).

Advance Preparation Exercises for your Ski / Snowboarding Trip

If you are booking a ski trip, then it’s totally worth starting a ski/snowboarding fitness preparation programme at least 8 weeks prior to your holiday – primarily focus on muscular strength and endurance, but keep flexible and nicely stretched. Imagine the feeling of strong legs, stable core muscles and loads of stamina so you are making the most of every moment of your investment into snowy adventures. With the added flexibility in your joints and fascia – this training will keep you a lot less prone to needless injury. Aerobic training will minimize fatigue and hence will minimize your chances of crashing. Most injuries occur in the afternoon of the first two days of a ski holiday – due to fatigue, lack of concentration, lack of strength to avoid falls. Bear this in mind and begin your “ski trip” well in advance with the following training advice (or something similar).

Which Muscles do we Use for Skiing and Snowboarding?

The most important muscles for skiers and snowboarders to strengthen and stretch regularly include:

The butt! – gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, piriformis

The hips – psoas, hip flexors

The legs: hamstrings, quadriceps,  IT band, calves

Lower back & abdominals: Quadratus Lumborum, obliques, lower abdominals

Upper back, shoulders & chest: Trapezius, rotator cuffs, pectoralis muscles

Sounds complex, but it’s simply a case of getting your body functioning properly as a whole. There’s no point in having a strong set of quads (upper front leg muscles) if your glutes (butt muscles) aren’t functioning properly or if core stability is poor. While certain muscles will become more pronounced as used predominantly – don’t neglect the other muscles.

A full body stretch and strengthening programme should include: yoga, tai chi or pilates, running or hiking, swimming (mixed strokes), weight and circuit training… or at least some of these every week.

Flexibility and Stretching for Skiers and Snowboarders

Even if you stick to an hour’s yoga each week and/or ten mins yoga a few times a week, you will feel the difference! Chamonix Valley has some awesome yoga instructors who do regular classes. Email ChamoFix for more information about Chamonix’s best yoga classes.

Or at the very least, follow simple stretching warm-up routines as offered by The Chamonix Clinic – home of Chamonix’ favourite sports physiotherapist.

Weight and Strength Training for Skiing / Snowboarding

It’s ideal if you can fit in some sort of strength training routine at least twice a week, allowing a rest of 2 days between sessions.

While a free weight circuit, done properly and regularly, can work wonders, you don’t need machinary to build muscle strength – try working with the weight of your own body! It doesn’t take long to do a full circuit of body weight exercises – but make sure you do each exercise steadily and mindfully – paying attention to quality before quantity.

Swiss Ball Core Strength Training

A Swiss Ball actually has more functionality than filling a corner of your living room. Try to use your swiss ball regularly – even if you start off with the core stability of a sack of potatoes.  After a few weeks of steadily following a short routine of swiss ball core stability exercises, your core strength will improve – then voila! … your balance and stability on the mountain will become so much easier. (Regardless of whether you are a semi-pro free-ride ripping skier or a first-timer at this sport of sliding on snow.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise such as swimming, running, biking, spin-biking, or rowing will all help to improve your cardiovascular fitness  – ie get your heart pumping blood and oxygen around the body more effectively during exercise. This lessens fatigue, allows the muscles to stay more supple (and with less lactic acid) and in turn reduces your risk of injury. If you are fit, you will enjoy what you are doing more on your ski/boarding trip and you can focus on ski technique/ learning new tricks / etc!

Interval training is an ideal form of exercise as most resembles the way you exercise your muscles on the ski trip itself – 3 – 10 minutes intensive leg and core body workout as you slide/ride down the slopes followed by a five minute break taking the chairlift back up. Circuits make a great all-round interval training workout. Plyometric circuits involve explosive sets of fast exercises to make your fast-twitch muscle fibres start firing more effectively – very useful for more experienced skiers and snowboarders.

For a more general intro to getting ski fit, try something like the following circuit – to aerobically workout all the muscle groups (with a bit of strength work thrown in).

Ski & Snowboarding Fitness Circuit:

30 – 45 seconds light jog / run, followed by 8 -15 of each exercise

Stay steady and thoughtful about each exercise and about your posture while you run. After each 45second run, do just the leg circuit, then just the upper body, then just the abdominals – with a run in between each set of reps, if that makes sense?

Leg Circuits – e.g.
1. Two footed squat thrusts – aim for a 12 inch jump
2. Walking lunge forward – changing lead leg
3. Alternate leg squat thrusts – count reps on 1 leg only.

Upper Body Circuits – e.g.
1. Wide arm press-up – take elbows out to your sides.
2. Normal press ups – aim to keep a straight line through your back.
3. Close Hand – aim to keep your thumbs touching each other.

Abdominal Circuit – e.g.
1. Normal crunchies – keep your chin off your chest; imagine your belly button is being pulled to the ground
2. Alternate elbows to knees – count reps on one side only
3. Alternate hand to foot – count reps one side only

If you are new to getting fit (or coming back to it after a few weeks/months/years) – ensure you take a rest between each different exercise. Your length of rest time will reduce as you get fitter. Aim to build up your running time to one minute, between  2 sets of each exercise. Once these exercises cease to pose a challenge… phase in some harder ones, or at least increase the reps of the current ones.

Do it! Do it now! … But don’t Overdo it!

The fitter, stronger and more flexible you are, the more enjoyable your skiing and snowboarding and the longer you can last on the slopes. Simple!

Even if you are doing just 15 minutes each morning – eg a yoga Salute to the Sun and a short strength or CV warmup workout, you’ll feel the benefits and you’ll feel pleased with yourself.

Remember to give your body sufficient recovery time between each bout of exercise – and recovery doesn’t just mean plonking yourself back at the desk or onto the sofa. Active recovery involves gentle stretches/ yoga relaxation poses/ walking, etc.

Remember to be mindful of how you use your body. Each exercise, workout and sports session should involve at least some focus on posture and best practice – rather than simply speed and quantity.

Don’t launch yourself into an exercise routine if you are not very fit at all – seek out professional advice and work with the face-to-face advice doctor, physiotherapist or personal trainer, if possible. Keep it enjoyable. Don’t push through pain. And, if you feel faint or ill in any way, stop immediately.

A great summary of this massive subject with loads more titbits for skiers and snowboarders interested in the right training can be found here – on the Peak Performance website. Or try this other great resource for skier and boarder workouts!

Benefits of Massage after Snowsports

And… one more thing… it would be wrong of me not to mention the importance of massage in the whole scheme of keeping your body healthy for your winter sports.

Massage after skiing or snowboarding is beneficial both physiologically and psychologically. Your legs and body can feel totally fresh the next day, because massage increases microcirculation of blood and lymph, helping to clear metabolic waste such as lactic acid. Massage also helps to reduce “delayed onset muscle soreness” (DOMS) for various reasons such as:

–    Increase in endorphins and seratonin and decrease in stress hormones
–    Improved sleep patterns for body repair
–    Break up of adhesions from micro-traumas in the muscles
–    Improved circulation and removal of waste products
–    Reduces “soreness” by activating pressure instead of pain receptors

To book your massage in Chamonix and feel amazing again after your winter activities, email ChamoFix or call us on +33 609 868 838.

ChamoFix uses the gorgeously pure Tui Massage Balmes for the ultimate massage fix.

(Locals in Chamonix (with Gens de Pays cards or Seasonaire jobs) can benefit from a multipack of three massages at a great rate, so you can really plot your progress as you train and enjoy your skiing and snowboarding… not to mention telemarking.)


2 thoughts on “Preparation Exercises (& Massage) for Skiing & Snowboarding

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