Get snowboard fit
November 12, 2016
As ski and snowboard season nears, winter sports enthusiasts can't wait to get back on the mountain. But an injury can quickly derail that enthusiasm.
A successful return to the slopes starts with proper preparation and conditioning. While some injuries can't be avoided, an exercise routine leading up to the first time on the mountain can help ease the transition to getting back on skis or a snowboard.
"It's getting in shape to play a sport, not playing a sport to get in shape," said Jeremy Vandehurst, an athletic trainer with Barton Health in the Lake Tahoe area. "That's a huge component of any activity."
In the weeks leading up to opening day at Keystone Resort, Copper Mountain Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort, an every-other-day routine that focuses on core, hip, quad and glute strength — muscles typically engaged while skiing or snowboarding — is a good place to start. Along with that, exercises should ideally last 30 to 120 seconds — the length of a typical run.
With those ideas in mind, Vandehurst recommends four exercises to prepare for the upcoming season. Wall sits, single-leg lunges, bridges and planks are a good foundation for a winter sports-oriented workout routine — and can be done differently as strength increases.
"There's so many different variations we can do with these exercises," Vandehurst said. "It gives a person that's just starting out and somebody that is already pretty fit different options."
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This exercise synonymous with basketball practice activates the core, hamstrings and quads — and will quickly be felt. Put your back flat against the wall and sit on an imaginary chair, starting with a 75-degree angle for 30 seconds — then go up in time and move closer to a 90-degree angle as strength increases.
Set: Start with 30 seconds and increase time as needed.
Vandehurst said single-leg exercises are pivotal for snowboarders, who typically don't have a balance between both legs while on the board. Lunges are a starting point for single-leg exercises.
"A lot of times snowboarders rely on that one back leg and they don't switch," Vandehurst said. "A program that incorporates both legs individually is important."
Stretch one leg forward while bending the knee of the back leg to perform this exercise, which is great for increasing quad and glute strength. Drive your weight through the heel of the front foot, and don't put your knee past your toe while moving forward — add weight as strength increases or a twist at the end to engage the core.
Set: Start with three sets of 10 total lunges.
Variation: Perform the lunges as the Crescent Lunge yoga pose, with arms held high, biceps to ears, in a deep lunge with extended back leg.
A common issue that leads to knee injuries on and off the mountain is disproportionate strength between quads and hamstrings. Performing the bridge exercise is one way to build hamstring strength. While laying down flat on the ground, bend your knees and lift your hips in the air — pause at the top and slowly lower back down. This exercise can also be performed with weight.
Set: Start with three sets of 10.
Not to be confused with the past internet phenomenon of laying flat in random areas, this exercise hits the core to prepare it for the upcoming twists and turns on the mountain. Many variations exist for this exercise, with the basic being to rest on your forearms and elbows while keeping everything else off the ground — if that's too tough, start on your knees.
Set: Start with 15 seconds and increase time as needed.
Variation: Drop to forearms, with palms facing down and fingertips pushing actively into the ground.
The yoga connection
In Summit County, local athletes like professional snowboarder and former X Games competitor Leslie Glenn team with local yoga studios for preseason training and injury recovery sessions.
"In my experience, yoga can be a powerful tool to create balance, strength, stability and focus on the mountain," Glenn said for a yoga feature in 2015. "Yoga provided me physical and mental balance to compete at my best."
As Glenn explains, yoga postures like Crescent Lunge and Warrior 3 — a variation on a lunge that requires students to balance on one leg for extended periods of time — are perfect compliments to more traditional gym exercises, including planks and bridges. They focus on body weight instead of bulking up, she said, which pairs well with the kinetic movements of skiing and snowboarding.
"Warrior 3 is my favorite of the bunch because it incorporates all of the principles of balance, strength, stability and focus," she said. "Balancing on one foot, you work all the stability muscles of the leg and core, too, which are so important for joint stability and injury prevention."
Glenn also recommends working your core in various ways, from traditional crunches and bicycles to variations on plank.
"The core is our main stabilizer," she said, "And strengthening the core allows us to increase our power and stamina for skiing or snowboarding."
Wellness on the brain
Preseason conditioning is a regular topic at seminars and lectures in mountain towns across the region, from Summit County yoga studios to Lake Tahoe community colleges.
"There's a risk involved when you do sport, but the idea is to do the little things to get ready for it," Vandehurst said.
At Lake Tahoe Community College, Vandehurst hosted a recent discussion that covers injury prevention, concussion recognition and care, preseason conditioning, strength training to maximize the season, and the importance of wellness and fitness. The seminar included demonstrations and presentations from Vandehurst and fellow athletic trainer Jeff Brown, along with Dr. Terrence Orr, performance coach Nick Ward and Dr. Beachy Orr, who has a Ph.D. in anatomy.
"There are lots of little tips we will go through and talk about in regards to getting the most out of the season," Vandehurst said.
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