Ask a Sports Medicine Doc: Is your body ready for winter?
Special to the Daily
Winter is here! And, for those of you who do not participate in year-round strengthening programs, it is past time to start preparing for the strain that winter activities put on your bodies. No matter what your winter sport is, even if you just shovel the driveway, it is important and easy to protect yourself from injury.
What is the best approach to pre-ski season training?
Incorporate a whole body approach by strengthening your arms, legs and core, while also improving your balance. Participating in a variety of activities instead of just your favorite sport will utilize different muscle groups and get you better prepared.
Muscle balance is the key to an injury-free season. Focus on strengthening all muscle groups equally. For example, most people tend to focus on quadriceps strength for skiing, but if your quadriceps overpower your hamstrings, you will be more prone to knee injury during falls.
How do you build muscle endurance?
If you have not spent the summer running, hiking or biking, now is a good time to start. Climbing stairs can also be helpful if the weather is not agreeable to outdoor activity. These activities will not only improve the function of your cardiovascular system, but will increase muscle endurance and prevent fatigue during activity. Injuries can occur commonly when muscles are fatigued and not functioning at their peak performance level.
It is best to incorporate a combination of high intensity, low repetition (short and hard) exercises and low intensity, high repetition (slower and longer) exercises in every workout routine. The variation in pace and resistance will strengthen both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers and help to prepare you for all situations and terrain.
How do I improve my balance?
During skiing, snowboarding and walking on slippery surfaces, your body needs to be able to maintain its position in space. Training your balance and proprioception will help to keep you in control as your weight shifts from forwards to backwards and side to side.
Improving balance can be as easy as standing on one leg while you are washing dishes or brushing your teeth. Progress to more challenging activities such as moving your opposite leg, arms or head around while standing on one leg. Try closing your eyes for an extra challenge. Is this still too easy? Try single leg jumps, squats and/or doing exercises while standing on an unstable surface.
What stretches are beneficial?
Before activity, dynamic stretches are more beneficial. Try swinging your arms and legs to get loosened up. After activity, static stretching is the way to go. Make sure you stretch all muscle groups. Hold all static stretches for at least 30 seconds each. And, don’t over stretch! Get into a position where you feel a good, but not a painful stretch. As that feeling starts to dissipate, stretch a little further.
Jen Dalley is a physical therapist at Avalanche Physical Therapy.
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