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Snow sports: Exercise preparation and training tips

Shock can be good and bad for muscles, equally true when it comes to training our bodies for sport.   With exercise we cannot ignore ligaments, bones, vital organs and brain function; your entire body physiology needs to be reckoned with when we prepare for sport that is inevitably exercise, particularly in something as physically embracing as Snowsports.

With skiing and snowboarding, and in fact any kind of training or activity in the cold, your first adversity is defying that temperature drop.  The body naturally doesn’t like to be cold, it won’t function as efficiently, so the phrase “warming up” will make perfect sense!  The warmer we are, the more flexible we become; our bodies make gains in efficiency and regardless of age, the need to be properly warmed up and flexible is vital.

While the immediate perception may be that Snowsports is very much a lower body workout and impacts lower body stresses, particularly legs, it does in fact require engagement from all over, and the following warm up and training regime is designed for this preparation.

In its simplest form, exercising and training is fooling the body in a very basic way. You put it into a situation it’s not used to and it thinks “oh my, this is a shock, I better adapt because my environment and demands are altering and I need to change so I’m prepared”.    Therefore muscles become leaner or bigger, different parts of the muscle change depending on speed of movement – called fast and slow twitch – ligaments become flexible, joints loosen up, and you become fitter and ready.  Over-shock your body and it will simply break. Nutrition intake is also essential, because your body needs the right components to keep your energy levels up, and ready to repair itself. Make sure you have consumed some healthy carbs to keep the training sustained.

Warm up and then stretch; learning to listen to your body will guide you into how to push yourself.  If your body is silent you’re probably not sufficiently training.  When your body is complaining, which it will inevitably do at the start of a training routine, learn to distinguish between “not liking this but I’m with you” and “stop immediately or I’ll take drastic measures to stop you!!”…but make sure you listen to your body.

It is useful to know that most exercises can be performed at home.  Three components to embrace include, jumping, balance and leg exercises, then some core body focus.  This will warm you up more than sufficiently and allow muscles to be used in fast and slow twitch modes.  Pulled muscles can take a long time to repair properly which is often overlooked.  Lactic acid will build up in the muscles, so cooling down is just as essential, otherwise the acid crystallises causing extremes of fatigue, rapid breathing and in some cases vomiting.

  • Star jumps can begin gently but do get rigorous; be mindful of being upright and centralised. Once you feel that circulation going, jump from side to side, a distance of 6 feet or so, making a deliberate one leg to the other motion, and try and pause on each foot.  This will strengthen ankles and encourage balance.
  • Then begin some squats – knees never beyond the feet. Increase the time in the squat position, keep hands out in front and look ahead. Squats really work the glutes and thighs; if you aim to be low enough that the thighs are horizontal, you will soon be getting that healthy burn, and you should be feeling it in the glutes as well.
  • If you have access to a step, crate or something similar, as long as its steady, stand one side of it, legs together, jump onto it from one side, jump off to the other, with as many reps as you can manage.
  • Straighten up to get some breath back then begin some lunges, straight ahead, alternating each leg as the lead, then lunge to the right, then to the left, then central again. If you have something available to add weight, such as dumbbells, or even 5 litre containers with liquid in, this will intensify the muscle workout and also aid balance.
  • Time for an effective stretch, try sitting on the floor with one leg out, the other bent at the knee and as close to 90 degrees apart as possible. Gently reach out and with a bouncing motion aim to touch your toe with the tips of your fingers, then swap legs around and do the same again. It will feel easier than standing up and touching your toes, but trains you to get to your optimum point and you will notice gains quite quickly.
  • Next the plank, make sure the elbows are comfortable on cushions, but progressively increase the duration. Variations include ankles touching then moving each leg out from side to side keeping them straight. Then lifting yourself onto your hands palms down then walk them back towards your feet keeping your legs straight as far as is comfortable, then walking back and lowering to the elbows. The duration of all of these exercises will be gauged by what you feel is pushing you, and it’s worth making notes of these durations and aiming to increase reps and time.
  • Burpees which are a comical description for an exercise that’s surprisingly intense, but consequently highly effective. Watch online for the ways in which they can be executed, but they significantly increase stamina, work the thighs and glutes and incorporate stretching and squatting.  Find a burpee challenge that progresses overtime and you will truly notice great strides in your fitness levels.

Finally go out after your program for a gentle run, this will be your warm down and finish the session with some beneficial cardio, we emphasize again the intake of good carbs before a good session  and protein for the healing of those punished muscles within 20 mins of finishing.  Embracing these exercises and incorporating them as part of your lifestyle routine, not just for a few days before your practice runs on our slopes, but over a period of at least a month, will truly prepare you for the immense freedom and fun that Snowsports are all about.