Ski Tips: Stretch before you hit the slopes

A skier cruises down a groomer at Heavenly Mountain Resort. Having a good  warmup routine can be key to helping prevent injuries.

A skier cruises down a groomer at Heavenly Mountain Resort. Having a good warmup routine can be key to helping prevent injuries.

Any big day on the mountain should start with at least a quick stretching routine. It can loosen you up and even help avoid injury.

“The better shape you’re in, the better chance you have of avoiding injury,” Barton Health orthopedic surgeon and U.S. Ski Team physician Dr. Terrence Orr said during a presentation on injuries earlier this year.

With that in mind, the Tahoe Daily Tribune spoke with Barton certified athletic trainer Andy Borah for some quick warmup stretching and exercise ideas before you head out on the slopes.

“We like to think of your muscles as rubber bands,” Borah said describing the importance of a good routine. “If you go out cold you could risk injury.”

With any of the following suggestions, Borah said if possible each exercise should be done for about the length of time it would take to ski an average run, or around 3 to 6 minutes.

LEG SWINGS: Watch World Cup skiers a few minutes before a run and you can just about guarantee they’ll be doing leg swings to loosen up.

They’re an easy warmup option with boots on and skis at the ready. Before you click in, plant your poles in front of you and swing one leg repetitively from front to back — roughly the length of a long stride. After a minute or two of repetitions, switch legs. For added challenge, raise the heel of your planted foot. With ski boots on, it will be best to do this warmup on a snow-covered surface where you won’t slide.

LUNGES: Lunges are one of the most common go-to ski warmups.

“It’s a total lower-body exercise,” Borah said. “They’re hugely important if you look at the mechanics of skiing.”

From a standing position, step forward with a large stride. Then dip to close to a 90-degree angle with the front knee and the rear leg extended. Hold the position as long as you feel comfortable, and then alternate legs. This stretch focuses on quads and hamstrings as well as hips.

ONE-FOOTED HEEL RAISES: For a good calf stretch, try heel raises. Standing near a wall, place one hand on the wall for balance and lift the leg closest to the wall slightly. Then lift your heel on the other foot to stand on your toes. Repeat the raising and lowering motion for a minute or two and switch legs.

JUMPING: Plyometrics or fast-paced interval exercises are also a good idea. Short shoulder length jumps front-to-back and side-to-side can help to loosen up. Flex up and down on each jump to emulate skiing movements. This exercise should be done prior to putting on ski boots.

SCISSOR JUMPS: This is also an exercise that should not be done in ski boots. Scissor jumps combine lunges and jumping. Lower to a lunge position then jump and switch to the alternate jump position.

RUSSIAN HAMSTRING CURLS: For a more challenging workout move, try Russian hamstring curls. This exercise is best done with a partner holding your ankles and on a padded surface. Standing on your knees with your partner holding your ankles, gradually lean forward as far as possible. If you have a padded floor, fall forward when you can no longer hold yourself up.

“You want to try to control it all the way down,” Borah said adding it’s good for hamstring and core muscles.

While you may not do all of these exercises every time you ski, it’s a good idea to do at least a few leg-based stretches before you go out.

“Tailor your workouts to the activity you’ll be doing,” Borah recommended. “Getting your body ready is important.”


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