5 Tips For Safe Skiing

5 Tips To Survive On The Slopes This Winter

Many of us will be heading for the slopes this winter, but how do we make sure we come back injury free?

Skiing and snowboarding are a fantastic form of exercise, challenging both our muscles and our cardio vascular system in an extremely enjoyable way. Both require a significant amount of strength and endurance but unfortunately, most of us have not prepared enough in advance to meet the demands of what is required.

Most Common Injuries

Most of the injuries we see in the clinic are actually not as a result of a sudden traumatic injury. The most common injuries are a result of an imbalance between the loads/stresses we put through our body versus their ability to tolerate that load.
Skiing/snowboarding tends to be something we do suddenly and are on the mountain for 5 hours or so for 6 days a week straight. That is a dramatic and sudden change in the load and demands we put through our body. This increase in demand can cause the tissues to become sensitive and painful. This then causes them to lose their ability to cope and can mean that everyday activities can start to aggravate them.

Such injuries then tend to become a vicious cycle of pain, rest, recover, start exercising again, pain, rest………a cycle that needs to be broken to avoid you having to limit what you do and have a life impacted by recurrent pain. Here’s some information on lower limb tendinopathies.

The Good News

The good news is, you can do a lot to prevent getting such an injury on the slopes.
Whilst it is difficult to practice skiing/snowboarding in advance, you can still take measures to reduce the risks of such overuse injuries. By training your body in another way, we can help give it the ability to deal with the demands that we are likely to put through it over the course of the holiday.

To prepare for this, you can increase your body’s ability to cope with those increased demands by strengthening and conditioning your body, which will increase it’s tolerance levels. The best way of doing this is through doing specific strengthening exercises.
Here are 5 key areas to pay attention to.

1: Preparation

A week on the slopes can be exciting, exhilarating, and for most of us – completely exhausting. 6-8 hours a day of aerobic exercise requiring good balance, strength and flexibility – it’s often a lot more than our office jobs demand of us. To get the most out of your sking or snowboarding start your preparation early – ideally this should begin 6-12 weeks before you hit the slopes depending on your base level of fitness. If you have any niggling injuries try to get them seen to by a physio ASAP before you go to give yourself maximum chance of recovery rather than leaving it until the week before as often seems to be the situation.

Key areas to tackle in your ski-fit workout include:

Aerobic fitness –

Cycling, running, cross trainers or step machines are great to build up your aerobic capacity and get those legs working at the same time, if your gym has a ‘ski trainer’ machine even better.

Strength training –

Focus on the quads and gluts with the following easy exercises you can do at home: start with 2 x 8 , build up to 3 x 12 or increase difficulty. Needs to be progressive.these can include:

Step downs: standing with one foot on a step facing forwards, slowing lower yourself down to tap the heel of the other foot to the floor, then bring it back on the step. Try to keep your pelvis level and your standing knee in line with your 2nd toe as you do this!

Lateral step downs: with one foot on a step facing sideways, slowly bend your knee to tap te heel of the other foot to the ground. Try to keep your pelvis level and your standing knee in line with your 2nd toe as you do this!

Backward lunges: From a standing position step back into a lunge, dropping the back knee towards the floor. Try to keep your pelvis level and your standing knee in line with your 2nd toe as you do this!

Bridge: Laying on your back, squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips off the ground, hold for 5 seconds then slowly lower.

Clam: Lay on one side with your knees bent and feet together, make sure your hips are stacked one on top of the other then slowly lift your top knee and lower.

Endurance

¼ Wall squat +/- ball –
hold and shift weight form side to side .
With lateral hip shift to ( R ) keep weight still on inside of knees (L) > (R) similar to weight shift with ski turns. Maintain squat position and build up for 30 secs to 2 minutes.
If not skied before just shift weight side to side

Arms

At times you will need upper body strength too.
Start with wall push ups, progress to bench and then knee push ups and then full pushups as fitness improves. Start at level you can complete 3 X 8 with good form

Flexibility –

Ankle and hip flexibility is essential for efficient skiing, try these stretches:

Soleus stretch: Stand with one foot in front of the other, bend both knees until you feel a stretch in the lower part of the calf on the back leg. Hold 30secs.

Glut stretch: Lay on your back, cross one foot over the other thigh to feel the stretch in your buttock, to increase this stretch pull that other thigh in towards your chest. Hold 30secs.

Adductor stretch: Stand with your legs wide apart, lunge to one side taking the weight over the knee, keep both feet facing forwards. Hold 30 secs.

2: Warm up

Preparation done, don’t ruin your hard work by forgetting to warm up before you leave the chalet. Get all your joints (ankles, knees, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders) warmed up by taking them through their full range of motion several times. Squats, lunges, heel raises and upper body twists are all great to start firing those key muscle groups. It’s worth spending a good 5-10minutes on this before you head out, then repeat a couple in the queue while waiting at the chairlift or when you get to the top of that chair lift if it’s been a long ride.

3: Protection

If you’re carrying an injury be sure to strap yourself up; there’s a huge range of knee braces, wrist guards and back protectors on the market so ask your physio if you’re not sure. And don’t forget that helmet. If you need some help with taping knees we can show you some techniques. This is especially useful for knee cap pain, often associated with long days of flexed knees.Wearing full leg "skins" or sports compression garments may be a help with muscle fatigue.

4: On the slopes

Remember you are most likely to injure yourself when your muscles are fatigued so regular breaks, good hydration and knowing when to call it a day are all essentials to not ruin your holiday on day 1. Well-fitting boots are also key to prevent blisters and sores that will hamper your ski style. Tip- check all toe nails are short and not digging in to adjacent toes. If you have your own boots, start wearing them again for short periods at home before you go.

5: Apres-ski

Stretching for a few minutes before you head to the bar is going to make your next day’s skiing a lot more comfortable, and remember that alcohol is likely to affect you more at altitude, particularly after a full days exercise, so take it easy. A stint in the hot tub always seems to have a relaxing effect on tired muscles but an ice pack is the way to go for an injury.

The exercises above are not intended as a substitute for care from a health care professional. If you experience pain or other signs and symptoms of injury or pain, you should seek the advice of a Physiotherapist or other health care professional.

Read our free PDF on lower limb tendinopathies
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