Everybody loves a good ski holiday. Once you’ve been you’re hooked. At least I was. I just regret I didn’t start at a younger age so I’d be able to keep up with all the crazy kids off piste. It’s a good job that skiing is hugely addictive because it can be a dangerous sport – or at least that is the perception. But I’m not here to put fear into your ski holiday, quite the opposite in fact.
As always our happy go lucky articles are full of positive vibes. This article will firstly show that skiing injuries aren’t quite as common as you might think. Hooray! Secondly we’ll give the benefit of our experience with some easy to do ski prep exercises to reduce your risk of injury. Thirdly we’ll look at the best stretches to keep you going whilst you’re out there. Then finally some common sense tips we all know, but might need reminding about, that will reduce our chances of injury.
Just How Likely Is A Skiing Injury?
Happily not as frequent as you’d think. The incidence of injury is actually lower than playing contact sports like football or rugby for example. The stats suggest there are in the region of 3 injuries per thousand skier days. In terms that we can understand that suggests if we ski 10 days per year will get and injury every 32-34 years. Which suggests it’s quite possible to go an entire ski career without injuring yourself. Snowboarders are more at risk from injury according to the stats. But that’s their own fault for attaching themselves to a plank!
The Best Exercise For Ski Preparation
So in my considered opinion it’s time for the best ski exercise ever. That’s me doing a demo in video below. I’ve chosen this one as firstly it’s challenging enough to get you improvements fast. It challenges your ability to balance which is what skiing is all about. It gets you into a rhythm. Again a key component of good skiing. It challenges your aerobic fitness – again a huge component of skiing all day long.
Granted we like to punctuate our skiing with odd hot chocolate and a nice rest here and there. Skiing is hugely aerobic due to the fact that the muscles used in the large are very large muscles and therefore use up lots of oxygen. Oxygen does after all make muscles work. Finally this is most functional exercise the mimics skiing I could come up with.
Working Up To The Best Exercise For Ski Preparation
For the experienced skier reading hopefully that exercise looked very functional and achievable. For the inexperienced or anyone about to go on their first holiday maybe that was a bit scary. Fear not. There’s always ways to make things easier.
The following two exercises are classics that can be done with no equipment at all. Simple body weight exercises as we say. They are good old fashioned squats and lunges. Before we go into a demonstration we need to consider whether we should do these with weights or not. For those of you who aren’t currently very active then body weight (without any additional weights being held) is the way to go. For those of you who are more active you may wish to hold onto some additional weights whilst doing these.
Squats For Ski Prep
Lunges For Ski Conditioning
For those that know what Telemark skiing is this will make a lot of sense. Telemark is just a series of lunges. All day long on your slopes. I doff my hat to any Telemarkers. You are supreme beings of fitness and ski technique. For us mere mortals this starts working the legs in the way in which we intend to use them on the slopes. It’s also a great warm up when you get to resort.
A nice progression to this exercise is the back lunge or squat where you take the leg backwards. You can then progress to multi-directional lunges to add an extra element of instability just like you’ll get on the slopes. Lots of instability!
How To Keep Going Whilst Away Skiing
You get to day 3 on ski holiday and your legs literally stop working. Hopefully this year will be different with you having followed our conditioning advice. But chances are you’re still going to be pretty achy simply because you’re doing something you simply don’t do year round. There are some great stretches you can do to aid your recovery and we’ll show you these now.
With all the stretches do not stretch to pain. This will make the muscles tighter not looser and causes a recoil effect in the muscle fibres. For those of a geeky persuasion check out this page on Stretch Reflex if you’d like to know more. We recommend holding a ‘nice’ stretch for 30 seconds and then releasing a bit further into the stretch for an additional 30 seconds. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a pool and / or sauna I’d recommend doing a short swim followed by sauna to aid blood flow to flush away all the by products of all that muscle respiration in your legs.
Quad Stretch To Help Ease The Legs
A good old fashion quadricep stretch. I’m sure you’ve seen this one before. Perfect for the slopes as the poor old quads get an absolute bashing on the slopes. Very simply as shown in the picture to the left pull your ankle up towards your backside to get a nice stretch through the front of your thigh. To increase this stretch simply push the pelvis upwards – as if you doing a pelvis thrust – and this will increase the amount of stretch that you feel.
Life doesn’t happen in a straight line of course and skiing is no better example of this. If you want to explore the movement you have available to try to stretch different muscles fibres then rotate you hip around from side to find the stretch that feels really good.
Super Quad Stretch For Skiing Recovery
As the name suggests this is a more intense quadriceps stretch incorporating other areas of the body to maximise the stretch through the quadriceps. It also helps loosen out muscles that affect the tension in the quadriceps also. So a double whammy of stretching joy. If you found the basic stretch tough this really isn’t for you!
For this one sit on your knees on a floor that isn’t too hard. From here slower lower yourself down so you are sitting on your heels. If you can’t get to a point where you are sitting on your knees then stop right there! For those still with us, place your hands out behind you and push your pelvis up into the air to add a stomach stretch component. This should also increase the intensity of the stretch in your quadriceps.
Half Moon Stretch For Recovering From A Days Skiing
Our next stretch is one of our old favourites. This will help stretch out your obliques and a few other bits and bobs whilst you’re at it. Obliques get used a lot in skiing to adjust to the terrain you are going over and help absorb the odd lump and bump. If you’re an advanced skier and you’ve on moguls all day long then this is definitely one for you.
Common Sense Tips To Avoid Injury
Finally we come to the bits we really all should know but perhaps need reminding about from time to time.
1. Ski Slopes In Line With Your Ability
Leave the ego in the chalet. So many injuries happen when you’re trying to ski at a level you’re not comfortable with. It’s important to challenge yourself skiing to improve your level. But do so in controlled jumps. You know what terrain you are comfortable with. You know what terrain is a challenge. Chances are you know what terrain is above your level. Simple tip – if you’re looking down and you’re feeling terror – it’s not for you!
Remember too that most injuries occur on the last run of the day. When you’re tired. If you’ve been skiing hard all day long, or as much as you can manage there is no shame at all in getting a lift down to save your legs. Especially in tricky conditions. It will also keep your legs that be fresher for the following day.
2. Wear A Helmet
No brainer. A recent American Survey suggested 78% of people now wear helmets. You are now in the minority if you don’t wear one. Who’d have thought that 15 years ago? One word of warning. The same article goes onto suggest that the increase of helmet use has had no affect on the mortality rates of skiers. Ski helmets are designed protect you from low speed crashes not high speed. That’s why the racing helmets look more like motorbike helmets than the ones we wear.
So don’t get carried away with a sense of invincibility with your helmet on!
3. Don’t Drink At Lunchtime!
You don’t drink and drive so why drink and ski. You are after all travelling at similar speeds – just without a metal box around you. Yes I’m sure we’ve all done it. Many of us may even claim I feel great after lunch after a drink I feel so relaxed on my skis. Relaxed or less controlled? The relaxation effect will soon but outlived by it being harder to use your muscles and decrease in your control on skis. Save it for the Apres-Ski!
Ski Prep Conclusion
So there you have it. I hope you found my combined ski holiday and Sports Therapist experience useful. I hope it helps you have a safe and more enjoyable ski holiday this year. As always I’d love to here your comments so feel free to leave your thoughts below. Share this page with friends using the buttons below. Like our page our Facebook page where we have lots more useful video content for you every week.
This post first appeared on our Brighton site.