As ski season nears, most skiers and snowboarders begin watching the weather reports and preparing to hit the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding are fun sports, but the fun can end quickly if injury occurs as the result of a fall or from repetitive strain. Common ski injuries include knee anterior cruciate ligament sprains, meniscus tears, broken bones, or muscular strains.
Not all injuries can be avoided. That being said, it is true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So to prevent ski and snowboard related injuries, take a few minutes each day before ski season starts to get the legs conditioned so that your body can tolerate the stress and strain that alpine sports put on it.
Here are a few exercises to try to get the leg muscles ready for ski and snowboard season:
- Wall Squat: Lean your back against a wall and keep the feet shoulder-width apart. If you have a Swiss ball, you can put that between your back and the wall for support. Now slowly lower your body down by bending your knees. Lower down until your knees are at about 90 degrees. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Hold for two seconds, the return to the starting position. If the squat causes knee pain, try not going down as far into the squat. Repeat 10-20 times.
- Wall Sit: Using the same position for the wall squats (with or without the Swiss ball), squat down and remain in the squat position for one to two minutes. If your quadriceps muscles are deconditioned, you may need to work up to the one minute mark. Return to the standing position, and then repeat three times.
- Wall Squats with Heel Raise: Perform the wall sit exercise and hold your body in the squat position. While holding the squat position, rise up onto the balls of your feet. Hold this position for two seconds, and then lower your heels down. Repeat 10-20 times.
The exercises can be made more challenging by combining them. Perform 10 wall squats, hold the last repetition for 60 seconds, and then perform 10 wall squat heel raises.
These exercises can be performed three to four times per week, but be sure to check with your doctor before exercising to ensure that the exercises are appropriate for you. The exercises will most likely make your thighs and calves sore, so a day of rest between exercise sessions is recommended.
Flexibility exercises for the legs and thighs can be performed daily, and it is a good idea to perform light stretching just prior to hitting the slopes each day. Your main focus should be on:
Be sure to hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, and remember not to bounce forcefully as you stretch, as this can cause muscular injury. Stretches should be performed three times for each body part.
Since skiing and snowboarding require significant balance and quick reaction time, exercises to improve balance should also be a part of your routine to prepare for ski season. Balance exercises should be challenging, but remember to remain in control and safe while performing balance exercises.
As stated previously, not all ski and snowboard injuries can be avoided. By exercising a few times per week to keep the legs strong and by performing daily flexibility and balance exercises, you may be able to stay on the slopes and out of the physical therapy clinic.