Thanks to releasable ski bindings, the rate of leg fractures associated with skiing have decreased tremendously over the last several years. However, medial collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are on the rise in this population, and account for about 30% of all ski injuries. We’ve heard common suggestions for avoiding injury, like taking a break at midday so you are rested for your afternoon turns, and eating a good lunch so you have fuel for your muscles to burn. Additionally, it is good to drink water during the day to stay hydrated and keep muscles pliable and stretch out and take warm-up runs to get your muscles loosened up. And of course, always SKI UNDER CONTROL. Another important way to help prevent injury this season as you head up to the mountains is to prepare your body for the demands of winter sports by participating in a pre-season conditioning program.
One of the best things you can do is engage in specific forms of pre-season conditioning to prepare your muscles for the unique demands of skiing and snowboarding. This will help you stay under control in any conditions and prevent early fatigue. It is recommended to fit in 3-4 weeks of an aerobic exercise routine which may include elliptical, biking, walking, for example, to increase your endurance for a full day on the snow. Here are three suggestions for exercises to help hone your strength, balance, and agility.
- Strength in skiing prepares you to last the entire day. Focus primarily on building quadriceps strength, but also take time for the hamstrings and hip musculature. To gain strength you need to overload your muscle until it reaches fatigue. One way to do this is through double leg held squats on solid ground, or add an extra challenge on top of a BOSU ball. Lower legs should be parallel with each other, and knees not farther forward than your toes. Start by holding for 30 seconds and then build up your time from there. As you progress, try doing it with your eyes closed. Do 3-5 repetitions.
- Balance involves your body’s ability to recognize where it is in space and how it maintains its center of gravity over its base of support. Balance will help you maintain control of your edge while making turns. A good exercise for this is a single leg forward bend while reaching across your body, as if to pick something up off the floor. Do 3 sets of 10 and attempt to maximize your distance and improve control.
- Agility is another component of a conditioning program that is very important. This is the ability to change position or direction quickly while maintaining good control. A good exercise for this is lateral jumps over a line. Go back and forth, working on quick transitions and quiet, controlled landings. This will save you in the trees and from varying conditions on the run. Do for 30 seconds, 3 sets.