Skiing is one of the most popular sports in the UK, with around 4 million skiers hitting the slopes last year. If you want to join them, then you’ll also want to make sure your money is going on a holiday to remember!
Here at Mid Sussex Osteopaths, we offer many years of osteopathic & winter sports knowledge to make sure you will be in tip-top shape to make the most of your week of snow. Here are three tips you can use to help on that journey…
Number one is mobility. Being flexible is a must for any sport, and most minor injuries sustained on the slope can be traced back to a lack of flexibility. While we can’t make you a gymnast, we can help to tackle those areas that might hold you back. Key for skiers is hip and leg flexibility. There is nothing worse than heading out for a days skiing, only to have to head back after hurting yourself, so lets tackle a routine to start your trip off on the right foot…
Ideally, this routine should be started around 4 to 6 weeks before your trip, but if you are off tomorrow, you can still use it as a warm-up before hitting the slopes. We’ll look at 3 easy stretches to get those hips & legs warm and working, and to loosen any tight muscles.
An easy routine for you
- First off, we will tackle the big gluteal – or buttock – muscles. These are one of the strongest muscle groups in the body, and are used extensively in many sports, especially skiing. Quite often, when tight, they can lead to lower back and leg pain. To begin, lie on your back with your legs flat. Bring one leg up to the level of your hips, and gently pull it across the front of the pelvis. As you start to feel some tension build up around the hip area, pull the leg up towards the opposite shoulder, so left leg to right shoulder and vice versa. You should feel a good stretch into the buttocks. Hold for a count of 30, then swap legs. Repeat 3 times on each side.
- Next, still on your back, bend one knee so that the the foot is level with the other knee. Slowly lower the leg out to the side, trying to get the knee as far down as possible. You might want to use a pillow or cushion to support the leg, so as not to put too much strain on the hip. There should be a good stretch around the top of the thigh and groin area. Again, we are going to hold for 30 seconds, and repeat three times on each leg. To make the stretch more effective, you can do the stretch on both legs at the same time.
- These two stretches will hit the inner and outer hip muscles, and gluteals. But for really good hip mobility, we also need to look at some often ignored muscles – the adductors. These run on the inside of the thigh, from the knee to the pelvis, and help to make sure the thigh bone is controlled properly. On most people, they can be quite tight, and after a week on the slopes, you’ll certainly notice them! To hit these muscles, stand next to a chair or similar. Lift your leg out to the side, and rest the side of your foot flat on the chair. Keeping your stomach tight, lean to the side and slide your hand down your leg towards your foot. You should get a good stretch on the inside of the thigh. To make the stretch stronger, you can bend the opposite leg, to squat slightly, or use a higher surface to put your foot on. Or both!
These stretches will help to target and mobilise some of the most used skiing muscles. But we will also need to look balance. This will come in handy as those slopes can be very slippery, let alone the streets of the town during aprés time!
To improve balance, you’ll need a pillow or cushion to stand on. Start with your feet around shoulder width apart, and stand on the cushion. You should find that the softness of the cushion makes standing a little harder, as you will be moving your feet to stay still. Try to stand for a minute on the cushion. If this is easy, close your eyes, and try again. Once you can do 1 minute with your eyes closed, move your feet together, so they are touching, and start again with your eyes open. Again, when you can do a minute, try with your eyes closed. If you are particularly stable, then you could try standing on one foot! Please make sure you have someone to catch you, and you move anything sharp out of the way, as you may well fall on one foot, and we don’t want to ruin holiday before you even go!
Lastly, we will look at overall fitness, with a running routine to build aerobic capacity.. A days skiing can be more intense than you think, and aerobic capacity is important to make sure that you can keep going for the longest runs – you don’t want to be stopping at the side of the piste for a breather!
Again, ideally you’d start his a few weeks before you go, but don’t feel afraid to try a few sessions in the days leading up to your trip.
I would suggest being able to run for around 30 minutes at a steady pace before you head out. That should be around 5k. If you are relatively fit already, that shouldn’t be too much to ask, but if you are starting from scratch, then it may take a few weeks to build up to. The easiest way to start is not to expect to be able to run consistently straight away – a good intro is to run for a minute, then walk for two, and repeat for around 12 minutes.
Once you’ve done a couple of sessions, increase the running by 30 seconds. Over 4 weeks or so, you should be able to build to running for 5 minutes, walking for 1 for around 30 minutes, then it’s just a matter of trying to run without stopping. Always remember to run at a comfortable level – you should be able to talk reasonably easily as you run. If you aim for 2-3 sessions a week, you should notice a good improvement over a month or so.
If you are feeling a bit more athletic, then how about trying a few sprint sessions? Adding sprinting will build explosive strength in the muscles – ideal for harder turns, and if you feel the need to hit the park – although you might want to save that for the future!!
Aim to sprint for around 50 metres at maximum effort. Repeat 3 to 8 times, although build this slowly. The first session might be really tough, and you’ll be doing well to finish 3 sprints! But putting more effort in can really pay dividends on the slopes, so be prepared to push yourself harder if you want to.
Finally, don’t forget that there may be some underlying issues that are going to be noticed as you start preparing – don’t ignore these, as they may lead to further problems later. Instead, why not book in at MSO and allow us to check you over and recommend further, tailored exercises and a treatment plan aimed just at you?