We don't have any snow in our area yet, but if you're heading to the slopes over the holiday break, you'll want to take a few precautions to make sure your vacation is both safe and fun. Skiing can be one of the most exhilarating, refreshing, and transcendental experiences imaginable. It provides exercise for the entire body, fresh, crisp mountain air for the lungs and excitement for all of our senses. It is, however, quite a dangerous sport, not only due to the inherent dangers of falling of or colliding with parts of the scenery but also because of the unpredictable nature of fellow skiers whose expertise may vary considerably.
Protection and preventive care are therefore essential elements of keeping safe and uninjured on the slopes. Along with a properly fitted ski helmet, a vital piece of protection that most skiers still eschew, pre- and post-skiing warm-ups and long-term physical training can help immeasurably in avoiding injuries or reducing their impact and recovery time.
Regardless of the skier’s level, skiing puts enormous and often sudden physical demands on the body, regularly stretching muscles and joints past their normal operating limits. In order to avoid injury, the skier’s body must be limber and resilient, and there are few regimens that are better for toning a skier than yoga.
Long-term yoga not only provides significant improvements to flexibility, but also builds muscle strength and endurance, which are critical for the intense physical demands of skiing. Yoga has many varieties, some of which concentrate on the spiritual rather than the physical and may not provide much benefit for skiing. Look for somewhat physically demanding yoga such as Bikram, Ashtanga or Vinyasa.
Ideally, a skier’s yoga program should provide full-body training, with an emphasis on stretching and strengthening hips, knees and ankles, the most important joints for skiing. Try to incorporate yoga at least three times a week for a minimum of an hour as anything less may not provide sufficient benefit.
Just before hitting the slopes, the smart skier should stretch and warm-up for at least 15 minutes, regardless of previous physical training. Unprepared muscles, tendons and joints can suffer greatly for the shocks and unexpected crashes, and early injuries can ruin an entire skiing holiday. Concentrate on stretching your calves (a curb stretch can be a simple and effective method), quadriceps, hamstrings and shoulders. Don’t forget though that your entire body will need care. Full descriptions of pre- and post- stretching for skiing can easily be found online by searching for “skiing stretches”.
Post-skiing care should include not only the prerequisite hot-tub session but also a massage to ease the tension in your muscles. You should consider consulting a chiropractor if you’ve suffered a significant fall or other injury even if it did not require immediate medical care. There can be many hidden issues caused by the hard falls inherent in skiing and an experienced chiropractor can quickly detect these problems.
When dealing with soreness, it’s important to note that much of this is due to microscopic muscle damage rather than lactate accumulation. It is therefore, essential to drink lots of fluids with no alcohol or caffeine the first few days in order to recover more quickly. Save the celebrations for the end.
By being prudent about your safety, conditioning your body beforehand and caring for it afterwards, you can continue to enjoy this magnificent sport for most of your life.