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Jan 6, 2015

Preparing for the slopes


The annual ski trip is the highlight of the year for many people. Are you physically prepared for the slopes?

Now that autumn has finally deserted us and ‘Strictly/I’m a Celeb’ signal the start of another Yorkshire winter there's one thing guaranteed to generate a hot flush of anticipation; Skiing!!!

If you're lucky enough to be making a trip this season you need to be physically prepared. A few last minute runs around the block, or sitting against the wall for twenty seconds, is not going to swing it. Skiing, at whatever ability level, is a demanding physical activity which requires strength, coordination, flexibility, balance and stamina. By preparing properly you are more likely to ski more efficiently, and for longer each day. You're also improving your chances of remaining injury free.

A minimum 6-8 week preparation period is ideal but you can also achieve much in a shorter period of time. Three or four intensive sessions each week will have a significant effect if you focus on key areas and carry out each exercise correctly. Skiing makes big demands on lower body strength, so that’s our focus this month. We all recognise that our ski knees take a real pounding because they act as the body's shock absorbers for the constant carving, bounding and twisting that occurs as you glide effortlessly down the slopes. Strengthening the quadricep muscles is therefore vital as they stabilise the knee joint and prevent excessive knee rotation. As a keen advocate of squats I recommend beginning each session with a free weights (no machines!!)squat routine utilising strict technique, supervised by a qualified instructor wherever possible.

Rule number one – It’s vital that you maintain a 'neutral' back position throughout. Once you have loaded your back with a suitable weight, breathe in and tighten your core. Then lower your thighs to a parallel position or beyond, keep your feet in a shoulder width comfortable stance with heels on the ground, with chest and head up. You should then drive up through the heels to an almost standing position but don’t ‘lock’ your knees at the top of the movement. Lower the weight again slowly under control. Three sets of ten repetitions should be enough at first to kick start your quads into action. It's just as important to strengthen the rear of your body - the 'posterior chain' – which includes the glutes. The glutes should be the most powerful muscle group in the body but are often neglected. They help to stabilise the knees and lower back, and provide much of the power and control for turning. My preferred exercise for glute development is the ‘lunge’. You can perform this exercise carrying a barbell on your back, or with dumbbells at your side, or you can begin by using your body weight alone. Stand with one foot forward, the other back. As with a squat, breathe in and tighten your core, and once again make sure you maintain a 'neutral' back position. Lower your back knee to the floor whilst ensuring that your upper body does not bend forward at the hips. Once your back knee touches the floor drive back up again. An advanced version of this exercise is the ‘walking lunge’ where you maintain the same position described above as you take five or six strides. Turn, and repeat. A strong core is essential as the base layer for all physical activity. Ask your trainer to introduce some isometric exercises (such as ‘the plank’) to your core routine as well as those which require dynamic, concentric, and rotational movement.

Finally, whilst the ‘apres-ski’ is often one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip please remember that skiing when under the influence of alcohol can be incredibly dangerous and might also invalidate your insurance if and when you need it. Have a great time, but come home in one piece.

Category: Exercise

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