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Hit The Gym Before You Hit The Slopes

Downhill skis, snowboard, youga mat. Which of these, if any, doesn't belong?

Written by Robert Priedt

If you said yoga mat, tear up your lift ticket. Mastering yoga exercises such as the lotus pose may help you blossom into a better performer on the slopes and reduce your risk of injury. That's one of the recommendations for pre-season skiing and snowboard conditioning from Carmen Cheng, who supervises the outpatient physical therapy department at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

She says getting in shape for both sports requires stretching, strengthening and cardiovascular conditioning weeks in advance of your first run of the season. Strengthening exercises not only improve your control and endurance, they can protect you if you actually do lose control and crash. Your body will be better able to withstand the impact.

"The more muscles you build up, the stronger you are. The muscles will protect your whole body if you fall or twist or whatever happens," Cheng says. Stretching is another important part of conditioning that can help prevent ski and snowboarding injuries. "The more flexible you are, the more your body will react and prevent from being twisted. You're not stiff, so you're able to prevent more injuries by being more flexible," Cheng says.

There are many different kinds of stretching exercises, including yoga, that are appropriate for skiing and snowboarding. Yoga not only provides stretching benefits. It also helps improve balance, which is an essential component of both skiing and snowboarding. Better balance means fewer tumbles. Yoga also includes good core body strength exercises, Cheng says. With yoga, you have to rely greatly on the force and movement of your trunk and upper body to keep yourself under control. By strengthening those core body muscles, you gain better directional control over your skis or snowboard, Cheng says.

Getting your heart and lungs in shape for skiing and snowboarding is also essential. "The cold, windy, high-elevation conditions at ski resorts can be hard on your cardiovascular system if you're not properly prepared," Cheng says.

Pre-season conditioning is especially important for people over age 30.
"It's not the same as when you were 18, skiing and falling, and the next second you're up skiing again without any difficulty," Cheng says. "You have to realize that your body does not heal as fast as you want it to. So it's better to be prepared and do all these exercises. You'll be happy that you did these exercises before you went skiing," Cheng adds.

Some recommended exercises include trunk rotations, quadriceps stretches and hamstring-strengthening workouts. There's an added bonus to pre-season conditioning, Cheng notes. "Since you'll be in much better shape when you hit the slopes early in the season, you won't feel those first few outings so much. You'll be able to pack in a lot more runs over multiple days without having to contend with a sore or tired body."

To ensure that your body is well-adjusted and prepared, you need to start your conditioning at least six to eight weeks before the start of your skiing or snowboarding season, Cheng says. Even better is a year-round conditioning program, she adds. Most ski and snowboard conditioning exercises are simple and can be done at home. But if you're unfamiliar with them, it's a good idea to first work with a physical therapist or fitness expert who can show you how to do them properly, Cheng recommends.

Article Reviewed: December 3, 2013
Copyright © 2014 Healthy Magazine

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