Tips for a healthy ski season |

Tips for a healthy ski season

John Gardner
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Submitted PhotoPhysical therapist Pete Holman, owner of Fitness by Design in Basalt, demonstrates a side lunge stretch. Dynamic stretching like this is a key to preventing snow riding injuries on the slopes.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Bad things happen when you crash while skiing or snowboarding.

Pete Holman, licensed physical therapist and owner of Fitness by Design in Basalt, says the best way to prevent skiing or snowboarding injuries is to prevent yourself from crashing.

“The one thing I tell people is, the best thing to not do is crash and fall,” Holman said. “Because bad things happen when you crash.”

Sound advice from someone who helps injured winter sport enthusiasts rehabilitate an injury sustained on the slopes.

It might sound like an obvious suggestion, but Holman explained that there are exercises snow riders, skiers or snowboarders, can and should do to condition their body to help prevent falling.

“In sports medicine, people have an injury and it’s our job to help them get their balance back,” Holman said. “But why not do the training before you get hurt to prevent the injury?”

The most common injuries in skiing are tears to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), wrist and shoulder injuries such as fractures. With snowboarding, torn ACL are less common, wrist fractures and whiplash are more so. So, conditioning to prevent a fall, is preventing injury.

Holman suggests functional training, through simple, everyday exercises, to help condition three main systems used when snow riding: balance, or proprioception training; vestibular system training; and visual system training. All three of these systems ” proprioception, vestibular and visual ” are engaged when skiing to help maintain balance.

“Maintaining your center of gravity is essential for skiers and snowboarders,” Holman said. “We’ve got to do a lot of balance and proprioception exercises. If you’ve never trained these systems you are at a deficit before you even start skiing.”

Simple exercises like squats, while they will increase leg strength, aren’t as effective in preventing injury, according to Holman, because the exercise is a stationary action.

Holman said doing squats on a platform-exercise ball, a half of the rubber exercise balls with a flat side, while holding a medicine ball for weight and closing your eyes engages all three of the systems used during skiing.

“It’s amazing conditioning for ski training, maintaining that balance and avoiding crashing,” Holman said. “Most people do squats on a leg press to strengthen their legs, but doing them on a half ball, all of the sudden they are also challenging the balance systems, too.”

But even smaller steps can be taken to aid in conditioning the body before hitting the slopes. Holman suggested simply balancing on one leg with a slightly bent knee, while brushing one’s teeth everyday will greatly increase the body’s ability to maintain balance.

“Normal people aren’t used to rigorous training,” Holman said.

By doing this simple exercise, “You are doing a mundane daily task, but you are getting a little balance workout on a single leg which is really important in skiing because the activity is all about shifting weight from one leg to another. And that is a really easy exercise to do.”

Strengthening the core, abdominal and lower back muscles is another key to maintaining balance. Holman recommends the “plank” exercise where the person elevates their body in a rigid position, with their forearms and toes on the floor.

One often overlooked aspect is dynamic stretching. Holman said the best stretching routine involves lunges in three sets: Forward, side and rear.

Doing these stretches before a day on the slopes can greatly reduce the chance of injury, according to Holman.

“Before a football game you see athletes running routes, running sprints, warming up. They are not sitting around waiting for the game to start ” they are getting their system ready for the game.”

Snow riders should do the same, if it’s something they do once a week, or even once a year.

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