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I once heard a celebrated ski racer of the 1980’s say to some admiring fans, “Yes I stretch every morning.” He then mimicked a big yawn and stretched his arms up over his head.
The onlookers laughed nervously, and all wondered to themselves if he was being serious or not. Although the skier’s comments were most likely tongue and cheek, it should make us reflect on our own commitment to warming up before we hit the slopes. How many of us can truly say that we stretch before a ski day? If you do, then ask yourself if the stretching you’re doing meets the requirements of the physical demands of the sport? Or, are you like the yawning Olympic athlete, just going through the motions?
The current thinking on ski specific stretching has veered away from yogic type stretches to movement preparation that warms the muscles by directing blood to the joints and connective tissues. Dynamic stretching, as in movement preparation, has replaced static stretching. Studies have shown that the long slow stretch alone does not prepare you for a ballistic sport like skiing.
Ski specific stretching is more about neuro-muscular stimulation as it relates to movements in skiing. Warming the muscles and joints and awakening your ski specific movement patterns before stepping on snow is a move in the right direction. No one wants to stretch on impact, blowing an expensive ski holiday on the first day. Here are a few pre-ski movements that can get you ready to get the most of your ski day and insure body alertness with resiliency as well as durability. Need stretches for the end of your ski day too, we’ve got you covered with après ski stretches here.
Dynamic Movement Prep Routine
This exercise warms up your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. It also builds stability in the core. To perform this exercise, start with your back on the floor and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Engage your glutes and project your pelvis toward the ceiling, keeping your heels and shoulders planted on the ground. Next, extend one leg to form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankle. Shift your weight to the leg that is planted on the floor. Lower slowly to the floor and repeat on the opposite side.
The friction created by heavy snow or from the forces from a fast turn requires resistance preparation and muscle activation. The mini band routine prepares your glutes and legs for the opposing forces found on the mountain. The interaction between ski and snow creates resistance, resulting in a game of tug of war.
Stabilizing your shoulders and core improves the internal blocking needed for short radius turns, long high-speed turns, and athletic fall line skiing. This exercise warms up the glutes, hamstrings and calves, and builds stability in the lower back. To perform this exercise, flex at your waist and touch the floor with your fingertips or hands, keeping your legs straight. Move from a pike position by walking your hands out to a point slightly in front of your head. Continue moving your hands until you assume a standard push up position or beyond. Keeping your legs straight, walk your feet toward your hands, back into the pike position.
Dynamic movement in the lateral plane involves flexing one leg while extending the other. This can be seen at any level of skiing, but is most noticeable in fast or steep skiing by experts. This exercise warms up the quads, hip flexors and calves. To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder width or more apart. Slide your hips laterally while you flex one leg and extend the other. Both feet should be pointed forward and flat on the ground. Your extended leg should not be bent, and your flexed leg should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
Explosive movements from the bottom to the top of your range of motion are needed for dynamic movement, as well as for recovery and escape moves. Tuck jumps help you realign and regain balance. To perform this exercise, start in a tuck position with your thighs at a 45-degree angle to your shins. Hold the squat for 15 seconds, then explode into a full body extension. Land softly with flexed legs returning to the squat position.
Words by Chris Fellows. Chris Fellows and his wife Jenny are co-directors of the North American Ski Training Center (NASTC). Based in Tahoe, California, NASTC offers world-class ski adventures around the planet. See more at skinastc.com.