Mind, Body and Soul
by Lori Meyers, Dr. Andy Reed and Beth Mansfield
Warriors, Come Out to Play - Part One of Two by Lori Meyers
Skiers are warriors – out there in all sorts of conditions and using all the skills that skiing requires. You have plenty of choice to play with. In Part One of this article, I'll start with the three Warriors. Try them and their variations. Of course, respect your own limitations and apply alignment adjustments that work best for your body. Be a wise warrior and choose what will make you strong, balanced, flexible, focused and, above all, injury-free – all the aspects of a good skier. There are no shortcuts – practise with your heart, not your ego.
Within each of these, there are modifications you can choose and as well as adding your own to make the pose work for you. Playing with the warriors will lead you to where you need to be and benefit most. Remember it can change over time, so do not stop playing. Like skiing, yoga can be practised for life. All variations change the relationship of the upper body to the lower body. It is good for the body to open at many different angles.
Different muscles have different fibre directions and some muscles have multidirectional fibres within the same muscle. Everybody has a different genetic makeup, so muscle-fibre and soft-tissue length will vary, as will the skeletal structure that effects joints and movement. Here are some variations you might want to consider or go with the “classic” style of pose.
Warrior I - Virabhadrasana Vira (hero) bhadra (friend) asana (pose). Back leg is in neutral instead of external rotation and the heel is up off the floor. The knee can be off the floor in a high-lunge position or on the floor for a low-lunge position. I highly recommend doing these options because it is so similar to the position in Classic skiing. The traditional form of the pose with the external rotation of the rear leg best reflects skate skiing.
Warrior II - Palms up, hands on the hips or done with a partner clasping the rear hands or wrists and leaning away from each other.
Warrior III - Arm positions can vary from reaching your fingertips to the floor, to prayer hands, to airplane, to overhead. Done with a partner holding joining hands out front to help with your balance and add that element of fun.
Lori Meyers, BPE, is a life coach and yoga/pilates instructor.
It's time to hit the gym! by Dr. Andy Reed
When the snow starts falling, it's natural to want to grab our skis and hit the trails with unbridled enthusiasm. We've waited patiently throughout the fall months for the flakes to drop, and when they are here, we want to ski, ski, ski! Yet early-season injuries are commonplace and typically related to training error.
Tendinitis is usually a “too much, too soon” phenomenon, and can be hard to get rid of. Shin splints, tennis and golfer's elbow, low-back pain, ankle and shoulder strains, and hip flexor and groin strains are all common early-season issues in cross-country skiers. If we subject our tissues to too much load before they are conditioned to handle it, then we run the risk of injury.
We can quantify load by looking at how much force we subject a given tissue to, and how often we subject that tissue to that force. So it's easy to see that weakness in an area or simply overzealous training frequency or volume can lead to problems. Our muscles and tendons adapt slowly, and we must be cognizant that this takes time. A progressive but gradual increase in loading is what's needed, interspersed with periods of rest and recovery to allow adaptations to take place.
One of the best ways to prepare for the ski season is to hit the gym. If I'm honest, most people I speak with in endurance sports would rather be outdoors doing their thing than locked in the weight room for hours, but there really is no doubt that a bit of pre-season strength training can not only help to improve performance out there on the snow, but can also dramatically reduce the risk of injury.
In a recent paper in the BJSM, Lauersen et al looked at just this aspect of training in a large systematic review of more than 26,000 participants. They showed that strength training reduced the frequency of sports injuries to less than one-third, and that approximately 50% of overuse injuries could be prevented with adequate strength training.
An earlier paper in Endurance Training: Science & Practice in 2012 looked at strength training in untrained, trained and elite-level endurance athletes. They showed that strength training has the ability to change our muscle-fibre type from fast-twitch Type IIX fibres to more fatigue-resistant Type IIA fibres, along with important improvements in tendon stiffness and neuromuscular function, which are associated with better performance.
Finally, Ronnestad et al in Scand J Med Sci Sport 2014 showed that heavy and explosive strength training could improve exercise economy, lactate threshold, maximal speed, anaerobic capacity and reduce fatigue in endurance activities – all important metrics.
The bottom line here is that strength training can not only make us better skiers, but can also significantly reduce our risk of injury.
In the next issue, I will take a look at exactly what this training might look like.
Dr. Andy Reed, sport-medicine physician, Team physician, Canadian cross-country, biathlon and para-nordic ski teams