Prepa­ra­tion is key to avoid in­jury

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Dina Mi­shev

Wash­ing­ton Post

It was the eas­i­est first day of any of my 21 ski sea­sons in Jack­son, Wyo.: two hours on in­ter­me­di­atelevel groomed runs at the Jack­son Hole Moun­tain Re­sort. Still wear­ing a cast after surgery seven weeks ear­lier to re­pair a shat­tered wrist, I en­joyed tak­ing it easy. Ex­cept the next morn­ing re­vealed that I hadn’t taken it easy enough: I awoke un­able to stand up straight and feel­ing like an ice pick was em­bed­ded in a lon­gago her­ni­ated disc. I tried mas­sage, acupunc­ture and phys­i­cal ther­apy be­fore re­sort­ing to an MRI and a course of steroids. It was al­most five weeks be­fore I was able to ski again, and I did so gingerly for the rest of the sea­son.

It wasn’t un­til after my wrist was healed and I was able to re­turn to my usual phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties that I re­al­ized my mis­take: Be­cause of my bro­ken wrist, I had started ski sea­son with­out do­ing any of my usual strength train­ing. “You can’t just ex­pect to come off the couch, or even from yoga, spin classes or run­ning, and ski,” says Crys­tal Wright, a for­mer U.S. ski team mem­ber, the win­ner of the 2012 Freeski­ing World Tour and a Jack­son-based per­sonal trainer. “At best you’ll be sore and at worst you’ll hurt your­self. Strength train­ing will make your va­ca­tion more en­joy­able.”

If you’ve got a ski va­ca­tion planned, here are sug­ges­tions re­gard­ing train­ing and equip­ment to make your time on the slopes safer and more en­joy­able.

Pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to your core and glutes

“Core strength is in­volved in ev­ery part of ski­ing,” says Sue Kramer, the au­thor of Be Fit to Ski: The Com­plete

Guide to Alpine Ski­ing Fit­ness and a Pro­fes­sional Ski In­struc­tors of Amer­ica ex­am­iner. Kramer rec­om­mends ex­er­cises such as planks and bridges be­fore ad­vanc­ing into move­ments with a ro­ta­tional com­po­nent.

“Ski­ing sub­jects your core to a lot of ro­ta­tional forces, so that’s what you want to strengthen,” she says. Ro­ta­tional core ex­er­cises in­clude moves as sim­ple as hold­ing a ski pole with both hands above your head, then twist­ing at the hip while keep­ing your feet in place. And then there’s what Kramer calls the “snow an­gel.”

“In­stead of mak­ing an an­gel in the snow, do it on the floor, with your legs and arms just a cou­ple of inches off the ground,” she says. “It sounds easy un­til you try it.

When it comes to legs, don’t fo­cus only on your quads. Kramer says a quick change of di­rec­tion on skis will get them to fire, and “with­out any ham­string strength to counter them, the knee can be pulled out of align­ment.” Thirty-two per­cent of all ski in­juries are to the knee, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent re­port from the Na­tional Ski Ar­eas As­so­ci­a­tion’s 10-Year In­ter­val In­jury Study con­ducted dur­ing the 2010-11 sea­son.

Other leg mus­cles to work on are the glu­teus max­imus and the glu­teus medius. You know the for­mer as your butt. The lat­ter, on the out­side of the hip, is of­ten over­looked, al­though it’s one of the most im­por­tant for skiers, says Wright.

Clamshells — ly­ing on one’s side with legs bent, and rais­ing and low­er­ing the top leg — are the sim­plest and eas­i­est way to strengthen the glu­teus medius. To work your ham­strings, butt and quads, try side and lat­eral lunges and split and sumo squats.

Get your heart rate up for short bursts of time

“Ski­ing is an in­ter­val sport,” says Bill Fabrocini, who has trained U.S. Ski Team ath­letes and de­vel­oped two on­line ski-fit­ness video pro­grams. “You make turns for one to three min­utes, and then you re­cover.” Fabrocini’s clients of­ten walk up­hill on a tread­mill raise to be­tween 3 and 10 de­grees for about two min­utes; the goal is to work up to about eight two-minute in­ter­vals with about two min­utes of rest in be­tween. He says how you el­e­vate your heart rate isn’t im­por­tant as long as you get it up.

Work up to im­pact ex­er­cises

Jump­ing helps de­velop your agility, which helps you pre­pare for the dy­namic na­ture of ski­ing. But “if you’re not used to im­pact and you start jump­ing, you can hurt your­self,” says Fabrocini. When you feel you have a base level of strength and are ready for im­pact, Fabrocini sug­gests start­ing with two-legged jumps (side to side and front to back) and work­ing up to one-legged jumps.

Im­prove your bal­ance with sin­gle-leg ex­er­cises

“Good bal­ance helps pro­tect your knees,” Kramer says. “A sim­ple yoga tree pose” — with one sole placed high in­side the op­po­site leg — “is a great place to start.” Once you’re com­fort­able with that, progress to stand­ing on one foot for a minute (maybe even on a Bosu ball), then to one-legged squats and hops.

Take a les­son, even if you’re a good skier

“If you’re a be­gin­ner, a les­son al­lows you to ben­e­fit from a pro­fes­sional show­ing and telling you,” says Dave Byrd, di­rec­tor of risk and reg­u­la­tory af­fairs at the Na­tional Ski Ar­eas As­so­ci­a­tion, a trade as­so­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents more than 300 alpine re­sorts. “Good skiers can think of it as a re­fresher and also get tips about the moun­tain from a pro­fes­sional.”

Take care of your gear and ditch the old-school long skis

Thirty years ago, the most com­mon ski in­jury was a mid-shaft frac­ture of the tibia, but now, be­cause of ad­vances in boots and bind­ings, it’s very un­com­mon, ac­cord­ing to Jasper Shealy, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of in­dus­trial and sys­tems en­gi­neer­ing at the Rochester In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy who has re­searched ski in­juries for more than 40 years. If this in­jury hap­pens now, he says, “it’s be­cause of poorly ad­justed or main­tained equip­ment.” Have your bind­ings pro­fes­sion­ally set, and be hon­est about your ski­ing level.

Wear a hel­met

Hel­mets have not re­duced the in­ci­dence of ski-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties. “You’re go­ing to need more than a hel­met if you run into a solid ob­ject like a tree,” Shealy says. But they are ex­tremely ef­fec­tive at prevent­ing head in­juries. One of Shealy’s stud­ies con­cluded that, as hel­met usage in­creased be­tween 1995 and 2015, po­ten­tially se­ri­ous head in­juries de­creased from 4.2 per­cent of all ski in­juries (1995) to 3 per­cent (2015) of all in­juries.


Skiers and snow­board­ers ride down a slope at the Niseko Hana­zono re­sort in Hokkaido, Ja­pan. One tip to help en­sure an en­joy­able ski ex­pe­ri­ence is to work to strengthen your glutes.

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