Page 2 of 23. Flexibility Training
If exercisers tend to neglect one thing, it's stretching. But flexibility is one of the most important components of your winter sports conditioning program. Proper stretching helps reduce muscle tension, increases your range of motion and protects the joints that are used so often in these sports. Plus, being flexible can directly help you in your fitness endeavors—it improves body awareness, enhances recovery, and may even help you improve your overall form and performance. The most important muscles for skiers and snowboarders to stretch regularly include the hamstrings, quads, hips, calves, IT band, piriformis, and lower back. In addition, the upper back, chest and shoulders should also get attention—especially by skiers. Stretch at least 3-4 times per week (both pre-season and during the winter) after your muscles are warmed up. Ideally, stretching should be a part of every workout and winter outing. The stretching routines below focus on the muscles you'll use throughout the season:
Last but not least: Don't forget to train your heart and lungs. Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise helps build the endurance you need to make it through a long day of activity at higher altitudes. When you're in good shape, you'll be more alert, less fatigued and therefore less likely to make a mistake that could result in injury. There's tons of fun activities that can build aerobic endurance—running, swimming, jumping rope, aerobics, sports like soccer, climbing stairs, cycling, kickboxing, and more—and it's a good idea to select a variety of these things for best results. Try a combination of steady-state exercise (where you maintain a constant heart rate during your workout) and intervals (where you alternate between high-intensity bursts like sprints and lower intensity recovery periods). Do cardio 4-6 times per week for 30-60 minutes per session. Long sessions (over 30 minutes) are vital for helping you build the endurance you need for skiing and snowboarding. If you're a beginner, start with fewer days and less time and gradually work your way up. For some ideas, check out these short cardio-videos, which include some plyometric exercises, which increase the agility and explosive power that you need on the slopes.
If you want to be a better snowboarder or skier, then sports-specific training is going to help you. The recommendations above may seem like a lot, but they fit in with the general fitness recommendations for all people. Keep in mind that you can do core strength, flexibility and cardiovascular training in a single day or on multiple days—just find a combination that works best for you. Start today and you'll be in excellent shape by the time winter rolls around. That means you'll stay injury-free, keep up with your friends, and not let fatigue prevent you from joining in on the fun. How's that for motivation to stick to a workout program?
This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople Coaches (and certified personal trainers), Dean Anderson and Jen Mueller.