Stay Healthy on the Slopes
Thinking of catching some late-season snow this year? Here's our 8-step guide to staying in peak condition around the peaks...
Sub-zero temperatures, biting winds, high altitudes and physical exertion. Doesn't exactly sound like fun, but for the thousands of ski enthusiasts jetting off in search of powder, it's a way of life. If you're new to winter sports take a look at these dos and don'ts from professional ski instructor Rob Marshall, North London Regional Manager at britishmilitaryfitness.com.
Balance and weight distribution
Skiing is all in the stance. Your feet are designed for perfect balance, so distributing your weight evenly between the balls and heel of your feet and both skis, should be easy in theory. However, most beginners squat too much, straining the quads and knee muscles and applying most of their weight to the back of the skis, which can cause loss of control. Lateral deadlifts, which should be performed on both legs, can increase the strength of the upper and lower back, as well as the glutes and hamstrings, pivotal muscle groups for skiing balance.
You don’t have to be a gymnast to be a good skier. That said, staying supple will reduce your chances of sustaining an injury on the slopes. Skiing targets specific muscle groups, putting particular strain on the calves and hips. Try yoga or a couple of pilates sessions, just to get you into the swing of things.
Cardio workouts are perhaps the most important when preparing for high-altitude exertion. With less oxygen available, your body needs to have strong respiratory muscles to facilitate the flow of air in and out of the lungs. Regular cardio will also slash the time it takes your muscles to recover after a long day on the slopes. This could be running, a bootcamp, swimming, cycling and even roller-blading. Just running up and down the stairs for 10 minutes a day will make a difference!
All the gear
So you’ve booked your holiday and practiced all the right exercises, what’s next? You don’t have to spend a fortune, but having the right clothing to stay insulated without restricting your movement will really help you get the most out of the skiing experience. Must haves include: thermal layers, goggles, gloves, headwear, ski trousers, gaiters, a neck gaiter, thermal socks, boots, a mid-layer fleece and an insulated ski jacket.
You don’t have to travel far to get a taste of skiing; these days there are indoor centres everywhere. These facilities give people the opportunity to find their snow-feet, or just refresh themselves, so when they reach their holiday destination they can hit the slopes straightaway, without having to learn the basics from scratch. Though nothing compares to the real thing, these centres are the perfect place for a practice run. It’s a good opportunity to check your new clothes fit too!
“Sun cream? There’s snow everywhere, it’s freezing! What are you on about?”Famous last words. For those of you who didn’t pay attention in secondary school science classes: darker (or black) objects and materials absorb light and turn it into heat energy, so the object heats up. Conversely, lighter (or white) objects, like snow, reflect light. This can cause severe sunburn, particularly in the cold, dry air, which strips your skin of its moisture.
Try a once-a-day application sunscreen like Ultrasun Face 50+SPF and Ultrasun 30SPF Lip Protection to keep skin hydrated and protected from harmful rays.
Stretching in the cold
So, you’ve landed in the Alps, head-to-toe in the finest skiing gear, with suncream liberally applied to your exposed areas and a handful of sessions at the local indoor skiing centre under your belt. Before you get started, it’s important you stretch the crucial muscle groups one last time. Emphasis should be placed on the upper and lower back muscles, as well as the quads and calves. Be careful to stretch slowly and gradually - in the cold it’s easy to pull a muscle.
The cool down
After a successful day on the slopes, you’ll be looking forward to day two, so it’s important to perform stretches after your session to guard against latent stiffness and soreness. The W stretch - which involves sitting on a chair pulling your arms backwards to stretch the core - will help to reduce back pain and tension. Standing calf stretches, quad stretches and floor hamstring stretches should leave your legs feeling fresh for the next morning. Nobody wants to spend their holiday stuck in bed because of injury or fatigue!