Thursday, August 18, 2016

Are You Ready For Winter Sports?

As we ease out of summer into the fall, it’s time to get prepared for your favorite winter sports.  Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, ice hockey and snowboarding are all intense sports that demand a high level of aerobic (think steady state) and anaerobic (think interval) fitness, muscular endurance, and strength.  In addition they require fast-twitch speed, agility, balance and coordination. 

It doesn’t matter what skill level you are, to avoid injuries and prepare for the demands of the terrain, every winter athlete should prepare with 6 – 8 weeks of sport specific training.  A personal trainer can show you specific exercises for your winter activities.  Below is a summary of what you need.

Cardiovascular fitness is necessary as it will increase your stamina and enable you to enjoy a full day of activity.  A combination of both steady state cardio and high intensity cardio is best.  This trains your system to adapt to changing conditions in the terrain with enough “gas in the tank” to last all day.   

Steady-state cardio is simple.  Perform your activity (jogging, swimming, cycling) at a steady, challenging, but manageable pace (60%-70% of maximal capacity) for 20 minutes or more aiming for a heart rate of 120 – 150 beats per minute.  For High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) training turn “on” the intensity by increasing your speed or incline.  Aim for 75% – 90% of maximal capacity for a brief, set time period (less than 2 minutes), then back off for a predetermined rest interval (usually at least twice the “on” time period).  Repeat for up to 20 minutes total.

Most people have much stronger quads (thighs) than their hamstrings (back of thighs). Having this muscle imbalance may cause you to blow out your knee and end your season early.  Early season training should focus on hamstring strength to help prevent such injuries.  Hamstring strengthening exercises include:  hamstring curls either on a stability ball or machine at the gym, deadlifts, and plyometric box jumps.

Ankle and knee stability are important for lower body dominant winter sports.  Squats performed on an unstable surface such as a pad or BOSU will strengthen your ankles and knees and improve your balance.  Additionally, taking stability away from your upper body strength exercises such as bicep curls and shoulder presses will also strengthen the proprioceptive muscles (stabilizing muscles) in your legs.  Try a set of dumbbell curls standing on one-leg. 

Core strength is often overlooked in lower body dominant sporting activities, but a strong stable core is crucial for rotation and balance.  Anti-rotation exercises such as a one-arm dumbbell chest press will engage core muscles to prevent rotating/twisting the body.  Any exercises where you are resisting against a force to rotate your body will create a good winter sport foundation.

Finally maintaining and improving range of motion will lead to freer movement when doing any activity.   Dynamic stretching before and after a workout and your sporting activity will prepare your body.  Move through the stretch at a controlled speed and pain-free range of movement.  Maintain a steady breathing pattern with deep inhales and equal length exhales. 

Take advantage of the changing seasons by preparing for your winter sports.  Enjoy the last of the warm weather with some cardio outside, and also get in the gym to build up specific muscle groups to enhance performance and prevent injuries.