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Sports & Pilates Series…Skiing & Snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding
Image from snowskool.com

Few holidays require any work ahead of time (except for packing!), but a skiing or snowboarding holiday is definitely one of them.  With November nearing its end, now is the time to start your pre-skiing and snowboarding training, with Pilates as an excellent complement.  The exercises focusing on the core, hip stability and all-body flexibility mean that when the body is put under strain at high altitude in sports such as snowboarding, Nordic or downhill skiing, which challenge breathing, muscle strength, fitness stamina and balance, good preparation really helps.

Skiing and snowboarding are highly demanding sports and we see a lot of injuries to knees and backs that could be avoided or lessened with better training pre-season which focuses on:

·       Core strength and stabilisation, including the transverse abdominals and pelvic floor
·       Pelvic stability and hip and lower leg alignment
·       Flexibility and movement of key muscles that tend to get tight, improperly used, or overused because of weaknesses.

Starting your pre-season training now will mean you build incremental strength and your legs will cope with long days on the slopes, meaning they’ll fatigue less and won’t feel as sore the next day.

Any Pilates exercise where knees are aligned over the feet will strengthen the whole of the lower body in correct alignment.  Here are some pointers and examples both using equipment in a class and at home.

In class, all the exercises where feet are in contact with the bar on the Reformer, Cadillac and Wunda Chair will stimulate and teach correct muscle recruitment of the small and large leg and hip muscles, particularly working the Vastas Medialis quadriceps, which is the main muscle that supports the knees.

Next, plies, pelvic-press calf raises (which can be done as non-weight bearing exercises initially to guide correct alignment through the leg), keep the hip, knee and ankle in one line as you move.

Balance is also very important on the slopes, for making sure weight is correctly distributed.  Lots of exercises in the studio on the Wunda Chair and Reformer can significantly increase your balance over time, plus BarreConcept classes are also excellent for helping to strengthen knees and improve balance.

* If you’re going snowboarding or skiing this 16/17 winter season and you’d like help with your pre-trip training, tell us at your next class and we’ll try to tailor it for you! *

Outside of classes, you can effectively train your body at home – and also in your hotel or chalet in-resort before you head out in the evening.  An excellent one for activating the quads and glutes are wall sits.  Sit up against a wall with feet in parallel under the hips and your back in neutral, and hold this sit for 10 long breaths.  Repeat five times and as you progress, hold the sit for longer each time.

Squats are a powerful move, which ideally you should do in front of a mirror to check that knees aren’t heading in front of the toes and that the knees aren’t knocking in together.  Hold and use your glutes to come back up.  Raising your arms (keeping the core engaged and the shoulders out of your ears) as you lower into the squat will challenge you further.  Repeat 10 times.

An often overlooked area that needs to be strong for the slopes is the inner thighs, and a side-lying exercise can help.  Lying long and straight on your side, on the floor with a cushion under your head, bend your top leg so your knee rests on the floor in front of you.  Do 10 lifts of the straight leg underneath (not lifting too high), 10 pulses, and five circles in each direction, working each time from top of inner thigh not knee.  This will also strengthen your hip joint and increase flexibility there.

Finally, one exercise will strengthen the lower back and improve core strength, and this is the knee float.  Lying on your back, in neutral, bend your legs with your feet on the floor.  Keeping one foot on the floor, raise one leg into an L shape, with your calf parallel to the floor, then raise the other whilst keeping your back in neutral.  Lower one leg, then the other, to the floor.  Repeat 20 times in total.

We hope this post helps you focus on what you can do for a more enjoyable trip on the slopes!