Sunday, 6 November 2016

Ski fit series: Analysing the demands

'How should I get fit to ski?' is a difficult question to answer.  Everyone of you will have individual needs depending on your current levels of strength, endurance and fitness. Factors such as previous injuries, current lifestyle and hobbies, muscle imbalances, level and type of skiing that you will be doing will also need to be taken into account when planning your ski fit program.

                              There is no 'one size fits all'.

However, one thing for certain is that ski fitness is a big deciding factor between having an enjoyable ski trip or a painful one.  Being fit to ski can make a difference as to whether you can progress your skills on the slopes or whether you have a high injury risk.  Poor fitness leads to increased fatigue which is cited as probably the biggest reason for injuries occurring on the slopes.

You wouldn't attempt to run a marathon without training and whilst you may take regular breaks on the slopes, often you will be spending 4 - 6 hours a day on your skis and asking huge demands from your body.  A large proportion of the injuries we see have occurred in people who have rushed into skiing and boarding without being fully prepared.  An audit we carried out a few years ago suggested that less than 10 % of people seeking treatment for injuries had worked on their leg strength prior to their skiing holidays.

One of our roles as physiotherapist is education and injury prevention. We regularly lecture to trainee ski instructors to help them train effectively and to help them become better informed teachers. However, when we ask for a show of hands as to who has prepared physically, again less than 10% have done any ski fit training.

It doesn't matter if you are a regular runner, gym goer or cross trainer.  It doesn't matter if you are a professional couch potato for 51 weeks of the year then aim to ski the one other week or whether you are a sedentary office worker or a professional athlete.  Ski preparation, that starts 6 - 8 weeks before you hit the slopes is the best way to enhance your enjoyment, improve your performance and decrease injury risk on the slopes.  Of course, you can usually get fixed when you are broken but how about avoiding getting to that point in the first place!

Fit to Ski?
                  Injury prevention - perform better for longer  

Overuse injuries are generally caused by overloading, in other words asking to much from unprepared muscles.  So many of these injuries could be avoided. Getting 'fit to ski' involves functional training. This means tailoring your training program to the demands of your sport.

Lets look at some of the main components you need for skiing.  These include (but are not limited to):
  • Strength and endurance
  • Balance and proprioception
  • Flexibility and mobility
  • Plyometric strength and agility
Of course, the type of skiing you do will also dictate your training needs.  For example, if you are a recreational skier, you will need to steadily train all of the above.  However, if you are a bumps skier then you will need to increase your focus on lower back, hip and knee flexibility along with a large emphasis on plyometric strength.  If you ski off piste or go ski touring, you will need good endurance, balance and cardiovascular endurance.  So you see, giving out a generic ski fit program is not so simple as there are too many factors to take into account.  However, we will be giving you ideas for training over the next few weeks that you can incorporate into an overall training regime.   

As you introduce the concepts of ski fitness, make sure that the different components are introduced gradually.  Sudden increases in training intensity, load and frequency can lead to injury themselves, therefore we recommend seeking the advice of a professional.  A great way to ensure you are introducing a variety of exercises in a safe manner is to consult a personal trainer or join a ski fit class. There are ways of preventing injuries such as a structured warm up, management of training load, pacing and correct use of equipment.  However, over the coming weeks in our ski fit series we will be introducing ideas for exercises. 

When you are about to get started ask yourself a few questions:
  • How much exercise do I currently do / what are my current fitness levels?
  • How much skiing will I be doing - am I preparing for a weeks holiday or a whole season?
  • What is my current level of skiing? 
  • What type of skiing will I be doing? 
  • What hobbies and activites do I currently do which may influence my skiing eg if you spend a lot of time sitting you are likely to have tight and weak hip flexors (the muscles in the front of your hip and thigh which flex your hip and work a lot when you ski).  If so, your training plan may need to address this, 
Follow our ski fit series over the next few weeks to learn how to introduce various components of ski fitness into your training program.  If you are already training in Tignes, book in for a biomechanical assessment with us to help identify your training needs.

The purpose of this blog, is to provide general information and educational material relating to physiotherapy and injury management. Bonne Santé physiotherapy has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this blog, you agree that information is provided 'as is, as available', without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk. We recommend that you seek advise from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.

       Bonne Santé         0033 (0) 4 79 06 07 27

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