Winter sports can take their toll on the body. Stretching is a critical measure in preventing injury, whether you’re swooshing down the slopes of Baldy or skate skiing up the Boulder Mountain Trail.
Connie Aronson, a ACSM- and ACE Gold-certified personal trainer at Koth Sports Physical Therapy in Ketchum, suggests simple ways to protect key areas that are often overused and vulnerable to injury when skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. These target areas include quadriceps, inner thighs, hamstrings, lower back, shoulders, and chest. Aronson recommends purchasing two inexpensive props to do these stretches at home: a yoga block and an exercise ball.
If you have a pre-existing injury, consult your doctor or physical therapist before beginning a new stretching routine. Discontinue any stretch that causes pain. Stretching should take you to the point of discomfort, only. And remember, don’t stretch cold muscles.
The beauty of these stretches is that they can easily be done at home, even in your long underwear. Try them when you return home from your outdoor adventure, before you hop into the shower. Remember to breathe through the stretches, all of which are designed to be held for 10-30 seconds, with three to four repetitions.
Doorknob Pull (two people)
Prop: Doorknob or some other type of waist-high, safe, solid hold.
Holding onto a doorknob, slowly walk yourself back until your arms and back are fully extended. With feet shoulder-width apart and directly under your hips, ask a partner to gently pull your hips away from the doorknob, stretching your lower back, hamstrings, chest, and shoulders.
Adductor (Groin) Stretch
Prop: Yoga block.
With the block firmly situated on the floor, sit on the front edge of the block with your back straight. Bring the soles of your feet together and gently let your knees fall to either side, stretching the hips and inner thighs. Move your hands to your inner thighs and gently turn your thighs outward. This excellent groin stretch (groin injuries are common in skiing, especially among men) can easily be done while watching television, meditating, or talking on the phone.
Hint: If you find that you are unable to keep your back straight during this stretch, try doing it with your back supported against a wall.
Front Scissor Stretch
Prop: Low, stable platform such as a chair, coffee table, or counter. The height of the platform should depend on your flexibility.
Stand facing the platform. Lift one leg to rest your heel on a platform (start with the lowest to test initial flexibility). Using both thighs, keep hips level and square to the platform, with your standing foot firmly planted on the floor. With arms stretched overhead, palms facing inward, slowly begin to move your torso toward your raised leg while the crown of your head continues to reach to the ceiling. Your eyes should be looking forward to your raised foot, not down at the floor. Keeping your back extended, repeat with your opposite foot raised to the platform. When done properly, this will stretch everything!
Kneeling Quad Stretch
Props: Exercise ball and a towel for padding under your knee.
Roll the ball up against the wall. Facing away from the ball, kneel on your right knee as in a sprinter’s start position, placing a towel beneath your knee for cushioning. Place your right knee close to the ball, and your right ankle and foot over the top of the ball. Move your left leg out into a lunge position, placing your left foot about 18” ahead of your right knee (left knee directly over left foot). Slowly, lift torso upward, drawing your navel inward and tucking in your tail bone. Hands should be next to front foot, or on your waist, depending on your flexibility. Repeat process with opposite leg.
Eleanor Jewett lives in Hailey with her husband, Eric Rogers. When not writing for the magazine, she stays busy running a landscape company with her husband and working on a Master’s degree in Education.