Some Exercises to do Before Hitting the Slopes
Unless you are a person given to using your legs vigorously through daily exercise or by virtue of your occupation, before going away on that ski trip you should consider these recommendations. The exercises are best begun at least three weeks before the trip.
Also, before undertaking these exercises, please do us the courtesy of reading our disclaimer...
Trunk Rotation Stretch
Bend left knee, cross over and lock ankle under right leg. Left knee should be in contact with floor. Right hand holds left knee down and left arm extends across to the left on a diagonal. Hold for 45 seconds. Repeat in opposite direction. One in each direction.
This is not only a pre-conditioning stretch but stretch that could be done in the morning before skiing. If you have known or possible disk pathology do not perform this exercise.
Modification of Trunk Rotation Stretch
Sit on the floor or table with left leg straight, right leg bent with foot crossed over left leg. Lock left elbow across outside of right knee. Rotate to the right. Hold for 45 seconds and repeat for other side
Rectus Femoris/Quadriceps Stretch
Place right knee on chair or table, step forward of right knee with left foot. Grab right ankle with left hand and lean forward. Hold for 45 seconds and repeat for other leg. This stretch should be felt in the thigh and not in the knee.
Place hands against wall and right foot forward. Left calf (to be stretched) placed back with the knee bent. Keep left heel in contact with floor and lean hips forward. Stretch should be felt in left calf. Hold for 45 seconds and repeat for other leg.
This is an isometric strengthening exercise for the quadriceps. Bend knees to 90 degrees placing back flat against wall. Lower leg should be perpendicular to floor. Hold 30 seconds, repeat three times following 30 seconds rest between sets. Progress by increasing five seconds per session. To decrease difficulty, decrease knee angle to 45 degrees but keep back flat against wall and lower leg perpendicular to the floor. Discomfort should be felt in quadriceps and not in the knee cap.
Dynamic Double Leg Jump-Overs
Initially, jump over a ruler not a higher obstacle until you have progressed through lower obstacles. Standing with feet together to left of obstacle, jump sideways to right of obstacle and return in opposite manner. Continue for 30 seconds. Progress by 5 seconds each session.
Emphasize smooth landing by taking shock with the thigh muscles and knees bent. Take off and landing should be nearly simultaneous for both feet.
Hamstring Strengthening Exercise
This is best done with a partner but can be performed with heels firmly locked under an immovable object. Place soft cushion under knees, heels locked. Lean forward to count of 5 and return, repeat 10 times.
This can be a strenuous exercise so lean only slightly forward the first time you perform it. The hamstrings are an important muscle to help stabilize the knee.
Trunk Rotation Strengthening
Begin with right leg bent, left leg straight and approximately 12 inches above floor at the foot. Hands loosely touching ears, reach for right knee with left elbow and be sure to exhale at the same time. The loose hands should prevent you from pulling the head and neck forward. Repeat in opposite manner without contacting floor with upper back.
In essence, this is a continuous cycling motion. Try for 20 repetitions and increase as tolerated. Be sure to breath rhythmically, exhaling with each cross-over.
A Note About Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
If you have not exercised a group of muscles vigorously and do so (say on a skiing trip), it is not uncommon to experience pain in those muscles some 24 to 48 hours after that bout of exercise. The muscles will actually be tender to the touch and you will experience real loss of strength. This condition is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
DOMS occurs to a much greater extent in muscles that are exercised "eccentrically". In this type of contraction, the muscles are contracting to keep a joint from moving in a direction opposite to prevailing forces. An example of this is the work of the quadriceps (front thigh muscles) when you land with slightly flexed knees from a jump. Even though the muscles are firing, the muscles still lengthen.
It is virtually impossible to prevent DOMS in muscles that have not been trained to experience eccentric contraction. Therefore, if you have skied before, and know the muscles in which you experience DOMS, try to get through the pain and strength loss by inducing the condition about 1 to 2 weeks before you go skiing.
Some of the above exercises will induce DOMS in those muscles. At present, there is no other way of avoiding this occurrence while on vacation, or following introduction of a new form of physical activity.
DOMS is not caused by lactate accumulation. There is actual microscopic damage to the muscle fibers with inflammation. Muscles so affected will be weaker while they are sore and this may increase your risk of injury. Do not ski as hard as you normally would if you are experiencing DOMS.
Over the counter pain medication is purely palliative and will not prevent the condition from occurring. It is extremely important that when you experience DOMS you should consume plenty of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages, a good rule of thumb any time you are visiting altitudes greater than 5000 feet!