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Ski season is here and you’re ready to hit the slopes…or are you? Having high-performance gear can’t compensate for the most important part of great skiing—a high-performance body. Your basic fitness level, strength, endurance and flexibility all play a vital role in keeping you safe and injury-free. Whether you’re an occasional ski enthusiast or “shred” with the best, a conditioning plan increases your safety, comfort and your fun.

For the best overall protection from injuries on the slopes, consider a personalized exercise regimen. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three to five days per week, adding a resistance-training program two to three days per week (depending on your current fitness level). All sessions must also include at least 10 to 15 minutes of cool-down and stretching. Sound complicated? Think about enlisting a fitness professional to help establish a routine that works for you. One or two sessions with a trainer may be all you need to stay on track.

For the really dedicated ski buff, sport-specific conditioning may be the next step to optimal fitness.
Both skiing and snowboarding require advanced agility when the body must jump, twist, balance and change directions quickly. A little training to improve how the body rebalances itself during changing activity (a concept called proprioception) goes a long way toward preventing injury. Other very specialized training methods work to condition muscles to generate their peak power, allowing the more rapid movement needed for high-intensity sports. If this level of training speaks to your inner-skier, our sports medicine therapists are educated in the latest techniques and have the proper equipment for the most advanced levels of training.

Regardless of the exercise regimen you choose, make varying the activity your number one goal. Even a strong knee can be injured when another part of the body fails to react to stress appropriately. Hips, lower back, and your abdomen are just some of the areas where strength and flexibility can greatly enhance your performance. Like many sports, skiing makes demands on your whole body, making a whole-body conditioning plan a wise investment.

To help you get the most out of your ski season, the Virginia Mason Sports Medicine specialists created the following list of tips to help you be prepared. If you have questions or would like a consultation with one of our specialists, please call Virginia Mason Sports Medicine at (206) 223-6487.
  1. Service your snow sporting equipment. For example, weight loss or gain can alter the fit of boots, or how bindings perform.
  2. Wear a helmet. No matter how experienced you are, it’s unlikely the first-time snowboarder is watching out for you.
  3. Take a lesson. Learning a new skill can give you an edge when you try more challenging runs.
  4. Invest in a hydration pack. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, your joints and muscles need water to remain pliable and responsive.
  5. Pack along high-energy snacks you can grab and eat easily.
  6. Take breaks when you need them. Pushing past signs of fatigue only increases your risk of injury.
  7. Before you take on the big slopes, take a practice run or two on an easier hill. A warm-up run will help you gauge the day’s conditions and your current skill level.
  8. Try to ski or snowboard with individuals of similar skill and ability.
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