Spring ski conditioning: Stay in shape during spring skiing to avoid injury | VailDaily.com

Spring ski conditioning: Stay in shape during spring skiing to avoid injury

Editor's note: This is the second part in a two-part series about exercises to help maintain your strength and power through the spring ski and snowboard season. To read the first installment, visit http://www.summitdaily.com.

Being strong in last few months of ski season is just as important as having strength at the onset in November.

Unfortunately, people tend to become complacent in the spring and concentrate less on keeping their muscles firing in the correct sequence.

"At the end of the season, we often feel like we've 'skied into shape' and are less mindful of our body position and muscle tension," said Marika Page, fitness and facility coordinator at the Breckenridge Recreation Center. "Instead of just descending on autopilot, check in with yourself: Is your weight evenly distributed through your legs or do you have more weight on the outside of your skis? Is your weight evenly distributed on your feet? Are your glutes engaged?

"Engaging your major core muscles — everything between your knees and your armpits — takes pressure off the joints. Let the muscles do the work, that's what they're there for, not your bones."

If your core is engaged, it frees up muscle space in your legs to react to spring obstacles, such as icy or slushy patches or exposed rocks or dirt. It's also important to know if you are getting sore from muscle fatigue or if an injury is coming on, Page said.

"If you have a pain that's sharp, shooting or sudden, you should stop," she said. "If something is getting progressively worse as you descend a run, or worse throughout the day, you should stop."

Trauma to joints from a bump or crash often comes from the muscles around the joint being tight, tired or weak, which is why continuing ski-conditioning workouts off the slopes is so important, Page said.

"If muscles are pulling on a joint with different tension — say the muscles of your inner leg are not as strong as the muscles on your outer leg, so the tension at the knee is unequal — you'll feel discomfort in that joint, most likely toward the end of the day," she said. "Some light stretching, self massage or using a foam roller or tennis ball to work out the kinks could help."

The one "release" move that feels great for anyone who has worn boots all day, whether you're Nordic or Alpine skiing or snowboarding, is rolling a tennis ball underneath your foot.

Most muscle imbalances, whether at your shoulder, hip or knee, usually manifest on the bottom of your foot, Page said. Loosening that tissue and increasing blood flow by massaging the area often helps your whole body feel less tight and constricted.

When doing the exercises listed here, be sure to focus on which muscles are working and when to properly train your brain-body connections. The main goal is making sure your muscles are engaging in the right sequence, which makes the physical action a much more natural body response.

"If you do these exercises for a few days, you could get benefits about four days later if you are concentrating on doing them in the proper muscle sequence," Page said.