Vail Living with Vitality column: The importance of preseason ski and snowboard conditioning
This time of year, ski conditioning programs pop up all over the valley, often prompting a whole slew of questions. Here, Vail Vitality Center director Jeff Morgan answers a few of the most common questions he receives.
Q: Do I need to add ski conditioning to my workout schedule if I’m already exercising regularly?
A: Avid skiers and riders know preseason sport-specific conditioning is vital for injury prevention, endurance, flexibility, proper breathing and quick reflexes. Beginners and guests often don’t fully understand — or they forget — the demands put on the body throughout the course of even an easy day on the mountain. Everyone likes to feel good heading into a new season, so ski conditioning can benefit every body, from beginners to avid enthusiasts.
Q: When I see people in ski-conditioning classes, they look like they’re in pain. Why would I subject myself to torture?
A: Everyone’s body reacts differently, and pain is only one reaction to the movements initiated in class. Pain comes from under-use of a certain neurological pattern, and the soreness is new muscles waking up to preform. When we don’t force, or “tell,” our muscles to work differently from our normal day-to-day activity, we run the risk of injury. A little discomfort in training goes a long way toward making the whole season more enjoyable and pain-free.
Q: How big of a difference will preseason conditioning really make in my skiing or riding and in my experience on the mountain?
A: The biggest cause of injury during skiing and riding is strain to muscles being pushed further than they should be. This is when preseason conditioning plays the biggest role. Emphasis on cardiovascular workouts, leg strengthening, balance and mobility exercises produce muscle memory. We create muscle memory with personally tailored and paced exercises that make all levels of skiers and riders feel as though they’ve been on the mountain all day, so when you are on the mountain the first day of the season, you feel strong.
Q: I biked all summer. Why is that not adequate training for ski and snowboard season?
A: Since riding is not weight bearing and skiing is to an extent because of momentum, you need to add other training to your routine to prepare for the mountain. Ski conditioning-specific programs help strengthen the muscles used for skiing and riding, which are different from the ones used when riding a bike. Training with weights forces the use of the legs and ankles at continually changing angles, which improves strength and balance.
Q: Are these classes just for uber athletes?
A: Not at all. An exercise class with a purpose can be beneficial for all types and levels of athletes, whether you have experience or not. An appropriately designed class includes warm-up, cool-down and flexibility exercises, in addition to the conditioning section. In a structured class, you can count on the instructor to address each component of the workout, as well as the intensity.
Q: What if I’m too sore after a couple of classes to keep going?
A: Don’t stop! This affects long-term achievement. At the Vail Vitality Center, you can use the remaining balance for private lessons. After a few sessions, you may find you’re able to rejoin the class in progress.
Those with past knee injuries and/or hip replacements are encouraged to participate in some sort of training to prevent further injury and balance the system. If you’ve had a recent injury, then focus instead on recovery and physical therapy.
Ski and snowboard conditioning and injury prevention programming at the Vail Vitality Center is designed to pinpoint weak patterns of movement and strengthen those specific areas. This is a six-week program with classes three times per week starting this month. For more information, call 970-476-7960.
Vail Vitality Center Director Jeff Morgan has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness, wellness and training industries. He has a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and kinesiology from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.