Skip the Stretch Before Hitting the Slopes
MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY JOE KAGAN, PT, DPT, CSCS
Physical Therapist at Aspen Valley Hospital
As you anticipate getting back to the snow this winter, let’s take a closer look at how you’re preparing to be in the best shape for the season. While static stretching has played a big role in exercise routines, it may be time for a change.
Current research takes a cautious approach to this long-held regimen. Looking closer, we don’t find any noticeable benefit from static stretching. It doesn’t seem to impact injury prevention, flexibility or muscle recovery. In fact, it may be counterproductive—decreasing muscle strength, response time, and hindering athletic performance.
Movement is Medicine
As an alternative to static stretching, try dynamic and activity-specific warm-up exercises. These involve actively working through movements that mimic those of the sport, promoting enhanced muscle flexibility and readiness for action.
Skiers and snowboarders, for example, may want to add plyometrics and agility exercises to their routine. Whether you’re mimicking your next series of short turns or preparing to absorb terrain in the bumps, practice the movement before putting it to the test.
Intensity to Serenity
When you’re ready to go from beast mode to Zen mode, stretching is fine if it feels good. Post-workout stretching doesn’t hurt. However, it’s not critical for recovery.
To promote the best recovery, take adequate rest breaks when enjoying mountain sports and skip a day in between strenuous activity. This can help prevent injury and improve long-term performance.
Elevate Your Winter Workout With These Peak Pointers
Embrace Layers: Temperatures in the mountains can fluctuate dramatically. Layering is your best friend. Begin
with moisture-wicking base layers, add insulating layers, and finish with a windproof outer layer.
Sip Smart: Staying hydrated is even more crucial at high altitudes. The drier air and increased respiratory rate can lead to faster dehydration.
Recognize Symptoms: Altitude sickness is particularly common with people who aren’t acclimated to higher elevations. Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, headache and nausea. If you start to feel “off,” take a break. If the symptoms persist, head down the mountain to a lower elevation.
Bring Equipment: Be prepared if you’re heading to the backcountry. Complete avalanche training—and carry the necessary tools like a beacon, shovel and probe. In addition, bring other essentials such as a first aid kit, a ski repair kit, a fire starter and a tarp.
Wear Sunscreen: UV radiation at high altitudes is much stronger than the sun at sea level. For the best protection, choose a physical sunscreen with minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to shield your skin.
Start Slow: Injuries tend to be more common at the beginning of the season. Why? People overdo it because they haven’t hit the slopes in months. Ease into winter sports, limiting the time you spend doing strenuous activities.
“Like many people, I want to catch the first chair and ski past the last,” says Kagan. “But we all should follow the Rule of Too’s. Avoid doing too much, too soon, after too little, for too long.”