You've spent the last 4 - 8 weeks prepping for your ski holiday. You're in the best condition of your life. You're nailing those powder turns. As you come to a halt at the bottom of the last piste, you're mind is on one thing ... quenching your thirst at the local tavern.
Here are four reasons why you should stop, cool down and stretch first before heading for that beer.
Cooling down will help clear out toxins:
Your muscles are a little like the engine in your car. Fuel in the form of oxygen goes in, this is used to create energy in the muscles and the power you need to keep an even kilter on your skis. As oxygen is burnt, your muscles create waste products. These waste products are pushed into the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system doesn't have a pump like your blood stream. Therefore, to flush out the toxins from the muscles, consider walking around for 3-5 minutes post skiing.
Stretching will maintain your flexibility:
When you are skiing, it's like you've performed 100s of squats throughout the day. If you were to do that in a gym, you'd know to go and stretch afterwards. Skiing should be considered a strengthening exercises. All strengthening exercises tighten the muscles up. To ensure that you have mobility day after day, it's important to lengthen the muscles post activity with stretches held from 30 seconds - 1 minute.
Stretching can improve performance:
If you want to improve your performance on the slope, you need to look after your body. You may find that a certain move isn't available to you. This is not necessarily because there is no strength in the muscle. It may be due to a mobility issue, which restricts your movement in a certain plane of motion. By stretching (dynamically) before skiing and performing static stretches afterwards, you are going to increase the performance of your body.
Stretching can reduce the risk of injury:
Say you've skied for a week and you're starting to feel a little sore. At first you started feeling a niggling pain in your ankle or knee. In the second week the niggle turns into an ache. By the third week you're struggling to put pressure through that leg when you're turning and by the fourth week what was once a niggle is now an inflamed tendon and you can't ski for more than an hour without continuous pain.
At this point, your options are to rest (not going to happen if it's a powder day), or to try and strap the affected joint. This may work for a short period of time, but you will have to rehabilitate the injury later on. An inflamed tendon can take more than 8 weeks to recover. It can also turn into a tear or complete rupture of the soft tissue, worst case.
The simplest way of ensuring that you reduce the risk of injury is to stretch after skiing. This means holding static stretches for 30 seconds to 1 minute. By lengthening the muscles before they repair, they will shrink (the strengthening process) less and provide you with the mobility required to continue skiing.
Stretching will allow muscle tissue to glide:
By adding tensile pressure to a muscle, this helps remove adhesions from the tissue. If there are no adhesions, the muscle will glide smoothly, making movement flow as you ski down the slopes.
Check out my skiing stretches below.