This week, Michael welcomes back Josh Blencowe from MD Health to explore a biomechanical perspective on skiing, as well as nutrition and hydration tips to help you maximise your enjoyment from your trip.
Skiing and snowboarding work the major muscle groups of the lower body – but it’s easy to overlook the fine control muscles around the joints that are also tested. You need to work on a combination of both these areas to get your body ready.
Like most activities discussed on the Confident Body podcast, it pays to plan ahead to ensure your body is best prepared to handle the different stresses your ski trip will place on it. Giving your health practitioner as much notice as possible will help you to build up strength so you’re ready to give the trip your best.
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CLICK HERE to read the full transcript from episode 28 of The Confident Body Show
Topics discussed in this episode:
- The most important areas people need to work on to get ready for skiing or snowboarding
- How to get the balance and control that is so vital to skiing and snowboarding
- Intrinsic v extrinsic muscles
- How far in advance people should prepare for the best trip possible
- Skiing and snowboarding requires a lot of control of both the major muscle groups of the lower body and the small intrinsic control muscles around the joints. Working on a combination of both these areas is essential to get your body ready.
- For example, the muscle on the side of the hip (gluteus medius) keeps the hips and pelvis steady from a side to side control perspective. It’s also important for turning and changing direction. Working on this area makes a big difference for hip control during skiing (snowboarding)
- It’s easy to forget to work on the small muscles around the feet (tibialis posterior and anterior). These muscles are on stretch and under constant load during skiing (snowboarding). Improving their strength, control and balance makes the activity easier and gives you more control in the boot
- Give yourself a good 3 months of preparation time before planning a trip – especially an extended trip. This gives your body enough time to build up strength and endurance for snow sports.
- When you are up on the slopes, plan for adequate rest, food for fuel and water for hydration. You will need it for good recovery and longevity on the slopes.
- Finally, get lessons, so that you know what you are doing and can enjoy the sport safely.
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Click on the Dash icon below to see the entire show transcript
Episode 28: Full Transcript
Hi everyone, welcome to the show that helps you become more confident in your body so you can keep doing the things that you love. My name is Michael Dermansky, I’m the Senior Physiotherapist at MD Health and I’ve got one of our osteopaths here Josh. Josh, welcome to the show, back to the show this time again.
Yes, third time’s the charm, Michael. Good to be back, thank you.
Well today we’re talking about a topic, I mean we’re in roughly the middle of the ski season here now too. It started a little while ago here in Victoria and they’ve still got a good month and a half or so to go but we’re going to be talking about getting your body ready for the ski season. Josh just wrote an article on this so we’re talking to him live about it too.
So I guess we’ll start with the first area. What are the most important… areas people need to work on to get ready for skiing or snowboarding.
So yeah, first of all, Michael, I’ve been to the snow once. So I’m gonna be speaking a lot today about just, I guess, the biomechanical perspective on skiing and how we can improve that to get, yeah, just better enjoyment out of skiing in general.
The important areas that we need to work on all kind of come under the category of obviously stability, balance, strength, and postural control as well. So a lot through the core, through the lower back, through the pelvis. and the hip, knee and ankle really. So a lot from the kind of the waist below. With skiing, you will get a lot more, I guess, upper body involvement with controlling those ski sticks. But I guess snowboarding would be, I guess, a little bit more through the core foundational section through the middle there.
And yeah, so basically if we have… Yeah, that balance and control that usually comes from being very stable within our movements. And then if we are quite mobile and quite flexible through those joints as well, then we will naturally have greater range of motion to be able to do those movements for skiing and snowboarding as they are quite demanding on the body. There’s no doubt about that. When I went once, it was simply because I wasn’t used to it.
But yeah, so important areas, as I said before through that pelvis and core. So a lot of different muscles are involved in that area. So activating them, there’s a lot of intrinsic muscles that are quite small that need to be activated and to create that more enhancement through that area. A big one is obviously is knee and ankle. As we’re quarter to half squat kind of seated position if you will. So that those knees and ankles are going to be quite loaded, need good knee control, both, yeah, front back and side to side as well. So yeah, there is lots of different areas.
And yeah, there’s obviously lots of different muscles that attach onto those areas, especially around the hip and pelvis. So I just think increasing the activation through those areas. will give an individual just a better skiing and snowboarding experience and reducing I guess the likelihood of injury as well.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I remember the, you know, when I started first start teaching, uh, um, Pilates and strength conditioning work. Um, I was doing it myself and I’d been an avid skier too. And then when I went back to, when I went to skiing, once I was actually doing the work myself and, um, teaching, I noticed a difference. It made a big difference, especially when the hips and pelvis.
And so that, that ability to stay in that slightly squatted position, and be able to control the side to side hip movements as well. And not being these big gross moves, being these subtle movements to get the best out of the skis made a world difference. It made a difference to two respects. Firstly, it was about I had the strength to be able to do it. So I can actually do it for longer. And the and so I wasn’t a sore the next day. I could get up and ski again without wondering why my legs feel like, you know, complete concrete, but I can’t lift them up.
The second thing I noticed is it was just easier. I could make easier turns. It was easier to go around the corner, I do the corners, do all the carving skills. So just everything, the turns was just so much easier. Like it wasn’t as heavy labored movement with the whole body. It was this nice, smooth, controlled turns. Interestingly, you said, you know, knees and ankles are very important because you are, you’re bending forward a little bit the whole time.
And then when you… get better at skiing, it’s all actually the feet that do a lot of the work. So there’s small movements around the feet, very much underestimated and so important so that you do so much less work around hips and pelvis. So they’re more subtle but, you know, big difference in the quality of the skiing afterwards too. And just, you get to enjoy it a lot more.
I mean, I guess that’s the thing about a lot of sports that you do it occasionally. So you might do it for an occasion, but, you know, being prepared for it, um, means that you actually enjoy that, that time a lot more rather than get through it. We’ve talked about it with other clients about, um, you know, going hiking and, uh, or going for overseas trips that when they’ve done the pre-work beforehand, um, and they’ve gone on that trip, um, for that physical activity. They’ve just enjoyed it more. They’re able to get more out of it rather than wondering how they’re getting it through it.
Absolutely. Yeah, couldn’t agree more.
Are there any areas you found that when you’re preparing someone for skiing or other winter sports as well, they tend to forget to work on and you wish they would have done this before they went to the activity?
Well, I think, yeah, just in general, it doesn’t even have to be even winter either.
Just, I guess when clients are in here and we are doing those exercises, they’ll feel like, oh, I haven’t used that muscle in so long. Like all these small intrinsic muscles that… All about creating that stability and control of the ones that they’re gonna feel versus I guess your bigger Areas that are that are I guess activated a little bit more often? So yeah, there is a lot of areas that are forgotten I guess that you know. There’s more than then the ankle joint and foot control than people think There is a lot of muscles in the lower leg down that bow that control the ankle a lot of ligaments as well.
So yeah, I think a lot of people don’t realize that how many muscles and joints there are actually in the body. So yeah, working really deep on those intrinsic muscles is going to be a great enhancing factor for their performance. I think what’s also forgotten about it in, I guess, in preparation for for this is just that skiing and snowboarding is genuinely hard.
It’s, it’s a very, you know, it demands a higher level of coordination and skill. And that, as you said before, Michael, about that, about that small micro movement control, you know, that doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people as well. So yeah, so it does require a large recruitment of multiple different muscles and joints. And yeah, it’s just genuinely hard. So and I found, found that at the hallway the actual last snow than I did up on the board.
So I guess something that’s also forgotten about in the preparation is something maybe as simple as like skiing or snowboarding lessons. Like a lot of people will probably just jump straight in the deep end and think they can do it and they probably need a lesson or two if they want to do it for a season or something like that because someone with that poor control and I guess poor form, it’s gonna be less enjoyable going to demand greater energy and output from the individual, which creates faster fatigue and all that sort of stuff as well.
So I think yeah, that’d be the probably the most forgotten thing about it that it that it is a very challenging movement. And it’s yeah, I think lessons would be a great thing to do on top of the preparing all the body, all the rhythms that we’ve talked about so far today. Yeah.
It’s interesting you say that too, because I think again, we’re not just talking about skiing or any other sport as well. Is it going to be good at something or you got to enjoy it as well? You know, it’s easy just to go and give it a try, but you know, if you want to really be better at something as well, it might feel like a longer way, but it’s actually the faster way is to get lessons from some of the noble they’re doing.
There’s a lot of ski instructors up there and they know what they’re doing and their role is to make it enjoyable, give you technique and also make it safe to… to go skiing or snowboarding. And so the subtle things that you’ll be taught is the difference between enjoying yourself and learning a good technique and enjoying it rather than just plodding your way through and getting through and hopefully not getting injured and actually having a good time.
Very easily forgotten about that.
Yeah, it was, uh, it was frustrating, um, cause I didn’t get any lessons. I just went out with my mates.
I’ll be dangerous. So when you say the intrinsic muscles for the, for the big external muscle movements, I know what you’re talking about, but for the listeners as well, what goes through your mind when you mean that.
What I mean that I mean, I guess muscles that might not normally be used within a day to day setting. So for example, if someone is quite just has a standard kind of job, you know, being quite sedentary or whatever, our like our glute medius muscles is a classic example. And also we don’t If we don’t use these intrinsic muscles, these smaller stabilizing muscles, then we won’t actually know how they feel when they’re activated because we’re not doing them within our normal daily routine.
So yeah, glute medius on the side of the hips at the top of the pelvis, great for that pelvic control side to side movement. And it has a great effect on the lower back in keeping that stable as well.
So just a little bit more on that one. So it’s a glute medius, as just as a muscle on the side of the hips. It’s role is to keep the hips steady. So when you stand on one leg, which we all do about 80% of the time, we stand actually on one leg when we walk, stopping the hip from dropping, the body from dropping down is that glute medius muscle. It’s extremely important, easily forgotten about muscle group.
And as you said, it keeps the hips pelvis and if it’s not doing its job properly, it has an effect on the lower back too. So it’s a really important. and underutilize the muscle group. And also important with hip rotation, which you require for turns when you’re skiing.
Yep, yeah exactly right.
What other areas that you know about that balance between intrinsic and extrinsic intrinsic control that you’re, you’re aware of too.
Definitely around the ankle muscles like tibialis, posterior and anterior, which are involved in a lot of… stabilization through the arch of the foot and also the ankle lifting up to, I guess, your toes up towards your chest basically in that dorsiflexion maneuver, which yeah, mine were very, very sore in that region after I did snowboarding because they are required and need recruitment a lot during snowboarding and skiing.
So they’re quite deep, especially we’re talking about the lower leg here, the back of the shin, and then at the front of the shin, the muscles through there. Very, very important for that, yeah, that ankle and foot stability and maintaining arch height and stuff like that. And yeah, just more of those smaller muscles through the pelvis as well. So glute medius and you’ve… as we talked about before, and there’s a lot smaller muscles that are very, very deep, which have a function.
As Michael said before about that rotation through the hip, both external and internal, super important for that carving movement within snowboarding and skiing as well. So yeah, so there is, there is a lot. And yeah, we probably don’t use them enough if we are not challenging them within our day to day movements. So yeah, Big talking point through there with them.
Well, as you said, there’s muscle in the foot called the tibialis anterior interpleutoria. So they control the arch of the foot. But interestingly, when you’re skiing, when you’re snowboarding, you are forward a little bit the whole time. So the boots on both those sports hold you forward on purpose because that means your weight’s in the right position for the sport.
But it also means that those muscle groups are on stretch the entire time. And then when muscles are on stretch, they’re in the length and positions. They don’t contract as well. They’re not designed to. And so they’re needing to be able to hold that contraction in a position that they’re not in the optimal position. And then a majority of the turning occurs from those muscles on the feet.
So these muscles have to be on length and position, asked to contract the entire time because you’re leaning forward. And then the turns, especially with snowboarding, comes from those small muscle around the feet. And so if you’re doing it properly, and so they have to activate. And so it’s not a big surprise.
You know, those muscles will be on fire when you first, when you go out and really, really sore because they’ve had to work more than they normally would. They’ve been in a lengthened position. They’ve asked to work the whole time. Um, and they’ve asked to be the control muscle groups around one of the major control muscles are turning. So three major jobs for a long period of time that they’re not used to doing. Um, that’s what that’s a good reason why they’re feeling sore.
Yeah, exactly right.
When should people start? I want to go skiing in August. When should they have started? Or if the trip is going to be to Japan or Europe at the end of the year, when should the start be before the season? If you want to have a good season.
Yeah, so I meant if you… what we were talking about before, getting the most enjoyment and reducing, you know, likelihood of injury and being super sore. The, the answer is as soon as possible and probably at least I would say three months prior to, to going as well. Cause, that is where we can gain the most muscular tone and strength improvements if we do work on it. So it needs that amount of time to be able to adapt to what we’re putting our bodies through with the exercises and working through the muscles. And you wanna be doing that at least twice a week, if not even more.
And building that endurance side of things as well, not just smashing out that four to six rep range, we wanna be maybe pushing that eight to 12 to, because as we know, if we’re skiing for long periods of time, and as you talked about before, Michael, muscles are on stretch and they need to be activated for long periods of time. So building up that endurance, um, he’s going to take that three months. He’s going to take probably even maybe even a little bit longer than that.
But I think starting straight away, especially if you’re planning something towards the end of the year. So about, uh, you know, four or five months away from that happening. So yeah, the time would be to start now or if not very soon for something like that. Um, for you to get the most benefit out of the you’re going to put in. It’s not just obviously going to happen overnight or in the space of even a month as well. You’re not really going to see a massive amount of change.
Yeah, you’re looking at that three, three months plus period to, to really get the most out of it. If you’re pushed for time, then I would say don’t expect to not be, don’t expect to be not sore, basically. You’re probably going to be quite sore because your body is not used to that amount of Yeah, as I said before, you want to prepare, you want to put that time in so you can just have as much fun as possible and do it for multiple days on end.
I think the timing as well, Josh. So if you are looking at August time to go skiing or snowboarding, you’d be really wanting to start training about early May or the beginning of May to give yourself enough time. But if you’re looking at traveling in January to Europe or Japan to go skiing or America, you wanna be starting the beginning of September to give yourself enough time that the body becomes strong enough to adapt to build up both muscle strength and endurance. to be able to be ready for those times of year.
Finally, you’re up in the slopes, how would you recommend pacing yourself to really enjoy your trip?
Um, yeah, well, pace yourself basically. Um, so yeah, you wanna have multiple. brakes to regenerate the body. So as we as we talked about before that those muscles are placed on a high demand for a long period of time. So even something like an hour long skiing or an hour long snowboarding, that’s quite a demand on the body. So I’d be having regular breaks.
Also, if you are a beginner, like myself, I’d want to take it quite slow. I was wrecked. So I would take it real slow. I’d maybe go up there for half a day, have regular breaks to get the most out of it. Cause if you do overdo it and those muscles aren’t prepared enough and they’re not, they cannot withstand the load, then injuries are more than likely going to happen or you’re going to be very sore for a long time.
And yeah, within those breaks, we want to be looking at, you know, simple things like water intake and quality foods for energy sources and everything like that. Because yeah, I mean, it’s like, um, it’s basically a workout. So it’s, it’s like doing an extended gym session or extended run or something like that. Um, it is, is placing a demand on the body. So we need to replenish those, those energy stores with food, um, and then keep ourselves hydrated through water, obviously, um, or any sort of electrolyte stuff like that. So yeah, um, yeah, definitely. pace yourself and take it slow would be my recommendation.
So I mean, I guess, I mean, we want to really cut it down and be very practical as well. Number one, plan the days you got to rest. So if you’re gonna be skiing for a couple of days, maybe take a third day off to give your body a chance to recover. Making sure you are planning rest. So it’s not just, you know, ski all day, party all night, ski again. Your body’s gonna, you need the recovery time. It’s more physically than you used to. So having good quality sleep after you exercise is a really big deal to give you a chance to recover.
And you know, don’t skip on eating as well. So making sure you’re having good quality protein, good quality fats, good quality carbohydrates after or during and after your skiing as well. So you replenish your body’s fuel, not going out there on an empty stomach, making sure you do have some carbohydrates when you first start with regular hydration as well to make sure you get the most out of the day. You’re planning for a long-term activity as well. Plan your food, plan your water, plan your sleep around that too.
And if your body is tired, if you’re finding your, oh look, you know what? I’m really tired, but I might do one more run. That one more run is usually when injuries occur. That last extra run, when your body’s tired and you’re just gonna be a bit slower on that turn and it doesn’t take much for the cruciate ligament to snap in the knee. When that extra, just one more run is usually when those injuries occur. So when your body says, you know what, I’ve had enough.
Stop, have a, take a break and enjoy the next day. Cause you wanna enjoy the whole trip, not just that one extra five minute run or 10 minute run or 15 minute run. If your body says, you know what, I’m just not performing at my best last run, didn’t feel right, your body’s telling you stop. Okay, enough of that day. Enjoy it, you had a good time. Try again the next day as well. And you’ll get a hell of a lot more out of your trip.
All right, anything else you want to finish with the audience today, Josh?
I just think, yeah, just like the key things that we’ve talked about today. So that three months planning, if you can, to build up that intrinsic muscular recruitment and strength is very, very important to take it slow, to not jump the gun and burn yourself out on that first day if you are going for multiple days. just preparation is key and to take regular breaks. And yeah, just ultimately, yeah, have fun, get some lessons and have some fun.
That sounds like really good advice Josh. Well thank you for your time once again. And I hope the audience got a lot more information about how to get really good ski trip as well. Three months in advance, when you’re up there, take regular breaks as well, work on your intrinsic muscles as well, and enjoy yourself and get some lessons and have a good time. Thanks very much for your time again Josh.
Thanks, Michael. Thanks, everyone.
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