As much as we all look forward to winter, how many of us actually prepare our bodies for the approaching ski and snowboard season?

Like any other sport, winter activities utilize their own set of muscle groups specific to skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or whatever else you enjoy doing in the snow. You know that feeling – the one that creeps up on you about halfway through your first day back on skis, and is waiting for you when you roll out of bed the next morning. Those muscles specific to skiing and snowboarding lie dormant all summer long, and we wake up with sore muscles we forgot we had. Here’s some info to put you one step ahead and get your body ready for the season.

Step One: Strength

Many residents here in Central Oregon aren’t just one-season sportsmen – we’re lucky enough to have a plethora of activities available to us year-round. Whether you’re a runner, cycler, climber, or kayaker, regular physical activity can only improve your experience on the slopes. By staying strong and active year-round, your muscles won’t take as big of a hit when you strap in for the first time. There are a few muscle groups that are used more heavily when ski season hits: quads, hamstrings, and core. Exercises such as squats, lunges, wall sits, and deadlifts can help strengthen your legs and prepare them for the season. You’ll also want to work on your core with exercises like planks and sit-ups. Your core is your body’s powerhouse, protects your back, and is the muscle group that does most of the steering as you head down the mountain.

Step Two: Cardio

If your cardiovascular system isn’t prepared for the season, your skiing skills won’t matter much. Making sure your heart and lungs are ready for the extra activity that accompanies trudging through snow in heavy boots while carrying lots of equipment will only help you in the long run. Jogging, cycling, jumping rope, or even just going for a walk are great ways to get your heart rate up. When you hit your first powder day and find yourself able to last at the mountain from open to close, you’ll be grateful for your aerobic fitness.

Step Three: Stretch

Many common ski injuries can be avoided with regular stretching, both before and after you hit the slopes. Give your muscles a heads up of what they’re in for, and make sure your body is warm and ready. Dynamic stretches like leg swings and arm swings are great to start the day with. When you’re finished for the day and ready to head out, focus more on static stretches for your legs and back. Stretching beforehand will help avoid tightness and joint injury, while stretching afterward will help prevent stiff, sore muscles.

Step Four: Equipment

If you find yourself dusting cobwebs off as you grab your winter gear for the first time, make sure everything is in safe and proper condition. Take a look at your skis or boards, boots, and bindings. Make sure you have the appropriate gear to keep safe and warm – if muscles remain warm and loose throughout the day, your chances of injury are decreased. Make sure your helmet is still in good shape and be sure to replace it after a big fall or crash.

Step Five: Limits

Most injuries occur when our muscles and bodies get tired. Give yourself time to build up your strength and stamina before you try to stay on the mountain for 8 hours. Listen to your body and stop when you get too tired.

Whether you are just starting out or you’re a seasoned athlete, make the most of your season by starting off healthy, safe, and strong. Here at The Center, we want you to enjoy the snow without pain or injury. If injuries do happen, our NOWCare Walk-In Injury Clinic is there for you.