Winter's fast approaching and while some of us are getting ready to hunker down, many of us are counting down the days until we can hit the slopes! Our collection of nearby snow-covered mountains call outdoor enthusiasts to venture out in the cold for epic ski days, but it’s not all bluebird skies and powder out there. Without proper preparation, our northeastern conditions can be rough on the body, and even recovery can feel like a chore.
What’s the best way to prepare for heading down a trail that might be a little icy, bumpy, or crowded?
Developing strength, balance, and flexibility can increase stamina, improve body control on icy turns, and help you absorb the impact of moguls on the mountain. This makes Pilates the perfect preseason conditioning workout to help you head down the hill with confidence, ski fuller days, and recover faster from falls all winter long.
Strengthening the Right Muscles:
When you're skiing, most bending occurs at the knees, ankles, and hips. Therefore, strengthening hamstrings is critical for taking pressure off the joints, balancing quads to prevent burn out, and providing backup support for the ACL. A regular Pilates routine can help promote proper muscle recruitment, provide full body conditioning, and help you achieve more awareness, balance, and coordination—key to dominating bumps, turns, and deep powder.
Core is also a key component in everything we do, especially keeping the body properly aligned and forward-facing, allowing your legs to do the heavy lifting while propelling down one of our beautiful local mountains. As with most Pilates practices, the primary focus in our Flow and Athletic classes is always on that core, creating an important foundation for the rest of your body to move cohesively and safely.
When the hips, lower extremities, pelvis, and lumbar spine move in succession, your body benefits from practicing correct alignment. Otherwise, stress on the spine from muscle imbalances and compensations can result in strain and injury. With Pilates, the stability you gain from a stronger center will help support your entire body, while stretching and lengthening exercises will help release and ease the strain in your lower back and shoulders.
Improving Stability, Flexibility, and Coordination:
Reformer exercises significantly improve static and dynamic balance and functional mobility, key for both seasoned skiers/riders and beginners. All our instructors at The Body Lab emphasize trunk stability to maximize extremity mobility and efficiency; we teach this through exercises that promote proper abdominal recruitment and balance. Pilates is always the perfect complement to more rigorous and muscle-bound workouts with its ability to tone and realign the body, strengthen the core, elevate energy and awareness, and lengthen muscles.
Flexibility is also a primary component of Pilates that enhances rotation and a good range of motion at the spine, hip, and ankles - all essential for your favorite winter sports. A secure and flexible spine will help you avoid the stresses and fatigue that often come from any dynamic activity – whether training in the gym or skiing up in Stowe.
Recovering from Injury:
Winter sports-related breaks and ruptures hospitalize thousands every year, so it's vital to prepare your body in the weeks leading up to ski season to help avoid injuries and falls.
Some people choose to engage in typical plyometric and powerlifting exercises to increase speed on the slopes. While these exercises can be beneficial year-round, they do not effectively address necessary muscle coordination and strengthening needed to prevent injury. Pilates helps skiers focus on a dynamic and full range of motion, ultimately improving mobility, flexibility, technique, strength, alignment, and posture. The practice also relies heavily on exercises that emphasize the adductors that help skiers and riders recover after catching an edge. Strengthening this area helps you keep your skis or board under your center of gravity, minimizing stress on passive structures such as your MCL.
If that's not enough, Pilates also stretches ligaments and tendons and increases blood flow, allowing your body to better deliver nutrients to recovery areas. Want to zero in on specific muscle patterns to regain timing and strength to an injured area? In our private or duet sessions, we can specifically design workouts so you can rebuild strength and return to proper muscle balance. After you've done that, you can gradually return to higher-level activities, like running and skiing, and apply your new power and balance.