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North Hills Monthly

Get Fit for Winter Sports

Oct 31, 2014 12:51PM ● By Jill Cueni Cohen
Who doesn’t love winter sports? Downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hockey, and ice skating…even jogging takes on a different vibe when you’re cruising along at 10-below and the snow starts to fall.

Now is the time to prepare your body for the rigors of cold-weather sports, said certified sports instructor Coach Dave Gray of CDG Sports in Wexford. “Many winter sports and recreational activities involve utilizing other muscle groups and movements not typically used in warm and hot weather sports and activities,” he explained, citing frigid temperatures as another top reason to condition your body for winter sports. “The body takes longer to prepare and recover from cold weather sports and training. The body tends to be less flexible and a bit more rigid during the winter, because we are naturally less active and mobile during those months.”

Gray points out that the equipment worn for many winter sports restricts motion and fluid movement. “For instance, if your legs are connected to skis or snowboards, or you’re wearing hockey skates and cumbersome hockey equipment, this kind of equipment will put added stress on your body,” he explained, noting that the additional weight of equipment takes more strength to produce movement and to maintain balance and momentum. “It’s not just leg strength; participants have to really focus on their core or mid-body strength.”

Preparing the body will also prevent the likelihood of injuries, but Gray’s first piece of advice is to make sure that sports enthusiasts have the proper equipment in size and fit. He also recommends starting conditioning workouts with caution. “Start out slow and work your way up to a moderate pace before hitting the optimal speed that your sport requires,” he said, explaining that is imperative to begin by first stretching and warming up with light exercises. “The body must be flexible and pliable enough to endure the rigors of winter activities.”

He added that conditioning is about gradual progression and knowing how far to push your body before you reach your limit. Severe muscle soreness after a strenuous workout can deter you from continuing a conditioning program, but a little pain will remind you that your muscles are benefitting.

Cold weather activity requires wearing layers for warmth. Equally as important as your hat and gloves is investing in proper winter socks. “These items will help keep the heat from escaping your body,” said Gray, explaining that heat is lost primarily through the hands, feet and head. He adds that it’s as important to stay hydrated in the winter as it is in the summer.

Six weeks prior to hitting the slopes or the rink or the road, use exercises that include strengthening the muscles in the core, legs and upper body. “This can be accomplished at home, utilizing low-risk body weight impact exercises,” Gray said, adding that a thorough stretching and flexibility routine should be included in any workout regimen.

“The most common injuries that I see during the winter are pulled and strained muscles,” said Gray, noting that these injuries are a result of a lack of flexibility and usually occur because a person hasn’t stretched enough. “The more flexible the body is, the better its ability to withstand impact and strain on muscles. Another reason why it’s so important to stretch is because flexibility heightens the body’s capability for a quicker recovery, should an injury happen.”

Gray also sees a lot of joint injuries and colorful bruises. “That’s the nature of winter sports,” he acknowledged. “You’ll likely fall on your elbows, knees and tailbone.”