Too often, the first few days of ski season can result in some unwelcome aches and pains. The stretches described below can be used either before or after skiing, regardless of whether you are kicking and gliding on Nordic skis or enjoying the thrill of slaying fresh powder on alpine skis. Be sure to move slowly, especially with “cold” muscles. Coordinating your breathing with these ski stretches is important and fully maximizes their effect. All can help you become a better skier and each is designed to target specific areas of the body.
Stretching Your Upper Back
Stand in a relaxed position with feet shoulder width apart. Bring your arms up with a 90 degree bend at the elbow so that both palms are facing each other. Clasp your hands if possible. Relax your shoulders and push your elbows forward. Take a few long slow breaths, concentrating on filling up your lungs. This should maximize the stretch. Breathe 5-8 times. Untwist your arms and then repeat, crossing your arms in the opposite fashion, left over right. Bring your right hand around the left so that both palms are touching. Be sure to keep your lower body relaxed, as well as your shoulders. Move slowly.
Stretching Your Quads, Hamstrings & Hip Flexors
Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. Beginning with your right foot, move it forward through your arms so that your heel is just past your fingers, creating a 90 degree angle in the right knee. Slowly sink forward with your hips, bringing your head up at the same time. Hold this position, breathing evenly. Think about relaxing all of your muscles. Often we hold tension without even being aware of it.
From here shift your hips backward, straightening out your front leg as much as you can. This will create a 90 degree angle in the left knee. Again, breathe and relax until you feel the stretch move from your hamstring to the back of your glutes. Hold this position while breathing evenly until you feel that you are fully relaxed. Slowly move back to the forward position. Move back and forth until you have gone through three cycles. Return to the original position of knees under hips, hands under shoulders and repeat on the other side.
Stretching Your Glutes, Lower Back & Lats
Start in a cross legged position with your right foot in front of your left. Make sure that your spine is straight. Open up your chest and think about pointing it towards the sky while relaxing your shoulders. Take a deep breath and rotate your torso to the right. As you breathe out, drop your upper body towards your knee. Only drop as low as you can while keeping your left sitting bone on the ground. Remember, form is key.
Now take your left arm and reach forward with it, inching your left fingers along the floor. This second motion should create a stretch along the left side of your torso. Hold this position for 30 or more seconds. Breathe and try to relax every muscle in your body. When it is time to come back to an upright position, lift your torso straight up while taking a deep breath in (no twisting.) Return your torso to center while exhaling. Before you repeat on the left side make sure to change the position of your legs so that your left leg is in front of the right leg.
Patrick Coffey, White Pine Nordic Center Director