26
Oct
2015
0

Skiing & Riding

Staying Strong and Balanced for Ski Season

With ski season less than a month away, there’s no better time to focus on getting into ski shape.

To help make sure we’re all ready for another fun and healthy season on the slopes, I asked long-time Sun Valley ski instructor, John Straka, for some get in shape advice.

The first thing John pointed out was that most skiers and boarders now-a-days don’t just try to get in shape for the season, but they try to stay in shape year-round, something he recommends for everyone.

“Trying to stay in shape throughout the year will improve your life both on and off the slopes,” said John, who’s an avid bicyclist during the off-season and has averaged over 130 days on his skis each winter now for nearly four decades.

Of course, most of us stay in shape through regular doses of cardio and big muscle exercises like lifting. But as John reminded, that’s only part of the goal.

“The big muscles are often there, but the stabilizers and small movement muscles aren’t,” John said about being prepared for the unique skills needed to ski or snowboard.

That’s why John and most ski instructors recommend a balanced workout regiment that includes exercises for big and small muscles alike. Mixing yoga and Pilates-type exercises along with some weight lifting and regular cardio can be ideal. But as John reminded, you don’t have to go to the gym to stay in great skiing shape.
           
“You want to move like you did when you were a kid back in gym class,” he said, adding that he’ll often doing things like jump logs when hiking or practice doing crab walks. “You want to focus on your balance, mobility and flexibility so you can move like you did when you were young.”

John first moved to Sun Valley “on a whim,” as he said, in 1976 despite having never skied before. Friends introduced the then 18-year-old to the sport, so he was essentially self-taught. He didn’t take his first lesson for another eight seasons, a move he wishes he’d made years earlier. “It would have saved me a lot of time and effort trying to figure things out on my own,” he said.

John also said taking lessons earlier in his skiing career would have prevented him from creating some bad habits and techniques. Poor or imbalanced form is actually what leads to most injuries, said John, who has become a nationally certified ski instructor as well as one of the leads instructors for Sun Valley.

“A lot of people suffer injuries because they have an imbalance they didn’t know about,” he said. “Many injuries are caused by years on not moving properly.”

It’s because so many of us harbor physical imbalances we don’t know we have that the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) was first created in 1995. The FMS has become a tool to help athletes of all kinds prevent injuries. Popular with everyone from pro football teams to weekend warriors on the slopes, the simple exercises of the screening can help anyone determine even the smallest physical imbalances. And once a problem is detected, FMS offers a variety of exercises to help correct them.

“Being able to identify imbalances and weaknesses in movement patterns is huge when it comes to preventing injuries,” John said. “If you keep doing things incorrectly, sooner or later you are going to hurt yourself.”

John recommends anyone who skis or snowboards checks out the website (linked to above).

“The whole thing is about getting people to become more aware of their bodies and how the move, because it will not only help them prevent injuries but it will improve their enjoyment of skiing and life,” said John, who explained that his personal philosophy for staying in ski shape is pretty simple: “Get out there. Move well and move often.”


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