Should you use ice or heat?
Winter really came in full force this week, brr. I'm officially in love with my electric blanket. #snugglebuddiesfolyfe
In the part 1 of this post we covered exercises that will help tune you out for getting back on your board/planks. In part 2 we're going to take the time to look over some stretches so you can stay strapped in rather than give up and head to the lodge for a pint, or you can still head to the lodge for a pint, no judgment.
As shown in the diagram below, the lower leg is made up of some pretty massive muscles. The main players are the Gastrocnemius and underneath that, the Soleus, named because it looks like a fish...the sole more specifically...anyway...these two muscles are mostly responsible for dorsiflexion (pointing your toes up the way) and plantar flexion (pointing your toes down the way).
Whether you're in board boots or ski boots, your foot is going to be in dorsiflexion, which can lead to cramps in your lower leg. Have you ever been woken up by crazy painful cramps in your leg in the dead of the night? Chances are, you were sleeping on your back, and the sheets/blankets caused your feet to go into dorsiflexion for a prolonged period, and that triggered a muscles spasm which is cramps in your leg. By the by, to stop them point your toes to the ground in plantar flexion. I've seen this happen while people are getting massaged as well when they are laying face down on the table, again take your foot out of dorsiflexion and into plantar flexion to ease off the cramping and spasms. You're welcome.
I digress...when you're in your boots your foot is stuck in dorsiflexion, plus you're going off your heel and toe edge which is actively lengthening and shortening your gastroc and soleus (and a number of other lower leg muscles). After a few turns you may notice those muscles beginning to fatigue or even get quite sore. Then the cramps may set in.
You could either A) take your foot out of your boot every time this happens and do the above dorsi and plantar flexion motions to get the cramp to let off or B) do the strengthening exercises outlined in part 1 and also these stretches before and after your day on the mountain.
Standing Calf Stretch
You'll want to feel this stretch happening in the belly (middle) of the muscle, if you feel it pulling at the joints, back off. Hold this until you feel it release, then move on to the next foot. You can repeat this up to 4 times on each foot.
Achilles Tendon Stretch / Heel Stretch
Stand facing a wall with your hands at eye level. Put the leg you want to stretch about a step behind your other leg. Keeping your back heel on he floor,bend your front knee until you feel the stretch in your back leg in the achilles, hold until you feel the release, then switch legs. This can also be repeated up to 4 times.
Those are the two main stretches for lower leg pain and cramps that will keep those pesky aches away, but there are a few other stretches that will benefit you. These are head to toe stretches that should be done after you're finished for the day. A good rule of thumb is to stick to static stretches after the activity and do active (movements that mimic your sport) before the activity.
The below button is a link to a great site that will walk you through all the stretches you'll need for your daily riding regime.
Missed part one of the blog? Click the button below to give it a read.
Growing up in Canada I was pretty fortunate to only be a quick 10 minute car ride from one of he best mountains in the world, Red Mountain in Rosaland, Britsh Columbia. I was also pretty lucky that I was given a lift pass every year to I could play in the snow whenever I could.
Even though, I've been doing this since 1996, if you're anything like me, your muscles are still going to be in for a shock the first day out on the mountain this year. Pretty much every year, the day after my first day on the the mountain, almost every single muscle in my body goes on strike for the next few days, even worse is mid way through my first few turns my calfs are in absolute agony for the rest of the day. But I suffer through it because I love it.
This is all chalked up to me not doing any stretches before or after snowboarding or not doing anything to prepare for my first day out.
For all intents and purposes I'm going to refer to snowboarding for the rest of this post, but be rest assured this can be used for Skiing prep as well.
Whether you're preparing for a marathon, or starting to lift weights, you can't just jump in whole hog and assume to pull it off without any injury if you don't prepare for it first, the same applies to snowboarding.
After your first day up on the mountain you're going to wake up and have sore spots in muscles that you didn't even know you were using! Head to toe, you'll feel it. But if you prepare and do a bit of work before and after, it won't be so bad.
If you're already going to the gym try adding a few of these exercises to your warm up. Doing the below exercises 3 times a week will start to help you gain strength, endurance and flexibility to help increase you performance.
These are awesome to start increasing leg strength, which is paramount to snowboarding.
Start in a deep squat position, shoulder width apart and keep your arms at your side. From this position use that explosive power and jump up to straighten your legs (without locking them), land softly on the balls of your feet. Use your arms to help explode up by pushing down to your sides or reaching to the ceiling.
Weighted Oblique Twist
Doing these weighted oblique twists are a must to get your core ready for all the turing and twisting you're going to be doing up there.
In a seated position, grab your weight (doesn't have to be heavy, 6kg is great, if you can do heavier and want to, go for it, or if you don't want to use a weight, don't worry about it, no judgment here) lean back so you toes and feet are off the floor, and your abs are engaged. Get a good twist motion when you turn, try touching the weight to the side of your bottom on the floor. Keep your abs engaged the entire time.
This exercise not only strengthens your upper body, but is amazing for your core as well.
If you aren't ready to do these on your toes, you can drop down to your knees. Put your hands slightly further than shoulder width apart, keep your neck lined up with your body and look at the ground, don't look ahead. You want your nose to touch the ground, or as close to the ground as your body will allow (ladies, know what I mean...) Inhale as you lower yourself, keep your elbows pointing back behind you. exhale as you rise back up. Don't drop your back. Keep your core tight.
These will be the most important exercise that you can do. Depending on how you ride (regular or goofy) your calfs are going to be getting quite the workout!
Using a weight of your choice (you won't be lifting this over your head, just holding it, so you can go a bit heavier if you'd like) stand on your tip toes, and hold for a few seconds, then go back to the starting position. This works better if you are standing on the side of a box or step so more range is required.
These are a great exercise as they require your full body weight to get anywhere. And mimic some of the same movements that you do while snowboarding.
While standing, take a good step forward (not too short, but not too tall) then lower yourself to the ground making sure your back knee doesn't touch the ground. Repeat until finished your rep count.
Depending on what you like go for a run, jump on your bike, stationary bike, treadmill or cross trainer. You're in high altitudes so breathing becomes a bit more shallow and over exerting yourself is easier. Plus if you have comically short legs like me, walking in through the snow is hard :(
You'll want to work these into your exercise regime about 3 times a week. Do 1 minute reps (do as many functional proper movements you can for 1 minute) and repeat 5 times before moving onto your next exercise with a 1 minute rest in between each group of reps. If you're new to the gym start off slow, and do what you are able. Always chat with your health care provider before hand if you aren't sure the above exercises are for you.
In part 2 of the post I'll go over the stretches you'll be needing to do before and after you've had a days play in the powder.