Are You Staying Active This Winter?
As the days continue to get colder, you have two options to get through the winter months; bundle up in front of the TV and camp up until spring or make your health a priority and get outside and enjoy all that winter has to offer! Here’s how you can make winter a healthy time of year:
Strengthening For Winter Sports
With most winter sports, there is a need for strong leg muscles. A common injury seen in skiers, skaters and snowboarders is knee injuries. The secret to preventing injury is muscle balance. The quadriceps muscle (the front of your thigh) and the gluteal muscle (buttocks) are the main power muscles you use when skiing and skating for example. These muscles can easily be trained by doing squats, lunges and cycling in the off-season.
What’s important to remember is that your body likes balance. If you are training the muscles needed for skiing, then you also need to make a point to train the muscles that are not as actively used in that sport. For example, if your quads become stronger than your hamstrings, you are more likely to develop a knee injury such as an ACL tear. An easy way to balance the muscles is to incorporate step-ups into your workout routine. Place one foot on an elevated surface such as a chair, stepping platform or bench (the height will depend on your fitness level and balance). Step up onto the surface, bringing your opposite leg up off the floor. To make this exercise more challenging, you can bring the opposite leg up to 90 degrees and add in weights.
With skating, the motion we use is different from gliding on the ice. There is more use of the muscle on the inside and the outside of our thighs. This too can lead to muscle imbalance and impact the hips, knees and IT band. The outer thigh muscles tend to overdominate the inner thigh. To strengthen the inner thigh (or adductors), you can use a band that you tie around your ankle and a stationary object and draw your leg across the other while standing. Another option would be to use a ball such as a soccer ball and squeeze it between your thighs to help engage the adductor muscles. This too will help to stabilize your knees.
Core strengthening is equally as important in preventing injuries as you participate in winter activities. With the amount of sitting we do in our daily lives working at desks and commuting to and from work, our core tends to become weaker. The core muscles in your stomach and lower back are essential to helping you maintain your balance while you ski, skate or snowboard over uneven terrain and ice. Injuries to the lower back are more likely to occur if your core is poorly conditioned or if you are fatigued. Exercises such as Dead Bug, Superman’s, cross crawl and planks are just a few exercises that can help with core strengthening. Which exercises are most appropriate for you is dependent on your health and fitness level. Discuss with your chiropractor or physiotherapist before beginning any new exercise routines.
Flexibility For Winter Sports:
Maintaining flexibility through stretching is often underutilized as a method of improving athletic performance and preventing injuries. Key muscles to focus on with winter sports are your leg and core muscles. Focusing on stretching the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and lower back will go a long way in improving your recovery time. Incorporating chiropractic care and massage therapy as part of your health care regime will help to maintain flexibility in your joints. If you are not someone who is great at stretching on their own, go to a yoga class. Hatha, Yin or Yin/Yang classes are generally good for beginners but talk to the instructors at your local yoga studio as to what they typically would recommend for beginner classes.
When you engage in physical activity, endorphins and adrenaline are released into your body. This creates an overall feeling of well-being. Your mood will be elevated and you will feel more content! We hope that you are able to use these tips and enjoy being active this winter!
Talk to your MSK experts at CURAVITA for more information on health and exercises this winter. Book online or call us to make an appointment with one of our team of chiropractors, physiotherapists or massage therapists at our Byward clinic (613-860-8600) or our Glebe clinic (613-237-9000).