Jonathan Bell's top tips
Although skiing and snowboarding may be considered sports for the adrenaline junkie, injuries only occur 2 to 3 per 1000 skier days. Whilst injury cannot be altogether prevented, we can certainly do quite a lot to reduce our risks. These simple tips from Jonathan Bell, knee specialist at Wimbledon Clinics, may help you avoid injuring yourself this coming winter.
The annual ski trip may be considered a family holiday but it requires a high level of fitness and strength to participate safely. Your body will respond to the challenges of skiing and snowboarding far better if you are in good shape. If you have a good baseline fitness, you are much less likely to fatigue. I think that fatigue is a common cause of injury in the once a year skier, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of ski injuries occur after 3 p.m. You should probably do 6 to 12 weeks of preparation depending on your baseline level of strength and fitness.
If you have a niggling injury, now is the time to get it dealt with, rather than two weeks before you are about to travel. If you have received treatment for an injury or even had surgery, you need to be realistic about how well recovered you are. Although you may be able to potter down a blue run three months after a knee replacement, you certainly are not fully recovered. ACL reconstruction will take approximately nine months to recover and many do not feel completely recovered until after a year.
It has been noted that injury risk increases 800% if equipment is borrowed. It's vital that you hire your equipment, or purchase your own, have it set up correctly and it should be in a well-serviced condition. Equally make sure that your equipment matches your level of ability. So have a good hard look at those 15-year-old ski boots and perhaps consider whether it is time for renewal.
Skiing and snowboarding are fun sports, but if you are fearful or scared, your risk of injury will significantly increase. Be aware that alcohol decreases your performance considerably and even a small amount may put you at risk of injury after the lunchtime glass or few. You will be at your most fatigued on day three of the ski trip. So pace yourself, do not overdo it. When you get on a ski lift, be very aware who you are on a ski lift with. It is easy to be knocked over by the person sitting next to you and every year I see significant knee injuries from people being injured in the first five yards after they get off the lift and, in fact, I would consider it to be most dangerous place on the mountain. Finally, don't forget that in the mountains it is easy to dehydrate and it should almost go without saying that adequate clothing is essential to prevent hypothermic injuries.
Graham Bell's fitness tips
It is easy to forget just how physical a whole days skiing can be. Even with a lengthy lunch stop an average day on the slopes will deliver between 4 and 6 hours of sustained physical activity. Of course the ski lifts give you a chance to recover, but the higher the altitude the longer that will take. And you do need to recover, because skiing hard works you at an intensity that can only be sustained for a couple of minutes before the legs start to burn with the build up of lactic acid.
If you really want to ski longer, harder and safer next winter, you will need to create a ski fitness programme that includes:
To improve your cardiovascular fitness, you will need to try and do aerobic sessions of 20 minutes to 1 hour at least three times a week. Aerobic activity includes any exercise which raises your heart rate, such as cycling or running.
During these sessions, you should be working at around 50-60% of your max heart rate. A quick way of estimating your max heart rate without doing a test is 220 minus your age. If you cannot take your heart rate then another good rule of thumb is that you should be able to just about hold a conversation with whoever you are training with.
Try and find a way of training that you enjoy and you will be more likely to stick with it.
Cycling is the favoured method of aerobic training for World Cup skiers and is a great way to replicate the fitness needed for skiing or snowboarding.
Cross-trainers provide a way of breaking up a big endurance session with a variety of exercises. If you can get access to one, then the Skier’s Edge provides the best ski specific fitness workout, as it is the only machine that works in a lateral plain.
Ice Skating, rollerblading or rollerskiing are great ways to train endurance for skiing as they require similar levels of balance/coordination and lateral movement.
Running is great for weight loss, and can deliver a very high-end aerobic workout. The downside is that it is high impact and can be hard on skiers' knees.
Swimming is not a great way to train for skiing as it concentrates too much on the upper body, although is a good way to vary a programme.
Only once you have reached a good level of fitness for your skiing (it will take about 6 weeks to feel the effects) you can also consider anaerobic exercises where you work in short blasts, such as circuit training - a great way to get even fitter before you hit the slopes.