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Ski Whiz

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How many of us know someone who launched headlong into their first ski run of the season, only to arrive at the bottom of the mountain strapped to a stretcher, out of action for the rest of the winter? By spending littl.

How many of us know someone who launched headlong into their first ski run of the season, only to arrive at the bottom of the mountain strapped to a stretcher, out of action for the rest of the winter?

By spending little to no time training for winter sports, many people set themselves up for injury. Whether your passion is skiing, snowboarding, skating, sledding, snowshoeing or trekking, you should be physically up to speed before you speed off into the crisp white yonder.

If you are not otherwise training all year round, a fitness program involving flexibility, cardiovascular work, and strength-building at least three days a week for a couple of months before the season will ensure you're outside all winter instead of inside recovering from an injury. A well-rounded exercise program should cover the following:

Endurance

A core endurance workout includes 30 to 50 minutes of aerobic (cardiovascular) activity up to five times a week. Swimming, running, and cycling are all great ways to get your heart pumping.

Speed

Prepare your body for the speed bursts common in winter sports by incorporating intervals of speed into your steady-paced cardiovascular workout. Add a bunch of 90-second speed bursts (give it your all!), separated by two-minute recoveries. Make sure you warm-up beforehand and cool-down after the workout to prevent muscle strain.

Flexibility

By improving flexibility, you decrease your chances of injury. Muscles that are able to move more freely are less likely to be pulled or damaged during quick movements, falls or demanding body positions. Stretching should be done at the end of every workout, but also independently on a daily basis for optimal results.

Strength

Leg presses, bench presses, standing stationary lunges, lat pull-downs, overhead shoulder presses, basic squats, triceps pushdowns, abdominal crunches, biceps curls and back extensions are all great strength-building exercises. Try doing these twice a week, repeating each exercise at least 10 times. Once your strength improves, build up to two to three sets.

Have a qualified trainer build a well-rounded program for you. Trainers with imagination and experience will be able to take basic elements and exercises and add sport-specific changes using equipment such as stability balls, medicine balls, pulleys, elastic tubing and just plain old body weight. Like any sport, a gym workout is good for overall strength-building, but adding in sport-specific drills and exercises will take your body to the next level and "wow" you on the slopes, rinks or trails.

Tips For an Injury-free Winter

1. Check your equipment

Whatever your sport, be sure your equipment and clothing is fitted properly to your body. Be especially careful when buying footwear, as a perfect fit is vital to keeping you injury-free. Make sure you purchase what you need according to your experience level.

2. Take some lessons

Many winter sports entail a high risk of injury, especially for beginners. Throw down your pride before you throw yourself down a mountain and take a couple of lessons to minimize your chances of injury.

3. Warm-up

Don't just start off with a bang by attempting the biggest slope or a speed-skating race. Give your body time to warm-up with an easy slope or a few slow laps around the rink.

4. Avoid frostbite

In extremely cold weather, the feet are the part of the body most vulnerable to frostbite. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, prolonged exposure to wetness and extreme cold as well as tight-fitting footwear. Carry a spare pair of socks just in case.

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