The physical therapist for the U.S Nordic Combined Team shares three simple moves to get you in shape for the season.
Getting in shape for the snowy season is about more than fitting into last year’s snowpants. It means getting strong and flexible enough to prevent injury while you get the most out of your body, said Dave Cieslowski, a Bend-based physical therapist who works with the U.S. Nordic Combined team. “Getting prepared and training for winter sports and activities can be a daunting task,” said Cieslowski. A few easy exercises that you can do at the gym or at home can have you stronger and better prepared to get after it this winter. Cieslowski recommended doing these exercises two to three times a week to hit three muscle groups that will keep you injury free, and help you perform better.
The Core of It
Core stability is very important for winter sports. One of my favorite core workouts is the assisted sit-up. This can be done at home, or in the gym. All you need is a soft floor surface and a ten to fifteen pound hand weight or medicine ball.
How to: Begin by laying on your back with your knees up and your feet flat on the ground. This position puts your hip flexors on slack, so you will actually have to use your abs. Hold the weight in both hands. Start the movement by pulling in your stomach (be mindful to not hold your breath) and reach forward, over your knees, while pulling in and performing a traditional sit up. As you lower back down to the ground, pull your stomach in the whole time, trying to control your descent to the floor. Start with three sets of ten, working up to three sets of twenty for a great abdominal burn.
Pro Tip: Concentrate more on controlling your descent back to the floor. Eccentric muscle activation builds strength faster.
Add More Glute
Hip strength and stability are also very important for winter sports. In particular, the glute maximus and glute medius are key in staying strong and preventing knee injury.
How to: Dead lifts are performed with either a straight bar or a trap cage. Make sure to start the exercise with a weight that is lower than you think you can lift to make sure your form is good. Start with your feet at least shoulder width apart, if not a little more. Squat down so that your hips are very low to the ground. Your arms are straight, and your back is flat. As you pull the weight off the ground, make sure that the power is coming from your hips, not your back. As you come to a standing position holding the bar, instead of arching your back to finish the movement, bring your hips underneath you and squeeze your glutes together. These muscles can also be reached at home by doing wall squats.
Pro Tip: Don’t have a bar or trap cage? Do squats against the wall with a ball behind your back. Use hand weights for resistance.
Do The Splits
The split squat is very similar to a lunge. One foot is placed behind you on a weight bench or a chair, and the other foot is out in front of you. You can use hand weights or body weight with this exercise.
How to: Begin by dropping into the lunge position. There should be a ninety-degree angle at the knee and a ninety-degree angle at your hip at the bottom of the movement. Be sure that your forward knee does not move forward over your foot. From this position, push through the midfoot of the forward leg, coming to a standing position as the pelvis moves underneath you. Finish by squeezing your glutes together. Three sets of ten on both legs should be plenty. At home, use a steady ottoman or a chair along with some hand weights.
Pro Tip: Do not attempt to exercise wearing Birkenstocks. Dave is a trained professional. Proper footwear is essential when lifting.