Pre-habilitation can prevent the need for rehabilitation

A winter holiday is tough work. A full week of skiing can leave you feeling exhausted and with an aching, tired body. Training your muscles before you even leave home is the best way will not only enhance your skiing experience but it could also prevent a nasty injury putting you out of action for weeks or even months after your skiing holiday.

The content team chatted to Helen Feeney, a qualified Physiotherapist and Pilates instructor at APPI Wimbledon to find out more about how best you can prepare your body for your skiing this season.

Why should we train before our winter holidays?

If you asked your average individual to run a half marathon tomorrow, would they do it? For most, the request would be met with resistance due to their perceived lack of preparation or insufficient cardiovascular fitness, strength and endurance to execute the 13 miles, and critically for fear of serious injury. To me, this thought process is a perfectly reasonable and sensible one.

Of course, it does not make sense to do something so physically demanding without adequate physical preparation in the preceding months. I am intrigued and bemused by so many annual ski holiday makers who do little exercise in their day to day life only to throw themselves down a mountain for seven straight days! The reasons we should train for our ski holidays are no different to the reasons we should train to run a half marathon: to reduce the risk of injury.

The shift in force on the body from sitting at a desk for weeks on end to hurtling down pistes is immense. The weaker your recreational downhiller is, the less control they have and the more injury prone they become. The physical act of downhill skiing can be broken down to its basic components. Each of these components can be worked on to build the flexibility, strength and endurance required of each muscle and joint to perform their respective task as efficiently and effectively as possible. By training these muscles you reduce your risk of injury drastically.

Ross Woodhall

What proportion of ski injury clients have trained before their trip where they were injured?

In any sport or recreation, there is always the risk of injury. What the experts know is that if the main muscles required for that specific sport or recreation are well trained and conditioned, the risk of injury is reduced. It goes without saying that individuals who have trained appropriately will perform better in their chosen activity, in this instance ski better.

Most experts agree that six weeks of gradual increase in training ski specific drills and exercises is sufficient. The most common ski related injuries we see in clinic relate to the lower extremities, ACL rupture being the most common. Recovery from this can take a minimum of three months of daily rehabilitation for return to gentle cardio exercise such as cycling. When we compare this to six weeks of gradual increase to training, it highlights the significance of pre-habilitation.

Is leading a generally active lifestyle enough to prepare your body for a ski holiday?

Often it can be, generally the fitter we are the more chance we have of staying injury free. Most ski injuries occur when we are fatigued. My professional advice would be to do some form of ski specific training in advance. This doesn’t mean you need to be carving the slopes at Hemel Hempstead the six Sundays in the lead-up to your trip, nor does it mean you have to sign up for six weeks of gruelling gym sessions. A few simple and specific exercises can be a great start. Most of these don’t require fancy equipment or access to a gym. Your body weight and a few simple and specific exercises is all you need to start… a mental image of you on top of a black run may help too!

Melody Sky

Are there any specific everyday activities/exercises that can prepare you for skiing?

Lots! Generally, we should work on a conditioning programme to improve our core and strength. There are a few select exercises I would prioritise for the skiing population, some more technical than others.

Three basic exercises are outlined below:
-    Squats
-    The heel raises
-    The calf stretches

Core exercises are also paramount, a Physiotherapist or Pilates instructor can guide you through these.

Most of us have done a squat in some shape or form in our lives. When you look at how a squat is executed, it does not look too dissimilar to someone skiing down a slope- bum out, back straight. This will strengthen your bum and the main muscles groups of the legs. You can easily perform these every day, even at work - pop to the toilets and do 8 squats three times. Or even more convenient, stand from your chair and sit down until your bum hovers over your seat before standing again. When performed correctly, a squat will also recruit your core muscles, essential for efficient movement.

Practicing 3 sets of 6 to 12 heel raises will help your ski preparations no end. Keep yourself limber by holding calf stretches for 30 seconds, repeat the stretch three times daily if you can.

Isn’t Physiotherapy just for injured people?

Not at all. Of course, many people come to us following injury, however we have a huge number of prophylactic clients who come to us for Physiotherapy and Pilates input because they want to prevent injury, or they feel a bit more “creaky” now than they did five years ago.

The literature has proven a direct relationship between to injury risk and insufficient core strength. Being female also has a direct relationship with injury risk! All of our Physiotherapists are Pilates instructors are trained in assessing for weakness in the core as part of your Physio or Pialtes assessment and treat these with exercise therapy. Pilates is a great means of self-managing in the long run.

For advice from the likes of Chemmy Alcott and Graham Bell, head to the Info & Advice section of our website.

APPI Wimbledon is launching their “Ski School” in November 2017. This is a circuit based session, run by a Physiotherapist which will use the Pilates reformer and equipment and mat based, ski specific exercises. This will take place on a Wednesday evening from 7-8pm and will run on a weekly basis until March 2018. APPI are offering complimentary “Ski MOT’s” prior to these sessions to ensure that you are safe to exercise and to introduce you to the equipment.