Winter is upon us, which usually means two things: Plenty of snow and low temperatures and skiing and snowboarding.
Whether you are a veteran on the ski run or are just getting started, preparation is crucial for having a good time, staying safe, and keeping injuries at bay.
To that end, let us talk about warming up before snow sports, why it is crucial, and practical tips to prepare your body.
Let’s jump in in.
Why you must warm up before an Activity
A good warm-up prepares your body for the physical work you are about to do. First, it elevates your core body temperature, which offers distinct benefits:
- Improved elastic properties of skeletal muscle
- Warming up connective tissues and joints
- Warming up the synovial fluid that lubricates your joints
- Optimizes the temperature of enzymes involved in energy production
Warming up before snow sports is even more critical than usual for three reasons:
Simply put, your body functions better at a slightly higher temperature. In addition to helping you feel nimbler and more energetic, a good warm-up reduces the risk of joint, muscle, or connective tissue injuries. For example, since muscles become more elastic when warmed up, you are at a lower risk of pulling or tearing the tissue during intense activities.
Second, warming up is a great way to boost your mental well-being and get in the mindset of what you are about to do. Your brain needs time to switch between activities and focus on a specific task. Warming up bridges the gap between activities and helps you feel more present and focused on what you will do.
Third, a proper warm-up is necessary for optimizing your technique and performance. Just as your brain needs time to switch between activities, your body cannot go from one task to another instantly. A good warm-up prepares you for preferred sports activities and helps muscle memory kick in.
As a result, you can more easily transition to the specific activity, feel more in control, and stay safe.
Warming Up before Snow Sports is even more Important
You are exposed to cold temperatures, making raising your core body temperature more challenging. As a result, your bones, joints, connective tissues, and muscles might be less protected and more prone to an acute injury.
Snow sports heavily rely on proper technique, and a good warm-up prepares your body more quickly. Warming up before snow sports is even more important because the activities are much more intense.
You might need just a few minutes to warm up for a jog in the park, but we cannot say the same for an intense skiing session.
The more intense and technically demanding an activity is, the longer you should take to prepare your body. In addition to making the entire experience more pleasant, you would be less likely to get injured or change how you perform an activity due to a limitation.
How to Warm Up before Snow Sports
The good news is that warming up before snow sports doesn’t have to be anything special or that different from your pre-gym routine.
As with a gym warm-up, you should split your preparation into two stages:
- General warm-up
- Specific warm-up
1. General Warm-Up
A general warm-up consists of non-specific activities you perform to raise your core body temperature, which provides the benefits we discussed above.
Taking a few minutes to raise your core body temperature is particularly important before snow sports because the cold environment affects body mechanics and injury risk.
Fortunately, your general warm-up can come in many forms. Even simple things like walking, jogging in place, and doing high knees can be enough. Maintain a moderate intensity for a few minutes to get your heart rate up and warm up your entire body.
Other activities you can leverage include:
- Jumping jacks
- Side-to-side lunges
- Lateral walks
Also, in addition to moving your lower body to warm up, you can include some arm circles and similar activities to prepare further your upper body joints: shoulders, elbows, wrists, etc.
2. Specific Warm-Up
Once you have done a few minutes of some low-intensity activities, you can transition to slightly more challenging movements to finish preparing your body. Here, the objective is to do more specific activities that further prepare your neuromuscular system for snow sports.
In traditional gym training, a specific warm-up usually consists of warm-up sets. For example, if you plan on doing the bench press as your first exercise, you would not start with a heavy set right away. Instead, you would do a few warm-up sets, starting with an empty barbell and gradually working up to your working weight. Such a gradual increase in resistance prepares your body and results in better performance.
Doing a specific warm-up before snow sports can be trickier because you can not control the resistance and intensity as easily. Still, there are good ways to prepare your body, and it all comes down to breaking down the specific activity and determining what movements you will do.
For example, skiing and snowboarding involve:
- Bending and extending your knees
- Rotating your torso
- Using your arms for balance
- Flexing and extending your hips to various degrees
Of course, numerous other minor movements occur during these activities, which is why a general warm-up is crucial.
Now that we have an essential list of movements involved in these sports, we can assemble a list of a few warm-up exercises. Great options include:
- Lunges and bodyweight squats to warm up the knees and quadriceps
- Side-to-side torso rotations to engage the midsection and loosen up the back
- Arm rotations (circles) to warm up the shoulders and reduce the risk of injuries
- Lateral walks to activate the hip and glutes for optimal stability and proper technique
You can perform each movement pattern without needing extra equipment or lying in the snow. For example, you can set your skis or snowboard to the side and do some lunges to warm up the lower body musculature.
Once you have done that and feel ready to proceed, begin with some gentle activities before gradually increasing the speed and intensity. For instance, if you are about to go skiing, start with a more gentle slope and ride at a lower speed, moving your body to warm up further and ensure that you are ready.
Some practitioners recommend dedicating the entire first day to less intense activities to prepare your body, get a good feel for your chosen activity, and ease yourself into the process.
Final Thoughts on Warming Up for Wintersports
As with most things in life, preparation is vital. Snow sports are fun and exciting, but they also pose a risk, especially for people who need to take the time to prepare themselves beforehand.
Fortunately, getting ready for snow sports (and all sorts of other activities) can be simple and simple. As little as 10 to 15 minutes of warming up can boost your technique, improve your mobility, make the experience more fulfilling, and reduce the injury risk.
To be even safer, you can dedicate your entire first day to less intense activities to reinforce proper form and engage the correct muscles.