Off-Season Conditioning Tips from Dr. Alex
04/17/2015 12:54 ● Published by Grant Johnson
and realize results in six weeks.
Dr. Alex Meininger is a local Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Surgeon who cares for recreational and professional winter sports athletes – including the U.S. Ski Team. “Skiers and snowboarders like to think that bottomless squats and strong quads are the answer,” he says. “But lasting endurance, peak performance and avoiding injury for the whole season requires flexibility, power and muscle balance.”
Start with a stretching program to increase flexibility. Vulnerable muscle groups often include the hamstrings, low back and calves. “Most of us sit in a chair day in and day out,” Meininger says. “That tightens the hips and contracts the hamstrings.” Stretches can easily be incorporated using yoga poses such as child’s pose, cat stretches and open hips, in addition to foam rollers. “Ten minutes of stretching can be added pre- or post-workout pretty easily.”
Balance is another critical element: “Balancing on one ski or one edge doesn’t come naturally to most of us,” Meininger says. “That’s because either we haven’t conditioned the nerves and muscles to react in time, or athletes have underlying weaknesses.” Dr. Meininger often finds athletes have neglected the small muscles, like the gluteals. These are secondary muscle groups that help us maintain limb alignment and balance. He suggests: “Stand in front of the mirror on one leg and squat down. Can you balance long enough to squat? Does your knee buckle towards the inside? That is often a symptom of weak gluteals.” Dr. Meininger recommends incorporating one-legged strengthening exercises such as alternating right and left step-ups, single leg lunges, leg scissors or sidestepping with a resistance band around your ankles.
Powerful workout routines should include explosive motions like jumping, skipping and lunges. Plyometrics add variety to your workout and keep your attention. “High knees, sprints, box jumps and stair or hill climbs are all an excellent opportunity to build power,” Meininger says. “High impact exercises prepare your muscles, joints and ligaments for the intensity of a full day on the slopes.” Proper form is critical, so he recommends starting slow and easy or joining a group like CrossFit, Inc. or Manic Training™ for the uninitiated.
Endurance to pound down the moguls needs not only strength and balance, but a solid aerobic base. The pre-season before the snow flies is the perfect time to mix up your routine. “Hiking, biking and trail running are awesome year-round activities,” Meininger adds. “Keeping you interested and plugged in to your workouts is what really matters.” Thirty- to 60-minute routines a couple of times a week will make a noticeable difference. “Sucking wind under the chairlift in the middle of a powder day? We’ve all been there.” But with Dr. Meininger’s tricks of the trade, hopefully not this year!
*Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Dr. Meininger is a Board Certified, Fellowship trained Orthopaedic Sports Medicine surgeon with Steamboat Orthopaedic Associates, P.C. His practice can be found online at www.dralexmeininger.com and reached at (970) 879-4612 or (877) 404-4612.
Alexander K. Meininger, MD
Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine
Steamboat Orthopaedic Associates, P.C.
940 Central Park Drive, Suite 190
970-879-4612 or 877-404-4612