When the seasons change, our sports change. Our exercise program should change, too. Preparing your body for a different sport prevents injuries, enhances recovery , and improves performance.
Here in Colorado’s Aspen Valley, cyclists are in their best shape in the fall. In the quiet red-rock town of Basalt, cyclists have been enjoying the riding along the scenic Frying Pan River. They have been fine-tuning their cycling muscles for months.
But now our attention turns to Aspen’s ski slopes. In fact, months before the ski resorts open for ski season, some locals work on getting their “skiers’ legs” in the backcountry.
Cycling to Skiing: two Sports Conditioning styles.
Let’s compare cycling and skiing to demonstrate the different requirements of these sports on our bodies. First, cyclists work on staying in a tucked position. The muscles on the front of the body, that put cyclists in a forward-flexed position, are strong and tight. And the positioning of a cyclists’ body over their bikes is different than a skier’s stance.Cycling also occurs within a limited space around one’s bicycle. Riding efficiently and maintaining balance on a bike requires a rider to tighten around the bike. The goal is to limit the area within which they work; i.e., to minimize their “work-space”.
Skiers, on the other hand, are unlikely to be as space-conscious. Their work-space is not so strictly defined. And unless they are competitive speed-skiers, they do not need to practice staying tightly-tucked.
For cyclists who ski in the backcountry before “ski resort season”, their muscles are not conditioned for the change in sports. Backcountry skiing requires a different sense of balance than cycling or skiing on groomed trails. The work-space is broader in the backcountry. Terrain may suddenly change beneath the skier’s feet. The skier must adapt and rebalance continually as they move.
Other conditions affect the transition in seasonal sports. These include: past injuries, your overall physical activity levels, weather and environment, and participation in other sports.
Sports Injury Prevention.
When changing sports, your first priority should be to prevent injuries. Before one season ends, you should be conditioning your body for the upcoming sport. If you are in great physical condition, you may be able to prepare in 4-6 weeks. But 8 weeks is optimal. If you have any preexisting injuries, you may need longer.
If you do not make a physical transition, you are predisposing yourself to injury. If you are recovering from an injury, you should start the next sport at a low physical intensity. Take basic first aid precautions whenever necessary. Icing sore muscles and getting aerobic exercise will remove the soreness and speed recovery.
Getting physically conditioned for the next sport will aid recovery in two ways. First, it will improve the healing environment so that preexisting injuries may heal. Your injury may be aggravated by your current sport. Or maybe your injury can’t heal while you’re training for your current sport. Changing your training may allow your injury to rest and heal.
Second, as you start to practice the next sport, being physically prepared will allow your muscles to respond better to their new requirements. You are less likely to become sore from new activities, and less likely to get injured. Your muscles will recover faster. This will make you feel energized, stronger, and ready to get out have more fun!
Better Athletic Performance.
Pre-conditioning for your sport results in enhanced performance. What is performance, and how can it be improved?
Performance means your ability to participate in a sport. It includes your muscles’ abilities to perform, or execute, the basic moves of that sport. Performance also refers to how you feel while practicing the sport.
Performance refers to measurements and artistic expression, too. It might refer to the time requirements of performing the basic activities. It might refer to the level of difficulty in executing certain moves. It might refer to the fluidity, creativity, and artistry of the sport.
If you practice your sport for fun and recreation, then enhancing performance might mean that you end the day without injuries or feeling wrecked! Improving performance means “More Play-time”!
Starting a pre-Conditioning program
When you start to condition for your upcoming sport, consider all of the factors described so far. How are the sports different? What condition is your body in? Do you have injuries? What does performance mean to you?
Hiring a personal trainer or a coach can make the transition easier. Trainers can make it more fun, too. They have the coaching tools to make those athletic dreams come true! They may motivate you to have your best season ever!
In conclusion, seasonal sports conditioning is an effective way to prevent injuries, treat injuries you already have, aid muscle recovery, and enhance athletic performance for the new sport.
Nina Schnipper practices sports therapies for pain relief and injury recovery in Basalt, Colorado, at Higher Spa & Studio. Check out her work at HigherSpa.