Welcome back to our post- ski and snowboard stretching series! Now that you know how to stretch the muscles at the front of your hips and on the front of your thighs, let’s look at two stretches for muscle groups located on the back of your legs – the calves and the hamstrings.
** Remember, only go until the point where you first feel the pull through the muscle (there shouldn’t be any pain with these exercises). Once you’ve found that point, hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, and then progress a bit further 2 more times, again holding for 30 seconds. Don’t forget to stretch both sides! **
3. CALVES (the muscles in the back of your lower leg/below the knee)
The calf muscles help to stabilize the position of the lower leg with relation to the thighs and foot. Especially if you are in ski boots, there is going to be very little movement through this part of the body (even though the muscle is still working). This can lead to quite a bit of stiffness in the area by the end of the day.
Before you begin, you’re first going to want to find a wall to face that you can lean against with outstretched arms (the side of your car will also do the trick!). Stagger your legs, with the stretch leg further back, and position your body to ensure that both feet are fully and firmly planted on the ground. Keeping the back leg straight, toes pointing towards the wall, and hips square, gently start to lean your body in towards the wall (or car). You can do this by bending your elbows and the front knee.
To target the deeper calf muscles, you can add a bit of a bend to your back knee (but make sure that you adjust your body so your heel remains planted).
4. HAMSTRINGS (the big muscles on the back of your thigh)
These muscles, like the ones targeted in exercise #2, also help to maintain the bent-knee position needed to get down the slope. They are constantly contracted to some degree, to prevent your skis or board from sliding out from under your body.
In order to get the most out of this stretch you’ll want to be seated (say on a bench after you’ve taken off your boot). Extend the stretch leg out in front of you as you tuck your other leg closer to your body with the sole of that foot resting against your stretch leg (note, you’ll need to turn the leg outwards a bit at the hip to achieve this position). Keeping the extended leg as straight as possible (though a slight bend is okay if you feel the pull directly behind the knee), you now want to lean forwards reaching for your ankle. Note, you do not need to actually touch your toes in order to get a stretch with this one! Try to maintain a straight back, and reach just until you start to feel a stretch.
Give these stretches a try, and then stay tuned for one more stretch in our final après-mountain series!
Our final stretch in the après-mountain series is going to target the muscles on the inside of our thighs. These muscles, called the adductors, help to keep our legs close together when going down the slopes. They especially get a work out when on skis!
5. ADDUCTORS (these muscles run along the inside of your thighs)
You might have heard this final stretch referred to as the butterfly stretch. It’s a stretch that targets muscles that help with keeping your legs parallel and close together. You’re going to want to find a place to sit down for this one (you can use your snowpants for cushioning). Once seated, you want to bring the soles of your feet together, bending at the hips and knees. It’s almost like crossing your legs, only without the crossing part. Slowly let the legs/knees relax towards the ground until you first start to feel the stretch. If you’d like, you can add a bolster under the sides of your knees to support them in a comfortable position. To deepen the stretch, bring your feet closer towards the body, and/or bend forward to bring your chest closer to the floor.
** Remember, only go to the point where you first feel a stretch, hold that position for about 30 seconds, and then repeat 2 more times, moving further into the stretch each time. There shouldn’t be any pain with a stretch! **
Although all of the stretches in this series would be most effective if performed around the time you pack it in for the day, they can also be done a bit later, like say, at the gas station as you head back to the city. Rather than just standing there waiting for your tank to fill, try positioning yourself into one of these stretch positions at the same time (though I wouldn’t recommend exercise #5 at this point...). Maybe you’ll get the odd look here and there, but hey, at least you won’t be the one with achy leg muscles in a few hours when you're trying to enjoy your vacation.