| Outside magazine, May 1996|
The world's greatest aerial skier says that if he weren't so dedicated to maintaining his flexibility, he probably wouldn't be skiing at all anymore. Whenever Trace Worthington takes an ugly tumble down a hill, his doctors shake their heads reverently as if some miracle had saved him. "They're like, 'Unbelievable! Your knee should be ripped in half right now,'" says Worthington. "They always say it would be a lot worse if I wasn't as flexible as I am."
Injury prevention isn't the only role flexibility plays for the 26-year-old 1995 world champion, who routinely flies more than 50 feet into the air on skis, contorting his body into such improbable maneuvers as the quadruple twisting triple-four twists and three somersaults. "When I stretch before I go out, it gets the muscles ready to move suddenly, in a hundredth of a second, when I need it," he says. Of course, it's not just Olympic freestyle skiers who need that kind of flexibility. "Everyone--from runners to windsurfers--can get tight, and it affects their performance."
Worthington says all you need to prevent that stiffness is 15 minutes and a little room to maneuver. Before heading out to train, systematically stretch all the major muscle groups and joints in your body, from neck to ankle. Hold each stretch for eight seconds at the point where you feel a comfortable burn but no pain. Finally, Worthington recommends that when you finish working out for the day, you repeat the entire regimen: "That keeps the muscles you've just used from tightening up, which can only help the next time out."
Next, bring your right arm up and behind your head, stretching to reach toward the left shoulder blade, and pull down on the elbow with your left hand. Repeat on the other side. Finally, from a seated position, rest your hands on the floor behind you, elbows locked. Gradually slide your arms back, so you move toward a lying position. "That's for the skier whose arms get dragged behind him, for the water-skier who gets stretched by the rope, for the golf swing and the tennis follow-through," says Worthington.
The Abs and Lower Back
The Legs: Hamstrings,
Stretch the hip flexors and groin muscles next by moving your legs as far apart into a V as you can. Lean forward, pushing your chest toward the ground. Do the same stretch twice more, lowering your forehead toward each knee in succession. This works the hamstrings again, as well as the outside of the hips. From there, stand up to stretch your quadriceps. Place your left hand on a wall, bend your right knee, bring your foot up behind you, and pull it toward your butt.