Bodywork: Fitness for the Outside Athlete, November 1996
Training: The Prepared Snowboarder
Tiptoeing past soreness this season
By Sarah Bowen Shea
Don’t be fooled by snowboarding’s carefree image. It is a sport, and you should train for it. “When I first started boarding, my routine consisted of nothing more than lacing up my boots, and I paid for it,” says Kevin Delaney, three-time world champion and founder
of Delaney Adult Snowboarding Camps in Aspen. “There was many a Monday when I could hardly walk to school because my calves were so knotted from a weekend of riding.”
Such painful fatigue is preventable if you focus preseason attention on the body parts that snowboarding stresses: feet, ankles, and calves. “Your feet absorb vibrations from riding over ‘chatter,’ ” Delaney says. In addition, your ankles must constantly shift your weight from the board’s nose to its tail and back, your shin muscles must work to get your board up on a heel-side
turn, and your calf muscles strain to raise your edge on a toe-side turn. “If you don’t develop those muscles,” Delaney concludes, “you’ll have less control on the slopes and a lot more pain off the slopes.”
To develop the pertinent muscles, Delaney says, institute a regular routine of stretching followed by a regimen of four simple–if absurd-looking–variations of contorted walking. (Remember Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks”?) Do the walks every day during the preseason, working up to three to five minutes per exercise. Once the season starts, Delaney says, you can drop
the strength-training paces, but continue to stretch daily. These exercises are best undertaken barefoot on dry grass or low-pile carpet.
To loosen up before these exercises, do the alphabet. Sitting in a chair, extend one leg, toes pointed, and “write” each letter of the alphabet in the air with your big toe. Don’t get sloppy after a few letters; do each one slowly and correctly. Repeat with your other foot.
Walk on your heels only. Think about doing heel-side turns on the slope–you’re working the same muscle on the outside front of your leg (the anterior tibialis).
Get up on your toes and the balls of your feet, and walk. If you’re pressed for time, Delaney suggests working the toe walk into your daily life by doing this exercise on the way upstairs–just make sure you stay on the balls of your feet. It works your calf muscles and the soleus muscles that lie underneath, much as if you were
traversing a hill on your toe-side edge.
Pace on the outside edges of your feet for five minutes; then do the same on the inside edges. Roll your ankles as far as you can either way, and keep your knees straight. Both types of walks will increase the flexibility and strength of your feet and ankle muscles, crucial for shock absorption and stability on the slopes.