B-FIT | Movement prep better than old-school stretching
February 5, 2014
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Elementary school students in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District are participating in activity bursts and monthly wellness challenges to help improve their health and fitness and increase concentration and focus in school. Be Fit in Tahoe (B-FIT) is an activity and health program implemented in partnership with Tahoe Forest Health System.
Most of us have experienced the benefit of warming up and stretching prior to an activity, and most of us are also guilty of skipping it due to lack of time or motivation. When it comes to warming up for skiing and snowboarding, our "warm-up" typically consists of grabbing a coffee, driving to the mountain and jumping onto a chair lift. Then we wonder why we get injured.
There's nothing wrong with the jumping jacks or hamstring stretches with your skis on, and it wasn't that long ago the experts were suggesting that was sufficient for a proper warm-up. And that is still what most people do — if anything.
There is a more effective way than the traditional warm-up to prepare your body for snow skiing and snowboarding demands. It involves a series of dynamic movements that increase your body's core temperature, prepare your nervous system for activity and activate key muscles used when skiing — all of which ultimately prevent injury.
READY, SET, PREP
Movement preparation is the new warm-up philosophy (www.coreperformace.com).
Movement prep prepares our bodies for skiing/snowboarding by increasing heart rate, core temperature, and blood flow to working muscles. If muscles are not used regularly they will shut off, causing other muscle groups to compensate, which can lead to injury. An example of this is if we spend a lot of time sitting on our glutes, the muscles opposite them, the hip flexors, become tight and inactive. The neuromuscular relationship of the opposing muscle group is known as reciprocal inhibition (when one muscle contracts the other relaxes). Movement prep activates our muscles and keeps them awake for the rest of the day.
Movement prep also helps us prepare for unexpected movements.
For instance, if you are skiing down a "groomer" at the resort and you suddenly hit a slight bump you couldn't see in the flat light, or you suddenly hit a patch of ice you did not anticipate, movement prep would have you ready to compensate for those circumstances. How well your body reacts depends on your proprioception, the system of pressure sensors of your joints, muscles and tendons that your body uses to maintain balance. Movement prep prepares your body for movement by fine-tuning its nerves and feedback mechanism.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
The difference between traditional stretching/warming-up and movement preparation is that in movement prep you are contracting your muscles (in contrast to relaxing your muscles in a stretched position with static stretching). When you activate your muscles, you increase the long-term mobility and flexibility of your muscles and help your body remember those ranges of motion. Just doing movement preparation alone can also increase your strength, stability, speed and power. Think of it as warming-up with a purpose.
Aside from getting you warmed-up, movement prep also decreases your injury potential and improves your skiing or snowboarding performance. Do the following six exercises for 10 repetitions. At first it might feel like a workout in itself, but your body will condition to it and when you're done, you will be better prepared for what may come your way — whether it's groomers, a powder day or just your everyday activity.
Use static, traditional stretching after your workout.
Knee hug, standing: Pull your right knee to your chest while contracting the left glute, then alternate legs.
Walking lunges: Take a large step forward with your right leg, pausing when your back knee is just above the ground. Push up out of this position and step forward with your back leg, bringing your knee up high and then stepping out and sinking into your next lunge.
Lateral squat: Standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width, shift your hips to the left and down by bending your left knee and keeping your right leg straight. Your feet should be straight ahead and flat on the ground. Push through your left hip, returning to the starting position.
For more information, and/or to get involved with the B-FIT program, contact the Community Health Staff of Tahoe Forest Hospital: Wendy Buchanan, Maria Martin, and Jill Whisler at 530-587-3969 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wendy Buchanan, MS, exercise physiologist, ACSM CEP, is with the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance.