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Stretching for XC-skiers

As we come into the season of New Year’s resolutions and loppet training, increased activity can often lead to new aches and pains.  By making an effort to take care of ourselves and prevent injuries, we can perform better, and enjoy the sport more for many years to come. There are lots of ways to prevent feeling tired and sore after a big workout, and to help prevent injuries when taking up a new sport, or increasing the intensity of that sport. We talked to Matt Whylie, a former Junior National Team and Alberta World Cup Academy racer and current Physiotherapist at Maximum Potential in Calgary, about offering some tips and tricks about warming up and stretching after.

Warmups for Cross Country Skiing

Although we are sure to get plenty warm during our ski, taking a few minutes to complete a warmup can pay dividends afterwards. Starting with a dynamic, movement based warm up can be more beneficial than static stretching prior to your ski.  I recommend focusing on getting your hamstrings, hip flexors and adductors activated.  Simple leg swings front and back, and side to side, 10 to 20 times in each direction, will alternatively stretch and activate your muscles, leaving you feeling more comfortable when heading out.  If skate skiing, adding in some lateral lunges will get your legs moving the way you want them to prior to jumping on your skis.

Stretching After Your Ski

Unfortunately, after you complete your first big ski for the season or conquer your training goals, it is common to experience discomfort on the inside of your legs and an ache on the front of your hips for up to a week afterwards.  Our adductor muscles on the inside of our thighs play a much larger role in xc-skiing than during our regular activities and often get quite sore, whether skating or classic skiing. Some simple stretches such as the side lunge and the butterfly stretch can help stretch these muscles and ease discomfort.  The hip flexors muscles on the front of our hips are another group of muscles that we work significantly, especially while classic skiing.  A front lunge stretch will help manage the tightness we often develop there after skiing.  Simple stretches such as these can be completed 4 x 30 seconds on each side either in the days or weeks leading up to skiing or after your ski to help alleviate post-skiing soreness.

Pairing a good training program (including the above warm ups and stretches) with good nutrition and a robust cross training will go a long way in making your days on the snow much more enjoyable, help prevent injury long term, and help you get the most out of the rest of the season. Of course, if you are feeling anything more than the general aches and pains of a new work out, make sure you talk to your doctor or physiotherapist.