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 Tuesday, November 18, 2008 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Get in shape now for winter activities
by Kenna Bruner, writer/editor, University Communications

Snow season is almost here, but before you grab your gear and head out the door, make sure you’re in shape for the slopes — and for shoveling snow.

Preconditioning is the key to a fun and safe winter. Professor Robert Mazzeo, associate chair of CU-Boulder‘s Integrative Physiology Department, has tips for getting ready for snow activities.

Mazzeo said skiers and boarders can benefit from aerobic exercise and sports specific resistance training for the legs and core to increase flexibility, endurance, strength and balance. “You need flexibility to avoid injuries on the slopes,” he said. “You need strength for resisting gravity as you’re going downhill and you need endurance if you’re going to be skiing long runs all day. And of course, when it comes to skiing and boarding, the need for good balance is obvious.”

Conditioning programs should combine aerobic training with exercises that stretch and strengthen lower-body muscles.

Mazzeo’s suggestions:

  • For flexibility, work hip flexors, hamstrings, calf muscles and the trunk.
  • Improve balance with one-legged stands and use a bongo board (a skateboard-style balance board).
  • Build leg strength with leg presses, squats, calf raises and leg curls.
  • Increase endurance by combining interval training, such as sprints or running stairs, with standard cardio like running, cycling or using an elliptical machine.

According to Mazzeo, the literature is mixed on whether stretching before engaging in snow sports prevents injuries, but stretching after when muscles are warm maximizes the benefits for muscles, ligaments and tendons.

Shoveling snow goes hand-in-glove with winter. Research has shown that for sedentary or overweight individuals, the exertion of shoveling heavy, wet snow for 10 minutes is equal to running on a treadmill to exhaustion.

Individuals with risk factors should talk to their physician before shoveling snow as the risk of suffering a heart attack increases several fold during shoveling, particularly if you have blood pressure, high cholesterol, are a smoker, are inactive, or have had a prior heart attack.


Whether skiing, boarding or shoveling, the way to avoid injuries is to be prepared and know your limits.

“Ideally, your conditioning program should begin four to six weeks before the season,” said Mazzeo, “but its never too late to reap the benefits.”

For more information visit the Integrative Physiology Department website.

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