Once upon a time I threw my back out while swinging a golf club.
It wasnít that I was in bad shape at the time, in fact it was quite the opposite ó†I was hitting the gym five days a week back then and playing rugby and ultimate three or four times a week. Looking back, I would have said I was in the best shape of my life.
But I didnít golf much at the time, and swinging a golf club was as foreign to my body as ballet. The muscles I was working and movements I was making had little relation to the act of swinging a number three wood with all my strength at a 3.78cm diameter golf ball (which I missed), and driving that club into about three inches and five pounds of soft dirt. My body kept twisting upwards, followed by my club just a fraction of a second too late. My divot flew further than my ball as something inside me sheared.
It wasnít too serious: a few beers got me through the day (playing a lot more conservatively) and an icepack helped me through the next few weeks, but I never forgot the lesson. Next time I went golfing I did all those exercises I saw all the other older golfers doing ó swinging several clubs at once to warm up my back and shoulders, twisting back and forth with a club behind my head to loosen my back and hips up a little, bending over a little and rotating over my shoes to gently activate some of those core muscles from my upper legs to chest that I didnít know existed at the time but laster turned out to be of extreme importance to most activities.
Now, just weeks from opening day of the ski and snowboard season, itís time to start thinking in earnest about the coming season. Sliding over snow may not be the most aerobic activity out there, but the forces exerted on your joints and muscles can be extreme at times. Powder days are an exercise in muscle endurance like no other.
With the clock counting down, right about now is a pretty good time to hit the gym, working on your legs (try every variation of a squat you can think of), your core and your overall flexibility. You can actually do a lot in only a few weeks, even if itís just waking up some of those stabilizer muscles that have been napping with you on the couch while it rains outside.
And if you canít make the gym, then you should be doing this stuff at home. Go up and down stairs two at a time, step up onto chairs, sit up against the wall until your thighs burn, see how long you can hold your planks and try to beat that time every day, do leg lifts and heel lifts, lay on your stomach and do more leg lifts, and stretch everything ó everything ó when your done. Every little thing you do between now and Nov. 28, or whatever your first day of skiing/riding ends up being, will help.
Once the season starts, itís also a good idea to take things slow and build. I know that when I get tired, I tend to make mistakes. I misjudge turns, I tweak muscles, I catch edges, I lose balance and I crash. Luckily I havenít injured myself yet by over-reaching, but it happens ó late November and December are banner times for crutch and arm sling sales at the Whistler Health Care Centre.
When youíre young itís not such a big deal, and thereís almost nothing you canít shake off shy of a torn muscle or broken bone. When you hit 40, crashes hurt a little more. A whiplash crash on my snowboard is usually followed by a full-body cramp, the result of my body over-reacting to the violence of the fall. Reaction times are also a little slower, which means Iím slightly more at the mercy of gravity and the terrain than I used to be.
And yet, itís impossible not to feel excited these days. And a little nervous, because Iím terrible at taking my own advice when it comes to pre-season preparation.