Since Thanksgiving probably did very little to help you stay in shape for skiing this winter, here are ten exercises that will help. They are recommended by Colleen Powers, an accredited advancedexcercise specialist at the Arlington and Alexandria YMCAs. The exercises should be done in the order given, preferably for four to six weeks before hitting the slopes.
Powers stresses the importance of stretching before strenuous physical activity. "If more people would spend ten minutes gently stretching their muscles, there would be a lot fewer sprains, strains and muscle-tears... When stretching, don't bounce. A long static stretch is most effective and definitely safer."
How much should you do of each exercise? "I really hesitate to say," says Powers. "It depends on the individual. Do what's comfortable, or do an exercise until it's uncomfortable but not until it hurts. Pain tells you something is wrong. The rule is don't groan and hold your breath. If you follow that you'll be okay."
Powers suggests that this routine be complemented with bent-knee sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups, or weight training. She also recommends an aerobic activity such as jogging, bicycling, rope-jumping or swimming to build cardiopulmonary efficiency and overall endurance.
BACK AND HAMSTRING STRETCHER -- Sit with legs straight ahead and let your upper body hang over. Let gravity pull you down; don't bounce. Relax and breathe deeply. For an extra stretch in the upper back, clasp hands behind your neck and hang. For an extra stretch in the back of the legs, reach for your toes and clasp them if you can. Also try this exercise with legs spread as wide as comfortable to stretch the inner thighs.
FEET FLEXES -- Sit on the floor, keeping your back straight. If possible, do this exercise without putting your hands on the floor to support your back. Draw your knees up and outward so the soles of your feet are together, knees out to the side. Keeping your weight on the outside edges of the balls of your feet, raise your heels off the floor. (This is awkward.) Alternate flexing and extending the feet so your heels come together and go apart. It's important to keep your weight on the outside edges of the balls of your feet and to push your ankles forward and outward when extending your feet. This exercise strengthens ankles, inner thighs and lower back and aids ankle flexibility.
HIP TWISTER -- Lie on the floor on your right side, supporting your head with your right arm. Put your left hand and arm anywhere on the floor for support. Bend your right knee, swinging your lower leg back while keeping the thigh and knee in line with your body. Then lift your left knee up and put the toes of your left foot on your right knee. Keeping your left leg bent, rotate that leg until your knees touch and your left foot is as high as comfortable. Rotate your left leg back and forth -- toes to knee, knee to knee, toes to knee -- as fast as possible. Repeat, lying on your other side. Promotes hip flexibility.
QUADRICEP STRENGTHENER -- On your knees with toes pointing back, arms straight out front and body rigid, slowly lean back six to ten inches and hold at least five seconds. Return to starting position and repeat three to ten times.
FRONT THIGH STRETCHER -- Kneel and lean back, supporting yourself with your arms. Gently push your pelvis forward and hold. Repeat.
PHANTOM CHAIR -- Lean with your back against a wall. Sink so that you sit in an imaginary chair with thighs parallel to the floor and lower legs perpendicular to the floor. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds and eventually work up to a minute. Then, for the last 30 seconds alternately lift one leg and then the other for a few seconds so that the lifted leg is parallel to floor. Strengthens front thighs.
HIP, CALF & TENDON STRETCHER -- For calf and Achilles tendon, position yourself as shown in lower drawing and raise your body to upper position, without moving your feet. Your rear heel should not be able to touch the floor; press it toward the floor, and hold. For illiopsoas, a front hip muscle, assume the lower position and push forward and down through the hip of the extended leg until your feel the muscle stretch. Hold at least 40 seconds. Repeat with other leg.
RONDE DE JAMBE EN L'AIR -- A ballet move. Stand with one hand on wall, lift the outside leg to a height you can maintain throughout this exercise. Leg should be on forward diagonal, that is, halfway between straight to the front and straight to the side. Your knee should face up. Begin with your leg straight and toes pointing, then bend your knee and rotate the lower leg in a circle. End each circle with straightened leg and pointing toes. Do four circles in each direction, then repeat with your other leg.
TWIST JUMP -- With your arms out to the side and your eyes focused straight ahead, jump up and twist your lower body 90degree to the right, torso facing forward; then 180degree to the left; then 180degree to the right. Continue back and forth, keeping your torso facing forward.
IMAGINARY BOX JUMP -- Imagine a box 16" high and 12" wide. Jump back and forth over this imaginary box from side to side, pulling your knees up on each jump to clear the box. Focus your gaze straight ahead and go as fast as is comfortable. Strengthens legs, ankles and feet, and aids flexibility and coordination.