Since Thanksgiving did little to put us in shape for skiing, here are six exercises that will help. Stretching is important before any strenuous physical activity that might result in sprains, strains or muscle tears, and most of these exercises are directed at stretching muscles rather than strengthening them. When stretching, don't bounce: A long, static stretch is best.
How much of an exercise should you do? Most exercise physiologists say that an exercise should be done until it's a bit uncomfortable but not until it hurts. Pain tells you something is wrong.
These exercises should take only a few minutes. They may be complemented with strengthening exercises such as bent-knee sit-ups, push-ups or weight-training, and aerobic exercise such as jogging, bicycling, rope-jumping or swimming to build endurance and cardiopulmonary efficiency. IMAGINARY BOX JUMP -- Imagine a box a foot high and a foot wide. Jump back and forth over the "box" from side to side, pulling your knees up on each jump to clear the "box." Focus your eyes ahead and go as fast as comfortable. HIP TWISTER -- Lie on the floor on your right side, supporting your head with your right arm. Put your left hand anywhere on floor for support. Bend your right knee, swinging your lower right leg back while keeping your right thigh and knee in line with your body. 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, etc. -- as fast as possible. Repeat, lying on your other side. 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. Keeping your weight on the outside edges of the balls of your feet, raise your heels off the floor. (This can be awkward.) It's very important to keep your weight on the outside and to push your ankles forward and outward when flexing your feet. PHANTOM CHAIR -- Lean with your back against a wall and sit in chair, thighs parallel to the floor and lower legs vertical. Hold at least 10 seconds, and eventually work up to a minute. BACK AND HAMSTRING STRETCH -- Sit, with your legs straight ahead. Let your body hang forward and gravity pull you down. Relax, breathe deeply. For extra stretch in your upper back, clasp your hands behind your neck and hang. For extra stretch in your hamstrings, reach for your toes and clasp them if you can. FRONT THIGH STRETCH -- Kneel and lean back, supporting yourself with your arms. Gently push your pelvis forward and hold. Repeat.