Warm Up and Recovery hacks for snow sports


We’ve all been there. Day two of a snow trip and our legs are baked from all the fun of day one.  Whilst the main thing you can do to prevent, or at least minimise this feeling is to work hard at your Strength & Conditioning exercises before you head out, once in resort, the good news is, there is more you can do to aid recovery.  Incorporating some of the Movement Preparation and Warm Up suggestions from below, alongside following some of the simple Recovery advice outlined in the latter part of this blog, can make all the difference.  Read on to find out how.

Snowsports: Movement Preparation and Warm Up. 

As already alluded to, the ultimate movement preparation is prior conditioning (watch this space for a separate blog on this topic).  However, movement prep and warming up can be a big factor in feeling good and in reducing likelihood of injury.  Snowsports generally require heavy eccentric muscle contractions as we slow ourselves down and absorb the impacts of descending the mountain. Eccentric muscle contractions are those where the muscles and tendons are lengthening under tension and are known to cause the most muscle loading and later soreness.  Hence why we often feel pretty heavy in the legs after a big day especially when we haven't been on the slopes for a while.  When compared to other sports, warm ups on the snow are not always something we consider. As a general guide, starting slowly and building up is a good way to go and this is something most people naturally do, but there's more that can be done. 


We ‘prepare’ in order to improve performance, reduce the risk of certain injuries and improve our ability to do what we love to do, however, if you're waking up in resort perhaps a little jaded from what came before, but keen to hit the first lift, there probably isn't time to go through a routine like the pro’s.  These guys and girls might make the time to  jump on a bike, complete a mobility session and then ‘lift’ or perform some high intensity movements to ‘potentiate’ their tissues and energy systems ready to go.  Realistically, the vast majority of us don’t need to spend longer than 5-10 mins addressing the key factors of an evidence-based preparation routine.  One simple warm up profile is a ‘RAMP’ routine. This includes Raising the heart rate and body temperature, Activating key muscle groups, Mobilising key joints and Potentiating or performing high speed, high demand movements similar to those in the activity about to be done.  What follows is an outline of a simple  ‘Warm-Up’ sequence following a ‘RAMP’ profile and the rationale for each stage. 

Raise - The aim here is to raise our body temperature and increase blood flow to the working tissues, preparing the neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems for the demands they will be placed under.  This is the bit when a pro might jump on the Watt Bike, headphones on and tracksuit fully zipped!  In a chalet or hotel this might be as simple as making sure you are warm with a shower, bath or hot tub or a few mini squats, a couple of times up and down the stairs or a little jog on the spot to get things moving and elevating body temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate.  Alongside this, a deep breathing routine, will help to expand your thorax, open airways and get you ready to roll.


Activate - The key muscle groups to get moving for snowsports are the glutes and quads.  Some glute bridges, a step up or mini squat and perhaps a lunge will get things moving. For the snowboarders in particular some thoracic and shoulder loading like a Bear Crawl or side plank may also be beneficial.  The aim here is not to build fatigue but to get the body ready for more intense activity so just do enough to feel you're working.  The MoveWell Anywhere Mat is perfect for doing this. It's travel ready, super light, folds up small and makes a perfect surface for these drills and the ones that follow. 


Mobilise - Including some hip and thoracic mobilisations will likely benefit most snowsport enthusiasts heading out for the day.  Hip internal rotation is particularly important for those skiers hoping to hit deep carve turns. Grab the MoveWell Peanut, Roller or Sphere and giving the glutes and quads a roll for a couple of mins is a great start.  Additionally, getting some Hip internal and external rotation going can be done very simply with some ‘Hip Wipers’ and ‘Spiderman’ mobes perhaps combined with a Downward Facing Dog to add some posterior chain action. 


Potentiate - To finish up, a few squat jumps or jumping lunges work a treat to get the body ready for the intensity of what's to come. These movements should be done at high-intensity to stimulate both neural and soft tissues alike.  No need to go mad though, just 5-10 reps needed and you're ready to go!

Snowsports: Recovery

Here are a few things to think about at the end of a day on the Mountain.  Feeling ready to go again can be a challenge for those of us not lucky enough to be skiing and boarding on a regular basis.  Exposure to the high demands of bombing down the hill and inadequate recovery can lead to soreness and a reduction in performance and sometimes enjoyment.  Ultimately some soreness is difficult to mitigate, but there are some easy going things you can focus on and prioritise during your trip to maximise your time on the slopes…Simple recovery strategies can reduce perceived muscle soreness and promote regeneration.  By prioritising the fundamentals of recovery outlined below you can make the most of your time away.

Sleep - This is huge. Not always the easiest thing when you are staying in the mountains with the lure of Apres extending into the night and good times to be had.  During our sleep our bodies repair and regenerate. We are also able to reinforce learning - something particularly useful when trying to push on with new skills. The average person requires approximately seven to nine hours of sleep per night to promote wellbeing, but optimal sleep durations seem to be fairly individual.  The key here though is consistency - finding and sticking as closely as possible to your ‘optimal’.  In practical terms, whilst in the mountains key things to consider for sleep quality are likely to be setting a comfortable room temperature and sleep environment, so you are able to sleep with minimal disruption.  A cool room is recommended for a good night's sleep.  Sounds simple but so many of us I’m sure have been caught out in the roasting hot Chalet or freezing cold having left a window open.  Additionally, taking a warm bath or shower an hour or so before bedtime can not only help to relax achy muscles, but it also tells the the brain that you are overheating, meaning you start to shed heat rapidly as soon as you get out, having a cooling effect on your body before bed and therefore promoting sleep.  The other big things to consider are caffeine and alcohol intake. Responses to caffeine are individual but typically avoiding intake later in the day is likely to benefit sleep. Alcohol intake is also known to hugely affect sleep quality and recovery. For those really looking to maximise time on the slopes this is definitely one to consider. 

Nutrition and Hydration - Optimal nutrition is a complex, heavily debated subject for a multitude of reasons, so we’ll keep this fairly light. Besides, whilst nutritional advice is outside of our main areas of expertise, it is something we value very highly and recognise as extremely important to all aspects of training and recovery.  We know that re-fuelling effectively after exercise will restore muscle and liver glycogen stores, replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, promote muscle repair and support your immune system.  During and immediately after a big day on the slopes, start replacing fluid and electrolyte losses.  Water is good or dilute water with a little natural fruit juice to help absorption.  Your urine colour and frequency of needing to go are the super simple indicators for monitoring hydration.  You should also consider food intake through the day on the hill. As a guide a post session snack should provide an immediate intake of protein combined with carbohydrate, these get to work enhancing muscle tissue synthesis.  Your recovery nutrition should aim to include a balanced whole foods meal within two to three hours of activity.  As per general guidelines, this meal should contain a combination of carbohydrate, protein and some fat. Maybe something to consider when working out which tit-bit to dip in the fondue!  The key takeaway here is to stay fuelled and hydrated - packing water and a snack or two is a great place to start. 


Hot and Cold Immersion - Cold-water immersion has received a lot of exposure lately for its positive effect on health.  It is also effective for managing muscle soreness by reducing body tissue temperatures and blood flow, which then leads to reductions in inflammation, cardiovascular strain and perceived pain.  This helps to improve our recovery by reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness and improving autonomic nervous system function.  A cold plunge is not always the first thing on your mind when you get in from a cold day on the mountain but can work really well to reduce soreness.  Hot-water immersion has minimal scientific support of its benefits in recovery, however the increase in body temperatures does lead to improved blood flow which helps to remove post-exercise metabolic waste.  Often people prefer the use of hot over cold water immersion because they find it more comfortable and relaxing. Plus you are way more likely to find a hot tub than a cold plunge pool in a ski resort!  As mentioned already, there may be some benefit of hot baths to aid sleep through relaxation and thermoregulation and in addition hot water baths may be useful prior to self-massage to relax tight muscles.   In summary cold is king, or a contrast of both – if you can work the logistics out! 


Active Recovery, Massage and Stretching - Massage has consistently been demonstrated to reduce perceptions of soreness and fatigue post exercise, the likely mechanism is through desensitisation of the nervous system.  Unless you have unlimited access to masseuse, in a few hours after the day ends, it can be really helpful to grab your MoveWell Cork Roller, Peanut or Sphere and gently roll out areas that have been worked hard.  We suggest aim for 60 – 90 secs on the main muscle groups involved in snowsports, namely quads, glutes and paraspinal muscles.  If time allows, follow this with some active recovery, such as a light five to ten minute yoga flow routine to increase blood flow and lightly load tissue creating length through their range in multiple directions.  While static stretching on its own is unlikely to have much impact on your recovery, static stretching can induce a rebound effect on muscle blood flow, reducing flow during the stretch, but quickly elevating it afterwards potentially aiding recovery.  Static stretches also decrease neural excitability and sensitivity, thus helping to rejuvenate a state of balance after exercise, combined with some breath work this can be a good way to wind-down and relax.  Putting the above together for 10-15 minutes in the evening can make all the difference to your readiness to take on the next day…give it a try and see what works for you!


Anything  else? In terms of clinical evidence there is very little for some of the other adjuncts and gizmos available – vibration, upper body compression garments, expensive supplements, to name a few.  The fundamentals of sleep, nutrition, hydration and active recovery provide the majority of benefits.  These simple, cheap, time efficient changes can boost your readiness and enjoyment for the days to follow – so enjoy!


In summary, a few minutes dedicated to moving your body at both ends of the day in combination with good sleep, nutrition and hydration could make a significant difference to your performance and enjoyment of your time in the mountains. We hope the above has given you some ideas of things to try, next time you're hitting the slopes.