Word from the snowboarding pros, such as Shannon Dunn, Leslee Olson, and Tina Basich, is that just 10 minutes of stretching before snowboarding can mean the difference between strong, relaxed, lean riding muscles, or sore, tight quads, and a potentially tweaked back at the end of the day. The following stretches can all be done with your snowboard clothing and boots already on — you can even do some of these in the lift line.
Hamstring and Back Stretch
The tendon that starts at your butt extending all the way down the back of your legs to your heel, needs attention before you strap on your board or else you’re likely to have sore legs and back at the end of the day. With your legs slightly wider than shoulder length apart, and your back flat and arms above your head, slowly exhale and lower your upper body until you’re touching the ground (or as close as you can get with your legs straight). Hold this pose for 5 seconds, breathing slowly in and out to get into the stretch. Feel it in your lower back as well. Inhaling, come back up with your back flat and arms raised over your head. Repeat 3 times.
My girlfriends and I take over the railings in the tram line doing this stretch. It’s essential for loosening up the thigh muscles (quads) and the knees — both of which are heavily used when riding down the mountain. You can use you board to lean on or a railing. Standing on your left leg, bend your right knee, pulling your foot up toward your butt and hold it there; pull your boot slightly to the outside of your thigh. If you can, hold this stretch for 5 seconds. Use your arm to help lower your leg back down. Next pull your bent leg up toward your chest and hug it for 5 seconds. Then lower and repeat on the other side. Do this until you feel your muscles loosening up.
Groin Stretch Lunges
Shannon Dunn swears by this one because she says maneuvers in the halfpipe need a warmed-up groin area. This stretch is tough to pull-off in a lift line because it takes room, so I’d suggest doing this stretch before you get your ticket. Again, you can use your board for support. With legs apart (twice your shoulder-width), bend one knee into a sideways lunge. Once you’re near the ground, try to stretch that extended leg even more, feeling the stretch in your groin area and inner thigh. Next rotate your bent leg forward so that you can feel it in your butt as well. Using your arms, push up from the ground and slowly come to a stand. Repeat on the other side.
Neck and Shoulders
This is a total chairlift stretch: easy, spacey, but can mean the difference between whiplash or a warmed-up, loose neck and shoulders. If you’re a beginner, stretching your neck is even more crucial. While on the chair, bend your head to each side for two long breathes, then forward, and back. My chiropractor suggests you don’t twirl your head in a circle to stretch your neck because it can damage your spinal cord. Once youÕre done with your neck, lift your shoulders up and hold for two breaths; then on an exhale, lower them slowly. Rotate shoulders forward and backwards. Remember, these stretches, particularly one after the other, can make you dizzy. So if you’re on the chairlift, make sure you lower the safety bar first!
Body Beat writer Kathleen Gasperini slides on the snowy slopes of Utah when she’s not touring the world, writing stories for numerous mags. She also runs her own magazine called W.I.G. (Women In General).