- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Ski slopes in nearby West Virginia finally are covered with soft, natural snow and ready to receive urban downhill enthusiasts. The question is, are you ready for the slopes? Skiing is not the type of sport most people can engage in on a daily basis after a workday in the urban jungle. It's possible, nevertheless, to prepare physically in gyms and swimming pools, on the track and even in front of the television for taxing days on the steep slopes.
The preparation includes four parts: cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, balance and stretching exercises, says Maya Rhinewine, a personal trainer at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase branch of the YMCA.
"If you exercise three or four times a week for at least a month before you go skiing, you might not surpass your [previous] performance level, but at least you won't get as sore," Ms. Rhinewine says.
Preparing every day just may keep the doctor away.
You can prevent injuries by preparing yourself physically for the slope, says Dr. John Klimkiewicz, an orthopedic surgeon and sports-medicine specialist at Georgetown University Hospital who sees dozens of patients with ski-related injuries each winter.
"The injuries usually occur during the first or last run of the day, which tells us that fatigue and lack of stretching may have something to do with it," Dr. Klimkiewicz says.
Most injuries involve torn ligaments in the knee and can take six to nine months to fully repair themselves.
With an increased fitness level, the skier is less likely to experience muscle fatigue at the end of the day, and with a few warm-up and stretching exercises before getting on the lift, the skier may be able to prevent that first-run injury, Dr. Klimkiewicz says.
"You definitely want to prepare for the slope with overall good cardiac fitness, weight training and stretching," he says.

To begin with, the warm-up whether you are getting ready to head out to the slope or are preparing for a jog in the park doesn't need to take more than about 10 minutes and can include stretching exercises at the end.
"I recommend a dynamic warm-up that mimics [the sport] you'll be doing later," Ms. Rhinewine says. "For skiing, the warm-up can include high knee lifts to get the blood flow going and squats," she says.
The warm-up also can include ankle circles to increase joint mobility and lunges, which strengthen the quadriceps (the large four-part muscle at the front of the thigh) and increase the heart rate.
Once the muscles are warm, static stretching exercises that focus on the hamstring, calf, quadriceps, lower back and hip flexor can be done. Each stretch should be held for at least 20 to 30 seconds.
"But I would really recommend doing the static stretching after the workout and focus on the dynamic warm-up moves before [the workout]," Ms. Rhinewine says.
In preparing for the slope, a 20- or 30-minute cardiovascular workout at least three times a week for about a month to six weeks would be advisable, Dr. Klimkiewicz says.
"A general cardiac program like swimming or running should have happy results," he says.
Because skiing demands a lot of lower-body strength and endurance, Ms. Rhinewine says it makes sense to incorporate cardiovascular exercises that build leg muscles as well as condition the heart.
She recommends taking a step class (a form of group exercise in which participants step up and down on a low bench) or 20 to 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer, a type of motorized stair-stepper on which each of the two "stairs" makes an elliptical motion, which is gentle to the joints.
Aside from the cardiovascular training, two to three weight-exercise sessions a week can be added to achieve a basic fitness level.
Squats, weighted leg extensions, which also focus on the quadriceps, and calf raises, which strengthen calves and ankles, are among appropriate exercises in preparing for a day of downhill skiing.
Less obvious but equally important is to strengthen the core of the body, the abdominals and lower back, Ms. Rhinewine says.
The abdominal bridge, an exercise in which you lean the weight of your body on your elbows and knees while keeping a straight line from your head to your knees, is among good core exercises, she says.
Last, but not least, are balance exercises that can be done anywhere and anytime.
Equipment such as a balance ball or a balance board can be used, but the exercises can be as simple as standing on one leg and closing your eyes.
"You don't have to be in the gym to do balance exercises," says Scott Crosby, assistant fitness director at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase YMCA. "You can even do them while you're watching TV."

Other components in making the downhill experience as pleasant as possible include having the right equipment and hydrating properly, says Bob Koontz, a ski instructor of 20 years and current director of skier services at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
The resort, which is 260 miles from the District in West Virginia, has 56 slopes and a total lift capacity of 22,500 skiers per hour.
"Sometimes we see people in cotton gloves instead of waterproof gloves," Mr. Koontz says. "It's very important to keep dry and use goggles when it's snowing."
Hydrating may be something people think of naturally when it's hot outside, but when it's cold, people may forget, Mr. Koontz says.
"Just keep replacing those fluids," he says.
It shouldn't be too difficult to keep drinking water, even if you don't want to carry it with you, says Rob Mahan, director of Snowshoe's ski and snowboard school. Water is accessible on the mountain at the different day lodges.
Other safety tips include loosening your ski bindings and using up-to-date equipment, Dr. Klimkiewicz says.
Many skilled skiers like their bindings tight because they feel as if they have more control. If they fall and twist a knee, however, and the binding doesn't release the ski, the injury to the knee can be severe.
A last piece of advice may be more mental than physical but certainly can affect a person's well-being.
"Take it easy at the start and the end of the day," Mr. Mahan says. "Just take your time."
There are no guarantees for safety on the slopes even with all the preparation in the world good equipment, the right clothes, adequate amounts of fluid in your system and overall body fitness.
With good preparation, though, you should be in a better place to embrace the essence of skiing, Mr. Mahan says.
"People go skiing for the sheer sense of fun, excitement and freedom," Mr. Mahan says. "It's about relaxing, having a good time and a sense of adventure."

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