The “pre-season” is the best time to train our bodies so we don’t suffer injuries all winter. Many injuries seem to occur at the change in sport seasons. This is likely because we assume that the sports we did all summer kept us strong for our winter sports and activities. This is sometimes true, for example when someone plays street hockey and rollerblades regularly, they are ready to play hockey, but if you cycle all summer, hockey requires a whole new set of muscles or at least the use of the same muscles moving in a different way.
One of the most common injuries we see all winter is back pain due to shovelling snow. Although this isn’t a sport, shovelling snow is a heavy job that requires good muscle strength and a strong heart (heart attacks do occur when unfit people shovel too much too soon). The following are some steps to ward off injuries this winter no matter what activity you plan on doing.
Start by asking yourself some questions about past years. Do you remember getting winded during the first few times you shovelled the driveway or go skiing? How can you avoid or change activities that cause you injuries (i.e. take more time for your work, or practice your sport before the first game)? What activities or sports do you expect to do this winter? How do they differ from your summer activities?
Train to build your Stability, Strength, and Endurance.
Do core exercises to keep your trunk steady and supported with all activities. Some summer activities already use the core muscles, but try to contract them while you do some of the movements you will need for your winter sport or activity. For skiing this might mean training your core while hopping side to side.
Do some resistance training with weights or resistive bands that mimic winter activities. Gradually build up the weight. For example use resistive bands and do a shovelling motion. Try to build up your repetitions to match what you will have to do this winter.
Train endurance and strengthen your heart by doing some aerobic exercise. This could include cycling, swimming, walking, running or raking leaves. Also, increase the repetitions of your weight exercises.
When you start any new activity, start slowly. Take more breaks, monitor your breathing (if you can’t talk while you work/play you might be working too hard).