Stretching, yoga, all that lot - it’s conventionally had a bit of an odd relationship with snowboarding hasn’t it? In the grand tradition of copying skateboarding, we too have largely left the early morning stretch well alone...
Maybe the pros put in a cursory limber up in before their slopestyle runs - and those with a more surfy background might be up with larks saluting the sun on balconies, but to hazard a guess we’d say that the majority of able bodied folk on their well-earned holiday week in the alps are more concerned about gathering the troops, getting to the lifts and enjoying themselves as much as possible while they can...
"Pre-lap lunges aren’t really necessary. You warm up as you go, surely?"
Bundled in with the many other accepted norms for behaviour on the mountain, we tend to accept the little voice that says ‘Pre-lap lunges aren’t really necessary. You warm up as you go, surely?’
Unfortunately, like Captain Hindsight, we’re not always very good at thinking about preventative measures - which can be a little hazardous when the snow’s not quite as soft as you’ve imagined, and that ‘rusty’ feeling is quickly overshadowed by over-hubristic approach to tricks you haven’t tried in a while.
Now, no doubt you’ve noticed that snowboarding is no longer just a young man’s game. It’s founding fathers are growing up a little, and so it would seem are the options for wellbeing that’s specifically catered to snowboarder types. You can follow all sorts of yoga moves along that vein in The Health Shed’s ‘Yoga for Snowboarders’ series here ...
"Snowboarding's founding fathers are growing up a little, and so it would seem are the options for wellbeing catered to snowboarder types."
But, as a means of inquiring about some of the less time consuming solutions - we found ourselves in Morzine with Wild Training last winter, with a trip based on a very open door policy on stretching, giving us the best possible chance to do a little scientific experiment on the effects of regular limbering, without overriding the main reason we go snowboarding: to snowboard.
Could we join in without doing sun salutations in the lift line? Only time would tell...
Day one. First run. And one of the group with a broken bone already? Probably not the best start you could hope for - and a little damning to the theory that limbering up is key… At least until you realise that the man in question wasn’t actually around for the morning warm-up. One-nil to stretching.
"15 minutes of dynamic movement is apparently all it takes to prepare your body for a day on the hill"
Our daily morning routine did, as speculated, involve optional stretching in a group out near the lift station, but only for a brief stint to get loosened up. 15 minutes or so of dynamic movement is apparently all it takes, lunges included, as preparation for the usual impacts your body will take on the hill. Crack out some rotational movements similar to what you might do as you pre-wind to rotate - and the logic follows that you’ll be more ready when you’re on the run-in to a kicker. Hardly a huge request, even for the late-sleepers...
And on first impression it does seem to have a pretty tangibly positive effect. That first day rusty feeling is certainly less prevalent - getting you a little bit more quickly back to where you left off on your last trip; and as much as we might rather do squats in the privacy of our own home (or a nice empty bubble lift) being out in the open to stretch is a pretty effective means of making sure you’re warm in your full kit before you make your first turn.
Adding the same sort of small commitment to the end of the day too meant not being quite so superglued to the living room furniture in the evening, which leaves you with continued high hopes after the first day rather than a crushing realisation of your inadequacies.
"That first day rusty feeling is certainly less prevalent - getting you a little bit more quickly back to where you left off on your last trip"
But day one is only day one. How about the rest of the week?
For the most part that simple warm-up warm-down routine helps to improve confidence and keep aches at bay, unsurprisingly. Basically it turns out that if you give your body a bit of extra care before and after demanding a lot from it, it seems to appreciate and reciprocate the concern.
Which is all well and good, until the inevitable happens, and another one of the party gets hurt...
Keeping up with the trend of skipping a stretching session and paying the price, we missed a mid-week warm-up in a slightly hungover state and one of the crew had their day made much worse for it.
Determined to out-run the alcohol, this author missed the warm up and started lapping, only to get totalled by the icy side of The Stash’s double creeper rail. The result? A rib busting winding that wrote off the rest of the day altogether. Two-nil to stretching. You’d think considering the week’s earlier events I might have known better...
Still, if you’re going to get hurt (muscular hurt, not broken bone hurt) it turns out that a group of Personal Trainers are pretty good company to keep - as we found out with an often overlooked benefit to a good bit of stretching: recovery.
"If you're going to get hurt, it turns out that Personal Trainers are pretty good company to keep"
Wednesday’s injury happily coincided with Wild Training’s mid-week extended stretching session, focussing on good breathing (in for four seconds, out for four seconds) and positions held for much longer than the regular 15 minute stints – giving any injury the time and breathing room to go from incredibly tight to a looser, more bearable state. Apparently the key is in getting your circulation going more effectively - delivering all the good stuff the body needs to the affected area, and getting rid of the rest.
For the rib problem, this turned out to be the key to putting a full stop after a bad day, instead of letting the issue carry on as a limitation for the rest of the week. The next morning felt surprisingly normal, rather than completely limited by the effects of the bail. The pain wasn't gone altogether, but it wasn't nearly as crippling as I'd expected the previous afternoon.
At this point, as you might expect, all arrows seemed to be pointing towards the sign that said that regular stretching was a good idea. But the honeymoon stage is one thing; a long term commitment is another.
Admittedly, since the end of the Wild Training week, I've struggled to maintain the discipline of twice daily stretches, but I haven't given up completely. In fact, while you might not find the Whitelines team in a yoga circle at the bottom of the lift, we’re all gradually picking up our own routines. My own incorporates a particular focus on areas that need work.
"Admittedly, since the end of the Wild Training week, I've struggled to maintain the discipline of twice daily stretches, but I haven't given up completely"
And after taking a knock, or tweaking a limb, or getting over enthusiastic and eating shit in a landing, you can be sure that this is my first point of call, without hesitation: stretch and breathe, and hope it’s all better in the morning.