Fit to Snowboard
November 10, 2009 3:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to learn to snowboard this winter. I have at least a month to prepare. What sort of exercises and activities can I do to increase my fitness for this activity? I have access to a gym, skating rink, hiking, biking, etc., and a recently acquired snowboard that is sitting in my livingroom.

From what I have read in past askmetafilter questions on somewhat similar topics, maybe I should start going to the skating rink. What do you think of yoga (which is an option)? Should I be trying to increase my aerobic fitness with some running? I have to admit, I am a bit of a chicken shit to try longboarding and there is no surfing.
posted by Foam Pants to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The first few trips, its all about stomach, cardio and leg strength (in that order), as you will be falling alot and it takes a bit of effort to get up. Falling often is very tiring, as most of your effort will be spent on getting off the ground.

After you get the hang of it, its mostly leg strength and cardio, depending how long you want to be on the hills.
posted by edman at 3:24 PM on November 10, 2009

All of that sounds pretty good, specially the running and the yoga. Snowboarding is a bit peculiar - it's very, very intuitive once you have the hang of the physics. But the physics seem weird to some people. Others get it right away.

I'd suggest you read a little about the physics of snowboarding and visualize the weight transfer and how the board plows the snow. You'll be fine. It's actually very easy to have a lot of fun on a snowboard - it's totally different than skiing in that regard.
posted by krilli at 3:24 PM on November 10, 2009

Granted, I've been a skier for most of my life but my experience learning to snowboard was that the most important skill to have in advance is the ability to survive falling on your butt and your face repeatedly for the first day or two. I don't think snowboarding is particularly athletic at first. Yoga couldn't hurt since you're likely to spend less time sliding down the mountain on your face if you've got good balance to begin with. Good luck!
posted by foodgeek at 3:25 PM on November 10, 2009

Long sets of squats with lower weight but high # of reps. Lots of ab work. And have someone push you backwards onto the ground (e.g. fall on your ass) for several hours.
posted by GuyZero at 3:27 PM on November 10, 2009

Press ups for arm strength, again on the theme of getting back up after falling.
posted by galaksit at 3:37 PM on November 10, 2009

The Chair Pose is what seems to help most with my skiing. It will give you more strength and endurance in your thighs (they will be burning up anyway but not as bad) and I have to believe that snowboarding would have similar stresses on the quads and hams.
posted by Danf at 3:38 PM on November 10, 2009

n'thing leg strength, biking does help here as well as doing squats. Biking will also help with the cardio aspect. Bulking up muscle-wise is good in general, you're less likely to injure yourself in a fall, a couple of main areas in the upper body to focus on are probably wrists and shoulders. Balance is key, and so is flexability for doing-up bindings, so something such as tai chi is useful, and it doesn't require any equipment. Buy or rent a helmet for at least the first season, those falls while learning can result in some hard knocks to the head.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:46 PM on November 10, 2009

Sit-ups, crunches, etc to improve your stomach muscles, and whatever you need to do to build leg/thigh endurance.

When you get out on the hill and you find yourself saying "okay, just one more run and I'm done for the day" that's when you know you're done. Don't do that one more run.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:54 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, buy and wear a helmet. Because when you do that one last run you will fall and hit your head on the now-icy slopes very, very hard. where by "you" I mean "me"
posted by GuyZero at 4:02 PM on November 10, 2009

Ice is the devil. Ditto squats, whatever will get you used to pushing yourself up from awkward positions, and anything to strengthen your neck. After a particularly icy half-day, I called it quits and felt sore all over. The next morning, the one thing that was the most sore was my neck, to the point that I could not lift it straight up off the pillow, and instead I had to roll onto my side to lift my head (or use my arms, which felt really silly). Trying to keep your head from snapping back into the ice repeatedly will do that to your neck, apparently.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:15 PM on November 10, 2009

Kung Fu! Nothing like hours of horse stance training to give you the leg power in a snow boarding stance. N-thing Tai Chi... gives you the fluidity you need to feel and control the flow of riding. Also, shoulders and pecs tend to be sore at first from constantly pushing your self back up after eating it. Anything that will loosen you up and give you flexibility in your core. Twisting and bending is how you steer and maintain balance.

On a related note: if you haven't yet... get yourself wrist guards and a helmet. It's way too easy to snap ligaments in our wrists when you fall (with your feet fixed to the board you're like a big lever and your first instinct when falling is going to be to absorb all that levered momentum with your hands). And when you loose control and go too fast and hit a tree or fall backwards and smack your head on an icy patch... let there be a helmet between wood or ice and your skull.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:37 PM on November 10, 2009

posted by special-k at 7:20 PM on November 10, 2009

Leg strength exercises, and also core (abs and back) work. Squats, definitely.

But basically the first few days you are going to be falling on your ass a lot. There's not much you can do to avoid it. However being strong will make it easier to get up when you've fallen the umpteenth time. And once you get the hang of things, it's the most addicting sport in the world!
posted by radioamy at 8:12 PM on November 10, 2009

Stomach exercises. My stomach hurt like hell the first day, and I was in pretty good shape. Also toe-raisers (or whatever you like to call the exercise where you stand with your toes on a ledge and slowly lower and raise yourself while remaining upright). Good to do with your knees bent as well.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:43 PM on November 10, 2009

I think snowboarding works muscles that are perhaps impossible to work any other way. I'm not a skateboarder or a surfer, but I think if you are adept at either of those, it's the closest thing to snowboarding. Your legs will be pointed at kind of a strange angle, and you're keeping your knees somewhat bent essentially the whole time, so do whatever you can to strengthen the knee (actually leg) muscles, especially your leading leg. My knees always feel a bit wonky and hurt a bit after a snowboarding session.

After my first day of snowboarding I was unbelievably sore all over my body for a full day or so. Of course, if you don't fall down as much as I did, you'll fare better!
posted by zardoz at 9:56 PM on November 10, 2009

You didn't mention in your post but have you tried skiing? For me the snowboarding didn't click the first few times, I had to get on the slopes on a pair of skis before the magic happened. You might try both snow-sliding devices and get your confidence up before settling on a board (of course YMMV)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:24 PM on November 10, 2009

All the advice above is great. One other thing you will need to buy is impact shorts. You will fall a lot and having someting to protect your tailend is really going to help. You should take out the side protection and leave just the hard tail shell. Believe me: you'll thank me! Here is an example of what I mean:

Good luck and enjoy!
posted by Parsnip at 11:44 PM on November 10, 2009

Helmet, impact shorts and wrist guards are all good bits of kit to get, my tuppence would be that if your budget is limited make the wrist guards your first purchase as they don't cost much and provide protection against (by far) the most statisically prevalent injuries suffered by beginner snowboarders - broken wrists, wrist ligament damange etc. caused by catching yourself on your hand when you go down hard, esp. backwards . . .

If you know a martial artist who can throw you onto a crash mat over and over until you can instinctively fall without using your arms to catch yourself then I'd say that would be worth it too.

Enjoy your first steps in this most awesomely fun of sports!
posted by protorp at 4:59 AM on November 11, 2009

OK, aside from wrist guards, anybody got good advice for the OP regarding falling on your face? I'm a skier who took a day of snowboarding because the snow was bad. I fell on my wrists hard. My partner fell so hard that shoulder injury persists. But I really want to be cool and try snowboarding again, so what can prepare you for the falling forward?
posted by Mngo at 7:09 AM on November 11, 2009

Use your forearms instead of your hands to break your fall. Or wear kneepads and break your fall on your knees first. Bunny hills are often way icier than regular runs and sometimes don't have enough a slope. I found it way easier to turn on a regular green run and falling didn't hurt as much. If you tend to fall on your face, why not a try full-face helmet with a chinbar?
Good Luck!
posted by captaincrouton at 8:07 AM on November 11, 2009

Captaincrouton has it right. Use your forearms if nothing else helps. Here's how we do it in our martial arts training:

1) make tight fists (that alone will prevent you from using your hands)
2) bring the fists up at the front corners of your face about half a foot from your face as if you're blocking, your elbows should be tucked in close to the lower front corners of your rib cage
3) rotate your fists so the palms would be facing each other if opened and so you're looking at your thumbs
4) don't jut your elbows out too much and tilt your fist inward a bit... the idea is to land on the length of the forearm muscles plus the muscle at the edge of your palms, not the wrist bones, knuckles or elbows.
5) don't put your fists right in front of your face or you're likely to punch yourself on impact, keep them diagonally out from your face's corners.
6) brace yourself for impact by keeping your fists tight and your arms tense. By having your fists out half a foot from your face you have a little angle between forearms and upper arms which gives you a spring/buffer to absord some of the shock.

Again, the two main principles of this are: a) raise fists and b) turn fists so palms face each other
If you do that you will more or less land on your forearms instead of using your hands.

I'd actually suggest practicing this fall on a mat.

As far as falling backwards is concerned... at first there won't be much you can do. As a newbie you're going to be a bit stiff on the board and probably end up fairly upright and straight and flailing with your arms when you loose balance. Which means by the time you loose balance backwards you'll be falling like a stiff log and compensate in the wrong direction. As you get used to boarding you'll start to loosen up and sink into a lower stance. You'll get a better sense for when you're close to loosing balance and you'll compensate by sinking lower, increasing speed which generates stability and leaning into the opposite direction or even into the fall if unavoidable. Nowadays, when I fall backwards it's less of a fall and more of a gradual sinking into a butt slide while in the beginning it was simply "TIMBER!!! SMASH!".

Getting used to falling forward is easier as you'll more instinctively buckle your knees and bend your upper body to shorten your length and reduce impact.

Of course all that goes out the window again as you learn to go faster and faster. If you go fast enough almost every bail out will be spectacular and full of ouch.

While riding a snowboard is very intuitive falling while attached to one is not. Having both feet locked permanently to the same rigid object is not something human instincts are built for. It's completely counter intuitive and it'll take some time getting used to it.

To bring this back to the subject of your question: falling safely requires both strength and flexibility. You don't want to be stuff when you need to be supple and you want have the strength to cushion your impact. Yoga is great for both, martial arts can be great for both.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:20 AM on November 11, 2009

Oh, yes, wrist guards! Years ago I took my brother snowboarding, it was his first time at a ski resort at all. I accidentally took him up a harder run for his first try, and within 30 minutes he landed on his wrist hard and had to stop--that was the entirety of his snowboarding experiences. He said that even years later his wrist will sometimes ache from that injury. Even if you don't fall too much, you'll be wrenching your body and your board in weird ways all day, and protecting your wrists is probably the best advice here.
posted by zardoz at 4:11 PM on November 11, 2009

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