Why Leg Muscles Get Sore
No matter how much running we do, or how many squats and lunges almost all of us still get some degree of burning thighs. Why so? Over the years I've found two reasons that are the main culprits.
First, skiing forces us to use large and small muscles in concert and we don't easily duplicate that muscle use in the summer. Secondly, inherent in early season skiing is a sloppiness of form, which is magnified by trying to quiet sore muscles and still ski.
How to Fix Sore Skiing Muscles
Addressing the second reason - sloppiness in form - is the best way to make it through the traditional holiday family ski vacation. Be it a destination ski vacation or a weekend stay-cation close to home there are ways to help silence those screaming thighs.
Take a Lesson
One of my favorite mantras - take a lesson - modified to take a lesson on day one of your vacation or your first ski day if you are skiing close to home. A group lesson is fine just put your Day One form in front of an instructor.
Within the first ten minutes the instructor will tell you all the major or minor flaws that you didn't have at the end of last season, but are there now.
The instructor will pick out things such as - you're in the back seat, your arms are behind you, etc. and then run you through the right form. This will, when you are skiing correctly, eliminate any stresses or unnecessary forces that causes you to overly rely on one particular muscle.
Crush That BugI remember skiing with Mike Beaudet, owner of, and French and PSIA certified instructor at Ski Pros Megeve in Megeve, France. Mike would tell all his students to "Crush the bug that lives behind your ski boot tongue."
It's a lot more lyrical to hear Mike say it in French, but the theory is lean into your boots. Ski boots are made of a hard plastic so you can hold a pressure into the tongue and also to pressure you back - a rebound effect.
When you are leaning into the boots and skiing, the stress is more on your bones and so much not your leg muscles. The longer you keep the pressure on your boot tongues the longer you'll find yourself skiing without that sudden quad stabbing at you when you ride a bump.
During the first couple of days on skis at the beginning of each season, whenever I feel that first stress in my thigh muscles I think "Crush That Bug, Crush That Bug" and sure enough I'm leaning into my boot tongues again - and feeling no pain.
Ski Season Muscles Workout
Since we're talking about being in early ski season what you didn't do in the off-season isn't relevant. However, one of the best ways work the leg muscles during the season is with resistance band training.
The bands offer a variable resistance on multiple planes - that is - we pull or push and the band is reacting to the slightest off center causing us to fire little muscles while still pushing and pulling with the big ones.
I asked Dave Schmitz of ResistanceBandTraining.com for his thoughts on sore skiing muscles. Dave is a fitness expert and his specialty is resistance band training for strength, flexibility, balance and general well-being. Dave has also provided About,com Skiing with a ski specific resistance band training video.
Specifically, I mentioned to Dave that, early in ski season, I find a soreness in the Vastus Medialis, VMO or 'teardrop muscle' the most annoying. The VMO is to the upper inside, and just above the knee and it sure can burn.
Dave Schnitz told me "...VMO soreness is often a result of the glutes shutting down and making the medial quad get overloaded." This makes sense, especially early in the season when we find ourselves more bent over at the hips than leaning forward on our boots.
Dave pointed me to a resistance band leg and glute exercise video that can be easily done year round. It's a great workout to use during the season because it works the muscles we are actually using to ski and all you need is one resistance band and a small dynamic stabilizer, both easily thrown in a travel bag.
Off-Season Ski Fitness
Here's a bit of advice for the off season that might help stop the early season sore muscles. As I said before, there's not much the average skier can do to mimic skiing in the off season. I think the best routine for someone serious about staying in ski shape, and who likes to play hockey, is to join a summer hockey league.
I've known several summer hockey players who hit the slopes aggressively and pain free from day one. All the big and small fast twitch and slow twitch muscles for skiing are in use and being flexed when playing competitive summer hockey.
Of course it's best to stay fit in the off season, but remember - On the first day next season and at first cringe - Crush That Bug.
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