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Warming up for the slopes with Shawn Phillips

Try this routine before you click in

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  • 2 min to read

Whether chasing powder on Fire Trail or sailing down Poverty Flats, skiers of all levels can benefit from this simple, two-breath sequence that mobilizes the hips, knees, and ankles, while energizing and stabilizing the spine. Repeat 5-15 times, pausing to recover any time movement and breath get out of sync.

Part one: Finding equilibrium

1. Find a firm, flat place to stand, ideally barefoot so your heels aren’t elevated. Your feet should be close enough that if you bend one knee, your body is pulled toward the other foot, rather than keeling over to the bent-knee side.

2. Bounce slowly a few times to loosen the ankles, knees, and hips. To make sure the hips are flexing, press your thumbs to the top of your pelvis (waist) and trace downwards—your thumbs should descend vertically, or a little forward. If your thumbs move backward in space, you’re locking at the hip socket and compensating by rounding in the low back.

3. Let your weight come to the balls of your feet, then to the backs of the heels, noticing how the back and front leg muscles activate in turn.

4. Now, find center fore-and-aft. This is somewhere in your arch, toward the front of your ankle. Once you find it, weight will vanish from both the balls and the heels. This means that energy once spent holding you upright is freed to help you ski more effectively.

Part two: Grounding yourself

1. Start by inhaling as you pull yourself into a “chair” posture without letting the balance in your feet waver left-to-right or fore-aft. As your fingers and hips reach away from each other, focus on pulling your newly-found center of gravity straight down to your center of balance—think a carousel horse on a pole. Notice how the natural arch in your low back increases.

2. On the next exhale, round forward until you’re in a bent-knee fold, belly on thighs and navel lifting skyward. Keep your neck relaxed and maintain neutral balance in the feet. Do not force the knees backwards to increase the hamstring stretch; the low back will naturally round and relax.

3. Use the next inhalation to bring yourself all the way to standing position, arms extended. Focus on lowering your pelvis to the ground and returning the natural arch to the low back. You will feel support return to the low back. As you stand, feel your chest reach forward and the spine come erect, lengthening and straightening. Stretch your fingers straight above your central axis like a carousel pole. Balance in your feet should never waver.

Note: Shifting to the balls or heels of the feet—or staying rounded in the lower back—makes this action much more strenuous. Imagine what the same imbalances do to the efficiency of your skiing!

4. Lastly, exhale, bringing your hands back down and drawing your lower ribs together. Bring the belly button to the spine and inner thighs together. This will lengthen the back of the neck away from the tailbone. Don’t give up in this last step! You'll experience a grounding sensation pressing into your feet and a lifting along the spine through your central axis (again, like that carousel horse on the upswing.)

Repeat all steps 5-15 times, pausing to recover any time movement and breath get out of sync.

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