Winter is coming...
What comes to your mind when you think of winter? The ground blanketed in beautiful white snow, big fluffy snowflakes floating in the air, trees and houses decorated with lights, cascading through powder on a bluebird ski day, apres ski beverages by the fire, hot cocoa with marshmallows on a cold winter night…..
One of my absolute favorite things to do in the winter is to bundle up and have a bonfire in the middle of the snow while drinking a hot beverage and laughing with friends and family. I love going to Homer, Alaska to celebrate Christmas with my family, and my favorite thing is our “Christmas Picnic.“ This picnic consists of our whole family getting together and roasting hotdogs and making s’mores over a fire. Growing up, I thought that this was just a normal part of Christmas traditions for everyone and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized that not everyone’s family had a bonfire in the middle of the winter. Every year the weather was always a surprise – some years were beautiful and sunny with hardly any snow on the ground, other winters the snow was so deep that someone had to make a track with the snowmachine so that we could walk out to the fire without being waist-deep in snow, and other years were so cold and windy that we had to wear our warmest cold-weather gear and persevered as long as possible before retreating back to the warmth of the house. No matter what, we always had such a great time preparing the food, finding perfect hotdog sticks and cutting them and sharpening them with Grandpa’s machetti knife, hanging out with the family and telling stories around the fire, and figuring out how to drink Grandma’s hot chocolate that was always boiling hot (that thermos was the best made thermos ever!) When I moved down to Montana and then Colorado, I didn’t get to go back home for the holidays for many years and this was the tradition that I missed the most. 2 years ago we moved to a 1-acre lot up in the country outside of Denver and we were able to have our first Christmas bonfire, I was sooooooo excited! We invited a bunch of people and had everything ready for hotdogs, s’mores and hot chocolate, but that weekend it ended up being -10 degrees (colder than it had ever been in Alaska during our picnics) and we had to cancel the party in fear that people would get frostbite or not want to leave the house and enjoy the fire. But never fear, some of our friends and family were tough and still wanted to take part in the tradition – we ended up having 8 people around the fire and it was absolutely perfect. We had so much fun even though you would freeze the second you got 1 foot away from the fire. We laughed, roasted hot dogs and had a great time. I’m so excited that even though I can’t always get home for the holidays, we can still carry on my family’s tradition down in the Colorado winter!
I am so excited to now introduce my new baby, Emma, to all of these traditions. This year we are going home to Fairbanks, Alaska and will hopefully have a “picnic” up there! You never know in Fairbanks though, it could be -50 degrees F, and I can guarantee you that none of us will be tough enough to have a bonfire in that kind of weather! =) Emma will get to meet her cousins and Aunt and Uncle for the first time and I am so excited to get to see the holidays from the eyes of my child.
The other thing that I am excited to start back to is skiing. After being pregnant this last year and giving birth in August, I am definitely not in ski shape! Luckily, I am a physical therapist and know what I have to do to get back into shape – ski conditioning!! There are many exercises that are fantastic for getting people ready to return to shredding the slopes – they are mostly made up of core strengthening exercises, leg strengthening, balance activities, plyometrics and stretching. In my experience, it is imperative that people do some kind of preparation for skiing or else they put themselves at a much higher risk for injury. Some of my favorite exercises for this are wall sits, lunges, squat jumps, planks, bowlers lunge, single leg dead lifts, lateral hopping, and yoga. The best part of yoga is that it often encompasses all of the things necessary for ski conditioning – find yoga classes that include some interval training, and then most classes will have elements of everything else incorporated into them (restorative and yin yoga are fantastic for stretching, but will not include most of the other elements). The reason that I prefer yoga over pilates for ski conditioning is the fact that yoga is mostly weight-bearing, which incorporates balance and translates over to skiing much better.
So I know that I might be considered weird for this, but I actually enjoy shoveling snow! I get to be outside, I get exercise and am productive all at the same time! The biggest thing about shoveling is to have correct form and utilize your core! If people are not actively engaging their core muscles while they are shoveling, they are at very high risk for injury. Shoveling can be a great exercise activity when the transversus abdominus muscle is engaged, bending comes from the hips and the legs (do not bend through your low back), and you switch sides so that you’re not always lifting and throwing in the same direction.
If anyone is interested in getting help with any of the above – ski conditioning, core strengthening and proper form for winter activities to prevent injury, let me know! I can also treat current injuries so that you can return to your winter activities this year and not be sidelined! Contact me at Solstice Physical Therapy: email – info@SolsticeHealthcareResources.com, phone – (720) 369-7738 or website – www.SolsticePhysicalTherapy.com.
Have a wonderful holiday season and I hope that we are all able to enjoy all that winter has to offer safely!