Our favourite recreational activities and sports during winter usually involve doing those activities on either ice or snow. One major trait of ice and snow, and what makes it so fun to play in, is also the trait that makes it so risky; it’s slipperiness!

In just about all of Canadian’s favorite winter activities; be it hockey, skiing, snowboarding, curling or skating, take place on ice or snow, so it’s important to get ready for your season of fun by working on your strength and coordination so you can enjoy your activities knowing you have done all that you can to prevent accidents and injuries.

With skiing, injuries commonly happen to the knees, especially with downhill (alpine) skiing, where fixed-heel bindings on skis can result in more stress being placed on the cruciate ligaments of the knee joints.

With snowboarding, and many of the sports played on ice, falling onto an outstretched hand is so commonplace, it even has its own acronym, FOOSH. These accidents can typically result in one or more injuries to the upper extremity. FOOSH injuries can extend all the way up the arm; like Colles fracture, a hyperextension-force break of the radius bone at the wrist, sprains to the ulnar collateral ligament, (UCL) of the elbow (the thumb has a ligament of the same name as well!) The forces from the fall can transmit all the way up the arm to fracture the clavicle (collarbone) as well.


The scaphoid is one of the little bones in your wrist known as the carpals. It takes its blood supply from two different branches off the radial artery. A fracture can cut off the blood supply to a portion of this bone, leading to avascular necrosis (AVN) if left untreated. If you fall on your outstretched hand and develop pain in the little indented area between the thumb and wrist on the backside of your hand, an area often referred to as the “anatomical snuffbox”, you may want to have that examined by your health professional, as it could be more serious than you think!

Conditioning exercises to prepare your body for some recreational winter fun must include core strength and stability exercises with an emphasis on balance training. Start at least a few weeks in advance of your favorite winter activity to make sure you are in your peak condition, and more likely to enjoy yourself with a higher degree of safety.


These are great for core strength and stability. Try SIDE PLANKS as well, prop yourself up on one of your elbows, making sure your shoulder isn’t sinking into your neck. You can start off with your hip on the floor, and if you can, lift your hip off the floor, forming a straight diagonal line from head to foot. Try holding for 15, 20, or 30 seconds- whatever you can safely before starting to shake and lose balance!


Begin with basic squats, stationary at first. Remember, proper form is everything! Same with lunges, one foot a large step in front of you, and the other behind you, balancing on the ball of the foot. Keep your head and shoulders over your hips. Don’t lean forward but just drop down with control, making sure your knee doesn’t go past your toe of the front foot.

You can “Plyo” squats and lunges. Adding a plyometric enhancement to these exercises make them more challenging and functional, for example;


Begin in a squat position knees up to 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor, arms out forward, head and chest up, buttocks out and waist straight. Jump explosively upwards, thrusting your arms back as you do so, and land back on both feet simultaneously. Repeat. For example, try doing three sets of six squats each, and you can alternate them with the lunges.


A good floor exercise for core strengthening is the Russian Twist,  with or without a weight. Go into a semi SIT UP position- arms in front of chest with elbows out to sides, ideally, you want to get those feet off the floor. Twist with control from side to side, bringing the weight across the chest. This targets the abdominals, especially those obliques so important for core stability. Balance exercises are so important to prepare yourself for winter sports and activities, not to mention simply walking on those icy sidewalks!


This helps to improve balance in the lumbar pelvic hip complex: While lifting one knee to 90 degree position, simultaneously raise the same side arm out beside you, and the other arm in front, you can alternate arms while standing on the same leg, and then switch legs, and repeat with the arms. Single -leg “running” (in one spot!) while standing on one leg, bring the other knee up to 90 degrees, slow and with control bring the leg back towards the ground- but don’t put your foot on the floor yet! Kick your foot back, use your arms as counter- balance. Try to keep this up for at least 20 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

These are just a scant few of all the exercises you can do to help improve your chances of an accident free recreational winter! And don’t forget to stretch as well!

In health,
Linda McLaren

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