The Best Stretches for Loosening Up After a Day of Snowboarding
For Snowboard Expert James C. a day of snowboarding doesn't end when you take off your board! Try this end-of-day stretching routine to avoid injuries.
Odds are, if you clicked on this article, you are in one of three camps:
- You recently found yourself incredibly sore after a day of riding
- You made “a surprising old person noise” when airing out a grab (or strapping into your bindings)
- You don’t want to camp with 1 or 2, and you do want to shred deep into “old age” (whatever that means anymore)
Perhaps you’re like me and, when you think of “winter athletes,” you think of the Olympics, you think of the X-Games, you think of significant events, giant checks, and personal trainers. The absolute truth is that every person busting a move on a snowboard is a winter athlete! Sometimes strapping in is a yoga class all on its own. Maybe you like the post-snowcation attention you get at work when carrying yourself like the tin man, and perhaps the aches and pains are your badges of honor. Still, if you want to enjoy a full winter of riding, you have two choices for taking care of your muscles: regular maintenance or costly repairs. In the article below, I share my approach to the best stretches for regular maintenance to avoid these possible muscle tearing mistakes.
I developed this stretching routine during the last off-season. Partly to keep my legs in shape for riding, and partly (mostly) because I got into trail running, thanks to my crazy, wild-man uncle. I ran the Bighorn Wild and Scenic 18 mile, the Blue Mountain 30K, the Mount Sentinel Hill Climb, and the Snowbowl 15K. During training, I was running up to 30 miles of mountain per week, and I had a lightbulb moment about my snowboarding habits. Even as a recreational rider, I was over-taxing my muscles and cutting short my days on the hill because I wasn’t taking care of my body! In reflection, the cumulative effect of fun but hard riding was destroying my legs because I wasn’t paying attention to my recovery. I was doing the equivalent work of hundreds of squats, utilizing every muscle from head to toe and building up loads of tension from being cold. The popular approach to overcome this was fistfuls of Tylenol, but I’m here to tell you there is a better way!
With an easy 20 minute stretch after a day of snowboarding, you can keep a strong pop in your ollies, maintain a range of motion for flexibility in your grabs, and hold off the exhaustion in your legs that will send you to the lodge by lunch. I designed this flow for a quick stretch to loosen up after a day of snowboarding right when you get back to the car while the engine warms up (or my favorite, while the grill warms up). For a deeper stretch when you get home, I highly recommend @mobilityduo on Instagram for more stretches and advanced concepts.
At first, these static stretches might not all be easy (or even possible), but have some fun with them! This is just a jumping-off point. Modify as necessary and do what feels best for your riding recovery. Continue your research if you are recovering from injury or have limitations beyond the scope of this brief article. Physical therapy is 100% worth it to make your recovery smooth and get it right the first time.
Ok, here we go…
First thing’s first: High-five your buds and grab a drink of water. Water is essential for recovery!
Neck and Shoulders
Sit down and shrug your shoulders a few times. Shake it out and loosen up the tension from the cold! I like to let noises rattle around during this move. Roll your shoulders from back to front and then from front to back. Gently and slowly roll your neck side to side (while wearing your helmet for a bonus stretch).
Spine and Core Muscles
Stand up and REEEEACH FOR THE SKY. Side bend to the left and hold for a breath. Side bend to the right and hold for a breath.
Forward fold like a banana, slowly peeling your way down, rolling off of each vertebra to unwind and relax your lower back muscles. Hang here and let your back loosen for a few breaths.
For a bonus stretch, interlock your fingers behind your back and lift up and over. Let this stretch work into the back of your legs. Take three breaths. I usually loosen my laces here.
Stretch into a down-dog/modified down-dog on the trunk, rear bumper, or car seat and pedal your heels to get some flex into your ankles and calves and get the blood flowing. This is also great for your arms and shoulders. Enjoy these three breaths.
SWOOP into an up-dog stretch, then stretch your abs and open your chest. Hang out here for three breaths.
Hamstrings, Glutes, and Quads
Back up what your mama gave you into your modified down-dog and lift your left leg straight up and back. Open your hip, bend your left knee and “mark your territory” for a breath or two if that’s your thing. Then swing your left leg through into a lunge. Your right leg is straight back for some quad stretching, and if you play your cards right, you can even squeeze a little openness out of your right ankle here. For three breaths, ponder the analogy of “marking territory” and if it’s appropriate for a stretching exercise.
Add an outside twist to the lunge by crossing your right elbow over your left knee and making a palm sandwich for three breaths, during which I usually say something like, “ooooh yeah, that’s the spot.” Add an inside twist to the lunge by planting your left hand inside your left foot, left elbow inside the left knee, and reach your right hand toward the sky to get that nice juicy torso opening twist. For three breaths, ask yourself, “Was that a palm sandwich I just made? Weren’t my palms the bread? Is it more accurate to say “Air sandwich on palm,” maybe?
Rock back into a runner’s stretch for three breaths. Work in an optional extra hamstring stretch by reaching for the outside of your extended leg. Have fun and freestyle for whatever your body needs for three breaths.
Pivot into a standing groin stretch for three breaths. You can also say “inner thigh” if the word groin is as uncomfortable to say for you as it is for me. To break the tension, I give a little rock side to side, and sometimes this is a fun place to sing “I’m a little teapot.”
Finish this section with a squat (or as close to that as you can get) and DRINK WATER.
More Quadriceps and Hip Flexors
Lift your foot behind you and grab the top of your shoe/boot. Push back against your foot for an optional deeper stretch in your quadriceps and shoot your arrow if that’s available. Sound effects most certainly make this stretch work better—“pachoooomm!”
Swing your left leg around from the front and cross your left foot over your bent right knee into a figure-four hip flexor stretch. This can be done seated or leaning, whatever feels best to get that bent knee. The deeper you sit, the deeper the stretch. You can also go full yogi here and show off one of those pigeon poses. In pretty much any mountain parking lot, your pants are 100% getting filthy dirty, so you’re on your own with that move.
Rinse and Repeat
Stand and reach for the sky (3 breaths)! Side bend left, side bend right (and 3x associated breaths), forward fold (I loosen my boot liners here), and repeat all of the steps above for your right side.
Arm circles forward for three breaths and backward for three breaths. This dynamic stretching restores blood flow and gets delicious oxygen into your frosty fingertips. Do the world-famous gym class stretches for your shoulder and muscles around your upper arms. Switch and do the opposite side.
Shake out the arms, forearms, hands, and conclude with a forearm stretch. Say something like “OHHHH NOOOOOO” because you forgot how much you use this muscle when getting up off the snow dozens of times throughout the day. Left wrist and right wrist, three breaths.
Personally, I like to finish with another round of neck circles and send big-time good vibes to the mountain for letting me keep my brain in the bucket. Then DRINK WATER and let those good vibes slosh into your belly and wash all the way down to the soles of your feet.
AND THAT’S IT! You’re free to go knowing you’ve made an excellent investment in your happiness and future flexibility. As noted at the top of this article, you are likely in the 21+ (or++) category, so hit up the local après scene (with pro-tips from Brew-skis Unstrapped) and buy your driver a snack and a soda! Continue stretching in the bar… stretching your muscles and stretching the truth of your riding prowess!
For additional 5-star muscle treatment, pack a foam roller (like the tiger tail) in your bag and hit an Epsom salt soak when you get home.
Want to talk more about improving your flexibility and strength for riding? Want to make sure your gear is dialed to push your fresh legs to the max? Hit up a Snowboard Expert on Curated!