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Altitude Training and Adjusting: How To Acclimatize




We sat down with Dr. Laurel Mines PT, DPT, OCS to find out why we train for ski season. Does it really help with injury prevention? We also ask her about adjusting to altitude. That sneaky thing that we don't consider as we make our way higher. Especially for those of use who are not fortunate to live close the mountains.



Why is it important to train?



Dr. Laurel Mines PT, DPT, OCS: Yeah, so there's two reasons why you should train. The first reason, I think the most important reason, is to prevent injury. Like we train to prevent injury so that we, you know, as far as skiing goes, we don't get on the slopes and get injured and then it wastes our whole season, you know, waste time, energy, money, all the things, right? So let's prevent the injuries before they even happen. And there's a lot less energy expended to prevent the injury than it does take to recover from the injury.

Number two would be to be able to perform at your peak and not be underperforming physically because you have a weakness or a deficit or a problem. And then you can, you know, progress your skiing better, do tricks or different things on the slopes, whatever you want to do. And it ends up being a lot more fun in the end.



Well, how long would you say it takes you to get in shape to get or to train to get in shape is a better question maybe?



Dr: Mines: It's gonna depend a little bit on your overall Fitness when you're starting right? Yeah, so there is going to be a little variation if you're already Fairly fit and active, you know Three four weeks would probably be on the low end of the scale. You know, six weeks is a pretty solid time frame to gain strength. Eight weeks is also good.


If you're really, you know, not in great shape, not very active, like there's nothing wrong with that, but you might wanna give yourself a little bit more time to train. Think about three months, 12 weeks would probably be a little better ballpark if you are a little less active in general and in your life. And when we say train, is that like once a week, twice a week. I say three, four, you know, is probably ideal. Three or four days a week is ideal. If you are, you know, an athlete and you train five or six days a week, great.



Just so I understand exactly what you’re stating, we shouldn’t work out seven days a week?



Dr. Mines: I actually don't recommend training seven days a week. Our bodies need rest and recovery. So to gain strength, I would say about three to four days a week is ideal.



What about maintaining your current level of fitness?



Dr. Mines: If you are at a place where you are, where you wanna be as far as strength goes, a maintenance program would be one or two days a week, where you're maintaining what you have, whereas when you want to gain strength, a three to four days a week is ideal.



Snow's on the ground, skis are on, the lifts are turning. That first day back, should we just go floor it? Or is it kind of important to kind of get those ski legs back underneath us? And why is that important for injury prevention?



Dr. Mines: Yeah, it's so important to have a warm-up day. The first thing that you have to do at the beginning of the season for a warm-up day is you have to take your ego and you have to set it aside and leave it at the cabin or in the car and not take it on the slopes with you. We are excited when the first snow flakes come falling down, but you just don't want to ruin your season before it starts. A warm-up day is so important.



Can we dig a little deeper about that warm up day. What is your take on it?



Dr. Mines: If you don't feel that great, you need to tailor it back, pull it back just a little bit. So, yeah, and if you need more than a one warmup day, like if you need a warmup weekend, a warmup week, a warmup month, like take whatever time you need.



Let's talk about altitude for a second. What are some things that you should be aware of when you're coming from maybe sea level and are going higher up?



Dr. Mines: Yeah, so altitude sickness, elevation sickness, I think the medical term is acute mountain sickness, AMS. Our bodies are so variable. And so you're gonna have to take that into consideration. Your experience is gonna be different than other people's experiences. And just because you get altitude sickness doesn't mean someone else's or vice versa, right?


The symptoms can be kind of vague and it can be kind of hard to identify this as to what's going on. I've had it before and I felt like, like flu, like sick, like malaise, like tired all over, lethargic, nauseous. Like I felt like I couldn't even eat, I felt so nauseous, right? And I just I felt like I couldn't stomach anything. So there's a lot of symptoms of altitude sickness, but it is good to be aware, you know, are these symptoms, you know the quickest, easiest way is to decrease the elevation. The easiest way is to turn around and drive out of the elevation.



What if turning around isn’t an option? 



Dr. Mines: You can go to the mountain you know a few days before you're actually going to exert yourself being on the mountain to get prepared for the altitude Especially if you're more prone or you've gotten it before. Another option is if you go to the mountain and you go skiing and you start to feel it and you don't want to leave, the best thing to do is drink water, hydrate, eat and take it easy. If you feel like it's you know an urgency or emergency right yeah go down.


So you can also think of how much are you exerting yourself and maybe the first day you're at altitude exert it less and then start to ramp up. Drink plenty of water, even if you're nauseous, try to get, you know, something down, even if it's like some chicken soup or something like that, or just something in your stomach, usually it does clear up in a day or two.

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