Guest post by Duncan from Extreme Sports Trader
Before you engage the pre-conception centre of your brain and assume I’m an airheaded adrenaline junkie dude, with long sun-bleached hair and an upward inflection at the end of all my words…I’m not. I’m a sport science graduate who mastered in sports psychology, and just happens to think snowboarding is a pretty awesome sport for self development. In this post I’ll argue why snowboarding not only gets your body in fantastic shape, but also elicits confidence, control and determination in the mind.
First let’s start with the physical…
You’ve probably heard of the term altitude training, but may not know what it means exactly. Well, put simply, as you get higher above sea-level there is less oxygen in each lung-full of air your breath in. This forces your body to work harder and make adaptations in order to become more efficient and extract as much oxygen as possible. These adaptations include: increased lung capacity, increased alveoli in the lungs, increased red blood cells, improved heart strength…and many more. Snowboarding is often done at altitude and is a high intensity sport, so your cardio-vascular system gets a pretty intense workout and develops much faster than if you were at sea level.
Muscular endurance is also enhanced dramatically by snowboarding. Getting pulled up by a drag lift is hard enough as your lower body constantly works to remain balanced and stay ridged at the same time, but don’t think it gets any easier on the way down. Snowboarding is one of the best exercises around for working the quadriceps muscles (thighs) as they are used repeatedly to dig the snowboard edges into the snow in order to control speed. Furthermore, snowboarding often pushes you beyond your normal limits. You might be absolutely spent by the time you get half way down the mountain, but the only way you’re getting to the bottom is by battling on and pushing through your physical and mental walls (more about mental later).
Snowboarders have some of the best core-strength among all sportsmen. The snowboarding movement is a fluid one, but is a twisting one at the same time. Carving the board attached to the bottom of your feet requires muscles from the whole body, especially your core, to work together and generate a fluid kinetic chain. Much like kettlebell training, this enhances muscle coordination and vastly improves the speed at which the right muscles are engaged. However, unlike many other forms of core-training, snowboarding works those muscles for hours at a time, with very little rest.
And now the mind…
As mentioned earlier, snowboarding is great for building mental strength as well as physical. All sport is great for enhancing qualities such as goal-setting, motivation and focus etc, but snowboarding takes sports psychology one step further.
For a start there is a danger element to snowboarding that you have to overcome, but once you get passed the initial fear it’s possible to keep challenging yourself with harder (and more dangerous) options. Most people start out on a ‘green’ run which is often the easiest, but as you get more competent and confident you can increase the intensity with blue runs, blacks, or even double-blacks! These clear classifications are great from a goal setting point of view as they represent clear targets for achievement. But what’s more, when you’ve managed to get down a double black run your level of confidence and fear-suppression will be at mightily high level – trust me!
I also detailed earlier how snowboarding is a very demanding on both the cardio-vascular system and the muscles. On top of this the sport requires maintained high levels of concentration and co-ordination, which are difficult things to achieve when your body is crying out to you for a rest. In order to be successful at snowboarding then, on the harder runs at least, you need to have a level of mental control not normally demanded by most sports. If you lose concentration whilst playing tennis the worst you’re going to get is a ball to the groin, but if you lose concentration on the slopes the ramifications can be far more serious.
Lastly, I would argue that spatial awareness is seriously tested when snowboarding (or skiing for that matter). The natural route of progression down ski slopes is a zigzag movement, and when the piste is busy and there are lots of people all zigzagging at different speeds and with different trajectories, you need to keep your wits about you if you want to avoid collision.
So in conclusion – there are few sports that demand so much of the body, whilst requiring massive amounts of body-awareness and spatial-awareness, with a huge element of risk, and no way to quit once you’ve started! Doesn’t that sound brilliant?
About The Author:
Duncan is a keen snowboarder and owner of Extreme Sports Trader, a surf and snow site that compares prices on everything from snowboard jackets to wetsuits. He’s currently trying to learn kitesurfing, but it’s ruddy hard! You can visit Duncan at www.extremesportstrader.co.uk