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From The National Athletic Trainers' Association

Getting the Right Fit for Winter Sports And Exercise Equipment

Whether you've laced up the skates, snapped on the skis or buckled up the boots for an afternoon of fun in the winter sun, the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) reminds you to check your equipment to ensure you've got the right equipment fit for outdoor sports and recreation activities.

"It's no surprise that using the wrong or improperly fitted equipment can lead to injury, but many people still don't take the time to make sure they're safe in the snow," says Neila Jacobson, MA, ATC, CSCS, certified athletic trainer at Columbia University in New York City and certified professional ski instructor.  "Following the manufacturer's instructions, and knowing what to look for when selecting winter workout gear, can directly affect your performance and reduce unwanted stress on your body."

NATA has developed the following timely tips to ensure that athletes of all ages are not only getting the right fit from their equipment, but also practicing sports safety for the best results:

  1. Sizing Skis: With the advances in ski technology, companies are now producing shorter skies that ensure greater stability. Skis should reach just about mid-face. Length will vary depending on the shape of the ski and the skier's height, weight, ability, skiing style and experience. Consult a reputable ski shop for specific information.

  2. Boots and Bindings: Make sure your boots are the right size before putting on your skis. Boots should fit snugly. Your foot should not move side to side and your heels should stay down as you flex forward. Wear a light pair of insulating socks for maximum comfort and warmth. Walk while wearing the boots, to ensure you can bend your knees comfortably and shift your weight without undue impact on either side of the foot. Have your bindings checked annually to ensure they release properly and that the setting is to manufacturer's specifications.

  3. Choosing Poles: Ski pole length is based on the skier's height. Turn the pole upside down and grasp the pole just under the basket. If your pole is the correct height, your forearm should be parallel to the ground.

  4. Snow Shoeing: Snow shoes should fit comfortably. If you are choosing between two sizes, the smaller size is often better, since they will be lighter and easier to use. The length of the shoe will also be determined by your weight. Select footwear that is insulated and water repellant to keep you warm during your workout. Ensure the footwear you've selected fits snugly into the binding, and check to be sure the binding is easy to manipulate while you're wearing gloves or mittens. Although the use of poles while snowshoeing is optional, doing so will provide you with a great upper body workout -- plus, they're helpful when walking up hills.

  5. Lacing up Skates: Skates must be laced to the top. They should fit snugly. Once you're ready to start skating, take a test walk or skate to ensure you have the appropriate ankle support to glide over the ice comfortably.

  6. Sizing up Snowboards: Snowboards are very similar to skis. They come in a wide rage of sizes and styles. As with skis, the snowboard should come up to about chin height, but specific size will depend on rider height, weight, ability and riding style.

  7. Head Gear: Ski or snowboard helmets should always be worn by skiers and riders of all ages. Wear a helmet specific to your sport (i.e., don't wear your bike helmet for skiing or snowboarding) and make sure it fits snugly and does not allow for extraneous head movement. Also check to be sure your helmet does not impair your vision in any way. All helmets should be certified by either the Snell organization or by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). Both of these certification marks will appear on the box or on the helmet itself. Goggles should fit over the helmet to protect your eyes not only from the sun, but also from objects like tree branches, snow or debris that could affect your vision.

  8. Sledding with Style: Make sure your sled is sturdy and steers easily. The hand grips should be easy to hold onto, and the seat should ideally be padded for optimal comfort. Check the sled after each use to ensure it is not broken. Also check for sharp edges that could catch on snow, rocks or debris while moving down hills.

  9. Winter Wear: Dressing properly for winter activities is essential to avoid hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-related injuries . Dress in layers, since temperatures and weather conditions can vary throughout the day. Wear moisture-wicking materials as a base layer followed by water- or wind-proof layers on the outside to stay warm. Gloves or mittens are essential to protect your hands.

  10. Staying Smart in the Sun: Sunlight glares down from above, but it also reflects off snow and onto your face. Remember to wear sunscreen on your face and lip balm with SPF to protect your skin from damaging UV rays.

  11. Drink Up: Though we don't sweat as noticeably during winter activities, it is essential that you stay hydrated throughout the day. Take regular water breaks or carry fluids with you. Regular intake of water and/or sports drinks, such as Crayons, will help keep you hydrated and feeling fresh for a fun day of winter sports.

  12. Learn the Right Way: When learning a new activity or to brush up on your technique, it is always advisable to take lessons. Seek out a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) or Professional Skater's Association (PSA).

"Once you've picked the right gear, remember to exercise safely and use common sense," says Jacobson. "Check trail or skating conditions and be sure that all rinks and runs have been approved for use. To avoid accidents, be courteous and pay attention to your surroundings. Then you'll be set for a great day of activity; even the plummeting temperatures won't keep you down."

Source:  National Athletic Trainers' Association (www.NATA.org)

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