PUBLISHED: 3:59 PM on Wednesday, September 14, 2005
How to avoid winter muscle woes

Photo by Lee Leschper
  To take full advantage of winter sports, like these snowboarders at Eaglecrest Ski and Snowboard Park, stretch before hitting the slopes.
(NUI) - It's almost time for the winter sports season to begin.

So break out your skis, lace up your boots and fill up the hot water bottle.

With winter sports comes the agony of sore muscles, particularly when it's your first time on the slopes this year.

Everyone knows it's important to stretch before taking a run or starting up a basketball game, but novice skiers forget that the same rules apply to them, even if they are bundled up in a snowsuit and boots.

"Exercise and fresh air are part of keeping your body and mind healthy, even in the cooler winter months," said Jaime D. McKinley, vice president of marketing at W. F. Young Inc., a company that makes topical pain relief products. She recommends the following:

• Start with a slow warm-up. Cold muscles suddenly put to work are more likely to become damaged than those that have been warmed up properly. With a warm-up, the body is properly adapted to the demands of winter sports.

• Stretch. Stretch your legs, arms and torso. A few key stretches will get you ready for vigorous activity.

• Massage. Even though research hasn't proved this to speed healing, massage has been shown to lower levels of muscle soreness by stimulating neutrophils (white blood cells that fight inflammation). If athletes swear by it, so should you.

• Jump into the hot tub. A day on the trail is not complete without a soak to soothe the aches and pains.

• Take a hot shower. After a day outside in the snow, your body will be cold and exhausted. A shower will not only invigorate you but also warm you up and relieve your tired muscles.

• Apply topical relief. To lessen your pain and to help your body relax before going to bed, apply a pain relieving liniment and allow the liquid to penetrate your muscles. Work into your tissues with slight pressure. You'll wake up feeling relaxed and at ease.