Massage and Pilates may not be the first thing you think of doing on your ski holiday but here Ginny Christy of Alpine Therapies tells us how both can be of enormous benefit to our health as well as our ski technique. We’re not sure we’ve heard a better reason to book a massage!
Hi Ginny, please could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi. I am a British physiotherapist and Pilates instructor. I qualified in the UK 18 years ago and have been living and working in the Alps full time for 10 years. I originally came here to work for one ski season after working in busy London teaching hospitals, but during that first season I met my husband, a ski instructor, and we are now settled here and have 2 young children.
And about your company, Alpine Therapies?
Alpine Therapies started off as just myself providing Physiotherapy, Massage and Pilates in Méribel and Courchevel throughout the year. As demand for these services is much greater during the ski season I now have a team of physios working with me in the winter. During the ski season we are busy with après ski massages and treating skiing injuries, as well as providing 1:1 and group Pilates classes. In the summer months I run Pilates classes for locals, treat physio and massage clients and am also involved with teaching Pilates on Alpine well-being retreats.
Where will our guest’s massages take place?
In the comfort of their chalet! After a day on the slopes people don’t want to head out again for a massage so we travel to the chalet. Some of Meriski’s luxury chalets have their own massage room (including new for 2016/17 in Chalet Kashmir); in the others we bring our portable couch, fluffy towels, luxurious massage waxes and our magic hands! Your guests just need to have a dip in the hot tub, some afternoon tea, then we take care of the rest.
When is the best time to book a massage?
The most popular time by far is after skiing in the late afternoon, to ease aching muscles. However many people now factor in a day or afternoon off skiing during their weeks holiday and schedule a massage then. This is a great idea in order to help the body recover a little from the demands of skiing and therefore get the most out of the week.
And you offer Pilates as well?
Yes we offer 1:1 or small group Pilates classes for guests, which also take place in the chalet. These we find are especially popular with non-skiers, or guests who are not skiing all day everyday perhaps due to an injury (or fair weather skiers on white-out days!). Pilates can be of benefit to everyone.
In what ways can Pilates help with ski technique?
In so many ways! Pilates is a great complement to skiing as it helps stretch out muscles that have been working hard and improves posture, which in turn can improve ski technique. It is focussed on improving strength and stability throughout the body, from the core postural muscles. These same muscles are essential for efficient and effective skiing. It really improves your awareness of what your body is doing so you are better able to improve your alignment and therefore your ski technique (especially with guidance from an instructor too). Often Pilates exercises are performed lying down but we offer ski specific Pilates which involves exercises standing in a skiing position. The benefits then carry over really easily into ski performance on the slopes.
Massage on a ski holiday – is it a luxury or are there real benefits?!
There are most definitely real benefits! Traditionally massage has been performed after sport for reasons such as flushing away waste products in the tissues, reducing muscle soreness, aiding healing and repair. The scientific evidence for all this is a little patchy as so many other factors influence recovery. For example it is also really important to keep hydrated and to have a light meal or snack (of complex carbs and protein) after skiing to help aid recovery. However in recent years good quality research has shown other less obvious benefits of massage. It reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system and reduces cortisol levels (the stress hormone). These are all excellent reasons to have a massage (or several!) on a ski holiday.
One of the worst scenarios on a ski holiday is an injury – can you give us some tips on injury prevention including any pointers on warm up exercises?
It is vitally important to get ski-fit before you go skiing. Skiing all day for a week places very different demands on the body compared to sitting at a desk all week, as many people do. This may sound obvious but we still find that often people do not do enough preparation before their holiday. I would advise getting professional input (such as a Physio, Gym Instructor or the Meriski Ski Fit Programme) to devise a ski specific programme. This will involve cardiovascular fitness as well as strengthening of key muscle groups. Also it is vital to pace yourself when you are in resort, don’t do too much in the first few days. When the body fatigues it is at much higher risk of injury - this is why a half day off mid-week for a massage is such a good idea!
Regarding warming up, just be sure to get your heart rate and body temperature up before you hit any challenging slopes. Walking to the lifts or doing a few flights of stairs counts as warming up, as do general movements of the arms and legs to loosen up the joints. There is no need to do stretches before you ski - save that for afterwards. Do some easy runs first to help get your body temperature up.
And if an injury does occur, can physio in resort make a real difference to someone’s recovery?
Early intervention is essential for a successful and quick recovery. We see two main kinds of injuries in resort, acute injuries such as sprained knee ligaments and chronic injuries such as flare ups of recurrent back pain. With the acute injuries the physio’s role is to diagnose and assess the extent of the damage. This will determine whether the client can ski again through the week. With minor injuries we can offer skills such as taping to support the injured area enabling the client to ski. With more major injuries we can advise on how best to manage the acute stages and even start the rehabilitation process so clients are one step ahead when they return home. Physio also has a really useful role with the chronic injuries. Manual therapy and soft tissue release, for example, can work wonders to keep niggles at bay and keep guests active on the slopes.
And finally you must know the ski area well, which is your favourite run in the Meribel valley?
I think it has to be Ecureuil (squirrel) a black run that comes down from the top of Tougnete. When groomed and in good condition a few laps on this run will really get the quads burning - in a good way!
For further information on Ginny and all the services that Alpine Therapies has to offer, please visit their website www.alpinetherapies.com.
Meriski has a full Concierge Service to assist with any requirements in resort including massage and treatment bookings. And to celebrate the new massage room in Chalet Kashmir we are offering four complimentary massages for any whole chalet booking in January in Chalet Kashmir, if you book by the end of June. For further details see our Special Offers page and call us now for the latest availability.