Brian McCormack, MD, Renown Medical Group’s family medicine doctor is no stranger to the snow. He started skiing at the ripe age of 3 and switched to snowboarding at age 45. Why the wait? “Snowboarding just didn’t interest me in the beginning,” Dr. McCormack recalls. “At that time the sport represented a young, counter-culture with a certain look, and I didn’t feel that I fell into that demographic.”
Eventually Dr. McCormack decided to try it out — snowboarding had spread to a wider audience over the years, and he wanted to keep up with his kids who were just getting into the sport. He was hooked immediately.
“I’d already had 42 years on the snow, so I experienced a relatively small learning curve,” Dr. McCormack explains. “But I know that a lot of adults feel nervous about beginning a sport like snowboarding later in life and worry a lot about injury.”
With that in mind, it was only logical that he chose to work with adults after becoming certified by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) to teach snowboarding. He enjoys opening doors for those who might otherwise become frustrated and quickly give up on the sport he loves so much. “The trick is trying to get in their heads and get them to relax. I want to show adults that snowboarding is a fun activity and not something to fear.”
Whether you’re a novice or seasoned boarder, Dr. McCormack’s prescription for maximizing your snowboarding experience this winter provides helpful tips for everyone. Read on and fear not.
Gear and Conditions
If you’re learning, pick a day where the snow is soft or even a day with falling snow to avoid those painful falls on hard-packed snow or ice. Use sunscreen, and always wear goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes. Dr. McCormack strongly recommends a helmet and wrist guards, and padded shorts can also provide cushion against falls.
Preparation and Fitness
Most people over the age of 40 aren’t doing hard, physical labor, so their bodies and muscles aren’t accustomed to the work and rigor involved in balancing and getting down a mountain on a snowboard.
To condition your body and help avoid injury, Dr. McCormack highly recommends stretching — pre-season and during the season. Stretching on the days you snowboard is a must. Target the back, knees, thighs, hips and trunk — essentially everything from wrists to ankles. Stay trim. Carrying more than 10 to 15 extra pounds can slow you down and impede your progress.
“The need for instruction when beginning the sport can’t be emphasized enough,” notes Dr. McCormack. Certainly there will be setbacks and falls, but instruction will derail a large number of painful falls that could be injurious.
If you’re a beginner, seek out an older instructor who can more readily identify with the hesitation an adult feels at the prospect of learning to snowboard. She can teach from your perspective, avoid putting too much on your plate at once, and structure lessons so that you experience small successes and build a foundation for tomorrow’s ride.
Does it work? Just ask the doctor. “I haven’t sustained a serious injury yet. I follow my own advice, and I’m definitely a thoughtful rider,” says Dr. McCormack. “Like I tell my students, always look before you leap.”