Skiing Easier than Walking (Curing Cycling Injuries)

Great – I see that Reebok have just been fined $25m for false advertising and false claims regarding the function of one model of their shoes. What people don’t realise is that this is only the very tip of the iceberg. They must have been incredibly blatant to end up with a fine and it must be much worse that usual. “Barefoot” – is the only way to go!!!!

Skiing Easier than Walking
For many years in ski teaching I’ve been telling people to pull in with the adductor muscles on the support leg. This aligns the pelvis and upper body strongly over the single hip joint which then acts as a point of rotation and a powerful platform for skating actions. Often good skiers reflect on the fact that skiing feels easier than walking but what we don’t stop to consider is that there might be an unexpected reason for this – and that we actually do walk badly. We have mistakenly assumed that walking is something everyone does and that it requires no further thought – whereas we have worked a lifetime on our skiing. It’s understandable that the most common faults in walking are similar to those found in running, but it’s slightly more surprising to find that the same faults dramatically affect performance in both skiing and cycling. The hip action with alignment coming from the adductors somehow came naturally to me in skating and later on in skiing – but in all the other activities it has been lacking. I can only surmise that this is because in skating it’s really the only way to get a proper push with the leg – and I started to skate very young. Later on I became aware that (contrary to common belief) skiing was really skating disguised by an enforced “arcing” trajectory and so the same body mechanics were necessary. For around 15 years my whole focus has been on “skating” and “disequilibrium” as the basis of a continually growing understanding of the sport. At no point did I think that I’d be having to apply this to running, walking and cycling – and that I was currently highly deficient in all of them.

Basic Coordination
Yesterday I did a 45km circuit on the bike and worked on coordination from the start. It seemed impossible to change things at first. Just like when walking badly people lead with the leg and hip reaching ahead I continued to do this on the bike. My hip and pelvis would just follow the knee downwards and upwards on the opposite side. Flipping this around seemed impossible. Progressively  I could hold it longer and longer – the hip and pelvis pulling back and up while the knee would go down and forwards – and on the opposite side the hip and pelvis moving down and forwards as the knee came up. All of a sudden it would flip back around again. It took about 30km to stabilise it and climbing a hill actually helped because you could feel both the pull and the push at the same time clearly. Focussing on one leg alone for several strokes and then switching to the other would help – down stroke then up stroke, down stroke then up stroke – on the same side.

New Sensations
Eventually new sensations started to emerge. First of all the pulling back of the hip/pelvis serves to also pull inwards with the adductors so it aligns the pressure on the pedal accurately and also the bone structure of the leg – exactly as happens in skiing. The power can then pass downwards though your centre and though this hip joint. This makes the glutes and hamstrings functional in powerfully extending the hip joint. Meanwhile this turns the waist slightly towards this extending leg. On the other side of the body the hip is flexing and the powerful psoas muscles are used. On this side the pelvis moves forwards as the knee comes up and a maximum contraction of the psoas is possible (exactly as when running and recovering the trailing leg and pelvis from behind). This feels like the knee is being pulled also inwards in the direction of the navel – towards the other side of the bike where you are pushing downwards. Everything feels like it’s being pulled in towards the centre. Glutes and hamstrings working on one side and their antagonist muscles – the psoas – on the opposite side. There is no tension however in the lower back because everything feels like it’s aligned to work in harmony, the lower back rotating along with the pelvis. The twist in the spine takes place higher up – exactly as author Danny Dreyer writes in ChiRunning – near the T12/L1 vertebra – the bottom of the ribs. Once the coordination is in place the push down and pull up can be used together to increase power and serious force can be applied without feeling any risk of back trouble.

Curing Lots of Troublesome Issues
I’ve always had a problem with very high cadence in that at about 110 rpm I’d start to bounce in the saddle and nothing would stop it. Well this did! The bounce finally is caused by the hip moving in the wrong direction. One it moves the correct way then motion is fluid no matter how fast you pedal. I then realised that my previous deep muscle pains and cramps had always been in my quads and that this was an obvious consequence of not being able to access the power from the glutes and hamstrings. The chronic foot tendinitis injury on the outside edge was due to the hip and pelvis following the knee downwards and pulling the hip out of alignment causing the heel to twist outwards and placing weight on the outside of the foot. The months of back pain last year and the beginning of back pain again this year are also caused by the pulling on the base of the spine caused by the same inappropriate mechanics.  Already after three workouts bringing this together I can lie in bed pain free with my back and my foot injury is calming down by itself.

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