Alex – Return from 17 months of skiing lockdown!

Taking it easy just to get back into skiing on snow again. Just a few years ago Alex would have taken a big step backwards during a break and then used most of the week recovering before being able to nudge things forward. That’s clearly history now and there’s a solid functional base that should also be able to merge with other sports skills and awareness.

Alex had been observing that slalom racers often appear to have the upper body tilted far forward and of course this is correct. When the upper body is upright and the legs are flexed then this sits the body in the “back seat”. Although this can be useful for acceleration at times it can also cause a heap of problems. Watch a cycling race final where there is a sprint finish. The sprinters have their upper bodies horizontal. This makes them aerodynamic but it also allows for powerful use of the core muscles and hamstrings in extending the hip joints from a very loose and relaxed flexion. Conversely the “sit upright” position puts all the load on the quadriceps and knee joints and tends to block the hip joint with resistance – in skiing. (made even worse when kicked back) Cycling in a proper racing position with the elbows flexed (arms relaxed) and upper body kept low – feeling the connection between the core and the muscles extending the hip joint – is great preparation and awareness building. Note that even a small amount of this tilt at the hip joint feels “HUGE” – so Alex most certainly feels like he’s tilting a lot – but although it’s working and he’s more relaxed, supple and agile than before – he will have to exaggerate it much more to get even close to target.

The “brushes” taking over from the poles was deliberately used to see if it would alter Alex’s dynamics (lateral inclination) and it did – dramatically. This shows that there is still a psychological block from hitting the poles. You must feel as free to go through the poles as through the brushes.

There is good early pressure on the new turning ski – until it gets a bit faster then this is where it’s important to be able to pressure the fronts of the skis early on in the turns (not at the turn completion!). While the tilted upper body will only keep you centred – the whole body has to be inclined forward so that pressure can be used on the front of the ski. This might not be very visible but it can be clearly felt. The upper body (hip) tilt is more applicable to upright skiing and the whole body forward inclination (less angle at the hip) more applicable to when greater dynamics can be employed. Bear in mind that part of this “forward” issue is about keeping the flow of the centre of mass going downhill – with gravity and by not unnecessarily overturning – and pressure on the ski fronts usually only needs to be for a split second .

The main goal for today was to be able to feel some relaxed function of the main joints, providing suppleness and agility and that was happening – but it’s only one element even if it’s important. When executed correctly this also appeared to reduce rotation when on the left leg through turn completion. We connected this with using pressure on the structure of the outside of the foot instead of rolling the foot onto its inside edge. Doing so aligns the bone structure to take up load while leaving more muscles relaxed. It’s better to get the skis on edge by moving the centre of mass closer to the snow than by contorting the feet and legs – at best useful for fine tuning and corrections only.

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