Skiing technique: mistake #2: Clumsy joint flexing.
Skiing technique can be practiced at home in your bedroom. I want to return here to my admonition in “Mistakes #1” on posture, find it here . If you have not already read it, I recommend reading that first. Do the simple practices and then come back to this.
This Skiing technique issue of being able to both flex and extend your ankle, knee and hip joints – especially your ankle – is not a peripheral matter. This is absolutely fundamental to your development of skilful skiing. You need to develop skill in this area for your skiing to really give you satisfaction.
Here I show you some simple and safe ways to get started on this.
Skiing technique – Habits
You need practice to get good at anything. Your movements need to become a habit: the have to be “the way you do things”. To function effectively, most of what we do has to be our habitual routine. If we had to process everything in real time, consciously, our brains would be unable to cope. Mostly we need to run on habit.
Regrettably, like everything else in life, habits are double-edged swords. Goo’ habits help enormously, bad habits inhibit enormously. I strongly recommend listening to this programme on the BBC iPlayer – it is only short, and is specifically about habits. The more we understand about them, the more aware you become of how they can affect our skiing technique.
Skiing technique: developing skilful flexing
In the previous post I showed pictures of what happens if you either don’t flex, or don’t flex all three key joints – ankle,knee and hip. Here’s where we got to when you do.
There are some elements of this that I want to draw you attention to. Note the position of the dot indicating your centre of gravity (c.g.), which on us is roughly in the centre of our bodies somewhere behind our navel. It moves around a bit but this is near enough for our purposes. Secondly note the line on the centre of the ski boot. Your own boots will have something similar on them.
Note another very important indication on this picture – the skier’s back. It is forward-leaning at the same angle as his shins. I want you to take this to heart. It is a major contributor to advanced skilful skiing. Doubtless I will return to it over and again, as these ideas are developed. It is one of the key reasons I so strongly suggest you practice in front of your full length mirror.
You can see I have attempted to arrange our stick-man’s centre of gravity (c.g.) perpendicularly above the line on the boot. You want it there while you are skiing – remember, it’s a very dynamic business. But we do not want to adopt a degree of joint flexion, and attempt to keep it there rigidly. Remember the “cardboard cut-out” image. We can never be IN balance, rather always moving toward it.
Good Skiing technique; Constantly moving, constantly flexing
We need to vary the amount of flex constantly, and consistent with changing circsumstances. It has a great deal to do with the skilful execution of your series of arcs down the mountain. I will cover this elsewhere and it is already discussed in other of my blog posts. Just scroll through the list and you will find them.
As you vary the amounts of joint flex you lower and raise your c.g. Take note of this when you are practicing these movements. I want you to allow yourself to be aware of whereabouts along the sole of your foot you can feel you are being supported. Is it toward the rear?
If it is, briefly stop and re-arrange things, start again and find those flexed positions which bring it no further back than plonked on top of that little white boot line, or a little ahead.
Developing good Skiing technique requires feeling.
Your practice game now is to get in front of your mirror, stand sideways on, adjust the amounts of flex in your ankle, knee and hips and try both increasing them and decreasing them with the specific purpose of getting to know what each of them feels like.
I suggest you arrange your body posture to a chosen amount of flexion, and check it in the mirror. Make sure your back and your shins are at the same angle. Then look forward, and close your eyes so that you can feel what that amount of flex and back position feels like.
Then practice varying it using the same simple process.
You can also try keeping your eyes closed, changing the amounts of flex, and then taking your sidelong look to see if your new position is correct. In this way, you will develop a feedback mechanism that will serve you handsomely on the slopes.
You may be surprised at how far forward your back feels, even though it is the same angle as your shins. Most folk feel their back is leaning more than it is. Feeling the correct posture is an important thing to learn. And you don’t have to be in the Alps,or even on the slopes, to get good at it. It’s FREE, all you need is the motivation and the reward will be yours!
More and more flexion.
The next picture is for if you are feeling adventurous! Compare this next pic to the fitness lady in the picture at the top who, for skiing, has too much flex in her knees. Her centre of gravity has gone too far rear-ward and to stop herself falling over backwards she has had to stretch her arms way ahead of her.
When skiing these flexions constantly change to help develop our arcs and give us stability and agility.
You don’t hold these flexed positions all the time. You will apply them differently as the skis’ arc develops. That’s why we need to learn how to both flex and extend our legs. Don’t worry about this, you’ll very quickly pick up on it as we ski together. For the time being I just strongly recommend you do the exercises, especially closing your eyes and feeling, so you get used to them, and know inside you what they mean.
Enjoy! And if you email me your results and any questions that arise I shall be thrilled to hear from you. Otherwise I sit here having “shot an arrow in the air, it came to Earth I know not where”.
More on this topic soon.