Monday, June 5, 2017

Mont Ventoux 2017

Result: 91 km course – 45th/88 in age cat (50 to 59) – age (58) –188th/312 General Classification - 5hrs 0mins 40 secs

Diet: Ketogenic – no food on course.

Nutritional supplements: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, CoQ10, D-Ribose, Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K2, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Iodine, Triple Boron, Potassium (chloride), Copper, GTF Chromium, Spirulina, Omega 3 EPA/DHA, Trans Resveratrol, Pterostilbene, R-Alpha Lipoic Acid, Taurine, Creatine Monohydrate, Citruline Malate, Arginine alphaketoglutarate, Branched Chain Amino Acids 4:1:1

The first bike race of each season is always intimidating due to having been off the bike all winter and endurance fitness level being very questionable – plus winter weight gain to deal with. It’s preferable to have at least 2500 km covered before the first race but as usual I’m just getting to about 1000 km by this time of the year – though nearly all of it being climbing so perhaps that’s not so bad. It’s a couple of years since last visiting Ventoux and the previous occasion involved climbing up the South side from Bedoin but today would be the more forgiving North side from Malaucene – though the 3km continuous stretch of 12% gradient in the middle of the 20km climb doesn’t feel very forgiving at all. 

For me preparation begins in April when the Easter holidays are over and skiing clients start to thin out. The months of April and May are always a nightmare of pushing the body to climb unwillingly back up the endurance fitness ladder. This just doesn’t happen joyfully as until fitness grows the only visible change is the stomach growing due to eating more – until after about six weeks into it all when there is enough strength to work effectively and long enough so that weight starts to drop consistently and the body is reorganized for endurance activity once again. It’s all made very much harder by combining running with cycling and trying to raise the level of both sports. Running gets significantly harder beyond a certain age though this is very effectively dealt with through constantly developing technique and awareness – along with taking nutritional supplements specifically targeting mitochondrial function.

Christiane came along to once again ride up the Ventoux independently. Due to working until 5pm on Friday this meant we couldn’t leave until after 6pm and with the motorway blocked due to an accident the drive to Beaumes de Venise would take about 5hrs 30 minutes. Arriving at our destination the priority was to locate the race registration office for registering at 7am and the start location for the race – which was all straight forward due to it all being right smack in the middle of the village along with the main car park where we would have to spend the night. Christiane having recently acquired a relatively modern estate car (Renault Megane) and me having replaced all the suspension myself I’d already worked out that it was designed by total idiots on psychotropic medication but there were still surprises to come. To sleep the bikes were taken apart and placed chain rings up on the front seats and then all the baggage stacked up around them almost up to the ceiling. The camping mattresses were inflated and we quickly settled in for our short night’s sleep when I wondered to myself if the rear doors could actually be opened from the inside. It turned out that nothing could be opened – neither windows nor doors. It even crossed out minds that in line with general modern regulatory stupidity the car was probably hermetically sealed and that we might even run out of oxygen before morning! Fortunately the plastic sheeting for covering the bikes was with us in the back so I pushed it over the chain rings through the gap between the ceiling and the bikes and then painfully over about 15 minutes squeezed my upper body through the gap and managed to reach down beneath the dashboard to insert the card key for the car – enabling the function of the electric windows. Extracting myself from this hole the window control button could be reached and then a rear window finally lowered allowing an arm to reach outside to open a door. Meanwhile during my grunting, cursing and swearing Christiane had been practicing her meditation in an effort to ignore my battle and remain calm and centered. That didn’t last too long though and I think she even added to my vocabulary by the end of it. What an absolute nightmare of modern design stupidity in the extreme. Imagine someone in a car crash stuck in the back with a car on fire!!! I can confirm that I utterly detest modern car technology and will endeavour to avoid ever owning any vehicle constructed this millennium. We slept with the window open from then on – fortunately sleep coming quickly and the night being peaceful. Provence is still a part of France where the population is mainly French and the cycling tourists from all over Europe are decent people not economic migrant yobs and welfare scroungers forcing their failed cultures upon us – so it was both quiet and safe in a relatively “Macron Stupidity Free” zone. If the French can design a car as stupid as this Renault then it surely won’t take long for their politicians to destroy what’s left of France. All the more reason for enjoying it while we can!

In the car park while preparing the bikes in the morning and eating breakfast we were next to a group of French cyclists who had arrived in a team van and they were talking openly between themselves about how they had doped up to the gills for the race and how it was impossible to be in the first 100 finishers (long course 138 km) without doping. Unfortunately this is how screwed up sport is today and it is not illegal to buy doping products over the internet where they are easily and widely available. Unfortunately people are just mentally retarded to begin with and are ruled by their pathetic little egos – needing to win or elevate themselves to ultimate, moronic, delusional “elite” classification so as to have any hope of feeling any sense of self-worth. They would rather take unreasonable risks or simply just wreck their health than fail at their pointless self-glorification mission. The guys working at their health, their learning, understanding and at beating their own false limitations are the ones who get it right – and that might mean coming in last at times but there is infinitely more value in that than any doped result. The idiot who gives up racing when winning is not possible – is just that – an idiot and a real loser. Today the brainless only have doping as an option because the only alternative is smart technology and very smart nutrition. The term “elite” is a bullshit word for “doping enough to train twice as hard as normal”.

The race itself started without the chance for any warm up. If you go for a warm up you end up right at the rear for the start which is never a good move. Initially my legs felt like lead but I hoped that would change after warming up in the race – but it never did. There simply hadn’t been enough recovery from the big Col de la Madeleine climb four days previously where I had pushed reasonably hard. Apart from momentarily spiking a heart rate of 183 bpm I didn’t manage a single sustained minute of anaerobic activity on the entire race. Somehow though I never completely lost it and even this basic level of activity seemed to work. The first 20 km before the Ventoux was on really hilly terrain and with some significant climbs that were guaranteed to filter out many of the weaker riders early on. At no point at all did I feel competitive and it was one of those days where just getting through it would be a result.

Arriving at the 20 km climb up the Ventoux from Malaucene Christiane was waiting at the side of the road taking photographs. She had left early on her own taking a direct route and was climbing the Ventoux in her own time. On this occasion I envied her and would have preferred to just be able to relax and enjoy the climb instead of pushing as hard as possible. There are just days when this level of exertion is not welcome and this was one of them – but they still make great training and developmental days. Near the middle of the climb there is a demoralising 3km stretch starting off at 12% gradient and finishing at 11% average gradient. By this time I was running low on water as it had been very hot while at low altitude. Most of the actual climb was in a cold mist but the totally sweat soaked clothing was now cold and the dehydration had already taken hold. Fortunately shortly after this tough section there was a drinks stop at 6 km from the summit – but the liquid they were dispensing had a vile and heavily diluted sports drink mix in it. I need gassy water to prevent indigestion but that’s never available on races. The previous week in training I’d vomited flat tap water straight back out almost instantly. At least the sports mix helped keep the water in. Unfortunately the now 9% average gradient involved some really steep sections that seemed to just about finish off my legs for good and the heart monitor records showed afterwards that from that pause onwards I couldn’t get my heart rate back up over the 140s – which is very low for me. In the chart below the HR is at 144 when at the summit. My diet was ketogenic and I eaten eggs in the morning and nothing during the course. There was no hunger or hypoglycemia – just no power in the legs or body left to exploit due to not being well enough recovered. The rest was just a grind to the top – which was made more bearable about 3 km from the top by popping out above the clouds.


chart


Descending to Bedoin (when the above photos were taken apparently) is quite impressive because there are long straight sections where you can just let the brakes go and fly down. Initially this was cold  (Ventoux 1912m) but soon at lower altitudes (Beaumes de Venise 86m) it returned to boiling hot and severe sweating once again. I could keep going reasonably well but never felt like it was possible to fight for position or work with others slipstreaming etc. It really didn’t feel like a competition and I was sure that as time went on I must have been right at the end and just about last – except for those suffering catastrophic cramps and left behind at the roadside on the steeper sections of the Ventoux. I counted those people off as they were the only ones I seemed to be passing today.


map


For me there were no cramps and no physical issues except for a sore bottom. Before the race I’d made sure to take plenty of minerals – potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine along with a whole stack of nutrients and this seems to work. Previously I’d used sodium bicarbonate to hold back cramps but perhaps that’s just dealing with symptoms and not the underlying cause. Either way there were no cramps at all though before the end there were leg pains – which meant that I was working out at close to the limits. Getting to those limits is probably the goal of the motivation from racing – because normally it’s too hard to push yourself on your own to get there. Seeing the race as a training session this is one of the most potent ways to ramp up fitness.


stats


After the race was over I wasn’t even interested in the results because I thought they would be really bad. Only a couple of days after the race I looked them up and was amazed to be in the middle of the age category – especially as it’s a category spanning from age 50 to 59 and at 58 I’m right at the tail end of it. On such a poor performance day that was an amazing outcome because I totally expected to be right at the bottom. Very strange! All the horrible feelings trying to recover fitness after the winter with an ever-aging body seem perhaps to not be as much in vain as imagined!


data


Returning to the car I called up Christiane and left her a message saying I’d drive to Malaucene and pick her up there when she got down from her own ascent (assuming she had made it) and 10 minutes later she called up from Malaucene accepting. Meeting her there it was like the start of our short holiday at last and I celebrated by breaking the ketogenic diet with an obligatory Almond Magnum ice cream.

Christiane climbing Mt Ventoux…


During the race I spotted a camp site on the outskirts of Bedoin and we decided to aim for that to try to find a place to set up camp. Unfortunately the only remaining spot was right beside the road and each time a car passed the tent was almost blown away. The noise is amazingly aggressive when you are trying to sleep so when the traditional chorus of dogs barking erupted in the small hours of the morning it was almost welcome.

Bedoin is the place to aim for in this region – full of character and life but unspoiled – a true Mecca for cycling. We found a small restaurant where there were reasonably priced menus with superb traditional cuisine that is easy to incorporate into a ketogenic diet. The chef owned the place and didn’t spoil his food with rich sauces, sugar and cheap fillers. Having set up camp we could enjoy relaxing properly for the first time since leaving Savoie. The bike museum and bike shops all over the place is like heaven for cycling geeks. Right in the middle of the meal a huge rain storm broke right above us with a torrential tropical style downpour – so everyone had to rush inside. It was the only moment of bad weather and had been accurately forecast. Meanwhile back in Savoie the weather in general was really bad and the Time Mégève race the next day (Sunday) was destined to be truly miserable and dangerous – so coming here had been an excellent choice.

Next morning we broke camp because there was no way another night was going to pass right beside that road in a tent – so after throwing everything in the car we went into town for coffees – eating pre-prepared hard boiled eggs, cheese, nuts and fermented sausage of our own before planting our bottoms on a café terrasse and enjoying the warm weather. That’s idyllic France – just sitting there with great coffee watching the world float by. Tiredness had caught up with us in general by now so a lazy morning was ideal. There was a small market where we found a large basket of organic strawberries for only 4€. Christiane wanted to move on and find another camping site but I preferred to call the one here again and see if they had better spots available now because it was important to avoid more fuss and Bedoin already seemed like a great central base for everything and such a friendly yet dynamic village. We did return there and ended up with a great spot where sleeping was no problem at all for the following two nights. 50 metres away from the road and you can’t hear it at all – the difference is amazing. All of our neighbours had dogs but they were amazingly quiet and you could only hear them eating their biscuits from time to time. The late night dog chorus was faint and didn’t reach this section of the camp. One thing striking about the camp was that there was not a single vehicle there over 10 years old. Some “mobile homes” looked more like the Sky Team busses on the Tour de France – each costing around £750,000. Now I know all those vehicles are built by the same demented robot and are potential death traps I’m happy with my little tent.

Following breakfast and setting up camp once more we decided to head off to Villes sur Auzon where there was a very spectacular gorge to explore – the Gorge de la Nesque. I’d been through it once before on the long course of the Beaumes de Venise/Ventoux race several years ago and was going too fast to appreciate the scenery so this was an opportunity to get out and properly enjoy it with Christiane. Good fortune was still with us because it turned out the be the only day of the year when the gorge is closed to traffic and reserved for cyclists alone – from 8 am to 6 pm – and with perfect weather. Christiane, knowing it wasn’t going to be a potential killer climb set off quite hard – thinking she had to do that in my presence – but I was very happy to go slowly and relax. It was good that she had a bit of a workout though because for the first time on the new bike she was starting to rediscover the joy of working the body hard. For me it was a recovery day and the chance to take photos (albeit with only the telephone) and for taking in the fresh air and sights untroubled by camper vans, cars and motorbikes.

After stopping for a coffee break at the end of the gorge I decided to push Christiane to continue on the open road to Sault to see this village. Part of the deal would be to go on a fast “departmental” road and Christiane is not too comfortable there. She was pretty reluctant but the idea was to stretch her awareness of the capabilities that we have on bikes and this worked. Returning from Sault she was pleasantly surprised with how short the distance actually seemed. The village itself was not that interesting – giving a high view over the plain leading to the gorge. There were some superb photographs mounted outside a café terrasse that I photographed to capture the artist’s name.


Photograph: Nicolas Ughetto (Sault)


Heading back to the gorge there was a reasonable climb to get to the head of the gorge so this time I attacked it flat out and was amazed to sustain this all the way to the top and for the legs to feel really good. Why were they not like that yesterday? Mystery! Christiane’s descending and bike handling confidence is rapidly improving and she is no longer at a snail’s pace when descending – though her wrist was in pain from descending the Ventoux the previous day with the brakes working overtime. Back at the start of the gorge we arrived about 30 seconds after it was re-opened to traffic – so perfect timing and another great day. This evening – after a shower and change back at the camp we just ate from our supermarket visit in the morning – good healthy food – and then went into town for coffees and a browse around the bike shops as usual.













Day 3

Another lazy morning but met with the sight of a huge Marché de Provence in Bedoin – the sort of markets that Provence is famous for. Once again we found a large basket of organic strawberries but this was complimented with something else organic – a box of roasted insects – including grubs and various other bugs. It was hard initially to put those things in the mouth but after tasting how good they were that problem vanished in a flash.

Two days on the bike were taking their toll on energy so today we decided to go for a hike not really knowing what to expect. I’d picked “Lafare” as a location to aim for with a view to accessing Les Dentelles – the spectacular geological upheaval feature where sedimentary rocks are pushed up vertically due to the African continent colliding with Europe. Initially the idea was to park in security (the bikes were stored in the car not at the camp site) and walk from Lafare but it was clear that this would involve walking on tarmac so we continued up a single track road to a view point where we could have lunch that had been purchased at the market. Interrogating a passing runner we were given a good explanation of how far to continue and where to park for hiking – being able to start out straight away on a dirt track heading into the hills. Immediately we were both confronted with legs that didn’t really want to work for walking. Thankfully years of working on ChiWalking paid off here immediately and we both automatically corrected our postures and started to engage the lower back muscles. Arriving at the base of Les Dentelles most people there were just sticking to the main trails but we found a path leading up to the cliffs. They looked quite a climb away but being hidden by the trees this issue was easily ignored. Christiane kept a good pace climbing the steep path and likewise I kept with her focusing strongly on technique and taking the load off the quadriceps. Suddenly, to my surprise we just popped out at the top where there were a couple of groups engaged in climbing the cliffs. The views were impressive and once again the Ventoux area did not disappoint.



Returning to the campsite we decided to shower and go into town. Christiane’s resolution not to have a meal evaporated and so we found ourselves in our favourite restaurant for one last time – again enjoying a delicious but healthy and well earned meal. We slept like logs and had another lazy morning in a quiet Bedoin this time as most people had already left on Monday (had been a long weekend holiday period). This left us a good clear route home with little traffic but we still chose the long cross country route instead of the motorway because with the empty roads and scenery it's so much more enjoyable and far less expensive even if slower.















































Saturday, April 15, 2017

Haluk

For the past two years I’ve been working on finding ways to protect a damaged knee. Haluk has for a long time been dealing with knee pain and has also been stuck with his “Haluk Look” – his idiosyncratic skiing movements that he has never quite managed to eliminate despite continued pregressive improvement. The solution I had found for my own knee issue was so radically different from anything else that I suspected it could be the thing that would deal with Haluk’s intractible issues – though I didn’t go as far as hoping that it would help with his knees in any way.

 

 

Perhaps the most surprising thing I had discovered over the past two seasons was that in clearly figuring out how to protect my own specific knee injury I was appearing to learn some very unexpected but remarkably positive and hitherto hidden aspects of skiing that seriously enhanced both my performance and enjoyment. The latter part of this season consolidated this from being a collection of vague but logical alterations to a mega leap with no uncertainty whatsoever left lingering on.

Today’s challenge would be to communicate this successfully to Haluk (in a way relevant to him) in about 10 minutes flat – knowing that this is his normal tolerance threshold for instruction before heading off piste even on a good day.

In the video the bottom window is “before” and the top window is “after” working on technique. Although the difference is clearly visible to me the still frames presented further down the page should be very clear to anyone.

 

 

Double Adductors – Pulling In

About three years ago I bumped into Billy Kelly – professional golfer - in Chamonix and this led to one of our usual lengthy converstaions. At some point during the converstaion I found myself explaining about how the adductor muscles of one leg at a time are used in skiing – to which Billy responded by describing how in golf he teaches people to use both sets of adductors – both legs simultaneously to generate a stable platform through core strength. The penny dropped for me and quite a few scattered dots in skiing technique suddenly joined up – realising that this might work in skiing too.

To cut a long story short here, by going to the fixed page (menu tabs top of page) on “pivoting” you can see a detailed explanation of how whether you pivot on the outside or inside ski you always stand on the inside edge of the foot using the adductors of that specific leg. When pivoting on two skis with a close stance we are on the inside edgs of both feet and the adductors of both legs hold the skis together.

Ultimately the adductors are not for “pulling” the ski with any force – they are used to stabilise the body up to the centre of mass – so that the centre of mass can pull the skis and interact directly with them.

I had been seeing Haluk starting his turns frequently with the adductors disengaged but hadn’t mentioned this because it was also a consequence of the timing of his dynamics. Step one today was to clarify the active use of both sets of adductors simultaneously. Whether using the pole for support in a pivot – or the ski “lifting up” power for support in dynamics – the adductors are the connection between the feet and centre of mass.

Critically in our case the pulling inwards would play a fundamental role in protecting the knee joints. Although we both experience pain on the inside/front of the knee – this ironically  is the part we need to contract and “pull inwards”. We worked first of all on pivoting then applied this to carving.

 

Balls of the Feet – Strong Ankles - Fronts of the Boots

Stage two was going to be counter intuitive for Haluk who has always had the problem of being too much on the fronts of his ski boots. In reality this issue has been a combination of the ankle over-flexing and the outside ski being left too far behind due to rotation of the body. It’s very hard to be aware of weight creeping onto the forefoot and the ankle collapsing allowing the boot to become the main support instead of the bone structure. This was all happening to Haluk despite his persistent efforts to work from the heels and stay centred in the shafts of the boots – not leaning on the fronts.

Today the goal was to stand up on the balls of the feet – slightly extending the ankles and activating the feet muscles along with the anterior tibialis running up the outside of the shin to strengthen the ankle. In conjunction with this there would be intentional and strong pressure against the fronts of the boots – working from strong ankles – not soggy collapsed ankles. The connection here with previously working from the heel is that the ankle is tightned and strengthened. The strong ankle limits the inwards motion of the knee and protects it – there being no torque applied etither to or through the knee joint.

 

Fronts of the Skis

Stage three was to use the “pulling in” with the adductors and the “ball of the foot” stance with pressure on the front of the boot to put a lot of pressure onto the front of the ski – and not just at the start of the turn but throughout the turn.

What this does is it stacks up the bones of the leg and brings the hip more over the knee and foot (supporting outside leg). This forward action combined with inward pull appears to minimise shearing forces in the knee joint.

 

Advanced Dynamics and Perpendicularity

Although we didn’t specifically work on it I mentioned to Haluk how getting forward and inwards on the leg very early during the turn is what specifically stopped the agggravation of my own knee problem. This is achieved by completing the previous turn coming all the way into “neutral” over the downhill ski – bringing the body perpendicular to the slope even before the skis come around to point downhill – thus placing you automatically on the front of the ski and boot as the turn commences and allowing access to the adductors of the supporting outside leg immediately when pressure is engaged.

 

Ice Control

This very precise detail of turn initiation is critical for grip on ice. You can simulate this by standing on a slippy wet floor indoors in ski boots with a sturdy table to your side. Fall over against the table and on the edges of your boots. If everything is placed correctly and supported with muscle (adductor) tension then nothing will slip outwards even as you get pressure against the table – your are “pulling inwards” with a strong structure – led by your centre of mass. If the boot slips outwards on the slippy floor then the same will happen when skiing.

 

Outcome

Half of the entire ski length is in front of the boot and it needs to be used actively. The braking and steering of a car or bike comes from the front and likewise the most effective directing from the ski should come from the front. Getting haluk to stand in such a way so as to use the front of the ski strongly automatically stopped his rotation. It appears that the rotation was mainly caused by being stuck too far back on the skis and so being unable to get the timing of the dynamics during the turn transition quite right (it was late) – the next turn then being assured through a compensatory rotation. Being centred better over the skis removed the timing glitch and so the rotation vanished – along with the arm reaching associated with it. The stemming also disappeared and completely new sensations were experienced in the off piste.

Please note that this should not be attempted unless good hip angulation capacity is already developed. I write “capacity” here because Haluk’s rotation had been masking the work he was already doing with countering his outside hip to the turn. Good angulation and inclination – along with clear dynamics – are required to be able to powerfully use the fronts of the skis with no risk of being pitched over the fronts. When all of this is in place the fronts of the skis actually feel like the safest of all places to be.

I also explained to Haluk how to visualise the resultant force coming up through the middle of the front of the ski towards the centre of mass – as if it was joining the two – the ski being a wedge between the snow and your body. When travelling fast off piste or over bumps racing timing is used – the turns not being “closed off” and each ski being visualised as just mentioned – hard on the fronts no matter what obstacles are presented. (In racing timing the apex of the turn is towards the side of the piste not downhill where there is the greatest resistance to gravity to deal with.)

Apparently Haluk aslo found this protecting his knee to a significant degree – and personally I had no knee pain while skiing by the end of the day.

 

Prior to working on technique (numbered according to image sequence):

  1. Failing to come over the downhill ski (can still see the base as the next turn is initiated)
  2. Stem due to rotation
  3. Body rotation causing reaching of the arms – not the arms causing the problem
  4. Stem due to rotation
  5. Stem due to rotation
  6. Sitting back and rotation (actual cause of the rotation and all the rest)
  7. Different view of rotation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After working on technique – visible changes being a consequence – not a cause…

  • Rotation gone
  • Stemming gone
  • Centred – front/whole ski being loaded up (this is the “cause” – minus specific details - the rest are effects)
  • Dynamics timing improved – smoother/earlier pressure  – turn completed more on the downhill ski
  • Better angulation
  • Natural arm control

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Suzanne, Ella, Daisy

 

A special compilation video of the week’s skiing. What people will not see here is any sign of the typical “beginner” – no “snowplough” or “stemming”. The only issue to really overcome was the spontaneous rotation of the body for all three – due to them all being horse riders. Ella was the worst with this issue initially but when she carefully sorted it out she ended up being the strongest skier.

 

 

I highly recommend that the girls continue their interest in skating at home – an interest which played a great part in their success this week. They are not afraid of accelerations or of falling and know how to use their bodies naturally. Remember – this is just a beginning.

Skiing is “holistic” in that it is very tolerant of errors. You can remove important elements and it still works (sort of) and is called skiiing. Being holistic is both a blessing and a curse – a blessing because it permits progressive learning and a curse because it permits insidious errors to install over time. Always work towards staying on track: If it doesn’t fit in with dynamics and skating then it’s nonsense – and there is an awful lot of that out there. Please don’t think that you “get it” and now you can just ski forgetfully or “absent mindedly”. Working with clients I personally “get” something new every day and that’s after 30 years of professsional teaching.  There are whole universes of off-piste, bumps and racing as well as mindful skiing in it’s own right.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Suzanne, Ella, Daisy Day 6

Suzanne bravely decided to proceed with her last day despite hardly being able to use her left arm – a problem worsened by being left handed. We started out on the familiar Vert to see how things would go. Clearly there were a few considerations in mind including not holding the girls back – but nothing was certain and this just meant being flexible with plans as the day progressed. In the end it all worked out very well and was just about optimum for everyone. Suzanne did extremely well regardless of her injury and it was probably good holding back the girls a little – working on technique - until allowing them to have a real uninhibited blast at the very end when their skiing had strengthened even more.

 

 

Skating Development

Suzanne felt that she had gone backwards regarding her control over the hips/pelvis so we initially took a step back with technique to correct this. First stage was to re-establish good grip in the turns and we knew already that for Suzanne the best way was to initiate the turn by getting onto the uphill edge of the uphill ski and falling into the turn from there. This simply prevents any unconscious stemming and promotes simple dynamics.

Once Suzanne had found her grip the stance improved somewhat naturally and her confidence began to return. We would simply concentrate on dynamics through the day because when using dynamics the Centre of Mass is supported by the skis in all of its activity – poles and arms only being used for support in pivoting. Removing the need for any stress on the arms would give the greatest opportunity for Suzanne to develop her skiing, avoid compounding the injury and enjoy the last day.

Hip use is fundamentally related to skating. The body has to perch itself on one hip joint at a time and for this to happen the hip has to retract inwards beneath the centre of mass – requiring a certain flexibility at the joint. Skating, for most people, naturally brings them to a good strong use of the hip in this way because it is necessary for the functional use of the legs in the skating action. Additionally, holding the ski on edge with the foot and adductor muscles and “falling inwards” (inclination and angulation) are all necessary parts of edge control and gripping – so any use of skating exercises helps to develop better hip function.

We skated across the hill from the bottom ski – stepping up onto the upper ski with each stride – onto the upper edge (through remaining always on the inside of both feet). Each stride had the skis diverging and each step was like preparing to initiate a turn by standing on the uphill edge of the top ski. On the final skate the idea is to stand up on the top ski and this time actually fall into the turn. The skating is not only developing hip angulation but cultivates timing, stability, independent leg action, cooordination and  dynamics.

Suzanne was momentarily confused with the idea of initiating the turn from the outside edge of the top ski – noticing that this is how a pivot is executed. In this case only the dynamics are being controlled by allowing the ski to roll over and change edge before the new turn begins. The skis are travelling forwards as opposed to sideways in the pivot and the support comes exclusively from the lifting force of the ski – not from pole use.

Later on in slush we would revert to “End of Turn Dynamics” where the body would come over the downhill ski in the same way, completing the the turn on the uphill edge of the downhill ski and allowing the body to lift up and “out” of the turn using that edge until moving into “neutral” – thus assuring easy entry into the next turn through the deep slush. We left this until later in the day and until it was appropriate and necessary.

 

Foot Forward Technique (also related to skating)

The first video clips are of “Foot Forward” technique and the exercise that we use to develop it. Pushing the foot forward is also related to skating and by keeping the upper body still this develops a good function of the hip joint – and awareness of how to make the outside ski far more active. The foot/leg is not twisted it simply swings around in an arc – the foot inside the ski boot always remaining turned slightly outwards to hold the foot on its inside edge.

Diasy in particular noticed when skiing with this that the outside ski never actually went ahead of the inside ski and that her turns were sharper. Suzanne noticed that she felt more grip and stability.

Actively pushing the ski forwards – when combined with dynamics – reduces the turn radius and is the principal way to alter and control turn radius in dynamic skiing.

With foot forward technique in place we now went onto a steep “black” rated slope and everyone managed to ski it fully in control – working the turns to completion and linking them rythmically by exploiting the build up of forces on the outside ski. (The second series of clips in today’s video)

 

Mindful Skiing

How do I answer the question “What level of skier am I?” ? Perfection does not exist so the idea of level – especially based upon obsolete, commercial and senseless standards – is essentially pointless. Children need to have incentives and are greatly motivated by getting badges and awards – but much of this can be scarily superficial and misleading. I have met French instructors who have been told off by their schools for improving students too quickly and stepping them through their official awards system too rapidly – skipping stages  - believing that without this incentive for the “next badge” the student won’t return.

What counts is not the illusion of “levels” it’s the process of development – something inherent in life itself. People get value and self esteem from improving competence and also from becoming better at learning istelf. In skiing competence translates into freedom and fun opposed to frustration and injury. Learning translates into awareness and self mastery. There are no “levels” just an ongoing process and the efficiency of this process. I asked the girls to rate how well they were focusing on their body, internally – bringing their attention to the parts of the feet, legs, muscles and centre of mass motion. This is the practical key to development – not whether you can “snowplough in control” or not. (Hopefully after this week the grils cannot snowplough at all because I strictly avoided teaching them this as it violates all principles of development both in terms of physical coordination and psychology.)

We eventually settled on a “mindfulness” scale of between 0 and 10 at 7 for everybody. Suzanne did amazingly well to overcome her injury concerns and make significant progress in learning during the day while the girls were flying by the end of the day – but intelligently controlling every aspect. This figure reflects a process and ability to move onwards – not some arbitrary level.

 

Daisy and Ella using dynamics like pros! – making difficult slush and bumps look easy. No one will believe this is only their 6th day on skis – and 4 of those were only half days. Well done girls! Notice their hands and arms are placed really well and the subject has never been mentioned to them once.

 

 

 

Mont Blanc close up

 

 

Two shots of the cable car at Tignes glacier viewed from Val

 

 

Daisy’s favourite vertical run – which we didn’t quite manage on this occasion

 

 

 

La Scara - huge international children’s race (12 to 15yrs)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Suzanne, Ella, Daisy Day 5

 

Happy “2nd 5th” birthday to Daisy today!

 

 

(Some parts of today’s lessons were repeated both morning and afternoon so I’ve copied the same text in the appropriate locations)

Dynamics Part 2

Exiting the turn is even more important than entering the turn. When linking two turns the first is not completed until the body is in “neutral” going across the slope. Neutral is when the skis are flat and the body perpendicular to the slope – but side on to the fall line. This position is only sustainable for a fraction of a second as the body is already beyond the vertical and is now being pulled laterally downhill by gravity. Turns are connected and rhythm established by this active movement – using the lifting force of the ski when pressure is at the maximum at the end of the turn. The lifting force keeps the body stable through this turning transition phase.

We carried out an exercise where I stood downhill and pulled each skier over their downhill leg and ski then asked them to change support leg when they were able to push against me. “Hanger” turns were then demonstrated to show an exaggerated version of this movement.

Transitioning a turn this way allows early edge pressure and grip – rounding and smoothing out the start of each turn.

 

Pivoting

Always use the inside of the foot and adductors on the supporting leg – or both legs for a two footed pivot with the skis close together. The muscle tension is not to “pull” the skis by force it is to make the body one coherent unit so that the Centre of Mass can pull the skis into the turn –but the Centre of Mass is now controlled and supported in its lateral motion by the ski pole and not by lifting power from the skis.  The skis sideslip into each turn with minimal forward motion.

Ella did better truning on the inside ski than on the outside one. This is very unusual because most people find that turning on the oustide ski is next to impossible to begin with. Everyone managed this in fact and it is interesting to see this. The reason for this is probably because all of the instruction from the beginning has been involving motion of the centre of mass.

On bumps the tips of the skis are in the air free of contact with the snow – so pivoting is even easier.

Pivoting on bumps Suzanne was the best at moving the Centre of mass downhill and Ella was struggling with this – not getting her weight on her pole and massively lifting the front of her inside ski up in the air to compensate…

 

 

 

 

Skating - Posture and Angulation

We started working on skating but quickly ran into a problem when Suzanne wasn’t able to grip with the skis to then move/project the centre of mass. In fact most of the edge grip actually comes from the body falling down and inwards – this being termed “inclination”. Some of the edge grip however comes from “angulation” at the hip and for skaters this comes naturally. The girls are skaters and so they had no issues but Suzanne was locked up at the hip joints and struggling.

The way to correct this is to first of all establish “neutral pelvis” then tilt the entire upper body forwards from the hip joints. Suzanne had a tendency to only bend the lower back instead. When the hips are flexed you then pull the supporting leg underneath the body and perch the entire body on top of that single hip joint. This produces “hip angulation” and allows the edge of the skis to bite more than just inclination alone.

When skiing angulation becomes a key issue in tightening and controlling turn radius.

James, Liz, David

James had recovered from his gastro and was raring to go again but today David would have priority. It helps if everyone is on the same page with ideas and goals. The session would evolve in four distinct sections with dynamics taking centre stage. With David being an experienced skier we could go straight on to the second part of dynamics – which although not ideal for him so early on would be important for both Liz and James. Liz tends to rush the start of the turn to get the skis downhill beneath her – instead of getting the body downhill of the skis and trusting them. James does something similar but taking too long with the turn initiation and then rushing the end of the turn. Working on both the start and end of the turn with their components of dynamics should sort out both issues.

  1. Video Scene: David skiing his original “Vertical” style (but throwing in a couple of dynamic turns anyway!)
  2. Video Scene: David using dynamics – both into and out of the turn
  3. Video Scene: Liz using dynamics – both into and out of the turn
  4. Video Scene: James using dynamics – both into and out of the turn

 

 

Dynamics Part 1

http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/dynamics.html – this is the link to the fixed dynamics page. All the explanations and exercises were the same as described on the previous posts for James.

Perpendicularity was a key issue for David so time was taken to explain it thoroughly. The Centre of Mass falling into the turn places the body automatically perpendicular to the skis as they point down the slope – without the need to “lean forwards”. We aim to exploit the “free float” nature of sliding by relating to the skis and slope exactly as we do when the skis are horizontal across the hill and we are standing vertical – the common quality being “perpendicularity”.

Davd has not been “leaning back” he has been locked into the vertical plane (relative to gravity) due to moving the centre of mass outwards (not down the hill) and also by coming “up” to start the turn and losing all stability and pressure from the skis. Coming “up and outwards” will always force a skier into the vertical as the skis plunge downhill. When David worked directly on moving the Centre of Mass downhill he produced an even better perpendicularity than in the video clip where he was working on both aspects of Dynamics (slightly prematurely).

James also tends to be a bit vertical and on the backs of the boots but for him I would have other ways to deal with this. He needs to learn to feel the fronts of the skis and this is a separate issue. He is however using dynamcis and working hard at it – being a bit thwarted by his rotational habits for the moment. Practise with dynamics will help to eliminate the rotation. He is determined and has a great attitude to the challenges that skiing brings to us all – both physically and emotionally.

 

Dynamics Part 2

Exiting the turn is even more important than entering the turn. When linking two turns the first is not completed until the body is in “neutral” going across the slope. Neutral is when the skis are flat and the body perpendicular to the slope – but side on to the fall line. This position is only sustainable for a fraction of a second as the body is already beyond the vertical and is now being pulled laterally downhill by gravity. Turns are connected and rhythm established by this active movement – using the lifting force of the ski when pressure is at the maximum at the end of the turn. The lifting force keeps the body stable through this turning transition phase.

We carried out an exercise where I stood downhill and pulled each skier over their downhill leg and ski then asked them to change support leg when they were able to push against me. “Hanger” turns were then demonstrated to show an exaggerated version of this movement.

Transitioning a turn this way allows early edge pressure and grip – rounding and smoothing out the start of each turn – especially important for Liz at this stage.

 

Pivoting – Outside Ski

http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/p/dynamics.html

Standard practise for pivoting. Always use the inside of the foot and adductors on the supporting leg – or both legs for a two footed pivot with the skis close together. The muscle tension is not to “pull” the skis by force it is to make the body one coherent unit so that the Centre of Mass can pull the skis into the turn –but the Centre of Mass is now controlled and supported in its lateral motion by the ski pole and not by lifting power from the skis.  The skis sideslip into each turn with minimal forward motion.

 

Skating

I was keen to introduce skating at this point because the down/up timing of skating reinforces the down/up timing of dynamics (inverted pendulum) – and this resonates with the lifting power of the skis. Resonance is an amplification of an effect and often this leads to a skier becoming airborne as a result between turns. The aim here though is just to reinforce the correct fundamental movement pattern, get the legs working independently and functionally and cultivate rhythm based on active movement and feedback.