Sunday, April 8, 2012

Derin, Defne - Day 2

Derin - Morning
The weather was a bit cold and wild this morning and the pistes were icy with some fresh snow on the surface - but not enough. Derin found it too difficult to retain her gains from yesterday in such conditions and so her legs were quickly tired through leaning back against the boots. To try to help we repeated yesterday's "falling leaf" sideslipping and the focus on touching the shin against the front of the boot. 

Two Ways to Get Behind The Feet
To try to help further I explained that people often lean against the boots because they need to keep the body further back on the skis - but that there are two different ways to do this. You can lean back against the boots - but this locks up the legs - or you can sit down by bending the legs at the hips and the knees.

Leaning Back

Sitting Down 

"Sitting down" on level ground would cause you to fall over backwards - but not when you are facing downhill. It actually gets everything in the right place automatically and the pressure through the front of the feet. When skiing down the mountain Derin could not manage to bend the legs into a seated stance - she would instead push the ski outwards and lock up the outside leg. Getting this right will eventually allow her to stay off the back of the ski boots in even very challenging terrain and conditions. To help to get there it would be necessary to work on Pivoting -"Pulling Inwards".

 Developing the Pivot
The grey day continued and we started to develop the sideslip into a pivot. To help Derin really feel the pivot I assisted her through several pivots with her holding onto a ski pole held across in front of me. She had to lift the downhill leg and put her weight on the pole and then pull the front of the ski that was still on the snow downhill and into a pivot. I physically guided her through the rest so that she could feel it. Doing this alone and with a pole plant instead was still a bit too tricky for Derin.

Defne - Afternoon 
Defne managed some considerable progress today in a continuation of yesterday's work. 

Hip Rotation
To get across the flats at the bottom of the mountain I asked Defne to skate using gravity for propulsion. This serves several purposes - first of all to get her forwards on the skis and in the boots and to encourage correct mechanics relating to the hips. The aim is to generate propulsion without pushing off with the legs. When we started to ski I asked Defne which hip she should pull back to make a turn and she indicated the wrong one. It turns out that this is why I couldn't see any change yesterday - she was pulling back the wrong hip. The reason for this is that movement is close to what she had been doing anyway with the hip rotation and so it felt natural for her. Once the error was pointed out she was quickly able to correct it. 

Within a short period of time she recognized for herself that this all works best when the shin touches the boot. Pulling the hip backwards compliments pushing the foot and shin forwards and she spotted that for herself - which is great feedback verifying that she is feeling the correct things.

We worked briefly on walking uphill to feel the movement of the pelvis and hip when the coordination is correct - the stride extending behind the body (not in front) and the feet being picked up with no pushing off.

Defne correcting hip rotation and stance in the ski boots

Dealing with hip rotation is a complex issue so I wasn't sure whether or not Defne could handle any of this - but she had no difficulty in understanding or implementing it. Getting this right then exposed some other issues that need attention - the main one being posture!

Posture - Pelvic Crunch
Defne was able to isolate a contraction of the lower abdomen to pull up the pelvis at the front but without locking up the hips. She then combined that with the pulling back of the right hip - without allowing the shoulders to follow - creating twist to the left in the upper body/spine. 

The skiing in the video clip shows the posture not being controlled - so the aim after working on posture indoors was to apply this to skiing to protect the back and activate the core muscles. This gave Defne three things to focus on. She agreed it was easier to do when carving because there is more time and stronger feedback from the skis. Carving would also stop her tendency to "push outwards" - another thing visible in the above video clip at times. Tomorrow we need to return to working on the pivot so that she can eliminate even more the tendency to push outwards. When a skier past us who had a very strong heel push Defne was unable to identify what her problem was and this reveals her current lack of awareness of the issue.

It is interesting to notice that when the hip, posture and stance in the boots are correct the hands end up naturally in the right place. This is why I never tell people where to put their hands - changing it directly  would only cure a symptom not the underlying problem.

Real Skiing
I explained to Defne that the new things she felt today and her focus on them is what skiing is really all about. It's about discovering your body and learning how to work with it. This is an exploration that lasts a life time and only becomes more interesting as time goes on and more is learned. When you do this correctly it feels good. Your skiing should be measured this way and not relative to some external marker - or someone's opinion. When you develop awareness far enough then off-piste, bumps and racing come naturally and easily. 

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