Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Brian Day 2

Despite stretching and major changes to the ski boots it seemed that the damage was already done to the muscle or nerve just above Brian’s right ankle (outside). We began the session by just letting Brian get used to the new boot inners and revising the work from yesterday. While trying to get back to yesterday’s level Brian was contending with greater pain and distraction. This of course made it difficult to advance. 



We checked the alignment of the ski boots because I noticed immediately that Brian was tending to drop his knees in. Sure enough there was not enough canting on the boots to get them flat with the new inners and they were on their outside edges. Something didn’t seem right about this so I asked Brian to try to rotate his hips (femurs) inwards while sitting with the legs straight out. Sure enough the boots came flat. It seems that Brian has a tendency to sit and perhaps stand with the femurs turned slightly outwards and he confirmed a certain rotational stiffness in the hip joints – particularly the right one.  With this issue addressed however he was more or less correctly aligned in normal shells and inner boots with no supportive footbeds – and only a small amount of canting of the boot shafts within design tolerance. Additionally he would have freedom to move his feet now and so working with the feet and hips it should be possible to begin to correct the stance issues.


Barefoot Skiing

Pivoting the right ski immediately exposed a sharp pain and loss of control. My question however was what came first; the flipping of the foot onto its outside edge or the pain? Although last year I had demonstrated indoors the use of the feet inside the ski boots I suspected that Brian hadn’t taken that on board and a few questions confirmed this. Basically Brian was actually trying to turn the ski by pushing inwards with the big toe (commonly taught in ski schools) and this was causing the foot to flip over onto the outside edge (inside the boot) as soon as the ski pivoted onto its inside edge. Although he was working to stop pushing the foot outwards he was still twisting it inwards. I explained that forefoot must actually turn outwards away from the turn (heel inwards and forefoot outwards). You need to ski as if you were barefoot – using the foot as if it were and ice skate. You don’t turn on ice skates by twisting the skate in the direction of the turn.

Indoors we looked at this properly – boots off.  Beginning with flexion I asked Brian to flex his leg and sure enough he bent his ankle and knee with the foot collapsing. Going onto the heel I demonstrated that this locks the foot and ankle and forces the bending to come from the knee and hip instead. When you are unsure or unstable then this is the best way to proceed in skiing. I usually only go onto the ball of the foot during an extension because the ankle is extending. When flexing I try to go onto the heel – or otherwise I use the foot muscles strongly  to prevent the foot and ankle from collapsing. The rocking of the foot is also dependent on the sub taler joint just below the ankle and this rocks clearly when pressure is on the heel. Trying to rock the foot from edge to edge while not on the heel can cause twisting of the knee from side to side and also collapsing of the ankle and foot. When we rock onto the inside edge of the foot the forefoot turns outwards, the ankle must be strong with knee and hip bending (if bending is involved). The foot will displace ahead of the body but you don’t fall backwards because you are on a slope!!!!!!! (If you did a squat with weights on flat ground the feet would have to be beneath the body with the ankles bent but if you did it standing facing down a hill the feet and knees would be ahead (relative to the slope perpendicular) and the ankles not bent. The angular accelerations (deceleration) of the turn have a similar effect to the slope gradient so it’s nearly always appropriate to flex in this manner with the knees and feet coming ahead.

It became clear now that Brian’s injury was caused by his deliberate foot twisting inside the ski boot. He probably didn’t pick up on any of this last year because of the concrete wellies that Surefoot had built for him.



Back on the slopes I kept checking with Brian how he was coping and seeing that he was not screaming in agony I encouraged him to continue and try to improve technique to the level that the problem could be contained.  To his credit he was able to concentrate and apply himself to the task in hand. His pole planting was causing him to use the terrible up/down timing taught in ski schools so I asked Brain to stop using the ski poles and work on using the legs instead. I pointed out that the correctly timed up movement through the end of the turn (down/up timing) is not really a move up the hill it is a move out of the turn and so uses both the energy of the ski lifting you up as well as the energy of the leg muscles. If timing is right this can be a powerful effect tuning into the resonance of the whole system causing you to be even thrown up into the air as if by a spring – compared to killing the turn with a downsink and poleplant. The hard part for people to get is that you push up from that lower ski as you come out of the turn – so there is eventually nothing supporting you downhill – except for the fact that the next turn begins extremely easily and smoothly. I explained to Brian that this is why it’s important to finish a turn off, almost turning back up the hill,  because it loads up the ski very powerfully and if used with good timing it lifts you up out of the turn and lets you choose where you direct your momentum. Brian could see how the vast majority of skiers had no such control over their skis or their directing of momentum. Completing the turn this way also gives better grip on ice because the turn is finished with the body coming out perpendicular to the slope instead of fighting gravity. This correct pressure cycle is also what fundamentally makes skis grip on ice.



In the video clip – despite chronic acute leg pain Brian is doing a good job of applying all of the stuff mentioned above. The stance looks much better and the timing is clear and correct and there is no rushing the start of the turns. The body is mainly following the skis naturally and the legs are being used functionally and with good dynamics. This is a big improvement and a good base for building on.

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