Monday, December 28, 2015

Victor day 3

Today started off with our usual warm up carving run. The goal was to give Rodion the chance to work on the changes he was making yesterday before going into slalom. Unfortunately when we got to the slalom Rodion was falling most of the time – most of the falls being identical. It was hard to see on video exactly why and after trying various technical changes the underlying cause eventually revealed itself as being a postural problem.

Timothy at last managed to pivot correctly in both directions on one ski. This is a good achievement for someone who normally skis with feet wide apart to make a big stable platform and who has until now been unable to move his body across the downhill ski because of this. We later skied with a two footed pivot by holding the knees together with the adductor muscles – both feet on their inside edges – and Timothy did well here too by skiing in a close stance for the first time ever.  Timothy was also able to bring some of this into carving and looks great carving on a wide slope, with a clear and natural timing and feel to the motion. Timothy achieved 29.26 in the slalom - getting into the "Silver" category" for the first time.

Rodion tried to find a stronger hip angulation through pulling his inside knee towards the outside of the turn to allow the pelvis to face the outside of the turn more. While this does enable better angulation it didn’t prevent Rodion’s problems in the slalom. The fact is that he has a much bigger body than two years ago and accelerates a lot faster. The forces in the turn now require very good posture and Rodion has managed to get away with poor postural management until now. It became clear that not only was Rodion unaware of how to manage his posture but also he had not fully understood the “chi hips” – pulling backwards of the outside hip during the turn.

Pelvic Tilt

I taught Rodion how pelvic tilt (tilting upwards at the front) protects the lower back by creating a reflex in the abdominal muscles when under load (by pushing down on his hands held in front of his body). When the pelvis in is the right place his reflex contraction creates a “hydraulic sac” through the midsection of the body (all the fluids and organs) which distributes evenly the vertical load through the body. If the pelvic tilt is wrong then the spinal column takes the entire load itself. Eventually this wears down the discs in the spine – though diet (high carbs and Omega 6 fats) will speed up any degenerative disc issues.

Chi Hips

Once the pelvis is corrected then the “chi-hips” has to be correctly understood. When walking of running the power to the leg should come mainly from the large muscles at the back – the glutes. This happens as the leg straightens behind the body pulling the hip along with it and twisting the spine naturally in the process. The actual “separation” point in the upper/lower body is the 12th thoracic  vertebra – just below the ribs. The spine should be mobile up to here.  The problem with skiing is that the load comes on the leg when the ski pulls it in front of the body – not behind as in running. When the skis does this it also pulls the hip joint along with it and twists the spine in the wrong direction – causing a postural collapse. If this is then combined with poor pelvic tilt the result is disastrous  - both for the back and for skiing. In fact Rodion had suffered back pain on the first two days of his holiday (though I didn’t know this) and now when at his limits in slalom he could no longer stay strongly on his outside leg – causing himself to fall onto the inside leg weakly and lose all grip.

Working with Rodion on this subject it became clear he had not been feeling the twisting of the spine in the correct direction and the associated stretching of the abdomen and strengthening. This was because he always allowed his shoulders to follow the pelvis and so never generated the internal tension. We looked at the consequences of  allowing the hip to follow the ski in front of the body – which causes the spine to twist the wrong way and the ribs to compress into the pelvis. It becomes clear that the only way to create strength and maximum movement is to pull the hip backwards more than the shoulder at all times regardless of the ski trying to  pull the the pelvis/hip the other way. We must preserve the natural “running” function of the body to both protect it and to get maximum strength and performance even in an unnatural situation.

Rodion skied with this for a while and then used it in the slalom (his complete run in the video) and the difference is striking! After one run in the slalom he stopped holding it all together. We worked outside of the slalom so he could feel how the Chi Hips enables turns transitions to be incredibly easy.

When running he must work to train himself to hold the pelvis upwards as the leg stretches behind. It turns out that he gets back pain from running too. This is because the running pulls the pelvis down at the front and due to his flexibility he is allowing this to happen too easily. This is easily corrected if trained until it becomes automatic.


Rodion knows that he must move his centre of mass. Today I made it clear that all of his biomechanical actions must come from his centre. Every movement should start from his core – from just in front of his spine – and it’s the opposite of what he has been doing in skiing. The pelvis must be tilted correctly for this to function. His focus must be not only where he is moving his centre of mass but on that centre itself. This also centres the mind and removes distractions.

Rodion asked when he will ever “make it” to the level he dreams of in skiing. I explained that it doesn’t work this way. The very best skiers (as in any skill) are just the most aware. They are more aware that perfection is an illusion that recedes further and faster than ever before them – but that the process of discovery and improvement is endless and endlessly challenging. It’s this growth and development that makes anything worthwhile – not a victory in a race. “Mastering” any one thing like this in life teaches a universal principle that is the same in everything. I believe that everybody should aim for mastery in at least one thing in life and apply the same principles to everything in life where possible.

Here however is target for Rodion to aim for...

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