Fore/Aft Balance: Top down, or bottom up?
I'd like to invite some re-evaluation of the traditional concept of "getting forward".
Traditionally "getting forward" is explored usually starting with some movement of the body relative to the feet while standing stationary. Then it is attempted to be applied while skiing. Pretty standard right? Then why is it so easy to "getting forward" while standing still and apparently so hard to do while actually skiing? Could it have anything to do with attempting to use the same movements in two diametrically opposite situations in term of physics and movement dynamics? When we "move forward" while standing still, how do we really do that? What is the point of leverage, or fulcrum, against which the body moves? How about our stationary feet?
The same feet, that once we start sliding, lose most of the very friction that provided leverage, or fulcrum, necessary to make that "getting forward" body movement. And we continue to wonder why that movement that felt so easy standing still now feels contorted and awkward while skiing?
Once we start sliding and gain speed, the momentum of the body’s CM becomes the primary available point of leverage, or fulcrum, from which to adjust fore aft balance. And given that, the most efficient and effective movements to do so involve adjusting the position of the sliding, and eminently slidable, feet underneath the body
, not trying to contortingly adjust the body over the sliding (leverageless) feet.
What does “getting forward” represent anyway? Forward relative to what? The feet right? If you want to be “more forward” and it is clearly difficult to adjust the mass of the body relative to sliding feet, how about adjusting the sliding feet relative to the more stable mass of the body?
If your skiing feels like you need to get forward (to be in balance), how about just pulling the feet back to stay in balance? Or making any necessary fore/aft balance adjustments by simply accelerating of de-accelerating the feet relative to the speed of the body?
I use a stationary exercise of grabbing the students ski tip and having them pull the foot back under them as I tug forward on the ski tip. I direct their attention to feel the same muscular engagement on the front of shin (creates ankle flexion) and back of leg (pulls foot under body) that they will actually use to adjust fore/aft balance while skiing. When we ski we then explore sliding the feet fore/aft with some exaggeration for enhanced awareness, and then evolving to use these foot movements to fine tune fore/aft balance (under a more relaxed and quiet upper body).
When you consider that the body mass is taking an inside line compared to the feet from turn to turn, taking a shortcut, there is an inherent availability for the body to move ahead of the feet however much, or little as desired. However we may need to change our thinking from chasing the feet and trying to get forward of them on their path, to developing a sense of integrity to the path of the body’s CM that can take the short cut and arrive at the next transition still in balance relative to the faster moving feet. A quiet body that is not tensed with the intent of contorted movements is more relaxed, and as such, more flexible and agile to balance in harmony with the more active feet
, instead of moving in conflict with them
This quiet and more supple upper body provides greater opportunity to position the feet as needed to get whatever you intend out of the skis anywhere in the turn. Want tip engagement early in the turn? Slide’em back exiting the transition so the boot tongues/shins apply tip pressure, in sync with the legs lengthening and the CM flowing inside on the short cut path to the future (forward relative to the out-n-around path of the feet). Want to create a smoother edge change? Release the feet to fore/aft neutral, with the edges, and let the path of the feet and body CM cross with less conflict.
Just as we have evolved to learn that the most efficient and effective movements to control the skis start with the feet, consider this may also be true for that those that control fore/aft balance. Maybe if we adjust our perspective of traditional “getting forward” concepts we will open windows of opportunity to see new options to play with achieving “fore/aft balance” in our skiing.