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Ski Fitness Update; A few Surprises

post #1 of 69
Thread Starter 
I just returned from the IDEA International Fitness conference in SF. My main reason for going was a workshop done by Suzanne Nottingham http://www.suzannenottingham.com, entitled Real Training for Winter Sports. Suzanne is a Level 3 instructor who just recieved her 20 year pin at Mammoth, and as I mentioned before, was last years IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year.

The premise of her workshop was that changes in equipment have brought about changes in ski technique. Therefore, it follows that there should be changes in the way fitness professionals design a ski specific training regimen.

She is adamant about one point in particular: Stance width. Since she is opposed to a boot locked position in skiing, she feels that it is inappropriate for ski conditioning, and the spent the first 15 minutes of the workshop having us experiment with balance exercises in different stance widths to prove a point.

I know this issue is controversial, but in the interest of not getting totally sidetracked, it would be great if someone wants to re-visit or debate that issue, that they bring up the topic entitled Stance Width, in the ski instruction section.

The next part of the workshop was interesting. In a way, I fell that it taught me more about how to teach a level 1 ski class, even though I am in no way qualified to teach skiing. Her qustion: Since working with the new equipment involves initiating moves from the feet and ankle, why do fitness trainers emphasize the leg muscles, before giving their students any awareness of what is happening with their feet.
Hmmm. Good question!

Because as trainers, we have more of an oppotunity to see what is going on in the feet and ankles, given that we are working with people who are either in socks or bare feet.

One of the things that makes balance problematic when doing lunges is a person's tendency to clench their toes, creating a smaller, and less stable base of support. Suzanne had commented that this tension in the feet is one of the reasons that people end up breaking at the waist while skiing bumps. I'd be curious about your thoughts on that idea.

So she is really into exercises that promote fore/aft balance and awareness of edging and weight transfer across the foot. Much of what she did involved pairing off with a partner and helping each other find a balanced stance. We would start out by simply rolling back and forth from our toes to our heels, trying to keep the movement as smooth and fluid as possible.

Then came the good part. Stand on one leg, bring the other leg back behind you, keeping it lifted from the floor. Keep your standing leg slightly bent. Without moving any other body part, roll from the toes to the heels. YIKES! The one I enjoyed alot more involved coming into a "tuck" position, and doing fore aft and lateral ankle movements.

Here is another interesting issue she brought up. Since skiing involves constant motion, so should the conditioning. In other words, NO Wall sits!! Another of her theories: People whose skiing style is static often end up in the back seat.
Is this true?

Okay. Here comes the EUREKA moment for me. Since the new shaped skis do not require that one have EXTREME strength to use them properly, a SKI SPECIFIC conditioning program should not involve EXTREME strength training. If it does, you will be sending the subtle message to your students that skiing requires EXTREME strength, and they will "muscle" their turns. Like I do . Hmmm.
Please note that in NO WAY is anyone implying that strength training is not important. I am a strong advocate of strength training, but it needs to be balanced. As I have said many times before, many people overtrain their quads and underwork their hamstrings, which can lead to knee injuries. And woman in particular tend to do too much flexibility work and not enough strength work. But I do feel that for SKI SPECIFIC conditioning, SOME, not all of the strength training needs to be practiced on unstable surfaces. That may mean lightening the load, but it is more functional.

WOW! This is getting long! There is a whole lot more on specific exercise techniques, but why don't I start with this and I'll add more later.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence

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[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited July 09, 2001).]</FONT><FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited July 09, 2001).]</FONT>
post #2 of 69
As a Level 3 PSIA, Level 2 USSCA Race Coach, and a medical professional, I think this person who ran that workshop is full of crap about not needing strength training in skiing. I could go into a long discussion about anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics, but I will keep it simple. In a nutshell, just look at the World Cup circut. All those guys are skiing shorter shaped skis, and all of them are built like NFL linebackers. Even with all their extreme strength, they have the ability to finess a ski better than anybody else. In fact, the racers now are much stronger than they were back in the straight ski days. Bottom line is that skiing is a power sport. While it true that shaped skis will let you start movements with less force than straight skis, they require more strength at the high end of skiing due to the increased forces that they generate. It is a double edged sword. There has been a lot of discussion lately in the ski industry concerning how to get the typical fat,lazy, weak, non-athletic American off their couch, and out on the slopes to generate more revenue for the resorts. Telling the skiing public that you can become a great skier without any strength conditioning sounds like part of that plan. Don't believe it.
post #3 of 69
I'm going to have to side with JS on the issue of strength training. If you are serious about skiing, then you need to be doing a leg routine in the gym, and spending a bunch of time in the summer hiking hills with a pack, and other leg specific activities. A childhood friend of mine is now on the USST. When he comes home, he is in the gym squatting for fun. The funny thing though, is that he is using as many plates as will fit on the bar.....and still skis silky smooth.
post #4 of 69
JS welcome aboard, and MT
a couple of comments. I think I see your point about needing strength to ski but I think Lisamarie is talking more about the average recreational skiers and how fitness training can or should be handled at that level. I don't see anywhere that she is talking about no strength training, just not extreme strength training. Could it be that you are both right?
I know what you mean about needing lots of strength though. Last year I started working on ripping through some high speed carving and the amount of energy and strength it took to just stay on top of my skis was amazing, but I doubt most weekend skiers will ever experience this even at the level I did.
post #5 of 69
Thread Starter 
Uh oh! I guess my capitalizing the word EXTREME, over and over and over again did not make my point. Let me clarify. First of all, strength training is very, very, very important. There is no way that I would EVER, EVER, EVER, imply that strength training is not EXTREMELY important. If you have read any of my posts in the past year you would realize what an utterly ridiculous accusation you are making. I am also horrified by the number of out of shape people I see on the slopes, and by the fact that women half my age will whine about leg pain in the first half hour of a ski lesson.
But there is a tendency to believe that doing massive amounts of squats and lunges with ultra heavy weights will make one a better skier. In my case, I have found that EXTREME strength training has actually caused some technical problems in my skiing, which an instructor who posts on this forum has pointed out to me, {after watching me ski} and can feel free to comment if he chooses to.

Where in my post did I imply that the workshop was about training professional ski racers?

You mention that you are a Level 3 instructor. There have been many threads on this board about why people do not take lessons. If I ever attended a class with someone like you, who uses phrases like "full of crap" and fails to listen to what I am saying, I would never, ever return to a ski lesson again.
I was really tempted to delete this entire thread, but it serves as such a wonderful lesson about how NOT to teach someone. <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited July 10, 2001).]</FONT><FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited July 12, 2001).]</FONT>

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ November 14, 2001 07:19 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Lisamarie ]</font>
post #6 of 69
Great to have you back Lisamarie!
post #7 of 69
Thread Starter 
Thank you Robin!
post #8 of 69
I think the important point is BALANCE - in more ways than one. I am also a proponent of strength training - but if that is all someone is going to do, they will be doing themselves a disservice. Considering only the serious recreational skiers, such as those on this forum, the best use of limited workout time would seem to be some strength training with balance, flexibility, and cardio excercises added. The few good studies that have been done show that you don't need to spend long hours in the gym to increase basic strength (No we are not trying to create Arnies - we already have him here).
post #9 of 69
Thread Starter 
Exactly my point. Thank you!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #10 of 69
its mostly mental, well put ryan. Unless you are shaving time off your gate time, strength training isn't all that important. I am not in as good as shape as a couple of years ago, did my skiing suffer, no. The only reason i have for improving my strength is to prevent injury, serious crashes seem to hurt more each year...
post #11 of 69
JS, We must be reading different posts. I do not understand Lisa`s post in the same manner that you do. It was not directed to the race specific category of skier, nor did it demean the need for weight training. It was directed to the level of most of the people that we as pro`s deal with. Please look at the broad picture. Good post, Lisa.-- LC<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Larry C (edited July 10, 2001).]</FONT><FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Larry C (edited July 10, 2001).]</FONT>
post #12 of 69
LisaMarie, perhaps you should specify who you think JS is; see the topic JS vs Jonathon Shefftz. Thanks
post #13 of 69
Squat til ya puke and then do it again...
post #14 of 69
Thread Starter 
Larry, thank you. I remember another thread when you said that your strength as a teacher is your ability to listen, and that has always been evident to me. If a potential ski student was reading this thread, it would become apparent who the excellent instructors are: the ones who read the post without making false assumptions, are the ones who are really listening, and thus are the ones who are the truly gifted teachers. In the past, I have chosen teachers from online forums with that criteria in mind.

I have never been wrong.

I also get people who contact me from my fitness website asking if I know of a good ski instructor in their area. If I do not know of anyone personally, I will make a reccomendation based on what I have ssen them say online {and I will qualify that that is how I "know of" the person}.

So teachers: These forums can be a selling point for your services.
Wouldn't it be foolish to sell yourself short?

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence

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[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited July 10, 2001).]</FONT>
post #15 of 69
...and don't forget the Plyometrics and the abs afterwards...
post #16 of 69
Strength is only part of the training for Ski racing. Look at USST medals test. Most of the test is could be called anarobic (sprint) endurance. Power and endurance. Squat till you puke as long as you're doing your hill sprints and plyos. The US ski team coaches complain about their racers spending too much time on their beach muscles. So mix it up, work on your trunk strength in the gym too. http://www.usskiteam.com/education/alpmedalstest.htm
post #17 of 69
Thread Starter 
Thanks Nord! Great link, BTW!
post #18 of 69
Good point Nord. Staying in the gym all day will do nothing for your sport (unless you are a body builder or powerlifter!). The only point I was trying to make is if you ski, and when you go to the gym, don't be afraid to really push it when "pumping iron". There is no way you can get too strong for skiing. If you feel that you are overpowering your skis, it just means you may need a longer length or a more powerful ski in the same length. Personally, when I work out, I do lift heavy weight to exhaustion, but I get my workout over with as soon as possible. There are too many other interesting activities in life to do. Hmmm...I wonder if we could get the marketing types to put the US Ski team test in their advertising <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by JS (edited July 10, 2001).]</FONT>
post #19 of 69
Thread Starter 
I think its not a question of having too much strength, but using it inapproriately. A teacher at Sugarloaf once told me to "give my excellent body design a little bit of a rest and let my excellent ski design do a bit more of the work."
Obviously, someone who is a pro skier or a racer has enough skill and awareness to know when not to overuse their strength.

Career gym rats like myself who decided to learn skiing much too late in life have a tendency to fall back and overuse their strength when they are unsure of technique.
That's why I think this whole fore/aft foot ankle alignment thing is so important for beginners and low intermediates, and developing that awareness BEFORE one gets to the slopes can be helpful.

When I started learning 2 years ago I had the misconception that ski movements were all iniated by powerful movements of the hips and quads. My teachers were always asking me if my legs were tired because I was working them so hard {they weren't}.

It was only this year from reading posts on this board, and from one earth shattering lesson with Todd that I began to understand the whole concept of edging iniating in the feet and ankles.
What's interesting, is that from learning to ski, I have begun to realize that this is a problem in many activities. When I see a student having trouble keeping his or her balance on a lunge, quite often they are clenching their toes, giving themselves a smaller base of support. And from teaching Pilates, I can actually SEE all the misalinements in the feet, because people are working without shoes.
post #20 of 69
Thread Starter 
That's true. I think that was one of the things that prompted this whole "Functional Exercise" movement. If you do your strength training in a balanced challenged position, your'e taking care of 2 things at once.
Some of the Canadian fitness trainers are doing some interesting things with plyometrics. They may have you start with a set of regular squats, then build to a plyometric jump. I tried that with some of my "plyophobic" students, and was amazed at the results.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #21 of 69
lisamarie, welcome back! don't get too worked up over someone who skims your post.

The idea of equating the strength needed for World Cup skiing to average recreational skiing is absurd. In WC skiing they're making turns frequently with close to 3g's of force in the turn. Recreational skiers simply never come close to that. The ones who do will know just fine how much strength training they're going to need to accomplish their goals.
I would agree with her that the concentration does not need to be on massive strength excercises. You certainly need some, but those balance excercises and dynamic excecises sound much better and more interesting. How long will it take for this info to reach the general excercise world? Right now if someone goes to a gym and asks for a routine for skiing they'll most likely get the old strengthen the quads,hams, abductors,adductors and abs no?

I totally agree with her foot/toe notions. I'm pleased that even though I know nothing about this stuff, I have arrived at the same conclusions recently through the use of "subway surfing". The feet, toes are without doubt extremely important for balancing. I've found my balancing response is much quicker if I focus on responding with the forefoot first. In fact, maintaining pressure with the forefoot seems to be the key. This is not that natural for me surprisingly. I tend to respond with my weight in the middle of the foot - the heel. Movements that start here seem to involve changing the position of the hips, which is slower than balancing by changing tensions in the legs first. (not sure if this explanations makes sense, even to me, but it works)

If you try the subway surfing with toes clenched, you have a much smaller base of support and the ability to balance is greatly reduced.

As far as excercises go, don't ask me, but the one that I actually like is "running" on large rocks where you try to only step once on a rock.
post #22 of 69
There is also good ski fitness tests in Ski mag Oct 2000 and Skiing mag oct 1998. (They also happen to be the months with race ski reviews).

The hard part about training for skiing is there is so much you can work on. Flexibility, endurance , agility , balance, power. It's hard to work on them all, like should I do the squats until I puke before or after the 50 mile bike ride. Let's see do I do the 1/2 hour of plyos before or after the soccer game? That's easy before cause after soccer you go to the bar.

post #23 of 69

Going back to your original post, it sounds like you had a great workshop with Susan Nottingham that emphasised many of the things that we work on in Level 1 classes. It would actually make a lot of sense to start first timers with an indoor session to work on exercises of that kind before going out onto the snow. Too bad we don't have time or a facility for it. They should go see you before coming to us.

Feet and ankles are SO important, and my observation is that most of the people who come to us for lessons don't have much awareness in that area. I can tell just by watching them walk. This last season I started spending a lot more time with students walking around on the snow in ski boots trying to develop awareness of the movements of the feet and ankles before getting onto the skis. Then the first exercises on skis involve more walking to develop awareness of how the feet and ankles can control the movement of the skis.

I agree: Rigid ankles in the bumps = breaking at the waist. (I was ripped for this in my first cert exam)

Stance width is often an issue, even at the beginning level. For beginners too narrow a stance is tippy and also inhibits steering, at higher level it leads to bracing against the outside ski which can result in skidding, pushing out with the tail, and inability to steer using rotary movements of the legs.

Constant movement is another good emphasis. A person who skis in a static park and ride position will be more likely to have balance disrupted by changes in terrain and snow. For most people this seems to result in being put in the back seat - at least it did for me.

I love training on unstable surfaces as an exercise for skiing. Walking or running on loose and uneven surfaces such as mountain trails, rock hopping, slipping and sliding on gravel or on snow and ice all transfers pretty directly to skiing. Anything that requires movements of the feet and ankles that mirror the lateral tipping, fore and aft balancing movements, and rotation that we do in skiing. I think this is more important than strength. Unlike the previously mentioned world cuppers, rec skiers don't need unusual strength, just reasonable fitness.
post #24 of 69
Thread Starter 
Thanks Tog! BTW, I still owe you an email about this stuff, but my system has been quirky, and my sweet computer geek dosen't get home to Friday.

I'm glad you liked the foot/ankle connection stuff. I have been applying it to everything I've taught in the past 2 days. I like the running rocks idea [as long as you can do it safely}. That relates well to what Harpo had said in the Tilting and Righting Reflexes thread about training in an unpredictable environment.

You actually touched on something that has been disturbing me, when you asked how long will it take to get this information out to the general exercise public.
Maybe Robin can comment on this. This workshop was taught by IDEA's Fitness Instructor of year 2000. Usually, that would mean that it would be totally filled up.
But there are plenty of spaces available.

In contrast; I am also registered for the CAN FIT PRO conference in Toronto. Even though I registered a long time ago, the ski conditioning workshop is already filled up! I'm not too worried, you can always get in at the last minute. But what does that say about American vs. Canadian fitness trainers attitudes towards Sports Conditioning?

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #25 of 69
not to worry, I'm off to Geneva tommorrow and then driving to Les2Alpes to do some on snow balancing excercises. I know it's far to go to excercise but it's the only place I can do it right now. I know I'll really miss that gym though! gee...

I'll let y'all know how it went with the snow excercises. How do you say "excercise" in French?
post #26 of 69
Thread Starter 
Jim, thanks for your feedback. For some reason my browser just picked up your post just now. When I do my ski fitness workshop this year, I am definitely putting more emphasis on foot, ankle, and fore aft balance.

Just found an interesting link: http://www.paulchekseminars.com/articlescfm?select2

Btw, if you go to http://www.paulchekseminars.com, and click on the calender, you will see that he is doing some one day seminars in San Francisco and Denver. They are geared towards trainers, but could be interesting for anyone interested in movement analysis.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #27 of 69

Great post. If i ahve rad the otherpsots to this thred corectly, we need strenght training, but more emphisi on finding a balanced postion [ sounds like warrn Wthiterel to me.]

So as part of our strentgh training and at the same time enhancing our sensitivity to sking ie. balance points and edges, we must learn patience while standing on one foot shifting back and forth from big toe edge to little toe edge, and fore and aft.

Does that sum it up?
post #28 of 69
Thread Starter 
Yes, and thank you wink! You can also develop ski related balance while doing things that do not look at all like skiing.

For example, instead of doing a lateral raise for deltoids while standing up, try doing them sitting on a stabilty ball. As you work one shoulder, lift the opposite leg. There are lots of things like that. I had a girl in one of my classes the other day who kept trying to overload her workload on the quad work. But she could not maintain alignment. Even more interesting, was the fact that she had no balance whatsoever on the stability balls. And the MOST interesting thing happened when I went into my classic hamstring exercise; the stability ball bridge. Guess what? No hamstring strength whatsoever. If she skis, she is a prime candidate for an ACL injury.

The most enlightening thing, however was the fore/aft balance stuff. Reading some of the threads in the technique section makes me so aware of how little balance and stability people have in their feet.
I'll be doing another update in August.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence

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[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited July 15, 2001).]</FONT>
post #29 of 69

Your post makes an interesting and important point.I think there definitely needs to be more emphasis on understanding muscle groups, how they work, and the importance of proper and proportional training of same.

To train the quads without training, or even under training the hams, that person is setting themselves up for a serious injury.
post #30 of 69
LM, you probably have answered this before but.... Is there anything that I can easily incorporate with my morn runs that will help with balance and stability?
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