I figured I'd give an update as to where I am at with the alignment before the season starts.
I've been hitting the gym hard over the summer. I switched to a simple olympic lifting routine to build core and leg strength. Squats and deadlifts make up the core of the routine. My legs are a lot stronger now, my posture is better and I generally feel more centered. That said, doing heavy squats really made me pay attention to my lower body alignment, for obvious reasons.
I do olympic squats, which means I use a slightly wider than shoulder width stance (same as when I snowboard), I duck my feet out (same as when I snowboard) and I bend at the hips, keeping the lower back properly arched (just like snowboarding). I noticed that when I go down to parallel and lower on the squat, that my ankles roll inward and my knees come together. It's a fair amount, especially on my right leg. I placed some bits of foam under my insoles, basically posting my first metatarsal and the medial side of my heel. When squatting it allows my knee to track over my feet, and I can actually push more weight, more comfortably.
I also noticed over the summer that since I have oversized lateral calves that the cuffs of my boots are pushing my knees together. This exacerbates any minor knock knee issues I may have. Unfortunately, since softboots don't have cuff adjustments, I had to find a way around these. What I did was take some old boot liners and cut them down the middle. I placed this between the liner and the shell of my boots, on the inside, to take up the room that my calves should be occupying. Well, my boots are no longer forcing my knees inward, and I'm not expending a ton of energy just trying to maintain balance and alignment.
Something else I have noticed is that my balance is much better with the posts. For example, if I try to balance on my right foot, and I try to keep it lined up with my knee, I tire out very quickly from the effort of maintaining the balance. If I let it relax, the foot splays outward about 45 degrees, with the knee tracking significantly to the inside. The posts eliminate this.
In fact, I have an extremely difficult time rollerblading and ice skating because of the tendency of my feet to point outwards. I haven't tried these activities yet with the posts on my insoles, but I imagine the ability to keep my feet pointing forward without fighting the collapse of my arch and the rolling inward of my tibia and knee will make a big difference.
I also asked myself a question - if I were a skier, what would they do to align me?
Well, they'd make sure the ski stayed flat, that the knee tracked safely above the feet and that the cuff was adjusted outward so as not to push my knees inward. Literally, the posts under my first metatarsal and the medial heel post fixed all of these problems.
I found the SBS system Mosh on these forums sells. I should have some on the way. I'm going to try them in the gym. If my knee tracks properly over my foot while on a bike, then I'm going to try running. If my knees feel good there, and I am still able to maintain a good, painfree gait, then I'm going to try squatting in them. If my knees feel solid, and I am able to keep them above my feet where they definitely belong, then I'm going to try them in snowboarding.
The way I see it is this: squatting is very, very similar to snowboarding with a duck stance. If I can maintain proper leg alignment with a few hundred pounds on my back, and if my knees feel strong doing so, then it should help my snowboarding.
Ultimately, I think my alignment issues are relatively minor, as is evidenced by the fact I'm 30, in great shape and have no chronic pain. So, a logical mind would ask, if alignment issues are, overall, a minor issue, then what's the problem? Well, something else I have put a great deal of thought into is my technique. I believe bad technique and snowboarding on rough, ungroomed terrain with poor visiblity is probably the primary culprit to my injury. Basically, my abilities weren't up to the task and a minor alignment issue was exposed. When pushed and twisted and placed into a bad position, the knee gave out and voila, I sprained the MCL. In that turn I twisted my body and my knee in order to try to bring the board around. With my right knee twisted hard to the left, without a great deal of physical conditioning (at the time I was in pretty bad shape) to support the leg, the only thing left was the ligament.
So, since I'd rather have a bruised ego than a destroyed body, I have decided that if I am able to make it to the slopes this season (laid off, second time this year, fucking economy), then I am going to hit the nice, groomed greens and really, really focus on my turns, and learning to initiate, follow-through and end them properly by using the edges. I was doing this before, mostly by scarving, but it wasn't until I tried harder terrain that my form and technique broke down. I guess it's a lot like weightlifting, form and technique are more important than weight lifted.
Anyway, I'll post how my experiences with Mosh's SBS goes, and I'll also post how my relearning of snowboarding goes as well.