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Balance: What is it?

post #1 of 87
Thread Starter 
I posted the note below in Hyper Change Cafe. I decided to post here to get additional feedback. I will be away from my computer for a few days, but I will answer questions when I get on Friday. Thanks in advance.

Balance: What is it in skiing?

Having done a little research on the term, balance, I have come up with several definitions of balance.

From Webster: To bring to a state of equipoise. 2) Physical equilibrium; the ability to retain one's balance. 3) Stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side of a vertical axis. Two specific ski definitions: 1) Standing in balance means we are able to move freely and in a range to recover. 2) Balance is the ability to stay in equilibrium (Harb, 2001). Combining some of the definitions that I have read: Maintaining a state of equilibrium within the confine of a ski boot.

I hope that these definitions stir up some discussion on this topic. There is a lot of controversy between stable and dynamic balance. There should be some discussion, as ot the pros and cons, of these two terms.



<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 10, 2001 04:22 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Rick H ]</font>
post #2 of 87
Balance is the result of the integrated activity of several neoromuscular systems. It has a direct relationship with proprioception. your body detrmines where it is in space, and adjusts muscular tension in order to remain upright. Visual input is then integrated with info from the inner ear and muscle nerve receptors.

Some of you folks in Calgary amy know Louis Stack, of Fitter1, former member of the Canadian speed skiing team. In an article by Suzanna Nottingham, he says "balance conditioning is a way to train the body to make better use of the strength you already have". In skiing, that would mean the difference between muscling your way into a turn , and falling into a turn.

Balance is directly influenced by posture and alignment.. In skiing, this is obviously a crucial point.

Very few sports actually use static balance. But for many people, learning to balance in a static position, such as simply standing on one foot , is perhaps a pathway to dynamic balance.

I could go on forever on this topic, but I will give someone else a chance!
post #3 of 87
Rick, let see what people think.

I see new skiers act like their balancing process was suddenly inverted. Their natural process of moving their feet to support the flow of the CM is thwarted by their initial feeling of their feet being trapped stationary in their boots (compounded by static balance wedge use). They twist, tip, and gyrate their upper body around above their stationary feet, struggling not to fall over. However if they are started out using activities that promote active foot use and awareness they seem to more quickly develop their "ski" legs and skier specific balancing skills.

I think of skiing a kinda like playing
catch with your balance. Sort of falling and catching your fall, on purpose. Isn't it letting go of your grip on balance what allows the most efficient flow from turn to turn (and is a big part of the fun). Then the smoother you catch it, the better it gets. I see that less skilled skiers tend to be always reacting to try and regain their balance. I see more skilled skiers balancing with a sense of "anticipation" by moving (falling?) to where they will need to be to make the easiest, and most temporary, "catch". I call the former "chasing ones balance", and the latter "moving to balance in the future". Shouldn't balance in the skiing sense always promoted as dynamic balance? If the concept of equilibirum applies to skiing wouldn't it have to be in context of how we juggle our Cm thru a continous cycle from arc to arc to arc with out dropping ourselves? Roger
post #4 of 87
It is interesting to see this balance thread start with a definition and then proceed to examples.

That is exactly what balance is. You start somewhere, and then you continually move(visible or not) to maintain where you are.

If you are moving, it is the same thing.(dynamic). Your movements are either efficient or not(visible or not) to maintain where you are and where you are going.

As mentioned earlier, racers only do sit-ups if they fall. Train them not to do sit-ups, train them not to fall.

However, in Aikido and Judo, you train to fall, and stay in balance. How can you be on the ground and in balance? Being able to move in any and all planes effortlessly. Flow through the fall, keeping your balance(CM) moving.

Like skiing...you are really controlling your fall down the hill.

Enough examples and thoughts. BTW, I like Epic better than Hyper because we talk about experiences, not textbook.
post #5 of 87
Lisamarie Well put all the aspects of balance that you refer to are so important when developing an understanding of balance.

One small point of contention. Why would you consider standing on one foot static? Wouldn't it be more dynamic. Two footed stance would be static in my world.

everything else I love
post #6 of 87
I'm using static and dynamic balance in their text book case definitiions. [sorry, its a severe occupational hazzard, kind of like the way I see the word "alignment"] So in terms of exercise physiology ['exercise" , meaning to encompass sport and all other forms of movement] dynamic balance is classically refered to as balance in motion. When we speak of someone who has poor dynamic balance, we are usually talking about someone who may staggar when they walk [not counting alchoholic influence!] or tends to trip, often [trip meaning fall, not the choice recreational drug of the 70s]

The classic case that can illustrate this for skiers, is to take a never ever, who believes she has excellent balance, because she practices yoga. [lets assume that this is her only form of physical activity] She can hold a Tree Posture [standing on one leg] for an endless period of time. She loves to do hyperextension exercises, such as the cobra. But before she began her yoga lessons, she was already extensively sway backed. So now, she walks with a very arched lower back. Long term sitting in a lotus position has made her already hyperflexible ankles even more hyperflexible. Since she does not believe in strength training, her natural tendency to be stronger in her quads than her hamstrings. Since she is a she, she is probably a bit loose jointed.

Now lets take her skiing. Lets put her in rental boots, that are not apprpriate for her skiing alignment. So now we have a misaligned natural posture, along with misaligned equipment. As has been stated, posture is paramount to balance. Now she has to actually move in balnce, which she is not used to doing.


So to make a long story short, static balance is balance without locomotion, dynamic balance is balance with locomotion. Staic balance is a good starting point for learning dynamic balance, but the progression from one thing to the next needs to be logical. If someone has bad alignment, static position, balance can be faked by compensating. It is harder, although not impossible, once in motion!
post #7 of 87
Great I get it. Thank you

I have a question, How do you describe the difference between a one footed and a two footed stance? I often reffer to this one footed stance as dynamic compared to the two footed method While you are on a roll I would like some new words to play with.

These are great defenitions and examples I tend to use my own defenitions. I understand dynamic as needing movment to continue balancing. Like in a one footed stance you would notice much more motion than say a two footed stance. how do you feel about this.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 10, 2001 09:15 PM: Message edited 1 time, by mosh ]</font>
post #8 of 87
Hmm! Interesting question. At this point, its possible that we may be getting into the the definitions that are indigenous to our respective professions. An example I gave before was alignment. I would think posture, you would think about how the boot and ski was set up to suit optimal performance posture. That's the great thing about Epic, you get to understand other people's terminology.

I have always referred to a one footed stance as a balance challenged position. there is indeed more movement, because postural sway is a product of being in a balanced challenged position.
What are some of your definitions?
post #9 of 87
Two-footed standing, stacked skeletal system, not a lot of energy is going in to just beng there.

One-footed, stacked skeleton will still have something away from your normal center, so muscles have to either keep the body part away from the body, or keep the small imprint on the ground stable. I feel if more than "normal" muscles are being used, it is dynamic.

post #10 of 87

Uh, I think I'll go turn at Vail and the Beav for a few days...

post #11 of 87
SCSA, I was getting into so much techno babble that i had to say something cute to lighten it up!
Since we are talking abut skiing, which of course involves locomotion, both one footed and two footed stances are dynamic. In a one footed stance there will be a greater recruitment of the stabilizers, in a two footed, greater recruitment of the other leg. But to give you a headache..... In a one footed stance, the non stance leg is not completely inactive.
And to further complicate mattters..... Even in a stan still position, there is no such thing as COMPLETE, static balance. There are always elements of postural sway present, even if barely perceptible to the human eye!

Good morning, everybody! [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #12 of 87
Should there be a further division between dynamic balance for a self propelled movement (such as dancing), and dynamic balance for activities such as skiing where the motion comes from an external force?
post #13 of 87
I differentiate much less between static and dynamic balance than I used to.

It's all about being over the feet.

"Maintaining or anticipating body positions or movements to keep the hips and torso over the feet."

It's much simpler than I used to think. And thus much easier to see.
post #14 of 87
Some other thoughts; Many skiers have been criticized for having a static style. Mark's instructor at Whistler was able to pick out people who used wall sits as their ONLY conditioning method. Their knees would remain bent at pretty much the same level throughout the whole trail.

Another interesting defimnition of balance is "the ability to react to perturbation". [that probably has a psychological component, too! ]

The muscular system is comprised of a continuous chain that attempts to overcome disturbances in its center of gravity. This "chain of events" starts in the ankle. The gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior are both invoved in creating fore/aft balance, which is why proper boot fit is essential.

In a one legged stance, there is a challenge of the body's lateral balance. This is counteracted by supination and pronation of tthe foot. Sometimes, the sway of the bodyfor the ankle alone to counteract the challenge. This is when people may begin to overcompensate by using the legs, hips and back.

So in speaking of balance, especially in skiing, its important to think of the sytem as a kinetic chain. All the body's muscles have receptors which aid in proprioception. They will then "share" the information as to where they are in space with other muscles, which in turn attempt to help produce the desired movement.

But it has been said that you are only as strong as your weakest link.

So if one part of the chain is weak, or out of alignment, there will be repecussions in the body's righting and tilting refexes, which are required for balance.
post #15 of 87
In my teaching I never talk about balance, only balancing. I differentiate the two in technical terms as static and dynamic, and in layman's terms as being on a stationary surface or on a moving surface (except it's the skier that moves on the surface.)

In skiing we are rarely in balance. Most of the time we are in a state of recovery. We call the condition of minimal recovery as balancing.

post #16 of 87

Good stuff. I am involved in an alignment process that I have developed that is based on exactly what you are speaking about. I have someone stand on one foot and balance mimicking a one footed straight run. The machine they stand on is a tip plate that does not move but will change the lateral angle of the foot while balancing. I can pronate or supinate the foot to find the best muscular symmetry. It has been working very well I have most of the pros at Aspen using this and I have had rave reviews. I like what you say about the proprioception system That is exactly what I feel is making my system work so well. I would love to hear more about what you think of this.
post #17 of 87
Sounds like some pretty fascinating stuff! being a reletively newer skier tha the rest of the bunch, as well as only having my first contact with a bootfitter a month ago, i am probably not the best person to give a detailed commentary.

I will say this; listening to the comments from yourself, gmolfoot, along with the discussion I had with my bootfitter, Gordon, I feel that those of you in that profession truly hold the key to the foundation of good skiing. Since the kinetic chain starts in the feet, well suited boots are crucial.

But it goes beyond the boots. The knowledge that good bootfitters have about the biomechanics of the feet and ankles surpasses that of any profession. If there was a way to impart that to not just ski instructors, but instructors of any sport, chances are most of us would not suffer from some of the ailments that we incur, due to poor balance which is sometimes the result of improper biomechanics of the feet!

In terms of what WV skier said about being in a state of recovery, I think I agree. But now, as I've been doing all along here, I'm going to complicate matters even more.
Can someone be TOO balanced? I am an extremely stable skier, who practically never falls.
But this also means that I sometimes have trouble falling into a turn.
So, if a skier is overly stable, then quite possibly can their skiing style be considered static??
post #18 of 87
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Lisamarie:

Some of you folks in Calgary amy know Louis Stack, of Fitter1, former member of the Canadian speed skiing team. In an article by Suzanna Nottingham, he says "balance conditioning is a way to train the body to make better use of the strength you already have". In skiing, that would mean the difference between muscling your way into a turn , and falling into a turn.


I really like what Lisa posted here - it's the heart of the matter.

I really think that some of the stuff we go on about is mumbo jumbo. But this, is great, and what it's all about.

Without balance, a skier can not learn to fall down hill! Folks, how many times have we covered this! It just goes to show you. Balance! Learn balance to achieve to ulitmate goal of falling down hill! Boom! Very important concepts in skiing!!!!!! When you can fall down hill, the mountain is yours! Skiing becomes a lot easier, because you're using the mountain - not the mountain using you!

Then, balance conditioning. Rephrased, do drills that teach you balance!

Boil it all down to this:
1) Understand what the primary movements of skiing are.
2) Practice drills that teach balance, based on the primary movements of skiing.
3) Go practice what you practiced.
4) Repeat often.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 13, 2001 10:26 AM: Message edited 1 time, by SCSA ]</font>
post #19 of 87

You sound balanced (mentally don't know), but not falling might be fear rather than overbalance.

Hmmm, sounds interesting, but look at your "overbalance" from the other end. You are use to have the core reposition over the base of support. Try the other way!

With a spotter, try balancing on a soft rope(not tight rope) between two suports. Only has to be a few inches off of the ground when you stand on it.

Once you have found your static blance, gently swing your feet from side-to-side. Your core will maintain a position in the middle of your moving feet. Viola! You are bringing your base of support(feet) back under your core.

Now go ski (SNOW please), and fall down the hill, your feet will follow.

Balance is balance, whether you bring your base to support your core, or your core to support your base.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 13, 2001 01:28 PM: Message edited 1 time, by KeeTov ]</font>
post #20 of 87
I think one of the real problems here is that many people have no balance skills whatsoever, and then they try to learn to ski! I remember Paul Chek once saying something to the point of "You take people who can't even walk down the street without wobbling, then you put them on the equivalent of 2 ice cream pop sticks, and have them slide down the hill! Not smart!"

And what about the relationship between balance and proprioception? I'm talking about the people on the lift line who are clueless of the fact that they are standing on your freakin' skis! : If they are so out of it in their static proprioception, and since proprioception and balance are linked, imagine what happens in their dynamic proprioception, and their dynamic balance!

But you are on to something when you say practice. But not just during ski season. All year round!
Rant over!
post #21 of 87
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Lisamarie:
...I think one of the real problems here is that many people have no balance skills whatsoever, and then they try to learn to ski!... <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Nah, I really don't think balance skills are a prerequisite to skiing.

It's more that once somebody/anybody starts skiing, they just must first learn to balance on their skis.
post #22 of 87
How's this for irony: The faster you go, the less critical balance becomes (up to a point, I suppose!).
post #23 of 87
Balancing skills are a prerequisite for even *walking* ! :
post #24 of 87
Kee Tov, we were in cyber margaritaville [meaning posting at the same time] so I just saw your post now. I have to give that some thought.

Yet another thing I just thought of. Did you ever run or walk very fast past a senior citizen? Do you notice how frazzled they get. There is no way that you were going to knock them over, but they have so little trust in their balance that they become fearful.
The same thing happens with new skiers. If someone rips past them, they feel that somehow they are going to be knocked over, even if the "ripper" was nowhere near them!

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 13, 2001 07:31 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Lisamarie ]</font>
post #25 of 87

So how do you tell someone in fear of losing their balance to relax? We've talked about this in other threads.

So, does your eyesight determine if you are in balance or not? I think so. We relie on our eyes too much for balance.When you are comfortable with your balance exercises, do them with your eyes closed.

Similar thing with walking to the edge of a cliff. You are in balance on flat ground, but the "nothingness" in front of you scares you. Oh no..going to fall... NOT.

Walking on a curb? Same thing. You normally walk along a line the width of a curb, but do it looking straight ahead...eyes closed...

When I taught martial arts, I had the upper belts do all the forms they knew blindfolded at least once a month. Their ending point wasn't anywhere near their starting point until they practiced...practiced...

We can't take balance(whatever we think it is) for granted. Like anything else, we always have to practice, and push the envelope.(Remember I couldn't ski for a year because of lose of proprioceptors in my body when eyes were closed.)

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 13, 2001 07:19 PM: Message edited 1 time, by KeeTov ]</font>
post #26 of 87
Todd is posting more now...Clearly a sign that something is going on with his Lithium.
post #27 of 87
*yawn* The Lithium line was from me to you in its first incarnation! At least change it a little, you know - jazz it up, be creative! [img]smile.gif[/img]

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 14, 2001 01:48 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Todd Murchison ]</font>
post #28 of 87
Yeah, points deducted for the lame lithium reference.
post #29 of 87
How do we tell someone in fear of losing their balance to relax? When I figure it out, I'll tell you! [img]smile.gif[/img] If you recall, I was mentioned in an article about fear in skiing in the Boston Globe . "She is afraid of falling, but she never falls!"

In terms of balance and eyesight, how do you explain someone who can ski by braille through a whiteout, and the next day looks at the same trail and exclaims, "Mother of God, I can't ski that!"

I think one of the many great things about skiing is that it MOTIVATES people to improve their balance, which in the long run, is better for their health and longevity.
post #30 of 87
MilesB wrote: <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> How's this for irony: The faster you go, the less critical balance becomes (up to a point, I suppose!). <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Linear Momentum. (That's actually redundant all momentum is Linear, really) But basically if you are moving in a direction, you will continue to move in that direction. Dynamic balance is knowing how to incorporate that basic physical rule into your reactions to your percieved state of balance.

One of the best students I ever had was a yoga instructor. Her skiing was absolutely perfect wedge skiing after about 15 minutes, but she was totally freaked out. I ask he why, pointing out how totally excellent her stance and movements are, and she said that she wasn't used to sliding.


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