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Summer, a time for balance

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
"Most skiers never learn to balance because they have no idea of what it should feel like." --DavidM

What do you think of that statement? I think he's right. And if he is right, that means we can use our time off skis to raise our awareness of what balance feels like. I plan to air up the tire on my unicycle and learn how to ride it--that's one extreme of the type of experiences/exercises I believe will ramp up my skiing next year.

Skiing is all about balance. The skills support balance and are supported by balance. Balance is the one constant in any deconstruction of any exercise, task, drill, etc. So it stands to reason that work here will pay off. As they say in the systems biz, balance is where there's ample leverage for improvement.

We can come up with a great menu of activities that would positively transfer to skiing, but I've found one very simple thing I can do every day while performing my daily ablutions. Stand on one foot and do stuff with the other leg--pretend you're a ballet dancer or doing Yoga (for all I know, this may be Yoga). See how far you can go with the free leg without losing balance, and if you lose balance, how you regain it by rearranging your body over your stance foot. Change legs and keep challenging yourself. Make up a dance if you like. Do squats. Twirl. Hop. Shut your eyes. Feel the pressure on the bottom of the foot. Feel how the pressure from the floor stabilizes, how the abdominal muscles stablize, and how moving the free leg up or down works different abdominal muscle groups. Finally, and most important, feel how the foot balances pressure between three points of an isosceles triangle (heel at the apex, lst and 5th metatarsals at the base). When you purposely unbalance the foot, it will override your action to get the tripod back to the optimal pressure ratio.

When you are standing relaxed on one foot (the free leg bent back at the knee) what do you feel the optimum ratio of pressure is (x% heel, y% 1st metatarsal, z% 5th metatarsal) for your foot to be in balance?

I'd like to add that this exercise has the added benefit of toning up your skiing muscles, especially the abs, yielding that nice cut appearance you'll want to show off this summer.
post #2 of 20
If you ride public transportation, try standing on the bus/train (offer your seat to an elder/senior or someone else in need) then face forward, offset your feet fore/aft to give yourself a little better stability for braking acceleration of the vehicle, keep your hand near a bar to catch yourself and balance as the vehicle moves without holding on. try this on one foot, then the other. I recommend you keep your eyes open and watching where the vehicle is going so you can anticipate some of the movements including an emergency stop!

Take up roller blades.

Watch TV or other activities on a wobble board.

do your Yoga or other exercises on softer and softer mats. A soft unstable mat will make balance harder. This will force you to use finer movements to balance.

If you are sailer/boater, see above(public transit)

If you have kids and hard wood floors, have them take off their shoes and put on old socks. You do the same. Then wax and polish the floors by running and sliding. Try to do it sliding straight instead of sideways. Kid's love it and it's great for balance also. If you can rotate your feet while sliding, like pivot slips, even better.
post #3 of 20
post #4 of 20
Also, make sure that you are not clenching your toes while practicing balance moves. Chances are, if you do that while exercising, you are doing that while skiing. It is also crucial that you engage your deep core muscles.
post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:
[QB...

And if he is right, that means we can use our time off skis to raise our awareness of what balance feels like. [/QB]
My favorite summertime balance exercise is hopping around on smooth, wet, mossy boulders in a trout stream.

Nuttin' better for balance (mental balance, that is).

Bob
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
You offer an embarrassment of riches, Lisamarie. Thank you.

What you say about not clenching is very true. Awareness isn't going to happen if you're clenching any part of your body. You can't feel if you aren't relaxed, and you can't be aware without feeling. But clenching the toes makes a post out of a nifty tripod and that's a shame.
post #7 of 20
Go to beach in bare feet
walk or run in sand
walk on the rocks - choose the 'not flat' ones - they are harder to walk on - try to stay balanced & in control - no 'flopping' onto the easier ones from the hard ones

Do same sort of thing in the bush - look for balance challenges & use them
walking across(as in on top of) thigh high scrub in ski boots works pretty well believe me(sort of like a trampoline) - as does crossing streams in ski boots

Skate - skate lots - crossing tram tracks is good (do it in the dark then you don't fret about them - damn I have a sneaky instructor) - so are timber plank bridges & odd bubbles in path...

Walk on ropes/timber in running shoes & ski boots

Walk up hills backwards in skiing position - works legs & if done on uneven terrain(loose gravel & small rocks) works balance & 'foot feel' - even walking frontwards is a challenge if the terrain is rocky enough

Ride mountain bikes - I'm told it is great for balance... in my case - learn to get ON a bike is enough....(I was told full body armour for me to get on mountain bike single track)

Sun & fresh air are good for the soul too .... [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #8 of 20
Quote:
Also, make sure that you are not clenching your toes while practicing balance moves
Ok, I'll bite. What's the big deal about clenching your toes?
post #9 of 20
It makes your base of support too narrow, which in turn makes it TOO unstable. Also, clenching is tension, not what you want for skiing!
post #10 of 20
How about performing these excercises while lifting your toes? A lot of people advocate skiing that way. I still don't get it but maybe I'm a moron.
post #11 of 20
Raising the toes is an exercise to promote flexing the ankle and maintaining shin contact with the boot cuff.
post #12 of 20
Can't speak for the rest of the world... but for me it just does NOT work....

If anything i would just tense up & move back more....
post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by Tog:
How about performing these excercises while lifting your toes? A lot of people advocate skiing that way. I still don't get it but maybe I'm a moron.
Tog, you are one of the LEAST moronic human beings I have met in a lifetime! [img]smile.gif[/img]
Here is an alternative. Rather than have my students actually lift their toes, I have them simply transfer their weight, as if they were sort of ironing the soles of their feet. So you can do a one leg balance, then practice a fore/aft balance.
If you are playing with a dyna disc, try lateral weight transference. Iniate by doing that lift the big toe thing that we got from Diane!
post #14 of 20
A lot of health clubs have plastic balls that are from 2-3 feet high. Try just standing on one of them (better be near some support for your hands when you first try this, and on a padded mat). After you can stand on one, try doing two leg squats, followed by one leg squats with no weights, followed by light weights. Enlist the help of a fitness professional. Don't be afraid to take a lesson or two in the gym from a trainer.
post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally posted by jimbo:
A lot of health clubs have plastic balls that are from 2-3 feet high. Try just standing on one of them (better be near some support for your hands when you first try this, and on a padded mat). After you can stand on one, try doing two leg squats, followed by one leg squats with no weights, followed by light weights. Enlist the help of a fitness professional. Don't be afraid to take a lesson or two in the gym from a trainer.
Lots of Stability Ball Exercises

For the record,STANDING on a stability ball is not really advised by most fitness professionals. The incidence of torn ACLs from doing that is so high, that you get into risk/reward issues. Infintely better are the Bosu and the dyna disc, which can immitate death cookie conditions. If you do a search through the fitness forum there are many topics that have pictures of bosu and dynadisc exercise. Also, for additional ball exercise, do a search for Core Strength in FITNESS.

[ April 16, 2003, 12:32 PM: Message edited by: Lisamarie ]
post #16 of 20
OK, got to work on time so I can write more. At last year's Epicski Academy, I noticed an interesting thing. When I was teaching the classic quad stretch, which involves standing on one leg, many seemingly excellent skiers, began to hop all over the place like easter Bunnies. Fox, of course, had an excellent solution. He held a bottle of beer in the opposite hand!

Although static balance is not really what we need for skiing, the lack of it can indicate that engaging in dynamic balance, vis a vis skiing, you may be compensating by using strength.

BTW, this season's Academy participants recieved an 18 page balance fitness hand out. This would be a good time to start using it! [img]smile.gif[/img]
Next years will be even better! The site I use to design the program is adding additional exercises!
post #17 of 20
Thanks for the clarification, Lisamarie. I just called the fitness club where I was originally taught to stand on the stability ball, for balance and core strength. I left a message for the personal trainer supervisor with your comments. I look forward to visiting your website. To the other epic ski members out there, I apologize if I gave out erroneous information.
post #18 of 20
Its not really erroneous. I did see Picabo train by standing on the ball for the 2003 olympics. BUT....
Did it do her any good.
As I said, the real issue is risk/reward. Standing on a ball will not make amazingly significant improvments in you skiing. But as I said there have been many many ACL tears as a result of standing on the ball. You have to choose your risks.
post #19 of 20
I just heard back from the fitness director at my health club. She said that now the risk/reward issue comes into play before they work with someone standing on the stability ball. They are concerned about people falling and geting hurt, by hitting things nearby. She also said that she is not aware of ACL injuries caused by standing on the stability ball. Lisamarie, will you please send me, or post, the information/documentation or where I can find the information on stability ball ACL tears, so that I can pass it on to our fitness director? She said that she would be interested in receiving it.

Thanks
post #20 of 20
Have your fitness director contact Juan Carlos Santana at the Institute For Human Performance http://www.ihpfit.com
He can give you some details.

One thing I discovered, have learned to ski in my "later years" is that while balance is crucial for skiing, balance without the proper biomechanics of the feet is only minimally effective. What I discovered in my first year of skiing, is that while balance exercise kept my falls to an absolute minimum, my actual technique did not improve significantly. Only when I started integrating exercises that mimic the biomechanics of feet utilized in skiing did I see any improvment, in terms of getting my skis more parallel and increasing edge angle.

That being said, I find that its really important to choose balance toys that will effectively allow you to explore the actions of the feet. In many cases, this involves using no toys whatsoever.

So take a look. Which of these pieces of balance equipment do you think would allow you to practice the actions of the feet while skiing: The BOSU:

The Dyna Disc


or a stability ball


Do you think it would be safe to practice edging type exercise while standing on a ball? Does the ball imitate any of the conditions you would encounter while skiing?

Many of us who use balance challenging equipment to train students are getting a bad name. The problem is that they are becoming so "vogue", that unfortunately trainers are putting their clients on these "toys" without any pre screening of their alignment and core stability.
As I mentioned earlier, at the Academy, we had some really excellent skiers who could not do a quad stretch while balancing on one leg. Would standing on a stability ball be the best exercise for them to practice?

Jimbo, there is no need to be apologetic! You are just repeating what you were told to do by a trainer who in your opinion ws knowledgeable. Since you personally have not been injured while doing this, you obviously have impressive balance skills! [img]smile.gif[/img]
But not many people are capable of such feats, and the "Mama Bear" in me needs to protect her "cubs". [img]smile.gif[/img]
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