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Mental images

  • A mental image that helps me and other folks to avoid touching our new glide ski down before the leg-push is complete: 

"Think of kicking a soccer ball which is out in front of you." 

  • An image that helps some folks move out over the next leg-push ski: 

"Line up your nose directly over your knee and the toe of your boot which is on the gliding ski."

  • An image that helps some folks recover their hips back forward before starting the next leg-push: 

"Move your hips high and forward." (more details below)

But knowing and using these images is not a substitute for working through the Exercises to learn committed balance. 

And it's pretty hard to be successful with the exercises without (unconsciously?) doing the things these mental images are designed to help promote.  These images are mostly to give ideas that might help succeed with the exercises -- not more things to be learned in addition to the exercises. 

Hips high and forward?

  • It's pretty difficult to commit sideways to the new leg-push ski if I do not first recover my hip forward to over my leg-push foot. 

- - Some skiers lift their leg-push foot all the way off the snow after the leg-push briefly -- but then they quickly put it down again behind the other foot -- before they finish the next leg-push with the other foot. 

- - Other skiers never lift their previous leg-push toe off the snow at all.

  • This is tricky for several reasons -- so best learned with a good instructor. 

- - I can't see myself from the side, so it's hard to know if I'm really forward.

- - It feels more stable and comfortable with my previous leg-push foot touching the snow out behind me, because in the basic physics of balance I am more stable with some weight on my other foot behind me. 

- - It takes work with my leg muscles to bring my hips forward.  I instinctively want to reserve my leg-strength for other things, so I unconsciously avoid it.

- - If the hips are back, there's a temptation to have the weight back on the heel at the start of the kick -- bad for grip.  

  • Many skiers find that in order to learn this, they need to think of moving their hip joint high, not just forward. 

- - Normally the two have to go together, the forward and the upward.  It's just the way the hip joint and bone and knee joint are connected. 

- - Perhaps thinking of "move the hip high" makes it sound like lifting, which sounds like muscular work.  And that helps make it really happen, because it can't happen without work.

- - Many skiers do not have the leg-strength to support their upper body weight on a strongly-flexed knee for a large percentage of the stroke cycle.  A higher hip position helps them conserve leg strength.

  • There are some other benefits to moving the hips and upper body higher: 

- - The movement of extending the knee joint to lift the hips forward helps pump more blood through the big leg muscles, so there is less lactic acid build-up than if they held a static position with their legs. 

- - It's a second way to use the powerful quadriceps leg muscles to add power to classic striding.  Because after weight of the hips and upper body has been lifted higher, it adds more power when it drops back down to help drive the start of the pole-push.  (The first way is the extension of the knee joint during the later part of the leg-push)

  • Recently (in 2002) some racing coaches have been saying that moving the hip high is a hindrance to speed or efficiency -- rather the more knee-bend, the more leg-push power. 

- - I doubt this new racing idea has much relevance for non-racers. 

- - for more on this, see High Hips : good or bad?

  • The hip does not stay high through the whole stroke. 

- - The knee must bend for best use of the big leg muscles. 

- - The hip must move back and down to the end of the leg-push, otherwise the ski would have to come off the snow, and the leg-push would be cut short. 

  • Why not lean the shoulders and upper body forward?

- - Actually this can help for some aspects of striding. 

- - But it can put strain on the back muscles.

- - It doesn't solve the problem of having some weight back on the previous leg-push ski.

- - So it can be a trap for avoiding the critical issue.

Pole angle and timing

  • If I want to lean down on a near-vertical pole for balance, I do it before I start my next leg-push. 

I get out of balance lots of times in my ski striding (doesn't everybody?).  Leaning down on a near-vertical pole is often a helpful way to recover from that.  But if I do that lean during my leg-push, it reduces my grip friction. [ see diagram ] 

It provides a natural time for me to get in the habit of making those "lean on a near-vertical pole for balance-recovery" moves -- without hindering my grip friction.  

A key advantage of offsetting the timing of my pole-push initiation from my leg-push is that it gets through the more vertical part of the pole-push before the leg-push begins (see the offset pole initiation diagram).  Then during most of the leg-push phase the pole-push is more angled back.  See the Offset Pole Timing "secret", and these diagrams: offset kick initiation - finish pole-push.  

This also allows me to use a larger range of motion in my pole-push stroke -- without hindering my grip friction -- so my pole-push can deliver more forward-moving energy. 

  • If your pole timing is that you start your leg-push simultaneous with the start of your pole-push -- then plant the tip of your pole well back behind your foot. 

This pole timing is used by elite racers when climbing up a steep hill.  But many skiers use it all the time because it's simple -- and they have not learned the Offset Pole Timing "secret"

By angling the pole further backward, less of my pole-push goes into pushing my body upward -- which opposes body-weight down-force on the grip of the leg-push ski -- and more of my pole-push goes into pushing me forward.  Compare the second pole angle diagram (bad for synchronized) with the third pole angle diagram (not as bad, though not as good as offset). 

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