advanced nordic ski walking
By XCZONE.TV Leaders in Clean Oxygen Fed SportTM and Natural FitnessTM.
Thoughts turn to skiing and snow-shoeing, after the fall colours have long since faded, and the first cold winds have descended over the ground… that is leaving it a bit late.
It is soon going to be dark and cold after you finish work. You could stay inside where it is safe. But the rest of us will be outside Nordic ski walking as a group for an hour together and enjoying a pot-luck dinner under candle-light at one of the Cabins.
TRADITIONAL SKI STRIDING
Traditional ski striding is used on the greatest variety of terrain.
The basic mechanics at the early stages can look a lot like walking, aided by poles for balance. This allows pretty much anyone an entry into Nordic walking regardless of coordination or fitness level. However, the traditional ski striding technique is easy to do poorly.
The movement of traditional ski striding involves a leg push from one ski, weight transfer and simulated glide onto the other foot. The motion is assisted by opposite arm poling. The arms work individually and alternately with the legs; simplistically like the natural motion of walking or running.
Balance and weight shift are priorities for traditional ski striding. The strider should be committed onto only one weighted foot at a time.
The middle of hips is over the toes in the transitional moment between strides. A useful adage is to "fall forward tall,” where the trunk should be reasonably upright and not crumpled over. Avoid bending at the waist.
The hips should drive forward on the weighted foot during the push, without over-twisting the upper body. Notwithstanding, there is a slight twisting of the hips that is the result of a natural athletic motion. The hips move further ahead as the steepness of hill increases. The hips should be pressed or locked forward to provide the best core position.
Often bobbing occurs when the hips drop in and out of position. The foot can sneak ahead of the shin on the weighted foot, which lines up under the chest. The strider stands with the foot under the shin, the toes under the point of the knee, and most importantly, the heel just under the front of the hips. The hips maintain a forward position at all times. The angles at the ankle, knee and waist are all similar.
The returning foot is placed flat on the ground and is weighted when the recovery foot is in front of weighted foot. The heel presses down onto the ground when the recovering foot is ahead of the weighted foot.
The weighted foot is generally not edged in traditional ski striding except during sharp turns. The recovery foot should line up under the chest to have a good grip for the push-off. A full extension of leg at the end of push is also important. At this position, a straight line can be drawn through the upper body and leg.
The returning foot must drive through past the kicking foot and is placed just ahead of the kicking foot, but not too far ahead, or the strider’s weight and the hips will fall back.
The motion of the push-off of each leg should be balanced in timing, force and stride length. A preload of weight occurs at the beginning of the push. The height should be the same on either side in the end of the push position.
The hips should be over the foot when you are transitioning to kick, and forward during kick phase. Keep this forward hip pressure. The leg push should not be held too long, or occur too late past the center of gravity, so as to cause the hips to sit back or fall behind.
If positions and form are correct, the pole should plant near the shoe and angled slightly backwards.
The shoulder reaches forward as the weight is committed on the pole plant and the hand is kept relaxed below shoulder height. The arm is bent slightly on plant. The arm pendulum motion is shorter on steeper terrain.
While maintaining this ideal 90-120 degree angle in the elbow, the shoulder rotates to bring the arm under the chest, before the tricep muscles first engage to straighten and extend the arm. The pole is released by the hand in a full extension.
As in all poling, the core and body weight shift first, followed in order, by large back muscles and secondly the triceps. Avoid too much twisting, dipping or rotating of the shoulders. Just use a natural reach and athletic movement.
The arm recovers by the most direct means forward returning to a bent ready position. Brush your body with your elbow to help you learn to take the shortest line forward.
The arm must pendulum forward with the hand passing the thigh in a direction forward down the trail. The drive helps to generate momentum down the trail.
The components of the traditional ski striding are the Push, the Weight shift, the simulated glide and the Leg Recovery.
The kick referred to in traditional ski striding is not a kick in the strictest sense of the word. In skiing you want to momentarily compress your foot onto the ground by bending at the knee and ankle and the foot passes underneath the center of gravity - so that you get sufficient grip to move your body forward of that position by pulling back with your foot.
The strider feels the weight and compression on the heel and rolls to the ball of the foot during the push. The maximum compression occurs when the foot passes underneath your hips.
By the time, the weight is on the ball of the foot, the kick is over. Pushing off the toes is often too late and results in back-slip. This is sometimes referred to as late kick.
You will want the ground to remain on the ground and your body to simulate a glide over it. Think about moving yourself forward, rather than pushing one leg back. The “kick” is like a little “pop-step” forward from one foot to the other.
The kick and opposite arm poling actions occur together. It is important to use as much upper body weight as practical and not to rely on the arm muscles to do all the work. The arms travel front to back and return by the most direct means.
As the hip aligns over the weighted foot, the pushing-foot-side rotates towards the trajectory of the simulated glide foot, such that the hips have a slight flexibility or athletic twist, while striding and orientated predominantly in direction of travel. The power comes from the hips and facilitates a full weight transfer. All movement is forward but some twisting can result.
The, now trailing leg, can extend when the weight-shift onto the new simulated glide leg has taken place. While one leg is gliding and carrying all the body weight, the other leg extends back and relaxes momentarily.
There should not be any break in the motion. The trailing leg recovers forward at the moment that the front simulated glide leg begins to compress down onto the ground and pull back.
OFFSET SKI WALKING
The offset technique is a low gear in foot striding and is used on steeper terrain or slow conditions. The emphasis here is on climbing with legs with the upper body providing as much propulsion as possible without fatiguing the strider or stalling the legs.
Feeling “light” poling motions that keep momentum is an excellent image to ensure just enough poling power. The upper body assists in maintaining momentum through a complete cycle of steps. There is very little delay between positions in offset.
The first position starts with a three-point plant involving both poles and the front leg. Step forward and up the hill along the centerline onto a moderately flat foot. The heel of the front leg should be in-line with the front of the hips and the knee should be bent.
Use the front weighed foot as a platform or step. As you commit weight onto the heel of the lead foot, immediately disengage the trailing leg from the ground and move it forward and allow it to swing under the body. Use the front leg pull and push to move you up the hill. As it does, the foot will naturally edge to brace the force before transitioning to a push to the side.
Do not persist on pushing after the body has moved past the weighted leg, leaving it in a trailing position. As soon as the free leg steps forward onto the ground, the weighted pushing leg must disengage.
The poles are planted at nearly the same time, and are weighted as evenly as is practical. Many skiers have a slight syncopation as the weak-side pole hits the ground slightly before the strong-side one.
While the goal is to apply power as equally as possible, this is not always possible owing to the offset nature of the poling motion and a simple matter of geometry. However, the strider should not deliberately apply less force to either pole. The natural positions of the poles will provide more than sufficient “offset” positioning. With the arms bearing your body-weight, pull down to complete their extension together as in a double poling action.
A wider stance may have to be conceded but all efforts should be made to keep this at a minimum.
The upper body remains lowered until the arms, upper body and trailing leg recovers. The upper body rises as it moves to the opposite foot and then lowers as the skater goes into the three-point landing - adding the force of gravity to the poling motion and creating a fluid skate striding motion.
The cycle will begin again when the body comes up to do the three-point plant again, in the first position. Movement between these positions is by the most direct and efficient path. It is key that the upper-body and arms go down, and recover up together.
It is also important for the upper body to continue the poling for both legs to step, and for the trailing leg to release from the ground as soon as possible. In the end position, the weight is supported on the opposite leg, the arms are extended to the rear and the upper body is the lowest it will be in the cycle. This occurs just before skate-off to the opposite foot. Too often skiers rush the poling.
Keep your hips pressed forward, up and onto hill without leaning back. The head, shoulders and hips should feel nearly square with the direction of travel for the majority of the cycle.
Although, the strider may orientate the hips, shoulders and head slightly towards the direction of the foot on the initial pole plant and step to assist weight transfer, they will square off towards the intended direction of travel momentarily.
However, the novice may have to exaggerate weight shift and even consciously twist if they straddle the track with too little weight transfer.
The majority of the time spent in all foot skating techniques is spent with shoulders and hips level and squared predominantly towards the direction of travel; while conceding only as much rotation as is necessary to assist weight shift. Avoid over-twisting or rotation, especially in the torso. Alternatively, do not completely suppress all natural athletic rotation.
As with all techniques, the steeper the hill, the more climbing and less simulated glide. Maintaining a lower center of gravity or deeper knee bend will facilitate stepping up the hill provided your hips and foot position are correct.
Naturally, you will have to take up a wider position in both your arms and legs so as not to get entangled. As the hill moderates, you should try and adopt a narrower position in both arms and legs.
The most common errors in offset are:
There is not enough weight transfer or an inability to simulate a glide with balance on one foot.
The poling is weak with little stomach or lat involvement and insufficient weight on the poles at initial pole plant;
The strider lets the upper body and arms move in opposite directions;
The strider fails to lower center of gravity, bend the knee and step forward onto a heel aligned with the hips;
The poling action finishes prematurely;
One arm or side dominates the technique;
Over rotation occurs;
Hips are down and back;
The legs are too far behind;
Failing to reach up the hill or planting your poles behind you;
Not getting the weight over foot;
Standing up too much;
There is a major emphasis on hang arm and cross-body push arm;
Pushing off a back leg;
There is skewed or unbalanced climbing by legs; and
The strider relies too much on the arms to power the technique.
Try to relax the force of the arm-pull if you run into timing problems. Often, incorrect use of the arms, do more to arrest movement than help. Practicing legs-only in a climb will help a strider use both legs equally in offset.
In offset, the weight-shift occurs dynamically halfway through arm extension by rocking the lower body under the center-of-momentum. As the weight is shifted quickly from foot-to-foot, it is essential to keep your feet moving so you do not "bog down." The movement of the arms and legs should be balanced in force and timing.
There ought not to be a deliberate dominant nor recessive side. Any differences in power output are the result of natural pole positions caused by the offset nature of this skate. The notion of a hang-arm and severely-angled-cross-body swing or push arm only weakens the poling motion.
As the hill steepens, the core or center of gravity is lowered with a bent knee to permit greater reach or stepping. The leg joints naturally bend more. The converse is not true; a strider can have all the right angles in the knee and ankle, but be totally messed up. Correct angles must be coupled with correct positions of the foot relative to the hips. Movements by the legs should be equally balanced in force, stride length and timing.
As the steepness of the hill increases it becomes more important to concentrate on reaching forward up the hill with the shoulders while having correctly bent arms on the pole plant. There is a natural tendency for skiers to choke-up or collapse the arm angle on the poles when presented with a steep hill.