Welcome to Venabu’s new series to help you to prepare for your cross country skiing holiday at Venabu.
We hope you will have fun and enjoy your skiing!
Why start with balance?
Well, balance is key to our cross country skiing, think: great weight transfer, moving effortlessly on a gliding ski and even just walking across a snowy car park (not to be underestimated!).
As a physiotherapist, BASI ski instructor and movement coach I see guests struggle with their balance, become frustrated with their skiing and sometimes become fearful. This is such a shame because we can all improve our balance quite easily. We are excited to get out on our skis and want to enjoy our precious time in the mountains. We want to have fun with the people we share our holiday with – without feeling stressed, and improving our balance can help with this.
So this is my mission: to help you start your cross country ski holiday at Venabu feeling prepared and with a tingle of anticipation. Between now and the start of the season I’ll post a series of short blogs with practical tips on getting ready for your cross country ski holiday at Venabu.
I hope to show you that balance exercises can be fun and playful. With practice and consistency we can all improve our balance. The activities can be fitted into our day and you should see results quite quickly. Thinking about our health more broadly, improving our balance helps us to look after ourselves and stay healthy.
Great, when and where to start?
Let’s start with a self test to see where you are now. You can come back to these and measure your progress. I’ll give some resources at the end, for those who’d like to find out more. If you have any doubts about your fitness or health then please check with your GP before starting any new exercise programme.
How is your balance now?
Self test 1. Standing on one leg, eyes closed.
If you feel unsure of your balance you may want to try this close to a wall or counter top.
Set a timer or alarm for 20 seconds or have your training partner time you.
Then in a clear space, barefooted, stand on one leg and close your eyes. Can you keep your balance for 20 seconds? Count how many times, if at all, you need to touch to steady yourself? Now try the other leg.
(adapted from the Starretts’ excellent book “Built to Move”, p210)
How did you do?
20 seconds and no touches – excellent, you have good stationary balance. I’ll give two levels of balance exercises as we progress through this series. It is a good idea to practise balance moves daily to keep up our skills.
1 – 2 touches – that’s pretty good, 3 touches – there is plenty of room for progress! Balance is an important skill, stick with it and your balance will improve.
Self test 2. Dynamic balance test (this one is tougher)
You’ll need a clear space, and to be barefooted. If you are uncertain, be close to a wall or counter top for support if necessary.
Stand on one leg with the other comfortably off the ground then reach down in front of you and touch the floor. Stand back up, fully straight and don’t forget to breathe. Try to do this without touching for support. Can you do this reaching out to one side and then the other, standing upright in between? Repeat on the other leg.
If that was easy (!) try the same move but reaching out to one side, touching the floor, and then standing up straight before reaching out and touching on the other side, again returning to standing.
How did you do?
No extra touches – excellent, you have good balance. Doing some balance moves daily will keep your skills fresh.
1 – 2 extra touches – not bad, you should see quite rapid improvement, with consistency.
3 extra touches – again, there is plenty of scope for progress! If you practise daily and follow the progressions through the series your balance should get better.
Why not try rolling a tennis ball, golf ball or “spiky ball” under your foot for 30 seconds before you balance on that leg. What changes after rolling?
If you’d like to maintain or improve your balance then why not try incorporating balance challenges into daily life, starting now and continuing right up to your ski holiday? If you find that you are wobbly then you may want to take a structured approach and practise more formally each day too. You could start with standing on one leg, eyes open, aiming for 20 seconds. Even if you have to touch down, stick with it, that is still great work and with consistent practice you will get better.
You can use the tests above as exercises and re-test to measure your progress and stay motivated.
The classic “standing on one leg while cleaning your teeth” or washing up are good, no-extra-time-required, ways to spend time on one leg, every day.
Practising putting on socks or trousers while standing, rather than sitting, are other “free” ways of balancing each day. There are probably other things to do too, let’s be creative!
Activities such as yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are all great for developing good balance.
If you are still with me, well done (!) and I hope that I’ve encouraged you to think about your balance and inspired you to spend time standing on one leg every day. I will be back in a couple of weeks and through the autumn with more activities and progressions to help you develop your balance.
These balance activities amay be familiar to guests from our Become a Better Skier week. During this holiday we include movement coaching to help you understand your skiing, and we promise you that you will become a better skier!
Here’s to a great ski holiday at Venabu!
Kelly Starrett and Juliet Starret, 2023, Built to Move, Orion Spring, London.
The Starretts’ article in The Guardian (you can tell I’m impressed with their work). There is lots of overlap in this article with moves that work for cross country skiing: glutes, hip extension, activating our feet, balance, getting up off the floor 😉
They also appeared on Rich Roll’s podcast.
My previous blog on preparing for cross country skiing.
SkiFit A physiotherapist-led and very effective programme (for the committed) to help you prepare for your ski holiday. This is the programme I’ve used for a number of years. We don’t have any commercial links with SkiFit, I just know that it works.
“Excellent guiding team!”
“An amazing week. The whole guiding team was excellent and very patient for me as a beginner. Music in the evening and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Hope to be back soon.”
Do you have questions about this blog or our ski holidays?
Joy O’Flanagan is an experienced BASI Nordic Ski Instructor and International Mountain Leader. She is also a movement specialist: a qualified physiotherapist and Pilates instructor.