How to develop your balance ready for your cross country skiing holiday.
How is it going? Are you now washing the dishes while standing on one leg? What’s the most creative way you’ve found to spend time on one leg each day?
I hope you are seeing the benefits and feeling encouraged to keep going.
In part 1 we talked about why it’s important to develop and maintain our balance and how to get started. There were two “self tests” which can also be used as balance exercises.
We can now progress our balance challenge and throw some new exercises into the mix.
Please check with your GP if you have any concerns.
I am wearing my physiotherapy hat now, so apologies if this seems technical, I think it’s worth persevering 🙃
Let’s do a quick alignment check: when you stand on one leg are you able to keep your pelvis level and your body upright?
Using a full length mirror, with your hands on your hips, feel your “hip bones” at the front.
As you take one foot off the floor does your pelvis stay level or does it dip or hitch on one side?
We want to be able to keep our pelvis level.
What happens on the other side? Are you symmetrical or is it more difficult to keep the alignment on one side? See the photo below.
Another movement we see is people shifting their weight to one side or leaning their upper body to compensate as the foot comes off the ground.
If we imagine a line running vertically through our belly button and the centre of our reflection (we could use a zip on a jacket) are you able to stay upright and aligned? See the photo above.
Or is there a noticeable shift, (a lurch even? 🙀 – it’s ok, we are among friends, and the aim is progress rather than perfection).
Again, does this balance look the same on each side? Does it require more concentration to get it right on one side?
If you find yourself dropping, hitching or leaning your upper body – keep going and really try to find and keep that good alignment. Pilates or other exercises that target the glutes will be your friend!
OK, this is all very well
but how does this benefit our cross country skiing?
On skis, being able to keep the pelvis and upper body stable, while the legs are working, helps you to balance and be more efficient.
Being able to create and control some supple stiffness in the trunk (nb this is not fixed rigidity) means that we transmit the forces we create more effectively, rather than wasting energy trying to stop unwanted rotation, being inefficient or overbalancing.
A new balance exercise:
In a clear space, close to a wall or countertop, if you think you’ll need support
- Place your hands on your hips, imagine a beam of light projecting forward from each hip bone.
- Aiming to keep your pelvis horizontal, lift one knee to about hip height
- Then keeping the pelvis still and the “light beams” pointing forwards, open the knee to the side and back again, without twisting.
- Repeat 5 times.
- Repeat on the other leg.
What do you notice – is it the same on the left and right? Same balance, same range of movement?
- Standing on one leg,
- raise your hands by your ears and then, as you open the leg,
- rotate your arms and upper body in the opposite direction, keeping those imaginary light beams shining directly forwards all the time.
The aim is to keep the pelvis still as we move the trunk on top and leg below.
- Repeat 5 times on each side.
When we ski we want to be able to move the upper and lower body independently – separating the movement and keeping the pelvis stable.
This exercise helps us to develop and improve this control, and works on our balance at the same time, so it is good value!
For those who would like an extra challenge:
now do the same with your eyes closed – expect to overbalance the first couple of times, you will improve with practice 🌟
So in a few minutes, and one exercise, we are developing balance, control and body awareness which are all key to our skiing. If this is challenging then this is useful information.
I encourage everyone to find a class or exercises that fit into your routine, and hopefully you enjoy (or add a few ski specific exercises to your existing exercise programme) as a boost before your skiing holiday – it can make so much difference to your enjoyment and potentially to your safety too.
In a clear space
- Standing on one leg, hands on hips, tune in to feeling your balance.
- Keeping your trunk aligned, hinge forward at the hip on your standing leg, lifting the other leg behind you.
- See if you can create a straight, horizontal line from the top of your head to your heel behind you.
- If you go for it, you’ll find that it is easier to balance with the back leg lifted as a counterbalance.
- Hold for 5, Repeat x 3-4 on each side.
This counterbalancing effect of the leg extended behind us is part of diagonal stride in classic cross country skiing, albeit without lifting the leg so high 🙂.
- Repeat the exercise above with your arms out at shoulder height,
- Once you are in the aeroplane position, turn sideways opening the hip and keeping everything in line
- Repeat x 5 on each side.
Returning to our glutes – if you have done these exercises one after another you may notice that they are also “stealth” glutes exercises. Again they are good value 🙂
Remember – practice and consistency will get you there 🙌
Here’s to a wonderful cross country skiing 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.
With thanks to Neil Maclean Martin of La Clinique du Sport, Chamonix for the inspiration.
Neil’s programme SkiFit is a very effective way to get ready for your skiing holiday. This is the programme I’ve used for a number of years. We don’t have any commercial links with SkiFit.
“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.