Pro Article: Are you Free!

Pro Article: Are you Free!

July 28, 2012 |  by Phil Smith  |  PRO Training, Technical

Phil Smith, Snoworks Director, reports on how the goal for perceived technical competence could actually be holding you back from developing your full potential.

How many joints are there in the human body? Google it and you cannot get a definitive answer. It ranges from 200 to 400 as some bones fuse together from the fetus to birth then there’s debate over what is and what is not a joint. But nevertheless there are many.

Combine this with movement  – you can divide movements into three categories – flexion/extension, adduction/abduction (lateral) and rotation then add the variations in movements such as range and speed of movement and altogether you have an infinite number of possibilities in how we move.

The other day my ski group was getting frustrated as I would not explain to them exactly how they should move when skiing down the side of a mountain. “Explain how you would make a cup of tea – exactly the movements involved, or, better still explain exactly how you would run through a crowded bar carrying a tray of drinks.” Hmmmmmm – not possible. “… and you want me to explain exactly how to ski down the side of a mountain?”

This is the conundrum – the desire to know exactly how to move. Unfortunately it does not work like that and the desire for it to work like that may actually be holding you back.

Do this exercise:
1. Take a pen and right your signature as small as possible. Move only your fingers and a small amount at your wrist.
2. Now block the movements at your fingers and wrist and write your signature 20 times the previous size using only your elbow and shoulder.
3. Now imagine taking a stick, 10 meters long, strapping a paintbrush to the end holding it with both hands and whilst walking sideways painting your signature 500 times the size of the original one.
4. Now imagine writing your signature with your head, your foot or your elbow.

In all these examples the signature will clearly be seen to be yours. The processing power required to coordinate the movements to achieve a clearly visible signature that is identifiably yours made with different joints and written in different sizes is immense.

How does the brain figure this out? Answer – It knows your signature. It knows the outcome you are looking for and providing you have no hindrance in your movements the brain can work it out and work it out quickly. Quicker than you could ever think!

So where does this leave us in skiing?
You need to be free to move. All the joints in your body need to be free to move in every direction, with every range and at every speed. Then you need an objective, an output, just like the signature – whether it be the line you wish to take or the speed you wish to travel. Then the brain can coordinate your movements to achieve your goal just like the signature in the above exercise.

Obviously you can’t just go out and do this. If only! It takes time to develop the ability to be free and like anything if your objective, your output is not practical and not related to the environment you’re in and your experience, fitness and your emotional state then it wont work. But aim to be free and link this to a desirable and appropriate ‘output’.

I remember the great Franz Klammer once saying. Whilst every other racer was trying to reproduce a ‘technique’ he was just as free as could be. … and I remember vividly as a child watching him – one gigantic shock absorber.

So go out there and develop movements, hundreds and thousands of movements.

As an instructor/coach I often use Mosstons ‘divergent’ style of teaching to develop freedom of movement and to expand on my own toolbox of ‘drills’.
I ask one student to select a joint (ankle, knee or hip).
The second to select a movement (flexion/extension, lateral or rotation).
The third to select a range of movement (small, medium, large).
The forth to select a speed of movement (slow, medium, fast).
I can also ask a fifth whether the movements should be sequential or simultaneous and add another dimension to the movement.
Then I ‘invent’ an exercise to develop this.

The ‘drill’ must be safe and achievable so it takes some skill to invent an exercise that you’ve never heard of, or seen before, that can also be matched to the ability level of your group. But that’s what I love about the ‘divergent’ style. The results are infinite just like movements.

As your movements become free and you have clearly defined output goals you will soon realize your only limitations are the ones you set yourself!

Phil Smith
Director of Snoworks Ski Courses

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