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Keep It Simple Stupid.  Take the arms out of the picture and focus on your legs.  Your legs are bigger and stronger than your arms and using them efficiently will make you feel like you are flying, especially when you add your poles later on. Simply skiing with out poles will improve your skiing, but if you want to do even more for your technique here are a couple of exercises to try.

Foosball Drill (Weight Transfer, Power Efficiency)

Take your ski poles off, place them perpendicular to your body and press them to your hips.  Pretend you are a foosball player and focus on only allowing the ‘bar’ to move laterally as you skate from side to side.  Try not to let the poles dip or twist from side to side.  This will help you focus on pushing laterally and not stepping up the hill.

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One Team CXC Vertical Limit, we work hard on double pole technique because it is the root of upper body ski motions. When double poling, most people focus on the “poling phase” and “core crunch.” Both these aspects are very necessary but, it is important not to forget about the other half of the double pole, the return. Easily overlooked because no force is being applied, the return is absolutely critical to setting up a correct double pole.

Picture you have just finished a double pole. Your hands are near your hips and you have a slight bend at the knees and ankles with your hips over the balls of your feet. As soon as the poling phase ends, bam! Your arms are spring loaded and return the poles to a high position, ready to strike again. The focus should be on returning the hands quickly which will help bring your hips and weight forward. Ever notice that it is impossible to get a poor picture of a World Cup skier, why is that? It’s because the second they finish their poling stroke, their hands whip back to a nice high position and there is a slight pause while load for the next pole and glide. The quick return helps generate forward momentum and allows them to “drop the hammer” on each double pole. Hands are high but not extended as the elbows should be kept around 90 degrees. Although the hands are coming forward on the return, movement should be generated from the shoulders. If done correctly, an efficient return can help with everything from timing to power application so don’t ignore it!

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The last few weeks have been busy in Hayward – Central’s Regional Elite Group camp and CXC/Team Vertical Limit’s July camp both took place here. It was good to see so many skiers getting solid hours in. One type of training stood out as somewhere skiers can make big improvements fairly easily.

Being able to balance on moving skis is a huge aspect of Nordic success –Kenyan Philip Boit (1:46.06 PR in 800m.) learned this in the 1998 Olympics. Both the REG and CXC teams spent portions of their camp working on balance training. On skate rollerskis, athletes went through slalom courses at speed, rolled into 180-degree jumps, skied backward, took cross-over steps, tried to stop as quickly as possible … basically, “played” around while avoiding falls. On classic and skate skis, they worked on gliding on one foot for as long as possible down hills and after kicking, double-poling or V2ing. Obviously, be careful – for example, you can try jumps on the grass first – and wear your helmet. (If you need more ideas, there are some good videos on the CXC Academy website.)

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I started skiing my sophomore year of high school, when my friends from the cross-country team convinced me to join them in the winter, too, with the Ford Sayre Ski Club. Like all beginning skiers, I sucked. I only competed in two Eastern Cup races that year, and finished last and second to last. In a relatively short amount of time though, I became somewhat decent at skiing. This was partly because I was good shape from running, so I could go hard even if my technique was terrible. That explains the uphills and the flats. But the downhills?

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There’s a phenomenon that I’ve seen among pretty much every group of Bill Koch League skiers that I’ve come across. For lack of a better name, I’m going to call it the “little jump phenomenon” and it goes like this: Someone builds a nice little jump on a decent-sized hill near the warming hut. Pretty soon there’s a pack of kids at the hill launching themselves precociously off the jump, then racing back to the top of the hill with surprisingly good technique and speed. By the time I’ve come back from my interval workout, the kids are still there doing hill repeats, albeit perhaps with a little less tempo than an hour before.

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When I was a freshman in high school, I tried out for the freshman basketball team.  I hadn’t played all fall, and I was pretty nervous.  I was tall, maybe 5’11, but I probably weighed 140 lbs.  I wanted to be a small forward.  I was doing ok until the last day of tryouts when a guy on my team passed me the ball in a scrimmage, someone knocked it out of my hands, the ball fell to the floor, and for some reason, I kicked it.  I don’t know why.  I just did.  I’ve never told that story to anyone because I’m still embarrassed.  Anyways, I was the only kid cut from the team that year.  Maybe one of two.  I don’t remember.  The next day, I told my friend and he told me to try skiing.  I had his brother take me home to get some old rollerblades, borrowed a pair of poles, and I was on the team.  As they say, the rest is history.

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Flexibility has never been a problem for me because I was a gymnast and dancer growing up and through high school. I think because of that background I took my flexibility for granted and, as a ski racer, have never spent much time stretching. Stretching was pretty far down on the priority list while skiing in college, somewhere well below getting enough sleep and finishing the assigned reading for my Constitutional Law class. That pattern changed when I joined the Green Racing Project under coach Pepa Miloucheva.  She puts a high emphasis on post-training stretching and after every roller ski we throw on our running shoes for a quick jog followed up with stretching.

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My running career was short and not particularly distinguished, but I still look back on it fondly.  I ran cross-country for two seasons in high school and one in college.  All I have to show for my stint as a Harvard runner is an x-ray of a stress fracture in my hip, an injury my doctor previously believed was reserved for elderly women.  Lackluster results aside, I still love to run.  Though my focus of late has shifted from 8ks to trails and mountains, I still love to lace ‘em up and hit the trails.

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The day in and day out drudgery of training can chafe people. I know- I’ve been there. However, there is an easy way to get through the doldrums, and take more benefit from training while you’re at it.

Set goals.

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Sometimes as much as we would like it to, the standard training plan consisting of high volume and base building interspersed with intervals and strength sessions, simply will not work for our current lifestyle. This can be especially true of master skiers who are trying to juggle a career, family and their own personal enrichment. The good news is, for those athletes who have years of training behind them and an established base, you probably do not need to do as much volume as you might think.

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