Skiing has been the journey of a lifetime. During this past ski season teaching and training other women, I noticed some interesting feedback from my students about alignment and their aches and pains related to the lower back region.
“But, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?”Kristen Heard
Feeling Extremely Lost
Like many of us, we were devastated after this ski season got cut short and we couldn’t spend those extra few weeks out on snow. From there the whole world came crashing down and in a blink of an eye we were in locked down. Living on the ski resort was pretty hard and it felt more isolated than the normal off season. I really didn’t know what to do with myself. I think all of us can say we felt extremely lost as many of us were looking forward to those upcoming courses and ski exams that we’d all been working so hard at all winter. Then all of sudden they were cancelled in those last weeks of the season. “meh”
Focusing on Home Exercise
I started exercising from home which I wasn’t too happy about in the beginning as I’m so used to being active and outdoors. Now we were being forced to stay in a confined space. Faced with my apartment’s limited square footage, I started looking online for all kinds of fitness apps and videos that were appropriate for my living space that didn’t need a lot of equipment. I came across a fitness trainer offering free online pilates workouts on Youtube. To my surprise, I really was enjoying them and the more I did them the stronger I was becoming in a span of just one week.
It was during one of the workouts that the trainer made a comment about the pelvis. She demonstrated the pelvis was ‘tucked in‘ when doing a specific movement during squats. She mentioned this because of the fact that women have a natural curvature of the spine from the way our pelvis is formed.
The Importance of Biomechanics
This sparked a lightbulb moment in my head with my own skiing and women I had been teaching and training this winter who were coming up to me with all sorts of comments about their back being sore especially in the lower region. I started to do my own research on women and our biomechanics and how I can help not only myself but other women out there in skiing.
The more I was watching and doing these pilates videos, the more I wanted to know about simple movement patterns in the human body and how I can relate this back to skiing. I noticed that some of the moves I wasn’t able to do correctly or had some difficulty doing due the fact some movements from skiing are just so drilled into us they become natural in our everyday lives without us realizing.
As skiers we have to try and correct our form elsewhere when doing just general exercise. It was then it became very apparent to me that it’s important to know basic knowledge of biomechanics in the human body especially women. During my time in ski instructing, my Snow School trainers and mentors have been male. They have taken my skiing and teaching to levels I never thought I was capable of and I have the utmost respect for them. I was then reflecting on previous courses and realized in this time I’ve had the pleasure of skiing with only two female course conductors in the space of six years.
I realized I have very little knowledge on women in skiing and only remember a couple of facts they threw out which are helpful in some situation but not all.
Natural Curvature of the Lower Spine
I found during my research that all women do have natural curvature of the lower spine as I mentioned above due to the way our pelvis is formed. In some women it is more prominent than others. The pelvis is slightly tilted more forward which can result in restriction of our range of movement in skiing. Too far forward or too far back results in limited range of movement and makes it difficult for us to bend our joints equally as you can only go so far with an outcome being static and lower back pain. Finding a neutral pelvis alignment in women who ski, allows for more range of movement as our joints are able to move more fluidly together just like suspension.
How Can We Find Our Neutral Pelvic Position?
How we can find our neutral pelvic position ? Simply just by playing around and taking it from one extreme to another. Too far forward, too far back and then finding that middle ground and noticing the differences in your skiing and bending those joints. You can do this just statically by standing in a skiing stance and trying to bend your ankles, knees and hips equally and notices the differences. Now, take this out on the snow and try the exact same thing while skiing on intermediate terrain and slower speed to gradually increasing the speed. Every women’s neutral pelvic position is going to be different depending on how prominent the curvature of the lower spine is.
Many Forces at Play to Maintain Balance
The thing is, I’ve personally being working on this for years and never really understood why. I knew what was happening in my skiing but wasn’t quite sure if it was just me or some weird habit I’d developed that I couldn’t break. I have more prominent curve in my lower spine.
My trainers for years have been telling me to stop pushing my pelvis forward during the transition especially on my right handed turn. Watching video footage of myself and doing my research, I was able to determine that my right hand turns tend to push the pelvis forward to re centre myself in the transition before starting the next turn. I believe this has to do with my lower spine being curved and is a natural movement in women who are at an intermediate/ higher end level of skiing.
There are a lot of forces at play to maintain a centred balance point over the outside ski. Simply by re adjusting our pelvis, a pattern could be developed to automatically balance over the outside ski.
Lifting the inside Hip
My trainers and I have overcome this pelvic alignment through many drills and practice. The most effective drill was a simple lifting of my inside hip so my inside ski was just hovering on the snow at the beginning of each turn. This stabilizes a neutral pelvic position and stops me from falling inside from the motion of pushing my pelvis forward.
I worked very hard on this all winter from December and it wasn’t until March when it started to become a natural habit and apparent when I wasn’t lifting the inside hip. I was starting to feel much stronger in my own skiing when transitioning from one turn to the other as my weight was on the outside ski and my pelvis was staying neutral.
I was pretty annoyed when we got shut down due to COVID19 as it was that week everything fell into place and wasn’t able to really show my trainers the difference. I just wanted some feedback or even get someone to shoot video of me to show them. There is always next winter.
The Silver Lining
The upside to COVID19 is that my learning and curiosity hasn’t stopped and it’s been a new learning curve. I think it is pretty important for women and men in skiing and ski instruction to have some knowledge of how the structure of our bodies differ from one another and being able to explain some basic knowledge or have some ideas on how to help women achieve the outcomes we are looking for.
Excited for Next Season
I’m excited to put this into practice next winter and being able to have answers to questions to make women in this sport that feel they are capable of being a strong skier !!
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