Sunday, February 22, 2009

Foot/Ankle Mobility

It ALL starts from the ground - up. While the mountainous festivities involve the entire body, it is your foot/ankle complex that is absorbing all those terrain variations and causing the optimal chain reaction to occur at the rest of your body. The end result should leave us gasping for air and smiling at the end of the run.

In previous articles, we spoke about the importance of the foot/ankle complex ( It doesn't matter whether you opt for hard or soft boots, we ALL have to be able to flex our shins forward into the tongue of our boots. This motion is called dorsiflexion. When this happens, our calves are lengthened or put "on stretch." Limitations in dorsiflexion will limit how far the shin can move forward or flex. Now the body must begin to "look" for other options and this is when compensations take place. In the performance world, there are a number of things that will happen, for instance, the feet will turn out or someone will bend more at the hips or movement will just overall be restricted. On the slopes, there are also many other options that are less than desirable. WHILE I'M NOT QUALIFIED as a ski/snowboard instructor, my logic tells me that there are some VERY specific or common compensations that take place (possible "back-seat" skier, "hip-bender" skier/snowboarder).

To help begin to undo the negative effects of limited dorsiflexion, we will begin to mobilize the foot/ankle complex in a number of different planes. We will take common wall lean position and put a different twist to it. You may view it on the video below.

This technique may be used in a number of different ways, such as pre-workout, a pre-get on the slopes or a pre-anything. We usually perform 10 repetitions in all the directions illustrated.



Saturday, February 14, 2009

Balance is not just for gymnasts anymore!

The demand for balance is a requirement in every aspect of life – the slopes are no different. With the ever changing dynamics of skiing/riding, all the terrain options, various conditions, environmental factors, reckless snowboarders (wink, wink), our bodies need to be able to “read” and interpret all these factors to help us be more successful on our journey down the slippery slopes.

It is important to realize that there are different types of balance as it relates to human movement. To stand on one leg, in one place, is very different than hopping on one leg for 10 yards. The terms to define these examples are the difference between static balance and dynamic balance. By definition, to be “static” means to “show little or no change” or to “lack movement.” Conversely, being “vigorously active or forceful” or “pertaining to force related to motion” are definitions of being “dynamic.” Both are essential when it comes to human performance and nobody will deny the importance of balance when it comes to sliding down a mountain -- regardless if you have one or two planks under your feet!

“Snowboard specific balance taken too far!?” ATTENTION: This is NOT an exercise that we would recommend as it is for dramatization only!

After looking at each definition, there must be different ways to develop each type of balance? The common denominator between both types of balance is the role of the nervous system. The importance of the nervous system when it comes to human performance is undeniable since it controls all human movement – voluntary and involuntary. Think of it like the communication center in the body. It tells everything what to do! For example, our feet provide a vital link between the slopes and our movement system. Any terrain changes are “taken in” through the feet and the stimulus is sent to the brain. Assuming that both are speaking the same language, then a response is sent back down from the brain with a specific command. This is all based on what was interpreted by our body’s sensors, much like the operation of sensors in a car. If the sensors are not functioning properly due to immobility or a lack of stability, what kind of response can we expect? Training that incorporates both types of balance is like resetting your sensors and ensuring that your nervous system and your body are able to understand what is being “sensed” so you may get a desirable response from your movement machinery.

So treat yourself to a “tune up” and enhance this communication system. Even if you think you are already “firing on all cylinders,” you can benefit from the numerous adaptations and upgrades that take place from training that targets the function of the nervous system.