| People that I ski with regularly are always impressed with my physical flexibility
and I am equally astonished at their lack of it. Those that ski well do so in spite
of their 'disability' and those that do not would, without doubt, ski better and with
more control and efficiency if they were more mobile.
My studies with recreational athletes and subsequent work have proved that flexibility
can be improved dramatically and measurably after a few treatments. I was so excited
by the potential benefits for skiers that I designed a course of treatments that would
focus on the areas most essential to skiing (legs, hips and lower back). This work was
featured in a report in 'Ski & board' magazine last year after one of their journalists
had a course of treatments with me. Her comments can be seen in
articles & reviews.
The elements of the treatments are not so unusual in themselves, but they are applied
in such a way as to repair muscle fibre damage, stretch the muscles and maximise joint
mobility as a priority. Stretching is certainly important and a personalised program
will be prepared for you to do during the course of treatment.
Why is flexibility so important? Because skiing is a graceful, yet dynamic sport that
demands a full range of movement (especially from the lower body), good muscle co-ordination and
balance. Improved muscle tone and function allows better muscle control and
co-ordination, essential for making the small instantaneous adjustments that we need to
keep our skis in contact with the snow and going where we want to be. Improving posture
and flexibility allows us to move effortlessly in and out of balance as we ski.
The other benefit of flexibility improvement is that it will reduce the risk of injury
when skiing AND when you are training to go skiing. I have never said "don't train to get
fit", what I do say is, "if you have
limited time to get fit for the coming winter, make flexibility improvement your priority".
You will ski better, and safer.
Several of the skiers I treated before last winter called to say that their skiing had
definitely improved as a result of the work we did. One said that she skied all week with
no pain in her calves for the first time in 11 years (during which time she had received
treatment from osteopaths and physiotherapists). None of my clients called to say they had
wasted their time.
The number of treatments required depends on the individual. But four or five is usually
Body alignment vs Ski alignment
I wrote an article for 'Ski & Board' (Jan/Feb 2002) that looks closely at the functions of each and
questions the real benefits of ski alignment for recreational skiers. A reduced text follows:
An increasingly popular science in skiing is 'ski alignment'. This involves modifying ski
boots to match the alignment (or misalignment) of the legs, then, usually, placing wedges
under the ski bindings so that, in your neutral stance, the base of the skis are flat on
the snow. The theory is sound, but I take exception on two counts:
Misalignment of the legs is normally a result of a biomechanical problem with the feet
or hips. If the problem is with the feet, an expert boot fitter can create a foot bed
to accomodate the contours of the feet in relation to horizontal and (as with knock-knees
and bow-legs) can adjust the cuff of the boot to accommodate the angulation
of the lower leg.
- how often is snow flat? (as in perfectly flat and level)
- aligning boots and skis to (usually) misaligned legs is a make shift solution that
simply masks the real problem.
If the problem is in the hips, a boot fitter or ski aligner will only mask or accommodate the problem.
Here's a very simple test that will show if your legs are misaligned from the hips.
Lie flat on the floor with arms by your sides. Get a helper to hold your ankles and gently
shake and pull the legs and lay them straight (pencil-straight and in line with the body's mid line)
with the ankles close together. They now hold the ankles and press into the area just below the
bony protuberance at the inside of the ankles (malleolus) and slide the thumbs up until they are
pressing into the lower ramp of each malleolus. If each thumb (pointing downwards) is not
perfectly level with the other, your hips are out of alignment. (Only 1 in 28 people have
an actual anatomical leg length difference). This test will identify the more common hip 'drop'.
Diagnosing a twisted pelvis is a bit more complicated.
Your body will compensate for this apparent leg length differential by tensing muscles
in the hips and legs unequally and bending the lower back in relation to the hips in
an action that cascades up the spine until you have the posture of a human hairpin.
The legs will be at different angles relative to vertical, the biomechanics and
muscular efficiency of the lower back, hips and legs will be compromised and you will
never ski to your full potential.
So what's the solution? Osteopaths and chiropractors will often recognise the condition
but will be principally concerned with correcting the spinal consequences rather than the
underlying muscular causes, hence the problems persist and re-occur. Of my current clients,
some have struggled without success for up to 5 years since being diagnosed, some seeing up
to 25 various specialists. In all cases, I have been able to effect a lasting realignment
(in the most persistent case) in 6 treatments.
The real benefit of the system I use is that, having corrected the distortion, I can teach
you a few very specific and easily learned movements that you can use to maintain pelvic
alignment and correct most recurrent problems, thus putting you in control of your skis and
in control of any back pains/hip, knee and ankle problems/other spinal pathologies and
associated aches and pains that so commonly arise from pelvic distortion.
Of the clients I have spoken to who have skied since having a course of corrective treatments
(and having taken responsibility to spend a few minutes each day - often for just a few weeks)
to maintain alignment, all have noticed an improvement in their skiing, some saying that they
skied better than ever before since treatment.
So now you have a choice. Spend about £200 getting your boots and skis adjusted to
accommodate the problem or have the problem easily and painlessly rectified.
The process is similar to my flexibility improvement work, with the added element
of pelvic correction. It's simple, usually immediate and truly impressive.