Contributing Editor for The Master Skier
Pete Vordenberg is a member of the Subaru Factory Team. He coaches at Factory Team Academies and clinics all summer and winter long, writes, and races every chance he gets. Vordenberg is a two time Olympian and a NCAA Champion.
Here are some tips on getting fit, improving your technique and keeping your skin!
Get psyched to ski by picturing yourself beneath snow laden trees breathing crisp, cool air while flying down a hard-groomed, rolling ski trail.
Or put yourself on the start-line of the Mora Vasaloppet, at the half-way mark of the Birkie, or coming down the final stretch of the Subaru Vasa.
Now come back to the reality of the fall dryland training time and consider how you will make the most of those winter settings you imagined.
Rollerskiing is the most ski specific method of dryland training, and with the innovations the rollerski industry has recently gone through, rollerskis have become the ultimate tool of those wishing to maximize their winter skiing experience in the spring, summer and fall.
Answers and Tips
To stride or not to stride -- There has been a long-standing debate as to whether it is ok to stride on rollerskis.
One side argues that you are only developing bad habits when you stride: the ratchet allows you to kick no matter how bad your technique is, thus allowing you to ingrain bad technique.
This school of thought suggests that you only double pole and double pole with a kick on rollerskis.
There is a lot of truth to this - the saying, 'practice makes perfect,' is simply incorrect. A more accurate saying is 'practice makes permanent.'
Striding on rollerskis can be of great help when working on weight transfer, balance, and timing, but not without paying a good deal of attention to these things.
As is the case for any training, a certain amount of concentration is necessary to really get anything out of it.
At all times, and especially when the terrain is steep, people have a tendency to kick too long and slowly ó a short, sharp kick is imperative. When the kick is slow it is essentially 'late' ó takes place far behind the skier and will slip on snow.
A short, sharp kick happens when the skierís weight is directly over the feet when maximum weight and power can be transferred through the ski. To do this, weight transfer must be 100%.
Balance is the key to weight shift. Much improvement can be made by striding on rollerskis, but it demands constant attention.
Double poling, double pole with a kick.
While striding on rollerskis may be a debatable practice, double poling is not.
The first necessity is sharp pole tips. Dull pole tips lead to incorrect technique, for they slip during the important later part of the double pole.
When this is the case, you learn to rely only on the initial part of the double pole stroke when the poles are more vertical. Gains in technique and strength for the important later part of the double pole are therefore minimized when using dull tips.
It is not only very frustrating to have the tips constantly slipping it can also be dangerous ó when the tips slip you can easily pitch forward onto your face.
As is the case for all training, concentration is key.
For double poling think about initiating the double pole with the abdominals. Instead of bending over at the waist, hunch your shoulders and upper-body over the poles and crunch down with the abdominal muscles.
Contrary to an older style of double pole, keep your arms bent throughout the first part of the double pole and rapidly straighten your arms back behind you quickly by firing your triceps at the end of the double pole.
The same dangers that come with striding on rollerskis are present when double poling with a kick.
The kick tends to be long, late and slow - unless you concentrate on being snappy and kicking from on top of the skis.
Prior to the initiation of the kick, thrust your hips forward so that they are actually in front of your feet. From this forward position, focus on making the kick dynamic and quick.
Skating without poles
Skating without poles on rollerskis is one of the best ways to fine-tune your skating technique and build specific lower body strength in the summer.
Consider using a 'speed skater-like' push with the legs rather than the old forward-step technique. Maintain a deep bend at the ankle and drive forward with the knees (this is a part of the 'new skate' technique the Factory Team is teaching at their academies, details at www.dreamofit.com).
Handling the downhills
The motto for downhill rollerskiing is: Plan ahead, stay cool and keep your skin.
When kayakers are going to tackle a new stretch of whitewater they pre-view the water and plan the best course of action. The same should be true for rollerskiing. Never go down a blind hill.
There is some debate as to which side of the road you should use. In most cases rollerskis should stick to the right side of the road, and as far to the right as is safely possible.
Stay cool. Keeping your head and staying calm can be vital. In all situations, continue to look ahead, relax and plan for evasive action, rather than gritting your teeth, tightening up and panicking.
When there is debris on the road donít look at it, instead look where you want to go.
On snow or pavement your stance on down hills should be low: bend the knees and keep your hands low and in front of you. Your weight should be over your whole foot, not just on your toes or your heels.
Standing straight up and letting your hands get behind you is a sure way to take a nasty spill. When your weight is low and forward, you are in a position to move evasively, absorb bumps and, if you should fall, you will fall in a much less dramatic fashion. Become small and roll, donít get big and dig.
We recommend wearing as much protective clothing as youíre comfortable with, even one extra layer of clothing will help minimize skin loss in a crash.
Helmets are mandatory.
Workouts versus Wasting your time. - There is no such thing as a simple easy distance training session. To maximize your time and energy, every time you are on your rollerskis (or skis) you should concentrate on some specific aspect of the sport.
It is fun to go on a social outing with friends, and that is fine, but even while chatting it is possible to work on an element of your technique.
What kind of rollerskis should I get? - It is not advisable to use the combi skate/classic rollerskis, for wheel wear caused by skating will make them unstable for classic and they wonít hold a straight line when you try to glide on them.
Likewise, the wider wheels used for classical rollerskiing donít allow you to push off of the ski properly when skating.
If you are going to buy only one pair of rollerskis, you should buy a pair of narrow wheel skating skis.
You can double pole on them, which would make up the grand majority of your classical rollerskiing anyway, and obviously you can skate on them.
Wider wheeled skating rollerskis donít allow for a good push off or skate and can lead to improper technique, no matter how much you concentrate on doing the right thing.
Ideally you should have a pair for skating and a pair of classical technique. Rollerskiing is not only great training, it can be a lot of fun, and before you know it summer will be over and that rolling ski trail, those snow laden trees and crisp, cool air will be a reality - and youíll be skiing in the best shape of your life.
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