Contributing Editor for The Master Skier
Lee is a master skier, sports writer from Brookfield, Wisconsin. He is also a coach, author and sports video producer. He is the author of Ski Faster, Easier and The Simple Secrets of Skating- video and booklet. His latest book is Optimal Cross Country Training. His brand new video is The New Simple Secrets of Skating.
Last issue we looked at how to develop a powerful kick and now itís time to add the finishing touches to the diagonal stride. And timing is the key.
Chad Giese shows good classic form at West Yellowstone race.
I canít emphasize enough how important it is to develop proper timing and complete weight transfer before going for the big kick and long pole glide.
So it helps immensely if you emphasize correct timing in your classical training sessions.
For those of you who missed the previous articles in this three part series, Iím including this quick review.
The first key to proper timing, for the diagonal stride, is that the arms and legs work diagonally - that is the left hand and right leg move forward together.
The second key is to plant the pole as soon as the hand is forward.
Immediate pole plant is also the key to the hidden aspect of the expertís stride. If you delay planting your pole, you will only slow down because of friction with the snow. While it may feel good, this start-stop motion is very inefficient
Once the basket is in the snow, the trick is to keep the ski gliding by poling until the next kick.
While this sounds easy, many skiers find it fairly difficult.
The tendency for most is to delay the pole plant when they go for more glide. But this can be avoided with the following image.
Feel as if you are taking short hopping steps; the concept of short hops somehow performs magic in producing an early pole plant -- and in addition, enhancing the kick. The feeling is short quick kicks and gradually extending the glide by poling.
As you can probably see, any glide while poling would be almost impossible without complete weight transfer to the gliding ski. But luckily the two go hand in hand.
Actually by emphasizing pole glide, weight transfer is also greatly improved... and of course, a more powerful kick is the natural outcome. So you win on all fronts when you increase the pole glide of your stride.
The following concept has been my most effective by far in teaching pole glide, without destroying the basic rhythm of the diagonal.
As all of your weight is transferred to the gliding ski, delay swinging the other ski/foot forward.
Feel as if your foot that has just kicked delays (hesitates) before swinging forward.
This slight pause will allow you to stay on the glide ski a little longer -- and of course keep the glide going through poling. But most importantly, the added glide you get will be from poling, which increases efficiency -- but not from delaying your pole plant which will only slow you down.
Because this timing/rhythm is so foreign to most skiers, it is almost imperative that it is first practiced in slow motion. There seems to be a natural wiring in most skiersí nervous system that makes them delay the pole plant when trying to extend their glide.
The ultimate goal in developing pole glide is to stay on the gliding ski until the poling hand reaches the side of the hip. Then kick-off occurs with the skier poised, hips directly over both feet, ready to launch forward with complete abandon onto the next glide ski, which is then kept gliding by the other pole.
I will say that the ďhand to the side of the hip checkpointĒ is difficult to see at normal skiing speeds so for those who want to develop their stride to its ultimate and want to be sure, it helps to have someone take video of you that can be slowed down and stopped.
The second part of poling while striding is something I never hear discussed. And that is: When the skier kicks, the poling has a short burst which helps the forward momentum.
It is almost like a two-piece poling motion. First pole glide, with a pole push to help the kick.
And this pole push becomes much more important when the kick wax isnít quite working. A strong skier can ďarmĒ their way up most hills and go pretty far before having to resort to the dreaded herringbone.
While this second half of poling is important, it really is a reflex action for most skiers. Itís good to be aware that it happens but the last thrust of poling is mainly instinctive.
However, pole glide is another story. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in improving their striding will benefit from slow skiing while delaying the rear footís return. When done slowly itís much easier to master.
And it's best practiced on gradual uphills where glide is easy.
Once it is natural for you, your increased poling power will allow you to float over snow with longer glide than you thought possible, and you wonít be forcing it. Itís just a natural outcome of efficient technique.
And while your longer glide will allow you to race faster, to me its biggest benefit is that it makes easy skiing through the woods more enjoyable.
Short choppy strides will get you there ... but gliding strides will get you there in style.
This article has been about the fifth step to your ultimate stride.
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