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Bounding along in snowless bliss[you know, when it melts again]
Unlimited—the recently released cross-country video by Ottawa based company XC Zone—is like porn for the cross-country skiing enthusiast. Boot-level shots of hairpin turns, bulging quads and powerful torsos make parkway peaks seem like downhills. Ahh, the sound of speed on snow. Then there’s the cold shower of watching the snow melt and the dry-land training section of the flm begins.
The glamour of glide is replaced by a woman making her way up a steep, rocky hill in a slow and peculiar fashion, accompanied by the annoying “tick, tick, tick” of her poles scraping on gravel. The scene puzzled my movie-viewing partner, but we were watching an essential training tool for any cross country skier who wants to make their season as exciting as it is “unlimited.” Ski bounding—the technique of mimicking classic skiing while running with poles—is one of the best ways to improve ftness and technique during those sad non-snow seasons. It combines specifc training for your skiing muscles, provides an excellent opportunity to focus on your technique, and it’s a grueling cardiovascular workout.Good ski bounders can mimic the technique so well that they actually look as if they are skiing, and some coaches maintain that the motion is a more ski-specifc motion than roller skiing. With this in mind, there are some key technique hints to consider when venturing up a hill for your frst attempt.
Ski bounding tips
Equipment: Locate some poles that aren’t terribly valuable (they’ll get scratched by rocks) and that force your arms into a 90-degree angle when you are standing with your hands in the straps and the poles in front of you. Poles should come up to your armpits while standing. Too-long poles make technique much more diffcult. Location: Find a hill. While this sounds obvious, bounding is only effective if used on a fairly steep hill. Penguin is an exciting choice. Think of the Keskinada.
What to do with your pole
Ski bounding is the technique of mimicking skiing while running. The most obvious difference between the two is the addition of some poles.
• Swing your poles as you would for skiing (opposite arm to opposite leg—for some reason, this is less intuitive while not on skis.)
• Plant your pole at around your heel with your hand in front of where the pole tip is planted and your arm only slightly bent. Ensure that your arm does not bend much further during your swing—this common mistake is called “collapsing your elbows.”
• Instead, push down and a little behind you so that your arm maintains a constant angle while swinging back. Your hand should follow parallel to the slope of the hill as your arm extends behind you.
What to do with your feet
Foot placement can sometimes be the critical element in discovering the difference between jogging with poles and the tricky art of bounding.
• Reach forward with your leading foot—don’t simply let it swing forward as you would in running. This will also cause your hips to rotate around the central axis—an important technique in order to achieve proper weight shift and forward drive.
• Ensure that your back foot does not kick up towards your bum the way it does while running. This is very important! Pretend you have skis on your feet—that way, your heels have to stay close to the ground.appropriate to the dance foor than to the Gatineau trails.
• Preload the push-off leg: pretend there’s a shock absorber between your knee and the front of your ski as you push down and spring off during the weight-bearing portion of your stride.
What to do with your torso
Good ski bounders look as if they are hungry for the hill; they lean their upper body into the hill, driving all their power forward. A bouncing motion indicates not enough forward drive.
What to do with your head
To maintain your forward drive up the hill, focus a few paces ahead of your skis. If you are not the fastest bounder in the group, this will also allow you to observe your training partner’s hilarious technique at close quarters, including the above mentioned over-rotation of the hips. As with all workouts, having fun while building strength should be a priority. The frst bounding workout of the year is always a physical and mental challenge.
From the burning sensation that emanates from your under-used posterior to the even less comfortable sensation that you look like a dork, it is usually an outing that involves lots of leaning on poles and gasping. The triumph of regaining one’s technique and the inevitable satisfaction of superior performance once on snow, however, far outweigh the discomforts of learning to “pretend” that you are skiing when you clearly aren’t. The “tick, tick, tick” of poles on gravel can be the sweet prelude to a chorus of “how did you get so fast?” come winter.
—Eric Finstad is a registered physiotherapist and former member of the National Cross-Country Ski Team. Nicola Cameron is a member of the Carleton University Ski Team.