The SkiA Training Program
The balance blocks of the Trainers line up directly with the index marks of your ski boots, close to the middle of the arches of your feet. This is the ‘sweetspot’ – your target balance point for skiing.
The Trainers are designed to challenge your balance, so please be careful particularly in your first couple of sessions, until you become used to balancing on them.
- The goal is to keep your feet still and to balance only by using movements of your body and arms. Moving your feet forwards and backwards to balance is ‘cheating’
- Keep your feet side by side, pointing straight ahead, and approximately hip width apart – just as if you are skiing
- Look forwards, far into the distance. If you look down at your feet, you will unbalance
They come with 4 progressively smaller balance blocks: green, blue, red and black. Even if you are an expert skier, start with the green blocks. Once you can move slowly, comfortably and confidently on those, then move to the next blocks; and so on.
The blocks don’t correspond to pistes of the same colour. In other words, a skier who can confidently ski a ‘black’ run may find the black blocks extremely challenging.
Don't rush to get to the smallest blocks almost straightaway!
It takes the most skill, and delivers the most benefit, to do the movements slowly and accurately. Fast, jerky movements are simply part of the process of getting better. So, aim to practice so that you can perform all the movements on your chosen blocks smoothly and slowly in balance.
Keep your training sessions quite short: 10 or 15 minutes maximum. Practice when you are fresh and rested. Once you start to tire or struggle, stop and rest. There’s no limit on the number of sessions you can do during a day. If you leave your ski boots with the Trainers fitted, you can just step in whenever you feel ready. When you rest, and particularly when you sleep, your body builds new neural pathways – you’ll notice a jump in your ability each day.
There will be an immediate benefit right from the very first minute that you use the Trainers. However, regular practice over a period of weeks will enable you to build, develop and train exceptional balance skills.
We recommend using the Trainers regularly for at least a couple of weeks to reach a good standard. Once you have trained these skills, they will largely be retained, and you can reactivate them amazingly quickly with ‘top-up’ sessions before a trip
Take your Trainers with you when you go skiing. Use them for 5 minutes in the morning before you ski, and during the day as well if you get the opportunity. This will give you an incredible sense of skiing on your target balance point.
Fit the Trainers, using the green blocks. Stand up and balance carefully on the blocks so that both your toes and heels remain off the ground. You can flex your body down slightly to help this process
Feel for the point you are balancing on in the centre of your feet – this is your target balance point, the ‘sweetspot’. You may be quite surprised how this feels, as few skiers balance here unless they have had very expert coaching.
You will find that this gives your whole body a great workout, as your balance reflexes engage.
It is important to relax and be supple during this process, though you can use your core strength to stabilize the centre of your body.
After a few minutes, remove the Trainers and stand on flat ground in your boots for a minute. During this time your body processes the new information.
Repeat this sequence a couple of times and then take a moment to review the process, by asking three specific questions:
1) Do I understand where the balance points are?
2) Can I feel them under my feet?
3) Did my balancing on the Trainers improve during the session?
If you have the opportunity, ski now and feel for the balance points under your feet. Use the first 2 or 3 of the skiing drills, shown in section 3 of the manual, as they will help you to maximize your improvement. Repeat the entire sequence a few times, until you are able to maintain your centred balance during the first three skiing drills.
Movement in Balance
Now you have a great opportunity to retrain your movement patterns, so they become balanced, accurate and smooth.
It’s important not to flex by sticking your pelvis out backwards, so first of all we’ll do an exercise without the Trainers on. Stand with your heels against a wall, and lower yourself by flexing your knees. Flex as far as you are able to, keeping your pelvis vertical. It’s OK if your low back touches the wall. You’ll find that there is a limit to this movement. As you use the Trainer, use exactly the same movement pattern.
Back on the Trainers, gently flex down and extend up, working carefully to stay on target.
It’s possible to flex your ski boots gently during this movement, while staying on the balance points.
Gradually increase the range of movement that you use, until you can touch your toes. As you get lower, you will find that you have to work your core abdominal muscles quite hard to keep your pelvis vertical. You will then find that you reach a point where to flex any lower your pelvis has to tuck backwards. Practice this sequence of movements.
Even experienced skiers find this tricky at first. The challenge here is to remain exactly on your balance target as you flex and extend, not tipping forwards or backwards. Keep your movements as slow, smooth and steady as you can manage.
When you tire, remove the Trainers and stand on flat ground, for about a minute. Again, your body processes the new information.
Repeat this sequence a couple of times. and then take a moment to review the process, by asking three specific questions:
1) Do I understand how to move so that I stay on the target balance points?
2) Am I able to move in balance?
3) Did my quality of movement improve during the session?
When you are next able to go skiing, feel for the balance points under your feet, as you flex and extend.
Again, use the first 2 or 3 skiing drills, shown in section 3 of the manual, and review the process as above.
Balanced, centred rotation (or pivoting) improves the quality of your steering enormously. This is an essential skill for short radius turns, for example on steep terrain or narrow corridors.
Begin with a familiar warm-up session on the blocks. When comfortably centred, smoothly turn your boots together to the left and the right, focusing on the central balance points as the centre of rotation of each foot. Keep your feet hip width apart as you do this.
Keep your movements slow and steady –take at least 5 seconds to rotate from left to right. The more slowly you rotate, the harder the balance challenge.
Keep your pelvis and upper body as still as possible as you smoothly rotate your boots – to isolate the movement of your legs from the rest of your body. This can be difficult. A buddy can be very useful here, to support your hips and prevent pelvis rotation as you make the movements.
You can practice isolating this movement pattern by rotating your feet left and right lying on your back. This is one exercise you can do in bed!
Check that both feet are rotating equally – it’s common for the ‘outside’ foot to under-rotate relative to the ‘inside’ foot, and this may need a little extra work.
Pivoting can wear the blocks, so choose your surface carefully. It should be firm and fairly smooth, though not slippery. A rough or coarse surface can quickly chew up the rubber of the balance blocks – and this is not covered by guarantee. Pivoting on carpet is unlikely to damage the blocks, but could possibly damage the carpet. Please be careful to avoid this. Please check during use that the blocks aren’t wearing, and that the surface you are on is not being damaged.
The gentle rocker on the blocks of the Trainer is designed to let you practice gentle edging movements. This movement is quite small and directly relates to the beginning of your edging movement on skis, the initiation of edging.
Begin with a familiar warm-up session on the block. Establish your balance on the Trainers, and then gently tilt your feet from side to side.
These small lateral movements on the Trainers, repeated frequently, will really improve the quality of your edge initiation and you will feel the improved quality of steering.
Don’t try to practice forceful edging with the Trainers, for example by leaning against a wall.. This would put enormous pressure on the edges, and the blocks are not designed for these loads. Doing so will cause the rubber to stretch and split at the edges, and perhaps separate from the block. Damage caused by such use is not covered by guarantee.
Balance on one foot
When you are comfortable and confident balancing on the blocks, try balancing on one foot. Be careful - this is quite a dynamic and physical challenge. This will give you a very strong sense of balancing on centre.
Use a ball, or a drinks bottle, to challenge your balance. Pass it around behind your back. Pass it between your knees. Play catch and throw with a buddy. Throw high and low, fast and slow. Make up your own games!
Use the Trainers (with small boards to balance on, under the blocks) on a trampoline - with careful attention to safety - to practice centred balance in a new and dynamic way
Progress through the blocks
When you can balance accurately and consistently on the green blocks, swap to the blue blocks.
When you’re ready, progress through to the red and black blocks, making sure that you have given your body a chance to excel at each level. When you are working at any given level, you can experiment by moving temporarily to a harder block – when you return to the original size, it will feel a lot easier!
When you can flex and extend in balance on the red or black blocks, you will have a very highly developed ability to balance and move on your skis.