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Wednesday Workout: Tackling Technique with Visualization (like the U.S. Ski Team)

Andy Newell while training with the U.S. Ski Team last month in Bend, Ore. (Photo: Matt Whitcomb)

Andy Newell while training with the U.S. Ski Team last month in Bend, Ore. (Photo: Matt Whitcomb)

This week’s Wednesday Workout comes from Matt Whitcomb, the U.S. Ski Team women’s coach. Whitcomb and the team recently returned from their on-snow camp in Bend, Ore., where they practiced improving technique with visualization. 

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Before starting the workout the coach identifies one 10-second clip of one male and one female World Cup skier classical striding up gradual terrain and then plugs it into iMovie. I like the clips of Anne Kyllönen striding up the sprint course in Sochi. If you don’t have access to these clips, YouTube something and video your own computer screen. The quality will be lower but you’ll be surprised at how well it works.

In iMovie, create a project that plays your 10-second clip in regular speed and then in 1/2 speed (totaling 30 seconds), and repeat that six times in your movie project without music or any sound to remove sensory interference so the women’s clip is 2 minutes long. Add a 2-minute clip for the men to watch. Paste a 30-second clip of the women to see one last time at the end followed by a 30-second men’s clip. The total movie is only 5 minutes so you can get out the door and ski more.

Keep the men and women together for the viewing in case one clip works better than the other. Watch on a large TV screen or with a projector play your iMovie clip to the team immediately before going out to ski. As a variation try talking them through the clip one one day, focusing in one one thing the World Cup athlete does well, and on another day try not talking at all to prevent polluting what they are seeing on their own. Many athletes are much better coaches than we are!

If you don’t have access to footage, here is a YouTube video of Anne Kyllönen in addition to other World Cup athletes:

Warm-up for 30 minutes and encourage the athletes to ski by themselves and on similar terrain to what you just watched, trying to channel and emulate the World Cup skier. It’s very easy for some and nearly impossible for others, but the process opens up new windows regardless.

Meet your team on a very gentle downhill slope that is 200-meters long for a drill. Have them ski back and forth, striding both the gradual downhill and uphill. This isn’t about holding your glide for as long as possible on the gradual downhill, but more about feeling the flow of good striding under low tension. Watching our team do this left us feeling that the gradual downhill section unlocked some hip and shoulder tension in many athletes.

Encourage the athletes to ski by themselves and on similar terrain to what you just watched, trying to channel and emulate the World Cup skier. It’s very easy for some and nearly impossible for others, but the process opens up new windows regardless.

After the drill, film your athletes one at a time skiing up a gradual hill. Before they begin to ski toward you, have them rest on their poles, eyes closed and without talking, and visualizing that World Cup clip for 30 seconds. Then have them ski past you. Film the pass on your iPad or phone so they can look at it immediately.

If it works out, great. Please let me know. If not, there are many creative ways to trigger technical improvements. Email me at mwhitcomb@ussa.org if you have a cool idea to share or just drop it anonymously into the comment section :). I would love to take a couple of your thoughts to our glacier camp in Alaska next month. Keep it fun and focused out there!

Comments

  1. Best classic skier in the world:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osTCfIUpif8

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