By Bill Pierce
Welcome to Wednesday Workout, the newest workout series on FasterSkier. This week, Central Cross Country (CXC) Elite Team coach Bill Pierce talks about going the extra 10 percent by being diligent about flexibility, recovery and agility.
I can think of quite a few workouts that I could call my favorites but I thought that I would contribute some work ideas that I have been focusing on as a coach with athletes and the team this season. When it comes to the workouts in our resume of experience, we are either working on endurance, intensity, or strength.
When we add up all the time and ratios of this work it should be 100%. I tell athletes that if we are to be the best, you have to give 110%, all the time. So, what do I think the other 10% is? Flexibility, physical recovery, and agility.
At the beginning of the month Mikey Sinnott penned an article on stretching. It was spot on! Best advice was “make it a routine”, like brushing your teeth. We talk about it at clinics, camps, and workout sessions, but we just don’t do it on a consistent daily basis.
While full-body stretching from extremities to core should be worked on, at the very least skiers should focus on stretching the body zones of power application; shoulders and chest, core, and hips/glutes/quads/hamstrings are the three areas that if ignored will very quickly tighten. Eventually a decrease in performance and an increase injuries will happen. Bottom line, stretching will enhance your performance and keep you less prone to injury, ask Mikey!
Shoulders and chest, core, and hips/glutes/quads/hamstrings are the three areas that if ignored will very quickly tighten.
The second piece of the extra 10% is physical recovery. Foam rolling, stick massage, icing/baths, and sauna are just a few of the options for speeding recovery that athletes should be using. Foam rolling and massage are not options. Every athlete from juniors, collegiate, seniors, and masters should own and travel with a foam roller.
While stretching is the first component to a post-workout routine, rolling should be the second. Self-massage or myofascial release (tissue work via gentle pressure or stretching) will help knead out trigger points, further stretch and massage the muscle, and increase circulation to the muscle to speed the recovery process. Again, developing the routine and habit of rolling the specific muscle groups used in a workout will speed your recovery and enhance your performance down the line.
And the last piece of the extra 10% is agility. Being agile on skis is all about our balance skill. In order to possess that skill, we must train the muscle groups and movement patterns that help us achieve balance. The more we work at it from the strength room to the trail, the quicker we learn it.
One of the tools I have been using the past half dozen years is the balance (air) pillow, or the Bosu. Athletes start by learning how to first stand and “swing out” on a pillow. Swinging out is nothing more than a pendulum motion of the arms and legs for warm up and movement pattern development. Push ups, squats and toe touches can all be exercises done off of unstable bearing in order to enhance the development of balance.
Eventually, we incorporate many of their strength exercises onto a pillow so that they can simulate the instability of snow conditions in the power application phase of ski technique. Quiet a few of the exercises that we incorporate or design into a routine help develop the ability to quiet the core and stabilize the leg. While some athletes may have a better understanding of body awareness, it is mostly a learned and trained skill. You still have to do the work.
So when you find yourself looking for that extra edge and advantage when you step to the line this winter, ask yourself, “Are you giving 110% everyday?” It’s never too late to start!