Lunch & Learn with Jeff Ellis, March 2, 2019
On March 2 Jeff Ellis returned to the Club to share his incredible skiing experiences from around the world that started with many seasons of skiing and working at Highlands Nordic.
The first hour was an inspiring story about Jeff's journey, from OFSAA Nordic Champ, to College track star, then Nordic FIS expert for 6 years and finally husband to Olympic ski champion Kikkan Randall.
We then stepped outside to do some skate specific technique training. What an eye opener in the way he explained tips our very own coaches have been telling us. But hearing it from Jeff using new analogies made it particularly insightful.
Here are the 5 tips we took away:
- Hips come back to centre - get them over feet and under shoulders
- Proud chest- helps get the hips over you skis and opens the lungs
- On top of poles- plant them as far forward as possible given speed (faster= further forward; slower= towards toes/heels)
- Vertical thigh (femur)- this is less straining on muscles and puts focus on ankle flexion
- High hand in offset- Not too far way from the body and the pole isn’t angled away from the body...it's working in parallel with the direction of motion as is the lower hand (Gloerrsen is a great skier to watch for this)
If you want to see this tips in practice, Jeff kindly shared the following videos and highlights to observe.
2017 Skiathlon WSC Lahti
- Right from the beginning check out the double polling. Nice and upright no big forward lean or tilt at the waist. They aren’t skiing slow but also not fast enough to be trying to get really far forward. Hips come back underneath shoulders. Can also see from the side rail cam shot where they are planting their poles.
- At 1:26 mark the solo Suisse skier in black. You get a glimpse at the slight shoulder shrug just before he plants his poles so he comes down on top of them.
- 1:45 mark. Nice proud chest striding from Sundby, Toenseth and Harvey. Russians in blue still ski a bit old school and round through the shoulders. The younger generation (Bolshunov) does it much less now).
- Nice offset from Sundby around the 3:38 mark.
- Really nice cornering by Krogh (white top) on the final curve in the stadium. Hip over the inside ski. Carries his speed well and gets away from the group behind him. Also a quick shot of where he plants his poles even while sprinting when everything is quicker.
Most nordic coaches now agree that correct pole length for skating reaches between the chin and upper lip, roughly 90% of your height and is the calculation that I often start with. The pole is a moving weight so the quality of the pole can have a total effect on efficiency and ability. The grips as well need to fit so the pole becomes an extension of your limbs and allows for the body to continue to work as a unit.
Poles that are too long or too short do have a strong impact on technical co-ordination and strongly influence an athlete’s ability to be whole body productive. Poles that are too long can slow down or impede cadence and often cause the hips to drop and more work from the back as the athlete struggles to get the pole into position to create kicking pressure.
Pole length does influence technique and will help create the desired body position and posture necessary. The contact of the poles to the ground helps bring tension to the core and create whole body activation for the body to work as a unit kicking the ski and pushing on the poles with appropriate tension. As a training and development tool try adjusting your pole length from time to time and playing with posture and co-ordination at varying speeds and see how this affects your efficiency.
For Classic skiing we work to 85% of skier height and find this allows for natural rhythm in stride with the pole plant landing nicely beside the toe and avoiding either swing through or the dreaded basket bounce.
As a racer our pole guidelines for classic are mandated by the international ski union to be 83% of body height and measured from the tip of the pole to the top of the strap. The Norwegians definitely ski with some of the shortest poles on the world cup and appear to have found the success formula that ties cadence, power and sustainable pace and allowing for their nations dominance in this sport.
Core Strength For Maximum Skate Skiing Power
Check out four great exercises for improving skate skiing core strength. Sue Underhill from Maximum Physiotherapy in Collingwood works with Ontario Biathlon Team Members and Highlands Trailblazers. Her performance athlete, Hannah Skelton, performs these four fundamental strength exercises. See video to the right.
One of the most important attributes of a good cross-country skier is dynamic balance. Without it, all the technique work in the world is for naught. How can we (especially adults) gain this balance on our skis? Here are some simple drills:
- Ski down a gentle slope on one ski. Increase the pitch as balance improves.
- Focus on the feeling of the ski accelerating as it touches down - feel the ball of the foot.
Do you ever have the problem at this time of year that the snow clumps on the soles of your boots and in your bindings even before you start skiing and then clumps in the grip zones of your skis (especially “no-wax” skis)? This is because the ground isn’t frozen, the snow is wet, or there is high moisture in the snow. What can you do about it?
- Spray the soles of your boots and bindings with silicon spray. Don’t use WD40, it breaks down plastics.
- Use a product like Swix Easy Glide in the grip zones of “no wax” skis, like Fischer Crowns. You can get this from the proshop at Highlands Nordic.