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Exceptional Fall Technique Clinic

Tue, Oct  14, 2008 - By Mike Muha

It was unbelievable, but only five skiers signed up for the Fall Technique Clinic. Even more unbelievable was that CXC Skiing Executive Director Yuriy Gusev still drove all the way from Wisconsin to hold the clinic! We were extraordinarily lucky to have an accomplished coach for almost one-on-one technique work.

The small group necessitated a few changes to the clinic format. We cancelled the room rented at Kensington Metropark and held the VO2 testing in my garage and the classroom sessions in the comfort of my living room. Rather than catered lunches, we simply drove to local fast food restaurants a couple miles from where we were rollerskiing.

A small group made for a very relaxed training session - we didn't need to hurry for anything.

Friday's VO2 testing

Friday night was an optional VO2 testing. Three of us took the option so we could learn more about our fitness level and, more importantly, determine our training zones. We were each strapped into a face mask and a heart rate monitor. Then Yuriy hooked us up to an expensive but portable oxygen and CO2 gas detector. We stepped on the treadmill and the torture began.

VO2 Testing for cross country skiers

Larry Mergentime thinking, "What have I gotten myself into????"

Starting from a walk, Yuriy gradually increased the speed and incline of the treadmill until we were gasping for breath. When we had as much pain was we could tolerate, we held on to at arms and jumped to the edge of the treadmill platform. That ended the test.

VO2 Testing for Cross Country Skiers

Yuriy Gusev collects heart rate, oxygen and carbon dioxide data from Kelly Mikolajczyk.

The results of the test were a detailed print out of fitness. Yuriy went over the details with us and showed how the results were used to determine training zones. The results actually provide better details than lactate testing because the gases are analyzed continuously whereas lactate testing depends on blood sample taken every three minutes.

We had quite a discussion of training over dinner.

Saturday: Skate Day

Saturday morning began with strong coffee and a discussion of CXC Skiiing. For those of you who don't know, CXC Skiing is an independent 10 state regional planning organization (that includes Michigan) for the support of athletic and educational programs, for the creation of funding, and to act as the primary coordinator and communicator of cross country ski issues for athletes of all ages. CXC Skiing has both youth and masters programs, and it's development and elite ski teams feed the US Ski Team. One of it's athletes, Garrott Kuzzy, took 9th last year in the World Cup sprints in Alberta - the first non-US Ski Team skier to finish in the top 10 in a World Cup event!

CXC is a 501c3 non-profit corporation - none of the clinic fees went to the coach, all went to the organization.

The next part of the session was watching ski videos of good technique, with a discussion of angles and body position. Dartfish video analysis was used to show the relation of body and limb positioning.

We drove to one of my favorite rollerski paths for dryland drills. Yuriy started with very simple drills. Each drill built on the previous in level of body awareness and coordination required. When we put on our rollerskis, we did a similar set of progressive drills, each focusing on a specific aspect of skating.

Cross country ski technique skate drills

Doug Heady practices a "stay on the ball of the foot with lots of ankle flex" skate drill; Steve Bulson is on deck.

Once he felt we were comfortable with the drills, we practiced a few hundred yards of doublepole with skate poles V1, V2, and V2-alternate rollerskiing before he video taped doing each technique. There was a big focus on doublepoling because of it's use across multiple skate and classic techniques.

We had a relaxing lunch at Subway during the middle of session.

During the second half of the afternoon, it was back to the living room to examine the video. Using the Dartfish system, we saw video and stills of ourselves next to an elite skier performing the same technique. Every participant commented on how incredible the learning experience was: you could immediately compare your technique to the a model skier, have the angles analyzed and get a clear visual understanding of where you need to improve.

Dartfish video analysis of ski technique

Kelly's knee angle is compared to Caitlin Compton's

Sunday is Classic Day

Sunday morning's coffee discussion started with on overview of CXC Academy, a set of online training training plans with extensive videos and text describing how to train, when to train, and why you train in certain ways, along with assorted extras such as technique and strength drills. (An incredible deal - trust me on this one).

We then viewed and discussed classic technique before heading out for classic drills. Again, we spent a great deal of time reviewing doublepole technique because of it's importance.

Showing the power of driving poles through the elbows instead of the hands

Showing the power of driving the poles from the elbows rather than the hands.

We did dryland drills for doublepole, diagonal running, diagonal striding, and diagonal gliding, plus doublepole-kick. Some of the drills include running on rollerskis in the grass to simulate no-glide conditions.

One of the skiers in the group had exactly *no* classic skiing experience. By the end of the session, he had the timing down for all the basic techniques and was even diagonal striding and doublepole-kicking on rollerskis. That's no minor accomplishment!

After lunch at Arby's, we were video taped doublepoling, doublepole-kicking and diagonal striding.

Back in the living room, it was back into Dartfish for video analysis. We had several surprises. For example, we found that my doublepole-kick is more technically correct when kicking with my right foot rather then my left foot!

Dartfish analysis of diagonal stride technique

My pole plant is too vertical; it should be parallel to my lower leg, as Garrott Kuzzy is doing on the right.

It was an exceptional clinic - we were effusive with our praise for Yuriy Gusev and CXC Skiing, and all of us look forward to additional testing, technique clinics, and a subscription to CXC Academy.


Thanks to CXC Skiing, Toko, Salomon, and Hammer Nutrition , all of whom supported the Fall Technique Clinic.