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Originally published: 2011-12-23 11:28:15
Last modified: 2011-12-23 11:28:45

Living the Dream: Magical Feet

Justin Grimes / (averyjournalist@gmail.com)

In this week’s tips, I’m focusing on our magical feet, providing very simple exercises you can do year round.

Before the tips, I want to share two things that really impressed me about our High Country ski industry this week. I was amazed at how much snow the resorts can make in a 24-hour period – an unbelievable amount that wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago – and how our resorts increasingly attract visitors from all over the world, especially families from South America: Brazil, Venezuela and Columbia in particular; a welcome trend I’ve been noticing for some years. 

Describing the marvelous human foot and how its movements relate to skiing can easily become complicated, so I’m going to use an analogy instead.

Imagine that your brain is the hard drive of the computer and your feet are equipped with the latest software packages and plug-ins sending thousands of signals far faster than the click of a speeding mouse.

If we are going to stay balanced over the platform, our browsers had best be open to our feet. By understanding and effectively using foot and ankle movements, our skiing accuracy and balance will improve. 

So let’s have some fun waking up our latent memory and tuning up our feet. 
Before we start the following simple exercises, drills, we must first find a state of relaxation. Most of you probably already have a routine, use it and relax.

Now, let’s begin, barefooted:
1~Jump up and land; most people will land in their natural balanced position; adjust your feet to parallel if needed.

2~Pretend that your feet are the runners for a rocking chair: rock up onto the toes and back on the heels, concentrate on the feedback your feet give you, feel those stretches.

3~Take a deep breath and exhale slowly, check your feet, make sure they are parallel and you are in a balanced position facing forward; pull the tummy in, relax the shoulders and let your head float upwards until your posture is the best it can be; let’s call this position neutral from now on.

4~Now for the fun: Simply turn your head left looking at your left shoulder, do nothing more, be still. Did you feel it? Did your latent ski file open up? 

5~Return to neutral, repeat: Turn your head to the left looking at your left shoulder. What happened in your feet? Your center of mass shifted ever so slightly when you looked left and proprioceptors in your feet subliminally reacted. You can feel the gentle pressure on the outside ‘edge’ of your left foot and the pressure on the inside ‘edge’ of your right foot.

Proprioceptors are sensory receptors found chiefly in muscles, tendons, joints and the inner ear that detect the motion or position of the body or a limb by responding to stimuli arising from within. The feet have thousands.

Repeat to the right and tune up those proprioceptors; repeat often.

6~Relax, turn your head to the left, hold the position and look down: your left leg has rotated out (external leg rotation) and your weight will be on the outside of your left foot. Your left foot is supinated. Your right leg has rotated in (internal leg rotation) and your weight is on the inside of your right foot. Your right foot is pronated. It’s magic.

Note: If the simple turning of the head movement doesn’t work for you, add turning your torso a little, too.

More fun: If you have a swivel office chair, sit down; if not, any seat will do that provides a perpendicular angle at the knees, relax.

1~With your feet parallel and flush to the floor, press on the little pinky of the left foot; observe as in the first exercise what happens. Did your left knee move out and the chair swivel? Probably, not too much; repeat to the right.

2~Back to your neutral sitting position; this time gently lift the big toe and ball of your left foot. What happens? Did your left knee move out more and your chair swivel to the left a little? Play around by altering the amount of lift you apply. Think on the similarity, yet difference, between pressing the pinky and lifting the big toe and ball. How will each move impact your platform? 

These two are old favorites: Get a piece of cardboard large enough to extend beyond each foot six inches, stand on it and do the twist. And while sitting, play the piano with your toes, pressing down hard then pressing lightly.

One more exercise, this one takes super concentration: In your neutral sitting position with your feet flush to the floor, visualize your ankles simultaneously writing the alphabet in cursive.

When you hit the slopes, find a gentle slope and repeat the exercises. How do your skis respond with each movement? Can you isolate which muscles or muscle groups throughout the body get engaged from a simple movement of a foot?

Hope to see you on the slopes soon. In meantime, remember: Tuned proprioceptors lead to balanced and efficient skiing.

Happy holidays to all!