Stop trying so hard.
Whenever I ski at popular nordic centres I’m struck by how many people are good, but not really great skiers. Their technique looks fine, at least in terms of angles and timing, but there’s something not quite right about their overall style and they look a little stiff.
In comparison, the outstanding skiers are smooth and fluid. They exert themselves exactly as much as they need to, but no more. All their movements are highly economical and efficient. There’s no extra tension in their bodies, and they move with a graceful efficiency that really sets them apart.
The secret to this is that their movements originate from their body’s core muscles. Their core is strong, but their limbs are loose and relaxed.
If you want to experience what this feels like check out this relaxed arm swing drill.
You can apply the same principles of moving from your centre and keeping your limbs relaxed to many aspects of your skiing. Each ski technique offers opportunities to relax all the major muscle groups.
In classic skiing, the legs and arms can loosen and simply swing back to their starting positions.
After pushing against the snow in skate skiing, your leg can just fall back into place as your extend your body up over your glide ski.
In all techniques, your arms can simply swing back into position using the momentum of the body.
Try Stretching, Too
The other thing you can do to be more relaxed when you’re out skiing is to stop and do a few relaxation exercises after you’ve skied about a 15 minute warm up.
Just taking a few minutes to do some stretching exercises, beginning with your neck and working your way down to your ankles, will show you any places in your body you might be holding tension. When you resume skiing, be mindful to keep those places relaxed.
Putting it Together
In my own masters athletes, I’ve seen a marked improvement when we simply focus on being more relaxed.
The next time you go for a ski, classic or skate, apply these relaxation principals. You’ll love how much better you’ll look and feel. As an added benefit, staying relaxed improves your glide and gives your body a chance for a micro recovery in-between each stride. This means that you can move faster and more efficiently just because you’re not as tense.
Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. In this case, practice means less work, not more.
Think of this as the lazy way to better skiing!