When we ski, we shouldn’t be looking down at our feet or skis. So we can’t see whether what we are doing is right, enough or even wrong. We have to feel it. Video can be a useful learning tool but ultimately, the only immediate and constant feedback we have to rely on is what we feel when we are skiing. Until a skier realises this and consciously works towards developing feelings for the correct movements, he or she will find it difficult to realise their full potential as skiers. The real difference between everyone lies in how we learn to acquire that feeling.
Watchers take a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ approach. “It seems like the instructor rises up every time he starts a turn. I’m going to do that too.”
Do-ers just want to give it a go with the simplest of instructions.”In between turns, STAND TALL”.
Thinkers usually seek to understand the movement and it’s purpose before performing it. “So, you want me to straighten my ankle and knee at the start of the turn as this will unweight and flatten my skis to enable my next turn initiation. I can do that.”
Feelers want physical sensations as cues. “When you’re comfortable enough with the speed to start the next turn, straighten your ankles and feel your calves touch the back of your boot”.
Of the above, only the feelers will have immediate confirmation that they are actually performing the correct movement. All other learning types will perform what their mind tells them to based on understanding or visual imagery. If they are lucky, they might get the movement right. However what the brain thinks or sees and what the body performs might differ. They might be rising up only with their torsos and still have bent ankles and knees.
Either way they’ll keep doing it and muscle memory will build, albeit wrongly. Repetition into muscle memory is how thinkers, watchers and do-ers learn to feel. It’s a long process that can be wasteful if the initial movement is not correct. It also becomes a habit that is hard to break. This is often why when observed and given feedback, a typical response or thought from such skiers would be, “But, I’m already doing that”. They truly believe that they are.
I often use facial movements as an analogy to describe how to feel like ‘feelers’. If I asked you to close an eyelid, you would know you did because there is alteration in your vision. You’re relying on your sense of sight to confirm your movement. But what if I asked you to flare your nostrils? Or raise an eyebrow? How would you know that you actually did without looking at a mirror? You would have to feel yourself doing it.
This is one way I teach people to feel like ‘feelers’. After being introduced to a new movement in a stationary exercise, I’ll get students to close their eyes and try the movement again. I find that this helps them develop the sensations they need to feel as feedback to whether they are actually performing the movement. They would have the physical ‘markers’ and then apply it as we try the movement when skiing after. They tend to learn movements faster and have the ability to know for themselves if they are doing it correctly or not.
I was never the touchy-feely sort so I myself had to learn how to feel. You’re probably a thinker like I am if you are reading this. The bad news is that it usually takes thinkers longer to become good skiers because we usually have to understand the heck out of it. The good news is that we are hopefully more versatile skiers because of that understanding. But besides being able to learn faster and ski better, there’s another bonus of learning how to really ‘feel’ in skiing. Whenever I close my eyes and remember skiing, I almost am.
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*In the spirit of this post, I have not used any images.