Thursday, January 19, 2012

Using video to create an accurate mental image of skiing

When I was training as a junior racer, I had the opportunity to ski with Team Gilboa at their intensive Mt. Hood summer camps. One of the things that left a big impression on me from these camps was the dedicated time for visualization practice. After I incorporated visualization practice as a racer, I felt like it was easier to grasp the concepts described by my coach.
When speaking with many skiers, including instructors who are pursuing certification, it seems like there is a struggle in creating a mental picture of accurate, effective, and functional skiing. One solution: Add visualization practice. First, watch accurate skiing. Watch elite racers and freestyle competitors. Watch PSIA Examiners and Demo Team members. Second, "see" yourself make the same movements. Following is a sample of accurate skiing imagery:


This isn't a current or comprehensive list of the PSIA Rocky Mountain Division demos but it will help those trying to create an image of successful skiing. Those in a PSIA development track will benefit from the captions describing ski performance and body performance.
Numerous studies have shown the efficacy of visualization in sports performance. It has proven benefits in physical and psychological performance. I posted this video to help some students and instructors create a more accurate mental picture of what they may want to accomplish on the snow.

Watching random skiers while on the ski hill will probably hinder most people. Some recent work has suggested that learners often focus on movements that may not contribute to the ideal movement patterns. While there are some amazing skiers in numerous ski videos, there is often some extraneous movement that can distract us from the critical movements. In general, the PSIA examiners and demo team members are the best to watch to focus on the most important movements for accurate, effective skiing. They have years or even decades of practice eliminating movements that don't contribute to effective skiing.
From my personal experience, I have found that being surrounded by incredible athletes is the best situation, but creating mental images through video is far superior. Skiing around Teton ski mountaineers, TGR athletes, the JH Air Force, and all the PSIA examiners helped me form a great mental image of skiing in Jackson Hole. Watching World Cup, Teva and X-Games competitors, leading trad climbers and boulderers at Movement, Eldo, and other Front Range areas does the same for a clear mental image of powerful, accurate climbing movements. If you don't have great athletes or good demos to observe, spend some time watching videos of the best performances in your chosen sport.
*To truly get some benefit after watching accurate and effective skiing, try to "replay" certain moments with your eyes shut. "Feel" the cold air and the wind. Try to picture yourself making some of these same movements. Focus on certain aspects: how the snow would feel under your skis, how the force increases as your turn is shaped, how certain joints are flexed and what muscles are involved. The mental aspect can greatly enhance learning and development.
Taking time to watch successful performance will only help your skiing. Try watching and then "replay" both as an observer and as the actual athlete. Visualization is a great tool to help perform at your best.

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