After a few years of teaching myself how to cross country ski, I finally took a formal lesson on how to ski. I believe in learning things on your own. With that learning, we need someone to critique and guide us to make sure we’re on the right path so we don’t develop bad habits or patterns.
On Being Self Taught
Many things can be learned independently. I learned how to cross country ski by myself through books, online videos, and personal experience. This self-education allowed me to take full advantage of the lesson I took on Saturday. With the added instruction from the lesson, I can fold it back in to my personal experience so I have another frame of reference to learn new things on my own and sharpen my skills.
Formal Lesson From an Instructor
I took a semi-private lesson with Dan LeBlanc at Lapham. He covered gliding, push off, poling, and drills. My form had a chance to get a quick check while I learned something new.
The instructor started the lesson by asking what our background is with skiing and then let us know what he will be doing with us.
We ditched the ski poles so we can focus on how we moved our body and legs. New skiers rely on our poles too much and we lose energy by improperly using them. I’ve practiced in the past without them but this was the first time I knew what was right without comparing it to another way I was skiing.
The scooter drill helped me get a feel of gliding on only one ski. For approximately 100 meters, he glide on my left foot and and push with my right. It gave me a feel of pushing off and balancing on one leg. We needed to have flexed knees and not be so tall and rigid. He showed us how to swing our arms. It propelled me forward and allowed me to push off on my skis better. He had us ski up and down the path. I was getting it. Everything I’ve read and saw is beginning to come together.
Pushing off and gliding with cross country skis is kind of like trying to juggle two girlfriends (or depending who is reading this, boyfriends). You can’t date or juggle both of them at one time without getting into some kind of trouble. If I allow one ski to glide freely and the other push off, I can ski smoother than I do now. I shuffle less when I keep this in mind. I would go between shuffling and proper technique prior to this tip. When I ski and notice myself shuffling, I tell myself, “Girlfriend. Girlfriend. Girlfriend…” until I get back into a rhythm and good technique.
Finally, he showed me where to place my pole and how to push off. Each drill showed me balance is essential. This lesson saved me another month of trying to learn on my own. It also gave me the confidence I need to keep on going back out to ski.
Will I take more formal lessons? Yes. It helped me a lot and I hope to take ski lessons on roller skis when I’m not in a running cycle for running.
After taking my Saturday lesson, I returned to Lapham Peak on Monday to exercise and apply what I learned from Dan. It was so cold (-8F) that day that my school cancelled classes. Matthew and I debated whether we should head out or not. We decided to ski because this could be the weather we might be facing during the Birkebeiner. I needed to absorb what I learned from my Saturday lesson. Matt and I needed to figure out what clothing we needed to ski. What layering system would be adequate? How will our bodies adapt to the cold? What other gear do I need? How can I avoiding hypothermia and dehydration.
We skied for an hour and then took a break at the Evergreen warming shelter. Each time, we learned something new. I learned that I need to warm up my core so my hands don’t freeze. My hands felt tingly. They felt like they were turning into ice. Once I started skiing, they began to warm up. I discovered my Buff dams up with ice and it’s hard to breath through it. I switched from a Buff to my Pearl Izumi balaclava but it did the same thing. On Saturday, I had to many layers and got too hot and sweaty. My clothing seemed to be just right for the conditions. I think the only thing I need to add would be toe warmers and hand warmers. Hopefully, Birkebeiner will not be -8 Fahrenheit on race day.
I learned that I have less excuses not to train. In seemingly bad weather, I just need to respect mother nature and prepare for the conditions. If this were a run, I’d probably do what I did and plan for the worst. If the temperatures were too horrible to train, I can find a way to train.
I learned a lot at Lapham Peak over the past few days. I learned how to ski better by taking lessons. I learned that my self-learning is effective. Finally, I learned I have no excuses not to train. Extreme weather didn’t stop me. I just had to prepare to address it. If there’s a will, there’s a way.