Sunday, January 12, 2014

Skiing Cadence

Here's some good info from our friends over at SkiPost:


I'm a subscriber to the SkiPost emails, and had a question that might be worthy of a response :)

In the summer I'm a cyclist, and the goal in cycling - for ultimate efficiency - is to keep a high cadence. How does this transfer to skiing, specifically striding? I'm guessing that one should do "what feels right," but I find that if I'm focusing on a strong kick and long glide, but cadence slows. Should I be working to keep a high cadence?

Thanks for any reply, you guys do a great job, please keep up the good work!

Dear DM,

Jon Engen goes into greater detail below. but one (large) difference between skiing and cycling is the lack of mechanical advantage in gears in skiing that you have in cycling. High RPM's in cycling are good and always obtainable because you can change gears and keep pretty much the same technique to maintain a set RPM. But in skiing you cannot change any actual gears you can only change technique. I feel most people do not glide enough and go to the next ski to quickly. (often because they do not work on their balance and a complete stride) If more people learned how to glide more they would enjoy skating much more ( and go faster.) Work on the big things first.

Andy at SkiPost
Dear Dan,

You correctly point out the importance of high cadence in efficient power generation on a bicycle.  Without any numerical references, bicycle racers spin at higher frequencies than untrained cyclist for good reasons.  Also, recent research shows that pedaling at slower cadence has its applications in bicycle racing.  Keep in mind that cycling is minimally weight bearing. 

Running is 100% weight bearing and each stride packs significant impact with the ground.  As the forward displacement is minimal while on each foot, the quick turnover supports the "in-flight" travel better than longer strides.  We clearly see elite runners move at quicker cadence than recreational joggers. 

Although metabolically very similar to cycling and running, cross-country skiing is weight bearing and has the added dimension of gliding in a weight bearing position.  Forward propulsion is generated with an impulse-momentum kick-exchange as an integral part of the glide, and all forward displacement includes ground contact.  The whole body is at work with full foot to foot across-the-body weight shift in all classic and skate techniques except straight double poling.  In other words, much more is taking place during each stride sequence than in cycling and running.  Your priorities need to be:
  1.  In faster fitness or competition style skiing, coordinate the posture, positioning and weight shift for sustainable, effective forward propulsion and work at a cadence allowing all these items to take place.  Well trained athletes with advanced skill-set and overall physique will master a higher effective cadence than Joe Citizen skier. 
  2. At slower speeds and lower output, maintain full movement, hold back on the forces put into each kick-exchange and maintain a swift, light rhythm. 
  3. Your work frequency must be balanced with your skiing abilities, regardless where you are on the skill and fitness scale.  Difference in body types, age, terrain, equipment, ski and snow conditions, etc., will also impact what is the most effective operating cadence.
 In summary, good turnover makes for efficient aerobic continuity.  However, the skier's priority in generating sustainable speed is using efficient ski motions; overall work efficiency is then balanced with a turnover matching the skier's skill set and physical ability. 

I hope that helps - Good Luck! 

Best for 2014,  -jon engen

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