2014 & 2018 (upcoming) Canadian Olympic 1/2 Pipe Snowboard team member, Katie Tsuyuki, was referred into me via one of her trainers. He knew of my affiliation with Barefoot Science inserts and felt she could benefit from using them in her training shoes and competition ski boots.Further, he felt she could also benefit from my barefoot training techniques and alignment assessment skill set. Thus, Katie and I met for a few 1 hour sessions during the past few weeks. My goals were to check her body symmetry and spatial balance then unlock her if necessary. As it turns out, Katie presented with the right leg about 1″ shorter than the left. This fit with the fact that she has weakness in her right gluteus medius specifically and resultant weakness in her left hip adductors and flexors.
We started by I set about to assess Katie’s balance in her ski boots with eyes open (held for 28 seconds on each leg) and closed (held for 8 seconds on the left and 6 seconds on the left) after putting in the Barefoot Science inserts. You will notice that Katie could not square up her hips, indicating a weakness in her lower back & hip muscles. I also tested her ability to run on the spot for 6o seconds between 2 pylons. The goal was NOT to move off line. As you can see in the photo below, Katie not only ended up outside the pylons but she almost did a 360 degree turn – and had no ides she did so (last photo in this sequence below).Balancing in her boots on the Bosu Ball went better. With eyes open and shifting her weight to simulate being in the 1/2 pipe, Katie stayed centered and balanced.
I then led Katie through a series of unlocking drills to put her body back in perfect alignment. By releasing the locked up areas of her right side, she immediately noticed a reduction in discomfort.She also was now perfectly symmetrical (see photo below showing right & left leg now same length).Strengthening Katie’s IT Bands was my next priority. Using the highest level of tension band around her knees, I had her point the toes inward, press out against the band and circle to her right and left, switching directions every 10 seconds for 60 seconds total. She noticed instant activation of her hip abductors and no IT Band pain.Then, it was on to the Stability Ball for hamstring strength and balance assessment. You will notice in the pictures below that Katie was fine in the bridge position WITH HER ELBOWS ON THE FLOOR. As soon as she lifted them, her balance was off and she slid off the ball.This indicates a weakness in her central core from the knees up to the shoulders. By strengthening both the extensor chain AND whole core symmetrically, Katie’s ability to hold herself square on her board whilst competing will improve dramatically.
No session with the ‘old coach’ would be complete without barefoot running in the Squat Scoot. Katie had difficulty with this initially especially the forward arm drive and paw back leg action. Being an Olympian, however, she picked up the technique quickly and started running light and quiet with no pain – a revelation to her!I then wanted to see how Katie balanced on her board. The best way for me to assess this on dry-land was having her jump onto a Bosu Ball (flat and round sides) from different angles. You will notice that initially, she fell onto her back or slid off the ball. With such a high degree of difficulty, she had to overcome FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) and visualize completing the jump with power AND balance. Once she did this, all of her jumps were ‘stuck’ perfectly. Again, being a high level elite athlete, she adapted quickly. Her comment to me was “I’ve NEVER done this before. I should have been doing this BUT I never have…”! I commented that that is what separates me out from ALL other trainers. I always go outside the box & sense what is needed to help people reach their maximum level of performance!!The following photos show Katie moving as if in the 1/2 pipe with the focus on activating her weaker right side more than normal. The goal is to get her closer to even strength and balance on both sides to help improve performance and decrease the risk of avoidable injury.By the end of the drills, Katie was locked in and landing each jump confidently with no ‘stumbling’ off the ball. Practicing perfectly drills like this in her boots and on her board, she will improve the strength-balance ratio from right to left sides. This in turn will lead to better performances in upcoming competitions to solidify her spot on the 2018 Canadian Winter Olympic team. Here’s to you going ‘OVER THE TOP’, Katie!!