by Erik Lynch
All summer I have trained at Systema HQ Toronto, and applying what I learned to my sport of Nordic combined (Ski Jumping and Cross country Skiing) has been a fun challenge. On the jump hill, I am able to set myself in a better than ever in-run position. I am more balanced and relaxed so the transitions and bumps don't throw me off balance and I am also able to adjust very quickly to the new ski jumps that I have never jumped before. My take off has much more power and I am more relaxed in the air. I can fly farther and land softer. Focusing on breathing and greater body sensitivity really takes the edge off flying through the air at 95 kph.
It is interesting that on the slow pace cross country skiing, the movements came very natural. All the concepts that we use in Systema breathing class directly apply:
Pushing the floor away from you with pushups and squats,
Finding how to breathe without the disturbing tension during sit ups and leg raises
And of course breathing and moving to eliminate tension in all 4 core exercises.
These things come fairly natural while easy skiing.
My biggest challenge that I am still working on daily is to keep the relaxation while in a race of over 60 competitors, who are racing their hearts out for 10 kilometers. It is a very fast speed race and with competition, desires, the will to will, or not to lose, it is very easy to get pulled out of a good position and just start flailing.
The most prominent key for me has been the use breathing to keep my posture. That is where the most power will come from and air will be flowing freely, very helpful when pushing yourself to the limit.
The second thing is breathing exactly when I need to. I am finding I can take in more air with less effort now. You know that exercise from the breathing class when we walk and breathe, 7 steps to inhale, 7 steps holding your breath on inhale, 7 steps to exhale and 7 steps to hold your breath on exhale. Even as you prepare for that exercise you let go of any breath that you were holding and open up your lungs.
I don't hold my breath during the race. Applying what I've learned from exercises like that one, I can breathe when I need to and as freely as I need to.
As we practiced in the breathing class in Toronto, I can also apply the variations such as inhale arms and thighs, and exhale feet and hands, or inhale arms and thighs and exhale low back.
Feeling what I am doing is a great reminder that a good race has nothing to do with crossing the finish line. Each race, I have learned something new. Each training session, I have learned something new. Everything I have learned is helping me keep up with guys who are older, "stronger" and "better trained." I still have a lot to learn and that is what I am going to do.
Systema has helped me not only stay healthy and strong competing almost every weekend but I have actually improved. I do not have the six months of base training that my teammates have, but I have trained Systema this summer and it has been working beautifully.