In these times of quarantine I would like to introduce a Tai Chi based workout, especially suited for distance skaters, which can be done at home to prepare for the next LDP-trip. And for those of you who always wanted to learn Skogging (= Skate-Jogging while using both of your legs alternately to push your board), it could very likely help you to skog right away or at least shorten the learning process when you will have the chance to go outside for a ride again.
Golden rooster stands on one leg
To practice the Tai Chi form or posture called „The golden rooster stands on one leg“ is great for training your balance and to prepare and develop your leg muscles for save and effective pushing of your long- or skateboard over long distances. This Tai Chi form develops the foundation of what is needed for effective pushing: A secure stance of your push leg on the board. This will give you the confidence and ability to use the full potential of your other leg to propel yourself forward. At the same time it will also help you learn Skogging. As you can practice „The golden rooster stands on one leg“ as a walking sequence, you will train the stance for both of your legs and not just your dominant one. This will allow you to eventually gain the confidence to push your board in all of the four possible ways: regular, regular mongo, goofy and goofy mongo.
Short description of the Tai Chi form
The exercise starts as a Tai Chi walking sequence, first moving forward and then backward. We start while standing in a shoulder wide stance. In the beginning it is important to relax. Breathe into your belly and let your center of gravity sink down through your legs into your feet. Feel the firm connection with the ground. Tuck your chin slightly backwards and imagine your head being pulled up by a string from above. This will help you to stand in an upright position.
Start by moving both of your arms up and back down in a relaxed but controlled manner to get a feeling for the slow way of moving that is essential to this exercise. While moving your hands down bend your knees slightly and let your whole body sink down a bit, bending mostly from your groins. Keep your knees bent this way for the rest of the following exercise. Now shift all of your weight on your right leg while turning the left leg sidewards with its heel staying on the ground. After that shift all of your weight on your left leg and raise your right leg with your knee coming up until the thigh is parallel to the ground. At the same time raise your right arm as well and hold it above your raised leg with the elbow pointing downward and the fingers of your hand pointing upward. This is the well known Tai Chi posture called „Golden rooster stands on one leg“, which is performed with some deviations in all the different Tai Chi styles. The way we practice it here is how it is performed in Yang style Tai Chi.
Try to hold this posture while standing unmoved on one leg for some time. Try to feel the body weight sinking down through your leg into your foot soles and into the ground. Next make a step forward with your raised leg. Let the heels touch the ground first, then the rest of your right foot. After stepping down the toes should point slightly sidewards. Now shift your weight onto the right foot and slowly raise the left leg, bringing the left knee up until the thigh is parallel to the ground. Now stand with your left leg raised. Continue by alternately using both of your legs while moving slowly forward. Finally you should walk backward to your starting point. When stepping back with your raised leg your toes should touch the ground first, then the rest of your foot. After finishing your step the toes should point slightly sidewards. When you have reached a firm stance with your back foot, you can then raise your front leg.
By moving slowly through this exercise you will be forced to focus more on every aspect of the movements. Try to start moving from the center of your body, letting the legs and arms follow while moving the body as a whole. By repeating the form in this controlled manner and by continuously standing on one leg you strengthen your legs and core area. At the same time you will improve what is called „grounding“ in Tai Chi and train your balance. Take your time to repeat this Tai Chi form until you feel confident in every position.
Practice on the board
After that it will be time to transfer the exercise to practice it while standing on your board. Take a yoga mat or a carpet and put your board on top of it. That way it will not be able to roll away. In this exercise level you will get used to performing the one legged stance on top of the confined area of a skateboard and to deal with the lean of your trucks while doing the slow movements of raising and lowering your legs. In the beginning you can also look down while placing your feet, if you feel more comfortable with that. But try to get used to looking straight forward while doing the whole exercise. Eventually you will know where to place your feet without looking down. This will be important later when you ride outside, as it will allow you to look in the direction you are moving with your board, even when changing your pushing leg.
You can start the exercise in your usual stance, which will be either goofy or regular, and start by raising the leg with which you would be kicking during a ride. After lowering your leg you step back with it in the same way you have learned from the Tai Chi form and shift your weight back on it, now raising the front foot. If you can raise your front foot off the board and stand with your rear leg safely without loosing balance, you have already mastered the main aspect of pushing mongo. All that remains is putting the front foot down to the ground to give your board a push. After being able to balance on your rear leg this will not be difficult anymore. After some time you should switch your stance. This way you can perform the exercise to train your skill for pushing switch and switch mongo as well.
Pro level balance exercise
The final exercise level is only meant for the advanced skoggers, who would like to train their balance in the four different pushing stances even more. It requires you to remove the mat or carpet to add a forward and backward rolling sensation in addition to the sideward leaning of the trucks. Please always use a helmet and safety gear, when performing this exercise on a non rolling skateboard. The slow movements of this one legged Tai Chi form will require a lot of balance and the feeling of performing it on a board that is standing still,
somehow resembles the feeling of standing on one of those balance boards for indoor training. Affected by your movements the board can suddenly roll forward as well as backward and cause you to fall off.
It may look simple but this Chi-Skogging exercise can be a real workout. Try it for yourself, have fun and stay healthy, while progressing your distance skating at home.