jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life

Let the learning begin!

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Today was the first day of school for my sons. The temperature sank to the fifties here last night and hovered just below seventy degrees today, as if Mother Nature knew that summer was over.

I’ve found my anxiety levels rising during the past few weeks, and especially in the past few days as things-we-didn’t-get-done suddenly surfaced and the back-to-school reminders mounted. Correspondingly, the number of hours I had to spend sitting at a desk have doubled and then tripled, as emails, calls, and meetings have started to fill the fall calendar.

No surprise that I’m getting feedback from PT Sarah that my hip flexors are stuck in the “on” position. She is trying to get me to release some of these muscles so that one in particular, the iliopsoas (psoas) major can engage better. Dancers aim to use this particular muscle, which runs from the spine down to the leg, to lift their legs above 90 degrees.

Honestly, I’d be happy with 90! 75!

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If there is too much tension in the quads, the psoas becomes inhibited. So the trick is how to build strength without clenching the wrong muscles.

I think this is a useful life skill in general: how to engage actively with something without over-doing it. Motions in skating are pretty fluid and integrated.  If you don’t know where to put your energy, you may well push yourself off balance. The danger for me is that I like to be doing things; on some level, muscling my way through moves can feel more satisfying than spending time trying to figure out what I am really doing wrong.

So I’ve been making myself spend some time both on and off the ice just learning how to line up all the different parts of my body without tensing up muscles. I found a really useful webpage (with a video) “The Pilates Tonic” blog that talks about how to do this. It’s really very illuminating to hear Sydney, this Pilates teacher, talk about why hip flexors might continue to be tight despite stretching (when they are “on” all the time). I’m trying to follow her suggestions while sitting at my desk as well.

Good posture is, like, the hardest thing! I’ve realized that I work certain muscles all the time to try to stay balanced.  No wonder I’m so tired, even on days that I don’t skate.

I’m still doing daily exercises to strengthen my adductors and core abdominals, and working on building up some more foot strength (I’ve been using a theraband to practice pointing and “winging” my left foot, and doing toe raises and pliés with a tennis ball between my ankles). I’m going to add some stretching, especially for those hip flexors.

But mostly, I’m going to try to find positions in which I am really aligned, so that some real learning can happen.

There’s a saying that is often used in yoga classes: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Here’s my skating loon, engaged, balanced, and ready!

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Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

2 thoughts on “Let the learning begin!

  1. What a great idea to do all those exercises off-ice. Wonder if there are any in particular that are helpful or can be done while sitting at a desk?

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  2. That’s a good question, Eva. I tend to slouch in my chair, so even sitting up straight feels like exercise. Sitting also makes for shortened or tight hip flexors, I’m told, so the best exercise is to get up from the chair.

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