jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life

Exit strategies

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“But Ari,” she said, “When I bring my free foot instep to my heel while doing forward three turns, I feel as though my free leg is behind me.”

That is correct, the very patient coach explained. Your free leg is behind, so that the force of bringing the foot in goes right through the skating foot.

My three turn has improved considerably, or at least I’m beginning to understand my problems, which is half the battle.  Some of it was definitely my entry edge. I tended to enter them either flat (not enough ankle/foot pressure) or leaning out of the circle. I would then compensate for this by using my free side and bringing my free foot in parallel (the little “whip-around”) or twisting my upper body into the circle (or both).

I had perfected these techniques so that they allowed me to do the actual turn in an “ain’t-pretty-but-it works” kind of way. My ne’er-do-well approach frequently failed me, though. I have written many posts about this problem.

I’m happy to say that the entry edge is much better, and being able to correct something during this week’s lesson after just a few tries was really heartening. Once I finally had my free leg behind me, the turn was much better.

But just getting into the turn is only the half of it! Immediately, Ari pointed out that I am still stalling on the edge coming out of the turn; I rise up for the turn and then get stuck up there, instead of bending my ankle down into the back inside edge.

A year ago I might have had an existential crisis about this problem. But I just took a deep breath and reminded myself of what Eric Franklin says, that “alignment is a balanced movement and not a position.”

In general, I need to think of turns as actively moving in and out on edges, rather than moving in and then just hanging out thinking “phew, what a relief, I’ve done the turn, now I can rest.”

The exit edge (in these cases, a back inside edge) should be as dynamic and controlled as the entry edge, but I tend to put all my attention on going into turns rather than coming out of them.

So many years ago when I used to run on a relay team, we had to practice switching off. It was tempting to just grab the baton and then accelerate, but the trick is to run like crazy through the exchange and not slow down for the handing off of the baton. The exit edge out of a turn should also carry speed through the turn.

Edge in, edge out. This is what flow means. Such a basic principle, but so hard to achieve.

This week was all about basic principles; the list is coming up. Here’s the soundtrack. There are a lot of recent versions of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” but I still have a soft spot for the original. Doesn’t her hair just take you back?

  • Back chassés and progressives. Check your posture. When pushing to the back outside edge, don’t get stuck over the pushing side; the force comes through the extension, not by digging into the ice. The free foot stays out at 30 degrees, not parallel to the skating foot; avoid sliding.
  • Three turns. Check your back inside edges and make sure your  weight falls on the inside circle (as if it is over the other foot on a back outside edge).
  • Inside mohawk. Good extension going in, but don’t forget to bend the knee as the foot comes in; also, don’t rush (turn and bend at the same time). Take time to bring the new foot in and turn your core.

Cyndi’s singing those back inside edges!

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time
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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.

4 thoughts on “Exit strategies

  1. The same holds true for jumps and spins. You have to have an active and powerful edge exiting those as well. Hooray for your progress!

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  2. When I sat down to write this post, I actually wrote something about exiting jumps–but it’s been so long since I’ve worked on jumps that I thought I’d let the free skaters say something about this from experience. Thanks, Eva!

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  3. A simple thought from one of my coaches that helps me on 3-turns: “go through the turn not around the turn.” Still a work in progress! One place where I’m working on this is the first three turn of the fourteenstep. Amazing how these turns you can do kind of nicely at slow speed are a lot more challenging when you go a bit faster.

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    • I’ve been told that too! It’s a great idea to keep in mind, so thanks for reminding me. And yes, that entry three turn can feel like the most daunting part of the dance! I know I’m supposed to accelerate, so it’s even worse.

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