jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life



Okay, I am giving myself a pat on the back for two reasons. One is that I am actually posting twice this week! It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do that.

Two is that I did a session with an entirely different pair of skates and blades. And even though it was excruciating, I stuck it out until the bitter appearance of the Zamboni.

I have been meaning to do this for a while. The skates that I’ve been wearing are now just about six years old, and getting really worn. There’s a hole inside one of them and the tongue on the other one cuts into my ankle.

Instead of going for a new set of boots, though, I thought I’d try to go back to an older pair that I wore for about three years and then put aside. I really liked how this pair fit, and I don’t really want to break in a new pair right now.  I put the old ones on a few weeks ago for a trial run. They seemed to have life in them still, and plenty of support. The dance blade on them was fairly worn and had some rust spots, so I couldn’t really skate much then. But the fit was promising.

So I had the old blades sharpened, and tried this different set up tonight. I brought both pairs, just in case. Changing back to these used skates was very different from getting a new pair. This used pair of boots felt really comfortable, and I could immediately bend my knees and ankles much better than I have been. This meant that I could get into a much more aligned position on most of my edges. This was a real plus.

On the down side, the blades were both very sharp and much more worn than the ones I’ve been using. This meant I spent the first half of the session fearing for my life and skating in an uncharacteristically timid way (even for me!)

But here comes the pat on the back part. I didn’t give into the urge to change back to my other boots. By the end of the session, I felt much more comfortable. Even though it will still take some getting used to, I think I will officially switch over this week. I’m not going to change blades yet, though; I will wait until I’m sure that the used boots will still work.

I used to hear Sara Bareilles’s song “Brave” at the rink a lot, and it always inspired me to get out of my comfort zone. So here goes my soundtrack for the week:




I just finished a book that I would recommend to anyone who is trying to juggle skating with professional work commitments, and who needs ammunition against arguments that skating cuts down on “productivity” or is “a waste of time.” It’s Alex Soojun-Kim Pang’s Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.

Pang’s basic arguments–that “rest” is a skill we need to cultivate in a culture when we brag about our overloaded work schedules and multi-tasking and that rest is not just sitting around staring into space, but can be creative and athletic activities that we put lots of effort and time into–are pretty obvious to anyone who has been working in a high-pressure job for any length of time. But he makes these argument more than just wishful thinking, giving lots of thoughtful examples for why we have to do this so that we can be better at what we do and avoid burnout.

This includes all the work we do at home as well as at the office. Though many of Pang’s examples are men, he does take care to talk about the added responsibilities that many working women face–their other responsibilities of caregiving, homemaking, and other life maintenance don’t end when they get back from the office. Wish I’d read this years ago–not so I could make different life choices, but so I could simply tell others to read it rather than just pressuring me to add yet another soul-sucking task to my to-do list.

I’m sure this applies to folks who are pretty much full-time figure skaters. Everyone needs  some encouragement towards the “less is more” side. But with a physical activity, there is hopefully a point when your body reminds you that you are overdoing things. A lot of my work time is spent on the computer, and it’s tempting to keep working even after regular hours evenings and weekends.

Thank you, Alex Pang! You’ve definitely hit my “recommended” list.

Okay, time to report on skating now. Now that reading Alex Pang’s Rest has made me feel totally virtuous about blocking out time to skate on my (admittedly long) lunch hour, I am happy to say that I’m back to a regular practice schedule. Laurie and I continue to have great (though humbling) lessons about the fact that I am not preserving my lean when I do swing rolls. That feeling of having my skate edge run outside of where my body is still baffles me on some deep level, and I fight it with all kinds of strange contortions. Still, it is deeply restful and now I can gloat about how it’s making me more rather than less productive at work!

Lesson notes:

  • Exercise for deep back inside edges that curve immediately. If you do this correctly the tracing starts to resemble an “infinity” sign. Don’t drop your hip out, and pretend you have a squirrel or fox tail that moves freely along the circle.
  • Progressives. New foot encounters the ice outside of your body. Imagine a theraband stretching across the hips that allow the skating hip and leg to turn out slightly to counter the stretch of the free leg.
  • Swing rolls. Don’t come up on top of skate and lose your lean into the circle.


No matter how you slice it

That opening could be followed by any number of positive and negative things. Bread. Baloney. Good news. Bad news.

And then there’s the César Franck violin sonata in A major, which I keep hearing in bits and pieces, thanks to my younger son the cellist (now a teenager) . Much of what he has to say to me these days involves “Have you heard this?” or “I love this piece!” or (most humbling) “Guess which composer this is!”

Life is good, at least on the music front. Here’s the final movement (Allegretto poco mosso). There are a lot of recordings out there!  Here’s an article by Caroline Gill that talks about some of them. She describes how the piece was first played at the wedding of Franck’s friend Eugène Ysaÿe (a Belgian violinist who was known as the “King of the violin”) and then officially premiered in Brussel’s Museé Moderne de Peiture in light so dim that the piece had to be performed from memory.

Vincent d’Indy, a devoted supporter and pupil of Franck, who chronicled his experiences with him and was present at this performance, described the fading light of the scene: ‘The public was requested to leave, but…refused to budge. Ysaÿe was heard to strike his music stand with his bow, exclaiming “get on, get on”. And then, unheard-of marvel, the two artists, plunged in gloom in which nothing could be distinguished, performed the last three movements from memory… Music, wondrous and alone, held sovereign sway in the darkness of the night. The miracle will never be forgotten.’

Nothing miraculous about my skating, but no matter how you slice it, it’s still pretty cool (hahaha!). Yesterday I missed my regular session so I went to a later session. I was working on my back pushes at one end of the rink, looked up and realized that the other skaters on the ice with me included two competitors from Nationals (one senior and one junior) as well as two coaches who had medalled multiple times at World competitions. I’d better step up my game!

Or maybe just find a game. I’ve been trying to figure out a good balance between working on basic movement and pushing myself to skate hard so I can build more stamina. Even a couple of minutes of stroking right now is quite a challenge. It would probably be a good idea to just pick a song I like and try to skate hard for the entire time it’s playing.

Not Franck, since I will probably collapse halfway through! Don’t want to ruin this beautiful piece by associating it with a coronary.

Had to miss or postpone a couple of lessons this week. Arrggghhh!!! But I did get to catch Sonia the birthday girl on the ice.





2016 retrospective

2016 was a challenging year. But I have better edges, more flexible ankles, stronger feet, and lots of happy memories of skating with good friends. Here’s some of my favorite posts from the past year.


Gearing up for 2017

Well, it’s almost the new year, and I’m looking forward to some fun skating in 2017.  I am going to try to post a retrospective for 2016 as well as the last set of lesson notes for the year. But first, here’s some resolutions!

Kari: “Master three turns!”

Sonia: “Continue to be kind.”

Marc: “Ummmm. . . ”


Jo is going to have fun.


Janey is going to skate more often!


Janey, Jo, Kari, Kelsey, Sonia, Marc


Kelsey’s going to attack her programs!



I got a number of gifts this year that I am particularly fond of. Chocolate (of course!) and a lovely holiday-themed centerpiece for our dining room table. And this cat lamp from my older son that has different color modes.

I also got some hand-knit coasters and socks from my supremely talented sister-in-law Anne. Aren’t these beautiful! The socks are made from a yarn that is a combo of wool and bamboo. So comfy. . .

Definitely this makes it tempting to spend a good part of 2017 sitting by the changing rainbow glow of the cat lamp, drinking hot chocolate, and admiring my feet. But lest you think I’m never going to move again, here’s what my younger son re-gifted me (he got these in a family gift exchange and decided they were not for him).


I’ve already done run-throughs of the video workouts that came with both of them, and decided that I need to add in some of the exercises on a regular basis. I haven’t used some of my upper body muscles in a while, and I think it’s a good time to start up again.

I originally thought of giving this post another title: “I thought I was fit, but I was wrong!” But there is so much darkness in the world these days–so many losses this year, and particularly in the past few months. Better to put aside negativity, snarkiness, and self-criticism for a while.

‘Tis the season to be Jo-lly! Fa la la la la, la la la la.

I am thinking of all the ways in which skating makes me feel kind, happy, and peaceful, and helps me to see good in the world. Will try to post again very soon!



A whole lot of skating goin’ on

Around here it is a sad fact that towards the end of the semester, the temperature plummets and the workload goes up astronomically. I have to figure out how to balance the need to get things done and the desire to just sit by any available heat source and watch the video of Scott and Tessa’s short dance at the Grand Prix Final over and over again.

Love that Prince song. Love their facial expressions (especially Scott singing along and Tessa winking at the judges). Love their outfits. And that lift at the end.

Happy, happy sigh.

And if I wasn’t unproductive enough, there’s the Shibutanis. Hooray!

Okay, time to get back to . . .oh wait, did they just post the free dance???