jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life


4 Comments

I hear voices

How can it be mid-June already? Wow, it has been quite a while since I have posted here. I had to go back and re-read my last entry just to remind myself what I wrote there.

No real excuses–I haven’t left the country, or done anything really exciting. And I am still skating, so it’s not like I have nothing to write about. But as they say, life gets in the way. Family events (son graduating from high school, yay!) Yard work (weeds, boo!) Work projects (hiss!) Gorgeous weather that makes it hard to stay inside (double yay!)

Thankfully the rinks around here remain open, though hours have been cut back and I have to drive around more in search of ice time. Some of my regular sessions have been quite busy, since all the avid skaters are doing the same thing. Last week I was witness to one terrible collision between an adult ice dancer and an adult free skater. Thankfully no serious injuries, but scary. Still, I did find the occasional session that turned out like this:

That’s right, empty ice. Okay, so it didn’t last and soon I was joined by several families with small children. But for the first twenty minutes I was queen of the rink.

So what have I been doing on that empty and not-so-empty ice? Same old, same old. I keep thinking that I should get bored soon, spending so much time on basic things, but in fact maybe the opposite is (too) true. I feel alarmed when I can’t spend the first half hour doing progressives and chassés and back crossovers. Sometimes I come back to those things at the end of the session as well.

Maybe I am too easily amused, but I actually find lots of things to work on while I am doing those basic things. And I talk to myself (not out loud, and I don’t let my lips move, so as not to creep out the toddlers). Sometimes that voice sounds like Ari; sometimes it sounds like Laurie; sometimes it sounds like Justin Bieber (not really, but that song is catchy!) Here’s what I say:

  • Bend your ankles (keep pressure into the ball of your foot, and into those laces). Let gravity help you.
  • Where is your hip joint? Oh, there it is!
  • Really use that inside edge for the push.
  • Underpush means your skating hip draws back underneath you.
  • Don’t pitch forward. Don’t contract your core for those turns.

Sometimes I wonder whether I am going crazy, but who cares? I’m happy, so it’s all good. And when I get tired of talking to myself, there are other friendly folks to talk to. Sometimes we even wear stripes together.

IMG_6522

Jo and Sonia in all our striped glory!

Lesson notes:

  • back crossover: bend further into the push, lower pushing hip, don’t transfer too early
  • forward outside edges: shins pulled forward as if with a stretchy band
  • always move hips over your engaged ankles (don’t release back)
  • back push, turn foot out, short push from heel, activate quad
  • outside edges strike down with foot angled in
  • outside three: strong transfer with ribcage over into circle, rise (don’t lose hips) into one big skating leg, feet parallel if need be
  • bend ankles
  • exercise: three crosses, then hold strong edge in circle with free leg strongly extended and turned out. Forwards and backwards.
  • inside and outside mohawks: don’t contract core (or break at hips), think elongated skating hip, look and lean in direction of free leg
  • try this sequence: inside mohawk, step forward, outside mohawk.

 

 


2 Comments

Fresh perspective

IMG_6492

Sure sign of spring!

We have had some beautiful spring days this past week. It’s hard to believe that last week there was actually snow and sleet coming down. Neither last long, but today I noticed that my hostas have lots of little brown spots, perhaps due to those icy pellets damaging those tender new leaves.

I can remember when that kind of thing would have bothered me more. Every season of gardening brings imperfections and disappointments, like rabbit-eaten green beans or the zucchini that grows big only to suddenly develop some sort of rot. My tender-hearted son told me not to call squirrels “spiteful.” But I know better: they will take one bite out of the biggest tomatoes I have and then leave them on my fence as tokens of revenge for my trying to scare them off with the hose.

As the school year winds to a close, I start to fantasize about summer skating. Not that I will be able to spend hours on the ice; the sessions I usually practice on actually get cut back to a few hours a week. But what changes is the amount of brain energy that I can dedicate to dreaming about how much better I am going to be. It’s like those pictures of gorgeous flowers and vegetables on those seed packets.

I dream big, even though I am now resigned to the fact that improvement will take much more time and effort than I always think it will. There are slugs aplenty in my skating world, and this doesn’t just refer to the fact that I need to skate faster. I have lots of physical reminders of the challenges ahead.

For one, the foundations of my skating continue to need rebuilding. I was just re-reading a post I wrote in Oct. 2015 that reminded me of some of the things that I am still trying to get control over. And this past week, in the wake of Laurie’s comment that I still am not really bending through the ankles, I watched Oleg and Kseniya #73. (Miss their making new videos, but I am grateful that they made so many. There is certainly a lot there that I need to watch again!)

For two, I still continue to work to get mobility and strength in different body parts. Two target areas continue to be my left hip as well as my right ankle. I’ve been reading a lot about how injuries and scar tissue cause other misalignments as well as limit range of motion. One particularly detailed article from “Running Reform” (this version is for clinicians, but there’s a link for a patient version here as well) talks about the ways that limited ankle flexibility restricts the knee motion:

Imagine lowering your body weight in a squat with ski boots on. . . .We would certainly see less knee flexion occur because the ankle dorsiflexion is limited.  Since forward progression of the tibia is limited, more knee flexion would result in a posterior displacement of the body’s center of mass.  Since the subject would fall backward at that point, knee flexion becomes limited.

This explains why I’ve had a lot more trouble with my right knee, even though my left side has been weaker overall.

Okay, shots fired! But I am going to take a cue from my son, and not think of any of these frustrations as the work of spiteful skating gods (who treat me like those #%#*!!! squirrels do!)

Rather, I will simply defer to the wisdom of the real skating deities! Here’s a great interview that Charlie White did with Scott and Tessa after their free dance this year:

“It gives you purpose, it gives you life, it gives you energy.”

“A big part of our return has to do with our fresh perspective.”

“Taking a step back and appreciating what a great ride that was”

“We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously coming back.”

“It’s a sport, it’s beautiful, and we love it.”

Here’s to having a fresh perspective on skating: whether you’ve taken two years off competition, or had a few extra weeks of vacation, or are just thinking about a fresh start to the summer season!


8 Comments

Brave

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:

 


4 Comments

Rest

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.


4 Comments

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.

 

 

 


2 Comments

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.


2 Comments

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. . . ”

img_6158

Jo is going to have fun.

img_6162

Janey is going to skate more often!

img_6167

Janey, Jo, Kari, Kelsey, Sonia, Marc

img_6169

Kelsey’s going to attack her programs!