jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life


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Bunny ears and turtle Jo

So Mary of  Fit&Fed told me that she had not heard the term “bunny ears” to describe the tracing that mohawks make. I wasn’t aware that this isn’t common usage until I tried searching for the term as associated with figure skating and couldn’t find anything except my last blog post and a reference to an iCoachSkating lesson. Since I haven’t looked at the iCoachSkating series, I’m wondering whether this is actually a term that many folks use, or if I’ve been the victim of a vast etymological conspiracy (“let’s tell Jo that this tracing is referred to as “bunny ears” and people will say “aw, how cute!” when she uses this expression”).

Anyway, here’s the picture from the Ice Dance Analysts:

And here’s my version with bunny-eared outline (I swear I’m not the only one who uses this term):

Anyway, when I said in my last post that I was successfully making “bunny ears,” what I meant was that the tracing of the entry edge crosses the tracing of the exit end, making for an even transfer of weight and continuous circle.

Bunny ears are part of the master plan that I’ve been working on to increase my speed. Both my coaches have been pointing out that this is a major challenge for me. I start with little speed and then slow to a crawl as I move on down the ice.

Many many years ago I took some figure tests (yes, I am that old) and one judge said that I was skating the figure too quickly (he passed me anyway). Those days of being the “rabbit” are long gone and now I’m at turtle-speed even on my peppy days.

Slow and steady may be okay for learning, but you do need a certain amount of speed to skate on actual edges.  Without at least some speed, you can’t lean. And without lean, you are constantly having to fight for balance.

So a two-pronged approach:

  1. With the help of both coaches, I have been identifying places where I fail to push. These may be place where I feel like I’m pushing, but I’m not really digging into the ice, or releasing onto the new foot too soon. Common problems happen with pushing off the back inside edge (which unfortunately means a lot of skating backwards) and pushing under the back outside edge (crossovers).
  2. I have been trying to get rid of anything that causes a glitch, bump, gap, or other loss of flow in my skating. Beginning skaters getting in my way on a public session are not the problem. What happens is that I may be slightly off my hip or out of position on my blade, and am not efficiently transferring from one edge to another (turns) or fail to get an additional edge pull when needed.

That’s the overall picture for the week–here’s a couple of notes from my lesson:

  • two-footed rocker warmup: make sure these are actually rockers rather than three turns (jump the turn if necessary) and look in the proper direction (change head on the change of edge).
  • alternating inside mohawk, back outside threes: more speed, don’t use hip to do back outside three turn (use upper body twist instead, look into direction of new circle), emphasize inside edge after the back outside three
  • alternating inside mohawk, back outside three, forward inside three (do these on the first part of the circle), push (and check) onto a forward outside cross; step and repeat on other side

Fast and furious, Jo!


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Leprechaun dance

Okay, so I can’t remember where I put my phone or whether I closed the garage door. (Luckily, there’s an app for that! Oh no, it’s on my phone!)

But today I heard a song on the car radio, Donna Lewis’s “I Love You Always Forever” and immediately thought of a program by Yuka Sato in a professional competition. I remembered her nifty footwork sequence accelerating through the refrain.

I looked it up on YouTube, and it is from 1996! And she is wearing an adorable bubble-gum pink dress that goes perfectly with the infectious pop beat.

I also found a lovely program that she did this year to “Clair de Lune.” I am happy that she is still skating, and I really like the choreography that she uses here–especially that opening sequence of edges. That long back outside edge has filled me with new “edgy” ambition!

But enough about skating legends. How is my skating going? Well, it is less beautifully organized than Yuka Sato’s.  In fact, it is somewhat disorienting, kind of like that Donna Lewis music video (which I don’t recommend actually watching if you are prone to anxiety–just listen instead).

Overall, I think I am making progress. I am figuring out how to lean in the right direction. I am actually pushing under on some of my cross strokes and crossovers. And some of my mohawks actually have bunny ears. And I’m getting better at isolating my free leg from my skating leg. Laurie is having me practice what I’ve been calling the “leprechaun”: moving my free foot in and out of correct position without displacing my skating side.

irish-dancer-animated

Even better, I am mostly (though not 100%) pain-free! Still have some stiffness in the hips and occasional knee issues on the right. Oh, and let’s not forget that ongoing problem with my left foot and right ankle. And on and on. Will save that for another post when I’m not quite so bouncy and more organized.

Lesson notes:

  • back crossovers: arm positions less forced, more into circle
  • backwards perimeter stroking: really curve that inside edge on the step out after the cross
  • inside mohawks: pivot foot
  • MORE SPEED: use lean and ankle bend to create edge, don’t stick hip out
  • mohawk, back outside three, forward inside three, toe tap to inside: figure out how to make these turn quickly, turn out your free leg on back outside three. Try variation with push back after the mohawk
  • swing roll, change edge, mohawk, step forward and repeat: practice bringing in free leg and then doing a power pull before allowing free leg to swing through.  Lead with opposite arm, then switch.
  • outside (foxtrot) mohawks: use back rather than hips to figure out where to put new edge, lean on outside exit edge
  • back crossover, push directly over and from the hip (not backwards)
  • clockwise forward progressives: make sure head is facing in correct direction (slightly into the circle in direction that you are going)
  • back cross strokes: don’t turn out skating hip (turn out from free foot), start push as free foot moves down (don’t wait until it is down)

 


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Dead or alive?

There’s been some really interesting research done on how flamingos can stand for so long without falling over. The New York Times article I read described how even dead flamingo bodies can be easily balanced on one leg.

Rather than flopping over as expected, the bird settled into a stable, one-legged posture that stayed put even when the top of its body was tilted backward and forward. On two legs, or if the foot was not right below the body, the cadaver was far less stable.

Live flamingos can balance on one leg even when they are falling asleep. Humans, on the other hand, have a hard time balancing on one leg when they close their eyes.  That’s because we sense instability and react by contracting our muscles (believe me, I’ve been there). Flamingos, though, take a passive approach, relying on body mechanics and gravity rather than on muscles and nerves.

By the way, this article is well worth viewing just for the picture of the adorable and thankfully very much alive baby flamingo, who is standing on one leg looking like he just completed his warmup circuit on the ice and is presenting himself to the judges.

Just put a pair of skates on him, and there you go.

I, on the other hand, have trouble standing on one leg even though I am very much alive. Both my coaches keep repeating the same things. “Don’t touch down.” “Don’t put your free foot down.” “If you put your free foot down, the edge doesn’t count.”

I keep waiting for one of them to break and say, “If you put your foot down one more time, I will kill you.” But they are professionals, and would not resort to that kind of threat. I hope.

And it probably wouldn’t work even if they did. If I can’t do it when I’m alive, being dead certainly won’t help. No, since I’m not a flamingo, I have to think of something else.

So today I was trying to put together a lot of different pieces of advice about how to improve edge quality. This has to do with being aligned over my skate, bending my ankle and knee, being on the right part of the blade, using my foot, keeping my body into the circle, pushing and pressing and bending and continuing to do so through turns and transitions. And I realized that I needed to come up with a simpler way to integrate all of these things.

So I just told myself that I wanted to have “live” edges, whatever I was doing. A “live” edge is one that is actively engaged and into the ice throughout its duration. A “dead” one, on the other hand, just sort of hangs there skimming over the surface.  It may be balanced on one leg, but it doesn’t do anything.

And what do you know? That seems to work for me. It makes my edges feel more dynamic and controlled. I have more flow in and out of turns. I can do those power pull-type pushes more often. I am less inclined to touch down. Hopefully this will eliminate any need for threats.

Not to belabor the point, but the flamingo just has to stand there, and I have to skate. I just have to!

Nice to know that I’m wanted, dead or alive. (Saw that coming, didn’t you?)


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Pannekoeken!

Clearly I am behind the times! I was telling skating friends about the Dutch pancake I made the other day for the first time, and I was immediately told that this is called a pannekoeken.

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Pannekoeken!

Not only that, but there is an actual restaurant chain called Pannekoeken Huis where they serve these. Kari tells me that they cry out “Pannekoeken!” when they bring out your order, but I have yet to believe this. She identified one of these restaurants that is in a shopping center nearby. I drive by there all the time and have never noticed it.

Anyway, mine was delicious.  Here’s the recipe, from Florence Fabricant for the N.Y. Times: 

Pannekoeken

INGREDIENTS

3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar and nutmeg in a blender jar and blend until smooth. Batter may also be mixed by hand.

Place butter in a heavy 10-inch skillet or baking dish and place in the oven. As soon as the butter has melted (watch it so it does not burn) add the batter to the pan, return pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and golden. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake five minutes longer.

Remove pancake from oven, cut into wedges and serve at once topped with syrup, preserves, confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Yelling “Pannenkoeken!” is optional.


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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.

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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.

 

 


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Positive energy

Over the last week I have been weeding my garden. All that rain last week made it seem like a jungle out there. I spent most of yesterday and this morning wrestling with patches of dirt that want desperately to revert back to prairie grass. (I know, I should just let it go, but it gives me the illusion of control.)

This evening I opted out of watching The Matrix again and instead thought I’d get another couple of hours in the yard again. Here in Minnesota it stays light out for a long time in the summer. That, and the lack of mosquitoes, made it worthwhile to stay outside even though honestly I’m more than a little tired (and I still have a number of plants to put in and move around tomorrow).

But I’m happy to report that I finished getting most of the yard done while my sons and husband were upstairs watching Neo take the red pill. And just as I was dragging that third bag of weeds and leaves and sticks into the garage, I heard thunder, and boom, five minutes later it was pouring rain.

So here I am, all cleaned up and cozy and feeling both virtuous and lucky and listening to a very lovely version of Gabriel Fauré’s “Après un Rêve” transcribed for cello.

And to top it all off, I’ve had a really good few skating sessions to report on. Laurie pointed out that on my back pushes I wasn’t really positioned correctly over my skates. Instead of using the push to send my entire body back, I was sending my hips back–and you know what that means! (Skating gives new meaning to the expression “Butt out.”)

So we worked on trying to send the energy into my upper body instead. I am aiming for the opposite shoulder from the pushing foot. Here are some pictures to illustrate:

It worked so well that I have been trying to think about this with other pushes as well. It is making me way more conscious about what I am doing with my upper body, which admittedly has been quite vague at times.

All that positive energy has got to go somewhere!

 


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Splat! Kaboom!

I need to start with a friendly picture.

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Pat, Jo, Sonia, Kristen, and JoAnne

That’s so the most notable thing about this post isn’t the set of spectacular falls that I have had in the past few days.

One was yesterday, when I caught my pick on the ice and did a nice body slam onto the ice. The entire rink reverberated, then went totally silent. And then I heard a voice say, “Are you okay?”

Actually, due to my entire body’s contacting the ice at once, the impact was spread out pretty evenly. Aside from a bruise on my knee, only my pride was hurt. And these days I have little pride left, so it’s okay.

Today I was putting away groceries in my kitchen and I stepped on the shopping bag, slipped on a loose jar of hoisin sauce, and went flying. Kaboom! Okay, it was the elbows this time.

I think an excess of gardening might be making me klutzy. I got a little carried away relocating a number of hosta plants around the yard, and letting my inner weed-control-freak make its yearly appearance. So now whatever isn’t bruised is officially sore.

And it’s only Tuesday!

But on the bright side, I found some great music to pull weeds by. How could you not like three clarinetists all named Ottensamer?

And even with all that, I had a great lesson today!

  • back crossovers: send force back into (outside) ribs/back rather than (outside) hip, upper body slightly into circle
  • underpush exercise: from standing, push under using just the outside edge (back) skate.
  • Viennese mohawk set up: left outside, right outside, left outside into mohawk. Use change of edge to direct edges, not upper body. Lean of upper body should follow feet
  • back outside to outside push: don’t use too much upper body and hip motion–just flip skating heel out to push.