jo skates

Skating in the key of life


4 Comments

Curling lesson

Some friends of ours went to a fundraiser and came out with a two-hour curling lesson. They invited me, my husband, and son to join them. So today after we shoveled ourselves out of the snow, we drove to the Chaska Curling Center, which is the national training center for USA Curling. It’s a super modern facility (opened in 2015).

Despite the fact that there are a number of curling arenas in the Twin Cities area, none of us had ever tried curling before. We had two really patient instructors who took us through the basics and then split into our two teams: the Mixed Nuts and the Curling Irons (my friend Emma is very creative). Then the games began!

It was super fun. I never quite got into the most efficient lunge position, and wound up sitting down on the ice quite a few times after releasing the stone. But I managed to get the rock down the ice nonetheless, and even helped score a few times. And boy, sweeping the ice is way more enjoyable than sweeping my kitchen floor.

Though curling doesn’t seem all that strenuous, it definitely made us tired and hungry. Several hours later, we all enjoyed a very late lunch at the restaurant which conveniently overlooks the curling arena. Luckily, my husband was there to drive home while the rest of us zonked out in the car.

While I’m not sure I would hang up my skates in favor of the curling broom, I definitely would do it again. Ice sports rule!

 


2 Comments

Gratitude

A few weeks ago I went on vacation (the beautiful island of Kauai), and the day I got back to skating was pretty rough. I had been off the ice for nearly two weeks and went to the rink only a few hours after  a long flight back. When I started my feet were all swollen, and I could barely get my skates on, let alone feel my edges.

But as the week went on and I gradually got over jet lag and back into the skating groove, I’ve been realizing how much my skating has improved in the past few years.

To begin with, I am much more in control of my edges. Instead of a brief delay every time I got on a new edge (this was often very brief, but I still could feel it), I feel like I know how to get right on the edge. What’s more, I can actually deepen and accelerate edges at will. While I’m not able to use every edge to generate power (you’ll see from my lesson notes how much this is a priority!) I’m getting better at this.

Aside from post-vacation euphoria, what is going on? Well, several things that seem to be working in my favor.

One is a postural correction. In my Pilates class, PT Sarah has been telling me to “bend your knees without really bending your knees”: imagining that my thighs are moving forward as if my knees were starting to bend, but not actually bending at the knees. This makes my lower abdominals and glutes engage as if I were tucking my hips under (posterior pelvic tilt). But the important thing is that I’m not actually changing my hip position that radically.

Instead, I’m trying to learn how to turn those stabilizing muscles on without allowing the hips to go out from under me, whether forwards or backward.

Hip-posture

Another is that this improved posture actually allows me some more mobility in the hip joints. I am actually figuring out how to use the hip joint not only for stability, but also to do turns and deepen existing edges.

Laurie suggested that on cross strokes and progressives, I think about my free leg as folding in and helping to deepen the edge. This seems like a small change, but it makes a world of difference.

So just (a) the right amount of sunshine and snorkeling, plus (b) better posture through the hips, plus (c) hip movement and mobility, plus (d) free leg helpfulness equals one happy skater! Add some friendly skating buddies and there you go! You don’t need to ask me what I’m grateful for this year.

I’m usually a “glass half empty” kinda gal, but I can’t resist.

Lesson notes:

  • Progressives. Be aware of movement in the hip joint.
  • Powerpulls. Watch position of free leg on inside edge (not too far over in front of skating leg).
  • Back chassès. Work on the direction and stability of the inside edge push. Connect this to the action in the hip joint (leg turns in but then moves back to neutral or even turns out).
  • 3-step pattern with inside mohawks. Work on establishing third position before the back inside to forward inside. Stronger forward inside edge.
  • Forward cross strokes. Bend free knee to allow weight to deepen into the skating foot. This is also important on forward progressives; make sure you do this on both the outside and inside edges.
  • Forward inside three, cross over front, back inside threes (in circle).  Work on establishing a stronger inside edge into the three, rotate in hip joint, try to get rid of the skid, hold back outside edge longer before crossing.
  • Creepers.
  • Swing roll (try to get a power pull), change edge, inside mohawk, quick step to change feet, push forward to repeat on other side.
  • Inside three, back cross, outside three-mohawk (continuous action), repeat on other side.
  • Different entry edges twizzles. Keep skating hip slightly open, skating side leads on entry (rather than letting body swinging around), ankles together.
  • Inside counters. Use inside edge pressure to “jump” the turn.
  • Forward power pulls (inside, outside, inside), inside mohawk, back power pulls (inside, outside, inside), step forward, repeat on other side.
  • Swing roll, (try to get a power pull), change edge, inside mohawk, power pull, step forward on outside edge on other side, repeat.
  • Outside rocker, cross in front to back outside (change arms at the same time), back cross stroke.
  • Forward choctaw, power pull, step forward, tuck behind, repeat on other side.
  • Three step outside-outside mohawk. Do this on pattern. Make sure your free side stays elongated.
  • Inside mohawk, power pull, back outside to forward inside (choctaw).


5 Comments

Roasted ratatouille

Today I found myself with a fridge full of vegetables that need to be used, and a hankering to bake something. I looked at a number of recipes online and decided to make ratatouille. Lots of chopping, and takes a while. But it’s well worth it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes. I left the skin on. I also tossed the cubes with some salt and left it in a colander in the sink for 15 minutes before roasting. I’m not sure this did anything (but they were nice and salty).
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large onions, quartered and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 medium zucchini in 1/2-inch rounds
  • 3 colored bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch strips. I used red, yellow, and orange ones
  • several tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped. I did the “boiling water for ten seconds and ice bath” to peel them first, but next time I may skip that step.
  • springs of fresh herbs. I used rosemary and oregano (not yet killed by the frost).
  • bay leaves. I used dried ones.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread each set of vegetables in a single layer on large, lightly-oiled sheet pans. I used two large roasting pans. Sprinkle some oil olive on top (or you can toss each set with a bit of olive oil before putting them in the pan). Then roast them in this order:

Roast the onions and 3 cloves of the minced garlic first for 10 minutes. Then stir the onions, push them to the side, and spread the zucchini next to the onions. Put the pan with the onions and zucchini back in the oven. Add a second pan with the eggplant. Roast both pans for 15 minutes.

Stir the onions and flip the zucchini. Stir the eggplant and place to one side. Add the peppers alongside the eggplant. Roast everything on the pans for 15 minutes. Stir each set of vegetables and put some salt on top.

Finish roasting (maybe 15-30 minutes more.) Everything should be nicely roasted and just a little bit brown (my eggplant/pepper pan wasn’t quite done, so I broiled it for a few minutes at the end).

While the other vegetables are roasting, chop the tomatoes and the last clove of minced garlic. Sprinkle with some salt and bay leaves.

Place all the roasted vegetables together in one pan along with the tomatoes. Stir until mixed evenly and spread out in the pan. Roast for another 45 minutes. Lots of recipes recommend adding chopped fresh basil or parsley at the very end, but I didn’t have any. It was delicious anyway!

Unfortunately I was so busy chowing down that I didn’t take a picture. I may just have to add one on the next go around, or you can use your imagination. It doesn’t look as pretty as the carefully layered versions, but it’s sure a lot easier to make (and I think it tastes better).

I also made some oven sweet potato fries (peel, chop, toss with olive oil, and bake) at the same time. This was quite the post-skating feast–and balanced out the leftover Halloween candy nicely.


8 Comments

Quick to judge

I used to be quite opinionated about skating. Just ask me who my favorites were, and I could rattle off a list of names and programs and elements–and even costumes.

But I must be mellowing out, because the other day someone asked me who my favorite skaters were this year, and I had trouble answering. Okay, it’s partly because I’ve been watching for so many years that the list is getting awfully long.

But I think it’s also because everything is on YouTube these days, and I get the chance to watch programs throughout an entire season. I get to avoid watching an entire competition; I can even stop mid-program if it’s clear that it’s not a particularly good day for them. Or, I confess, if I need a snack (watching that many revolutions sometimes requires kettle corn.)

I must say that I do like Nathan Chen’s “Rocket Man” program, and I thought Alena Kostornaia’s long program at the Finlandia Trophy was quite breathtaking. And there are a number of dance programs that I like quite a bit (like Jean-Luc Baker and Kaitlin Hawayek doing the Bee Gees).

Beyond that, no need to play favorites, at least at this stage. Or maybe I’ll just say that my favorite skaters are some of the folks I see at the rink during the week!

I got my skates sharpened last week after months of waiting. The first couple of sessions afterwards felt a little–sharp (duh!) But yesterday was OMG! Amazing to have instant edges again.

No lesson notes today (had to miss last week). Am still working on the following:

  • turning in at the hips,
  • pressing shins forward,
  • being farther back on my skates,
  • engaging my ankles and using my feet,
  • using my ribcage,
  • keeping my head up, and
  • skating happy to my favorite Bee Gees song. Thanks, Kaitlin and Jean-Luc!

 


Leave a comment

Retro-jo revision

So I went to start a new entry and realized that I had one started from a month ago that I’d completely forgotten about. Then I realized that the topic I wanted to write about (turning in rather than turning out my hips) was already something I’d written about in February of 2017. And my husband just walked in to tell me that he used the $10 coupon that I got on eBay, and I have absolutely no recollection of having bought anything on eBay that would have given me such a coupon.

I’m not sure whether I feel frustrated that I can’t remember things anymore, or feel happy that each day is a clean slate. I do, however, realize that even though I am clearly repeating myself in re-learning things I learned before, things clearly are improving upon repetition.

Take, for instance, the idea of turning in. When I wrote about it a couple of years ago, I noticed that I just wrote about turning in my toes. In fact, this is misleading. What I should have said was to rotate at the hip joint, drawing the inside of the upper thighs back toward the “sit bones.” a much different action.

This week I’ve been going through each element, making sure that I’ve been drawing that upper thigh back. It’s pretty automatic on the left side now, but the right side needs some work. Boy, does it make a huge difference on stability. And boy, is it exhausting! By the end of each session, my right outer hip muscles were pretty tired.

I’m writing this down so that I remember to work on this tomorrow. Hopefully at some point my muscle memory will take over and I will just do it without having to think about it. Or will I forget again?

Luckily, I have lovely friends at the rink who can remind me!

And I’m including what I wrote last month, just to give myself credit for having written something:

From Sept. 1, 2019: I can’t believe it’s September already. Where has the time gone? I’ve notice that some of the leaves on the trees have already started to turn yellow and brown. And the temperature has dropped significantly at the rink. I’ve been bringing two fleece jackets to the rink and wearing my warmer gloves.

With so much time off and on the ice this summer, I’ve been able to notice differences between a week in which I can skate regularly, and one in which I can’t. There’s the obvious issues with regard to skating itself (feeling good vs. feeling wobbly) but there are other differences as well.

When I skate, I feel much better overall. I sleep more soundly. I feel more alert during the day. I get a much-needed break from sitting in front of a computer for much of the day. Food tastes more delicious (especially after a long practice session). I get less stressed out over small things. Dogs, cats, and little children look cuter (unless they get in my way at the rink). All of these benefits far out-weigh the downside of skating.

Lesson notes:

  • forward inside edges. Right one still needs work: move ribcage over right inner edge. Make sure you don’t pitch or drop head forward.
  • forward inside three turns. Hold edge first and use skating edge, not free side, to turn.
  • back inside edges. Get to new edge immediately. Turn in at hip joint.
  • back crossover, edge pull to rise, cross in front, repeat on other side. Use edge pull and knee action to generate speed, not the back crossover.
  • back outside edge, pull to rise to inside edge with free leg in front. Make sure you stand up straight to practice balancing on a straight knee.
  • inside mohawk, back inside three, forward cross. Bend and push.

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Strong. . . but wrong!

When I told Laurie about my intention to keep activating my glutes whenever possible, she scoffed at me.

As it turns out, no amount of gluteal strength was going to help, given that I was allowing my upper body to lunge forward with each stroke. This in turn made it difficult to get any real energy out of the push.

“You’re plenty strong,” she told me. “You’re just doing it wrong.”

Luckily, a few corrections later I realized what “right” felt like. Laurie reminded me that I should be directing the energy of each push into my shins, which should be working like levers pressing forward. Love this idea! And I need to stay over a good inside edge on the right side push, rather than just allowing my body to fall into the new stroke.

Knowing that I am strong enough–plenty strong for skating–makes me happy.  While skating remains a challenge, it is starting to feel like the work that has to be done is more mental than physical.

I am going to keep on doing my off-ice exercises anyway, since they are good for me in all kinds of ways–and I still need more right ankle flexibility and strength (still can’t really do heel lifts without that dreadful sound). But the last thing I need to do on the ice is to have another reason to exercise the “brute force” method, using my muscular strength to haul myself around.

“Finesse, not force,” is now my motto. This is working well on swing rolls (much more controlled and even circles, rather than that “pulling around” sensation), progressives (much more even transition between edges), and other basic exercises. Hopefully this will carry over into turns as well.

Anyway, I have started my late-night binging of ice dance videos from various competitions in this new season. I am impressed that I recognized the Finn-step sequence right away in the Rhythm Dance–given the wide range of musical choices, it was hard to know what they all had in common. Guess I still have some of those compulsories on the brain.

Between that, and marveling that Schubert wrote “The Trout” when he was only 22 years old, I am one busy lady. It’s time to start in on those indoor activities, since the ice age is upon us! Okay, I did ride my bike to the rink last Friday, but as you can see, the snow is sneaking up on me.

Lesson notes:

  • outside-outside stroking: push into shins, not glutes! And watch that inside edge push from the right side.
  • outside three turns: don’t turn out your hip or you’ll be sorry.
  • inside mohawks: don’t turn out hips; instead, think about the inside edge hip being straight forward, then bring in heel to instep without changing hip position.
  • inside three, back cross stroke, back outside three, inside mohawk, step forward onto outside edge, cross behind to inside edge, repeat on other side.
  • alternative back crossover, double threes (back outside-forward inside three, then back inside-forward outside three): take the time to do actual pushes and edges rather than rushing into the turn (back right inside push needs work). On the back inside three–allow your body to turn naturally on the back inside edge rather than falling into the circle, and look in the direction of travel.
  • inside mohawk, back inside three, cross stroke, repeat on other side: work on that back inside edge rotation. Don’t touch down.
  • outside-outside mohawk, step forward, cross stroke into outside-outside on other side: don’t touch down! On the right forward to left back outside mohawk, work your hamstring on the left side to bring your new skate into the proper place (behind the right). Don’t let your upper body move out of the circle.


2 Comments

Pain in the …

They say your glutes can be the seat of power, but mine are the seat of pain.

Usually when my backside hurts, it’s because I fell down. But this time it’s because I finally have decided that it’s time to get my glutes in gear.

You would think that after all this time obsessing about my form on the ice, I’d have figured this out. But after the first few lessons of the season, it was apparent that certain edges still weren’t clicking into place, and I just wasn’t comfortable on others.

So I’ve spent the past couple of weeks in practice trying to figure out what’s wrong. It keeps coming back to (1) making sure my weight is on the correct part of my blade (it feels like I start my edges by “climbing” the rocker rather than balancing on top of the highest part of the blade or in the middle of the blade), and (2) making sure that my glutes are engaged (meaning that I can feel where my thighbone inserts into the hip joint).

Writing it out makes it seem complicated, but it’s actually much easier to skate this way. It’s not ingrained yet by any means, but I feel like it’s getting there. The only drawback is that man, is it tiring! It’s clear that my right side in particular really needs work.

Off the ice, I’ve been adding some weights to my lunges and other exercises, as well as consciously trying to activate my glutes while biking and walking. I would say that overall, it’s working.  I feel like the additional strength will really help with a lot of the balance and confidence issues I’ve been having.

It’s all just a work in progress, but I am excited to watch it take shape. Or–ouch!–feel it take shape!

 

No lessons till Wednesday.

No pain, no gain.