jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life


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Life is good!

Nothing like a polar vortex (minus 28 degrees F was the worst for us here in the metro area) to make me grateful for temperatures above zero.

Nothing like several bouts of white-knuckle driving through fog and snow and ice to make one appreciate being at home.

Nothing like several days of shoveling to make me appreciate some clear and sunny days.

And skating again, ah . . .

Several other things that are making me happy. First is that my new skates and I are getting along great. They are still stiff (what a great feeling to take them off after each practice!) But I have now switched over 100%. I find that they (a) provide much more support, and (b) make it much easier to turn, which shouldn’t surprise me, given how worn out my old skates were.

Another plus is that the new skates are slightly longer, which means that my right middle toe no longer gets cramped up. Given that I am trying to use my feet more, I need all the toe-help I can get!

Second is that I have started do more regular bouts of off-ice exercises and stretching, and even added some weights to this mini-workout. I think this will help my skating, too.

Third is my son’s college auditions are over (fingers crossed!) and I think (hope) that I have finally finished some of the busywork that has been taking up room in my email in-box. ‘Tis the season!

I tend to worry when things are going well (you never know when the next snowstorm is going to hit) and I know that my email in-box will fill up again, probably by tomorrow. But I’m trying to just enjoy these moments. Life is good!

 

 

 

 


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Belly up!

The following is something that I wrote several weeks ago, and never posted. After I wrote it, I took several trips and was away from the ice and lessons (and this blog) for what seemed like ages. So now I’m ready to write a different post, but didn’t want to hit “delete” on this one.

So here’s what I wrote (on approximately January 21):

Okay, maybe saying “Belly up!” gives the wrong impression, as I m neither drinking nor dying right now, and certainly not on the ice. But I am reminding myself that I need to engage my core muscles. And not just any core muscles (though I know there is an awesome six-pack hiding down in there somewhere) but those around the lower spine, hips, and pelvis that will help stabilize my skating moves.

I have written about this before, but there are also a number of dance/Pilates sites that describe which muscles I’m talking about, like this one from Goulet Ballet.

After several years of Pilates, I am getting pretty good about isolating and exercising these muscles on the floor. But on the ice, that’s a different story. I feel like my head gets taken up with different things, and while everything is improving, I am still lacking the confidence and trust in those stable positions.

It helps to think about lifting the lower belly as well as lengthening the lower back. So I’ve been doing this a lot off the ice as well as on. Wish it would become an ingrained habit so I wouldn’t have to think about it so much, but there you are.

It is pretty hard to acknowledge that this is still where I’m at, skating-wise. One of the reasons I haven’t really done this is that these are small and sometime hidden movements that have been difficult to register, especially in comparison to the large motions of the free leg and upper torso that are easier to feel.

But as in the rest of life, sometimes it’s the little things that make the most difference. So I’m taking advantage of this time when transitioning to my new skates (up to 45 minutes! almost ready to switch completely!) to make sure that I’m really in a good place.

My lesson notes are truncated this week, but that’s not because I didn’t learn anything–it’s just that there is so much to do on all. Belly up!

  • Push to outside edge (particularly left outside). Really check your position and prepare for it ahead of time. Get on immediate edges.
  • Three turns. Make sure you fully rise and use your core twist. Check position.
  • Back crossovers. Don’t cheat either push.
  • Deep inner edges, forwards and backwards. Use your feet.
  • Inside counters.

 


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(S)hipshape

First, an homage to the ingenuity of this skater over at Lake Minnetonka, whose video caught the attention of Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins.

We are into the thick of winter now. I am starting my sessions skating in turtlenecks, fleece, and down jackets. But I warm up quickly these days, since I’ve been determined to  begin the session with things that feel particularly challenging: double threes, power pulls, that eight step mohawk pattern, the Kilian and reverse Kilian so that I am equally terrified in both directions, skating with my arms moving through positions (not flailing around).

Oh, and figure eights. Backwards and forwards, inner and outer, then with three attached. I never realized how difficult it is just to hold a proper edge. This past week Laurie and I worked on not “sitting” into my hip. I realized that I’m actually supposed to rise up on my knee and use the edge to accelerate as I do so. (I tend to just sink lower and lower and let the edge devolve into chaos.)

This is so basic that I can’t believe I haven’t figured this out earlier. But I’m just chalking it up to getting back into ship-shape: though in my case it’s hip-shape (groan).

Okay, that was so bad that I have to redeem myself by posting pictures.

Lesson notes:

  • edges: don’t sit into skating hip.
  • three turns: working on loading the foot (knee bend, pressure and twist) and checking.
  • progressives: don’t allow the force of the push to cause unnecessary upper body motion.
  • back inside edges: finish the rotation.

 


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Happy new skating year: 2019!

So happy to be back on the ice after yet another break for a family vacation. This week-on, week-off thing really is not very effective for getting in any kind of skating condition–or in breaking in new skates.

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Yes, here they are! All mounted with new blades and ready to roll. Don’t they look stiff?

It has been a while since I did the new boot thing, though I replaced my blades a few years ago. I’m hoping that this will not be too bad. I have been been in them on four different days. Day 1 was 10 minutes, day 2 was 15 minutes, day three 3, 20 minutes. But today I only lasted 15 minutes, so I seem to be retrogressing.

I’m still skating in my old faithfuls for most of the session so I can get through at least some of my moves. I’m sure the new ones will break in much faster once I take the plunge into wearing them for longer, but for now, I’m trying to ease into the transition. It’s like the sloooow walk into the cold water; at some point you just wind up diving in.

Okay, time for 2019 skating resolutions!

  1. Break in new skates without whining.
  2. Skate as much as possible.
  3. Master the art of the “flat hip” (meaning not breaking at the waist) and other useful positions.
  4. Assertiveness training: no more “nice” wimpy edges.
  5. Build some endurance/aerobic training back into skating.
  6. Rock those inside edges!
  7. Cover more ice (as Ari says, “You’re not that short!”)
  8. Oooh, lots of turns. Fun, fun, fun!
  9. Get back into patterns: dances, moves.
  10. Enjoy good skating company. Here’s a sample!
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Jeff, Brenda, Jo

Happy New Year, everybody!


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Once more, with feeling

So I must be back in some kind of presentable shape, because this week both Laurie and Ari are telling me to up my game.

Ari assigned me the backward double three (Intermediate MITF) and eight-step mohawk (Juvenile MITF) sequences, complete with introductory and exit edges. The objectives are to skate an actual pattern rather than just do edges in isolation. To that same end, Laurie gave me some exercises to try to get me just to move more confidently and to think about choreography rather than just basic technique. These involve basic edges and turns, but with different arm and upper body movements. Once I started doing some of them, she reminded me that I used to do things like that all the time.

So the fact that both coaches are getting sick and tired of watching me skate tiny circles in a tentative fashion is probably a good sign, even though I have been enjoying my leisure-filled, perspiration-free skating. Okay, I guess break time is over. Sigh.

Some years ago, back when I was still competing in Adult Nationals, Ari used to say, “You’re better than that!” as a way of getting me to skate harder. This past week I heard that again from him, and it reminded me that so much of this process of learning is mental as well as physical. It’s amazing how lazy I’ve gotten, even while I feel like I’ve been working hard.

Some of this is, of course, because I wasn’t really on some of my edges, and had some wonky muscle imbalances. But because those issues have improved so much, I can’t really use this as an excuse. It’s no longer the case that I’m incapable of skating faster and on deeper edges without falling over. It’s just that it’s, well, scary.

I never thought of myself as lacking in confidence, unless you count skating in a dress (that’s a whole ‘other kettle of fish!). When first I started skating, I would jump into things with heedless abandon (and I do mean literally). Now that I’m older and wiser, I have to unlearn some of that caution.

Just to get the adrenaline moving, here’s Cipres and James at the recent Grand Prix Final:

Okay, wish me luck. Woohoo, here I go!

Lesson notes:

  • edges pulls on outside edge: think about drawing skating side hip back to finish off edge pull (practice on outside to inside edge transitions)
  • outside three turns (use the skating hip to do the three)
  • in circle, with arm movements: outside three, back outside; inside three, step forward
  • with arm movements: alternating outside threes (use turned-out free leg and step forward behind)
  • backward double three (Intermediate MITF); both starting with outside and then inside back three; weight back more on crossovers
  • eight-step mohawk (Juvenile MITF)


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Back in the groove

The past few weeks have been busy with visiting family and work travel, so not a lot of skating. I finally got back on the ice this past Monday after what seemed like forever.

Could it be that I’ve forgotten how to skate? I certainly remembered a lot of my bad habits, like dropping my free hip down on outside edges. I’m beginning to wonder whether all those years of poor form have lodged themselves into areas of the brain that I normally don’t use.

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I am glad to be back, though. I did finally take the step to upgrade this blog so that there are no more ads, which I hope readers will appreciate.

Anyway, both lessons this week did a lot to remind me of how quickly I can fall back on old (bad) habits. But to my credit, I can recognize (with a little help from my coaches) that something is not right. I can even (with a little more help) correct it.

For instance, I have this tendency to drop my weight from one skate to another, rather than transferring weight over by pushing from one skate to another. I also tend to try to hang out over my skate rather than actually being on an edge, which makes it hard to use my edges in any purposeful way. I also sometimes still break at the hips, which means that my positions do not remain stable.

I could go on and on, but I have better things to do with my precious blog time rather than catalogue all my flaws. I’m hopeful that now that I’m back in the groove, I’ll have lots of positive things to report on in weeks to come.

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So here’s a piece that has been running through my head quite a bit lately.

Plus lesson notes!

  • Outside edge. Really be on the edge (work glutes on skating hip to get free hip higher).
  • Work on push (let inside edge on pushing foot move to outside of circle). Transfer  weight to new edge without falling forward (breaking at hips).
  • Remember that the back inside edge falls on the outside of your midline.
  • Forwards and backwards: 3 cross strokes and deep circle edge. Turn out free side against strong skating side. Going backwards: keep skating arm slightly bent and relaxed, don’t reach forward.
  • Back inside 3 (toe to toe, turn on heel), forward inside three (heel to toe, turn in middle). Check body position in glass.
  • Deep power pull swing roll, three turn, push back, repeat on other side. Do the swing roll with a deep knee bend and use your skating side to push into the ice. Don’t do the swing roll by swinging your free side around.

 


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My “toddler” free hip

Today I’ll start with the music: a medley of songs from Charlie Chaplin films, played by a group called Ensemble Vivant, that I heard on the radio this morning. I really like their version of “Smile” (just about 6:00)

Chaplin’s films always have that wistful moment that makes you want to cry even when you’re laughing.

Skating, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, at least for me. Some of my more pitiful practice sessions involve one hilarious move after another. Like when I push from a right back inner edge to a left back outer edge. Wah! There goes that arm again! It’s endless slapstick out here–and I don’t mean hockey.

It’s impossible for me to feel truly sad about my skating these days. I am finally figuring out how to lick some of those habits that have held me back, and making good progress on basic skills.

I am going to talk about three “big picture” things that I’m trying to do differently these days, two of which involve the relationship of the free side to the skating side.

One is to keep my free side engaged and free hip “closer” to the skating hip. I have this tendency to drop my skating hip, which pulls me off my edge. This can be very subtle, just enough to make the edge less efficient.

Picture taking a walk hand-in-hand with a toddler who seems very happy to go with you, but then suddenly goes all reluctant and limp. That’s my free side, throwing a tantrum. Nothing to be done–except pick it up and carry it lovingly around.

Two is to keep my weight over the pushing side longer, rather than dropping immediately to the new side. This involves continuing to support my body through the skating hip (again, the toddler analogy applies) even while bending and pushing. I find that that I have the most trouble doing this when pushing from my right side. This is probably related to . . .

Three, which is to put more oomph into my right side. I’m only now discovering that I’m not really over my right side edges some of the time, or if I am, I’m not really engaged and into the ice. This is especially true on that funny right back inside to left back outside push, when my push goes limp. (Another way to think about it, courtesy of Ari: I shift my weight and pick up my old leg, rather than actually pushing onto a new edge.)

All three things are not new, but seem like particularly good things to be doing right now, plus learning how actually to cross my legs (more on that at a future date). I’m actually using my right foot to push backwards now.

So exciting. Learning to skate = discovering  body parts that you didn’t know could be so fun! Like this happy baby.

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And these happy skaters!

 

Lesson notes:

  • basic idea: where does your free leg goes on forward outside edge? (illustration with dotted line).
  • cross rolls, using that concept.
  • Starlight Waltz, introduction through chassés. On cross roll to American three, keep weight over right at the end of the roll, then bend and set down new foot on same circle (don’t drop in for the three).
  • Chassés: use foot to push directly onto new curve (not flat). Good edges throughout!
  • back inside on circle with straight free leg: work on maintain circle and speed and not wobbling.
  • back outside eights: practice moving free leg and head in precise 1/4 stages.
  • forward inside three, back outside three on circle.  Practice threes with free leg crossed in front
  • forward mohawk, push (keeping free leg in front), back outside three. Use feet to push and allow rotation on new edge.
  • mohawk, back outside three in circle. Strong check out of back three.