Sub-zero temperatures for the past few days, and we are headed into the shortest days of the season. It’s definitely enough to inspire a touch of melancholy. I’ve been singing along with “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michelson. The lyrics are simple, disarmingly sweet, with a lovely cello line.
“Is love alive? Is love alive? Is love alive?”
Definitely time for some skating. Here’s a list of things I’ve been working on. Lots of different moves, but what connects them are certain related aims.
- To improve my overall proprioception (or sense of where I am and how I am moving), especially on my left side.
- To try to keep some degree of turnout (or at very least, to refrain from turning my knees inward).
- To correct the asymmetry in my hip, leg, and foot positions. I picture Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the (presumably) perfectly proportioned Vitruvian man, all legs of equal length and hips perfectly level. He looks like he’d have no trouble with outside mohawks. (Might I add, though, that this is not a real person and I am, inward-turning legs and all?)
- To make sure things are done efficiently rather than by using (as we used to say in my math and physics classes) the “brute force” method. One example is my three-turn, which I should do simply by lifting my heel and instead I resort to flinging my free hip around (that description’s a little strong, but I like the word “flinging.”) Another is the initial transfer of weight onto left forward outside edges, which I was trying to correct by pushing harder and harder with the right leg. Laurie pointed out that I was striking off with my left foot too far forward and then pitching forward onto it (almost like diving onto the edge). Once I allowed it to contact the ice further back, I could remain more upright.
There is a lot to work on and it’s all related. I sometimes feel like I have an entirely new (and strange) left side. And there are constant corrections and no quick fixes! December, as the song goes, never felt so wrong.
So that I don’t get stuck on any one thing (or any one body part) and keep myself moving, I’ve been trying to vary what I practice. Last week Laurie and I went over the pattern for the Viennese waltz; from my panic attack when she asked me to describe where the pattern goes on the rink, I’ve decided that I have to keep doing compulsory dances or I’ll forget how to do them altogether. So I’ve diligently returned to spending at least some time on those patterns, as daunting as that may be. Those are not my favorite (at least not yet). Here are my favorite things to work on this week:
- Alternating back crossovers with a push back, outside edge in between each one. Laurie added arms and head position to keep me from blocking myself with my upper body and to make this exercise more interesting.
- Twizzles from forward inside edges, also with arm positions. On my confident right side, I am curving my entry edge too much (using it to spin the twizzle); thinking of it as first turning onto a back outside edge and also moving on a line really helps. That left twizzle is getting better, though I’ve had some foot pain again this week. Ouch. Will have to take care of this.
- Three-step outside mohawk pattern. When Ari gave me this, I thought, “oh no!” But as it turns out, once I figured out what the pattern really was–and that what he was saying wasn’t just a random utterance of “Blah, blah, red dot axis, blah, blah, outside edge (I swear, that man has the patience of a saint)–this was really fun to do. Each edge is a third of the circle (I think, unless I misheard one of the blah, blahs). And you should do the turns by moving your shoulders and the upper body back into the new circle and edge, rather than just using your legs. And on the back exit edge you can figure out if your hips are level by where you are on your blade (should be back on the blade), not just by guessing.
What I like about the outside mohawk exercise is that I can really think about all those different things: proprioception, making my edges feel more symmetrical, turning out, making edges and turns smooth and efficient. It feels like a good exercise to get everything integrated. And the tempo is easy listening (foxtrot mohawks, basically) so it’s a good relief after the more stressful compulsory dance patterns.
I can even practice this with “Winter Song” echoing its frozen yet hopeful refrain in my ears.