jo skates

Skating in the key of life

What are you afraid of?


I’ve been writing a lot about happy skating, so it’s time to acknowledge and embrace the dark side. Here goes.

I’m no longer afraid of monsters underneath my bed or hiding in my closet (though I still avoid vampire and zombie movies, and I occasionally shudder when I remember scenes from The Blob [1958]).

X-treme anything is out, as are the tamer pastimes of skydiving, cliff diving, platform diving, any kind of diving. Oh, and surfing, too. Skiing down black diamond runs is thankfully a thing of the past. I can barely get myself to run across the street when the light turns yellow.

No, I save my fear factor for skating. It’s not that I shake and quake on the ice on a regular basis, but every so often I realize that skating has its terrifying as well as its gratifying moments, and sometimes the two go hand in hand.

I separate these into two kinds of fear. There is of course the performance anxiety that is a side effect of testing or competition. Shaky knees, sweaty palms, sweaty feet, rocks in my stomach, pacing, insomnia, panic: these are all as familiar as putting that special dress on.

But there are much more subtle fears that don’t affect me as dramatically, but nonetheless do show up much more often in daily practice, such as when I start some kind of pattern that involves a forward outside edge, when I do three-turns (surprise, surprise!), or when I do a left forward inside edge twizzle.

At a used book sale some years ago, my older son bought me a “Stop Anxiety Now” kit. ( I don’t even want to think about why he at age thirteen thought this was a fitting gift for me.) Among the many very useful pieces it contains (like a set of little signs reading “Stop!” that I’m supposed to post around the room to remind myself to stop feeling anxious) is a book that says, among other things, (a) to listen to what your body is trying to tell you, and (b) to write down the things that make you anxious.

Today, rather than chastising myself for doing these things the wrong way or pooh-poohing myself for being afraid, I thought about some of the ineffective patterns of movement that happen because I am afraid of something.

Situation 1. I’m afraid that I won’t get to where I want to be. When I start something on a forward outside edge, like an pattern of alternating progressives or chassés (or the start of certain compulsory dances), I tend to cut off the first part of the circle by heading diagonally across the circle (imagine cutting across a clock face from two to noon). As my lesson yesterday pointed out, this leads to rushing some steps and spending an inordinate amount of time on others. I do this because I don’t trust my edges to actually get me where I want to go.

Instead of distributing edges along the different parts of a circle, I try to take a shortcut. This actually makes the pattern harder because it necessarily distorts the shape of successive edges. (This is true of the Kilian as well, in which I worried so much about the inside edge before the choctaw that I didn’t realize I was shortchanging the outside edge before it.)

Situation 2. I’m afraid to let my edge rotate because it feels like I’ll spin out of control. This happens on three turns. Because I’ve had trouble getting on an actual edge using my left foot and ankle and leaning into the circle, I’ve been turning my upper body into the circle to create a sense of rotation. Once I get on a real edge, the extra rotation really puts my knickers in a twist. So I’ve been flattening my edges almost unconsciously, trying to make that spiraling-in feeling stop.

Situation 3. I’m afraid of collapsing in pain. In working on left inside entry twizzles, I realized that the initial inside edge actually made my foot hurt and that wincing made the turn impossible.

I’m not really afraid of the twizzle itself; I’m afraid of the pain that will happen when my left hip is out and my arch collapses.  I have been practicing this motion off the ice, working on stabilizing my arch (“short foot“) and lifting my right side. Hopefully this will help.

Okay, time for the set of inspiring quotations that urge us to face our fears. First Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

Let’s not forget Yoda:

“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

And my favorite, a Japanese saying:

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.”

Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

2 thoughts on “What are you afraid of?

  1. I’m afraid of seriously injuring myself. When I first learned the axel (about 6 years ago), I pinched my sciatic nerve. Twice. I was keeled over in pain for at least a month each time. I don’t want to do that again. I know that I need to rotate my jumps a lot tighter, but I am afraid of falling and getting another injury that will require surgery or physical therapy. Ah, the joys of being an adult skater!


  2. Wow, sounds like a painful injury! I’m glad you persisted (your axel is impressive!) These painful injuries also cause some psychological scars–making us afraid. Hopefully as you’ve gained strength over the years, you’ll avoid whatever it was that caused that pinched nerve.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s