jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Intentional skating and skating intentions


The other day, Ari said that he wanted me to be more “intentional” in my skating. What he meant was that I sometimes (okay, lots of times) just go through the motions of various positions and edges, instead of knowing (and going) exactly where I want to be.

Some of it has to do with skating patterns (and half circles) rather than just doing a series of movements that are loosely strung together by habit or panic. Some of it has to do with adjusting the timing of pushes and edges so that the movement itself is more defined. And some of it has to do with basic positions and how energy is transferred from one to another.

Each week we work on new and old exercises that involve variations on edges and various three turns and mohawks. There is a definite shape and feel to each of these. Lessons these past two weeks have included the following:

  • Inside mohawk, push back, back outside three
  • Swing roll change edge, inside mohawk with extension, back outside edge (step slightly out of circle), back three (turn on back of blade)
  • Inside three with free leg extended (turn out), step forward, cross, repeat on other side
  • Outside three, back swing roll, step forward to inside (like on the Ten-Fox or Argentine), syncopated progressive, repeat

The key is to do these exercises so that they form distinctive patterns down the rink, like compulsory dances. This is not the way I’ve been practicing them; I have a tendency either to rush my transitions or to hold certain edges until I’ve basically gone around in a full circle. (I think Mr. Howard would call the musical equivalent of this “play and pray.”)

This unintentional skating isn’t really where I want to go (ice dancing doesn’t really work by improvisation). Plus there is the added danger of another skater running me down because I’m moving in random directions.

It’s interesting that we are talking here about “intentions” rather than “goals.” It reminds me of my yoga classes, which my teacher would begin by asking us to set an intention. These intentions were also not concrete achievements or accomplishments (like wanting to get into a really smokin’ downward dog position or hitting crow pose without falling over.) They were meant to be guiding principles–not just for yoga class but for living.

In yoga, intentions are purposes or attitudes that help us direct and align our energies. Some examples might be finding compassion, acting with love towards others, or embracing change. These help us identify what we value in the here and now, rather than just projecting towards the future.

Usually setting an intention is not the first thing I think about when I get on the ice. There are all kinds of things on my mind, but I’m usually preoccupied with stuff that isn’t deepening my mind-body practice or helping me lead my best life. If I had to do a percentage breakdown of a typical practice session, it might look something like this:

5% – warmups
70% – basics (drills, exercises, turns)
10% – compulsories
10% – extra work on my latest pet peeve
3% – talking (this amount varies, depending on what’s going down at the rink)
1.5% – pulling up baggy tights, taking off extra warmup clothing, getting hair out of eyes
0.5% – selfies as needed

So along with my push towards more intentional skating, I think I might also try to set some skating intentions. There are a number of ones I’ve used for yoga that translate easily into skating terms.

  • practice gratitude (thank you, coaches! thank you, fellow skaters! thank you, rink and zamboni guys!)
  • be more patient
  • seek help when help is needed
  • feel joy (yay!)
  • free mind of clutter
  • appreciate balance

At very least, they might make me more open to appreciating how wonderful all kinds of skating moments can be. Today’s moment was when suddenly all the tots got tired, the parents stopped yelling at them from the sidelines, and most everyone went home, except for the figure skaters.  And the sun came and shone in through the windows.


A moment of calm and relatively empty ice, leaving room for all kinds of intentions to take shape.

Here’s an all-cello version of the second movement (Andante Cantabile) from Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet #1, played by the Rastrelli Cello Quartett. Listen for the beautiful theme at 2:15.

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 “Intentional skating and skating intentions

  1. I do a variation of the Mohawk-step-backwards 3 exercise you mentioned. I believe mine is from a MITF test (not sure which one but it must be from the standard track). Love the strategy of making movements with a purpose. My coach is always telling me that we are skaters, not walkers. We need to make sure we are skating and flowing across the ice with a purpose. Easier said than done, I say!


  2. Yes, one of these days I will have to get back to MITF. You are right, Eva, it is easier to write about than to do!


Leave a Reply to Joskates Cancel 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