jo skates

Skating in the key of life

What do the blades say?


Every so often I realize that it’s up to me to change what I do in my life. No one is going to make me get more sleep or start on my new big work project or consume more kale. These things don’t just happen, even though they are good ideas.

This is true on the ice as well. Even though my coaches give me lots of helpful corrections and advice, it’s really up to me to make these changes if I want to skate better.

This week I’ve been noticing how my new blades are way more responsive than my old ones. I compare it to when my son got a longer bow for his cello; though harder to control, it immediately presented more expressive possibilities and range. These blades are way faster, and have much more of a rocker. I can change my foot position and instantly deepen or change my edge.

This is a little scary. Actually, it’s a lot scary. Laurie and I spent this week’s lesson on stroking and progressives, and much of it was terrifying. Here are my notes:

  • stroking: work on stretching and maintaining turned-out tension in free leg position (don’t let your calf spiral in). After you release the free leg, work on having a more precise free foot position (bring in the foot behind, load, and push)
  • forward progressives: listen for the noise of the free foot coming in (this tells you that something is wrong).  Make sure you get to an inside edge immediately (articulate your ankle). Also, don’t cross over: the inside edge hits slightly “outside” the circle. On the release, think of the knee leading and bending.
  • back progressives: head position (check that your head is not down and too far around). Make sure you stroke out at an angle; define each stroke with a good free leg extension. When pushing to back inside edge, bring in free leg in a circular motion.

Okay, those notes don’t capture the fear factor at all. The scary part is that I am so used to just setting my feet down on a comparatively flat surface, and now it’s get on a real edge or die.

These new blades tell me that it’s my responsibility to get on the correct part of my blade. They are speaking loudly and clearly: this doesn’t just happen by stepping onto my blade in a relatively genteel fashion.

All the basics have to be there already. Of course I have to activate all the correct muscles to make my edges happen dynamically (ooh, I sound like Eric Franklin!). I have to use my feet and ankles, and apply pressure down into the ice, rather than just thinking about balancing my body above my feet. I have to make like a vacuum cleaner, actively sucking each new edge into place (Noo-Noo!) And let’s not forget the dorsal fin.

My blades are also saying that they can do a lot more than basics now, if I will just put myself out there.

I like to think that my old blades talked to me as well, encouraging me to stick with skating even when I felt really off balance. “We’ll catch you, Jo! You’ll be okay!” The new ones have no patience for words of comfort: no more minivan, no more mac-and-cheese, no more cozy blanket. They’re telling me that I need more extension, deeper knee and ankle bend, more speed, quicker transitions, better edges. In other words, I need to get myself in gear, ’cause we’re going for quite a ride.

And it’s only been three days. What kinds of conversations will we be having in a month? A year? I reckon they won’t be about kale!



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 do the blades say?

  1. So happy to hear that your new blades are more responsive, Jo! It’s funny that with old equipment, we could always blame our mistakes on bad blades, boots, etc. But with new equipment, it’s now user error! 🙂


  2. User error, I love it! I expect quite a bit of that before I get it right. Thanks, Eva!


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