jo skates

Skating in the key of life

A green rubber ball


I’ve been doing lots of exercises to strengthen my feet and ankles (theraband exercises, calf raises, “short foot“). Today I added in exercises with a small rubber ball, sliding it back forth under my foot from each toe to heel, then curling and uncurling my toes around it, then moving it side to side.



But now, ouch. It felt pretty good while I was doing it, but now my left foot is a bit sore. Still, I think it’s a positive sign that I’m getting more mobility in my foot now.

I’ve noticed lately that my left foot is also getting more muscle tone. Plus it actually looks straighter than it did. I used to think that my left foot was slightly smaller than my right, but now I’m realizing that it was actually underdeveloped and twisted so that it didn’t quite point straight ahead. Now I’m happy to say that the left foot seems to be catching up in size as well as strength.

Feet are so important to skating, but we tend to forget about them since they are encased in those thick boots. We forget that they are armed with sharp steel! Today on my lesson I was doing back progressives, and Laurie noticed that I don’t always have as much of my foot down on the ice as I should. Having more blade on the ice immediately made everything feel more stable.

This makes sense. Not only does it keep me from rocking towards the ball of my foot and back (allowing my hips to go back and forth) but it also gives me more of a “feel” for the ice. This in turns makes it easier to control my edges with foot and ankle pressure rather than by swinging my upper body around.

Today’s lesson was full of things that I’ll have to go over in the next couple of days, but here’s some highlights:

  • inside to inside edges: do not transfer weight in that awkward way that you’ve been doing, please; practice dragging the free toe to get a sense of the correct position; make sure you turn out at the knee.
  • Viennese Waltz mohawk: don’t overdo the ronde de jambe idea; the free foot (right) passes through close to the left, and only then makes a little circle at the top. Then the right foot is drawn in with a little extra action (as in the ballet frappé).
  • Viennese Waltz outside to outside to outside: practice this drawing in the foot without coming up on knee and without rotating shoulders; this will help you learn to do it without a big hangover
  • Viennese Waltz back progressive “run” and change edge: do not rotate upper body out of circle; create edge with ankles instead. Make sure you maintain that last back outside edge around the same circle (this will be easier if you don’t yank the back progressive around). Then draw foot in close and parallel in order to accentuate this back edge before the change edge and cross.

In honor of my little rubber ball, here’s a song from 1966, “Red Rubber Ball,” which went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

It was co-written by Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel and Bruce Woodley of The Seekers and was sung by The Cyrkle (the bass guitarist and one of the lead singers Tom Dawes later became a jingle writer and did the memorable “Plop plop fizz fizz” song for Alka-Seltzer). But you didn’t really need to know that; it’s the optimistic attitude that matters.

And I think it’s gonna be alright
Yeah, the worst is over now
The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball

Only I’ve got a green ball, so . . . . And what’s with that starfish anyhow?



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.

4 thoughts on “A green rubber ball

  1. So happy to hear that your feet are getting stronger!


  2. I’m really just a beginner and I’m having some issues with edges – when my coach draws that half circles on the ice (one half going in one direction and then immediately another half circle going in the other direction) and I skate on it, I can use the left outside edge with no problem. When I switch to the right foot on the ice, it’s as if I have no control over that situation. I realized over the weekend (after putting some think time into it) that what might be going on is this: 20 years ago (yep, I’m that old and a beginning skater), I had a rather nasty back injury which injured the nerve that goes down the outside of the right leg. I had a big strip of numbness down the outside, from the knees to the ankles and across the top of the foot into my big toe. I also basically lost the whole ‘where is my foot and what is it doing?” sensation – so knowing where my foot was in terms of things like street curbs, stairs and so on was basically a loss. I sprained my right ankle three times within two weeks, for example. I had to relearn how to walk properly (I was basically walking with my hip and sort of half dragging my food – I felt like Igor), which I did through ballroom dance lessons. But over this weekend, I was on a walk with my husband and I concentrated on how I was walking and where the pressure in my feet was – where was I really walking; what part of each foot was I walking ON? That’s when it hit me – On the left foot, I was walking on the outside half of my foot – no wonder I had no issues with using the left outside edge of my skate. On the right foot? The inside half of my foot and even more importantly, the left-hand side of the ball of my left foot. In order for me to walk on the outside of my right foot, I literally had to roll my foot and ankle to the outside. No wonder, a) I have a huge callus on the outside edge of the ball of my right foot and b) I’m not engaging the right-hand half of my foot and the right edge of the skate. Not sure what exercises will help me there, but I certainly need to find a way to engage the right outside edge of my foot.


    • Toby, thanks for writing in. It sounds like your problem is the reverse of mine (I have trouble with balance on the left side). Those past injuries (ouch!) can really affect skating in the present. But I think working on skating actually can help identify and strengthen muscles that have become weakened due to postural problems. It’s great that you are self-aware as well as actively pursuing answers to why your body has trouble doing certain moves. That being said, I wonder if a good physical therapist might also help you. The one I’m working with now does Postural Restoration Therapy and has a dance background, so it’s been really great working with her. It’s a bit of an investment since my medical insurance doesn’t cover it–but I find a lot of benefits in only a few sessions. I figure it has saved me lots of pain–which is well worth the money!


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