jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Better late than never


I told Kari and Sonia and Lisa today that I have discovered the secret of eternal skating. Sonia’s response was “what, again?”

Okay, so I am given over to hyperbole on occasion. But I did discover something new and exciting that I’ve been doing all wrong. Again!

Part of the reason it’s exciting is that I don’t think I would have figured this out if not for some basic improvements that I’ve already made. I am doing much better about left side alignment, engaging glute and ab muscles, and not letting my hips tilt back unnecessarily. With all those good things in place, I discovered why I am still having trouble with one really basic movement.

I still have trouble turning my body clockwise while balanced over my left hip. If I stand on my right side, it’s easy to just rotate my body inward by turning at the hip joint. On my left side, though, I have to concentrate really hard to keep everything lined up, and even then that movement doesn’t easily happen.

This became really clear this week when I was working on inside left turns. When Ari told me to rotate my belly button to face inside the circle before the turn, I rotated my shoulders, my torso, everything except my navel. And the reason was because I couldn’t balance on that leg and then rotate from the hip joint.

Now the light bulb is on! That inability to turn out my left hip has made it hard to achieve the correct position in many different moves (like mohawks and three turns). And it has led to more stress on my joints (like my knee) on the right side, which have to work extra hard to compensate.

But now that I’ve identified the problem and can pinpoint on this basic movement, I can work on this while I skate. And while I stand. And while I sit. I just think about my posture and then try to stabilize that left hip and rotate my torso from the hip joint.

It’s a small movement, but now I feel like I’ve been using muscles I’ve never used before. I feel stiff and inflexible. But that’s better than feeling like I just can’t do this at all.

In this video of Kseniya and Oleg doing outside-outside mohawks, you can see this in the split second before the mohawk. Their leg swings through parallel, but then they rotate their skating side to an open position to do the mohawk itself. Just watch the belly button!

Since I have always felt that I had limited turnout in my hips, I am happy to discover this untapped resource. Amazing that I am finding this out so late in life. But better late than never.

I read a really moving story in the N.Y. Times by a man who had to change his movement patterns and re-learn how to walk–when he was in his 60s! Jacques Leslie was four when he had polio, and had walked with a pronounced limp ever since. A couple of years ago a physical therapist told him that he risked increased falls if he didn’t change the way he walked. And she told him that his limp was unnecessary; it was caused by weak muscles and compensation patterns, not because of physical restriction.

So he worked at it every day for about a year and a half, gradually building strength and flexibility in his right leg and side. And he learned to walk without a limp. Wow.

It is amazing what even bodies with years of ingrained muscular patterns can be trained to do. Probably one of the most inspiring dance-related videos I’ve ever seen is about how the actor Gregg Mozgala, who has cerebral palsy, worked with choreographer Tamar Rogoff to create a dance piece entitled “Diagnosis of a Faun.” Here’s the accompanying article.

I am so humbled by these stories. How much patience, belief, and hard work went into their physical accomplishments. When I complain about my misaligned body, let this be a reality check! I am so lucky to be able to skate and to walk and to do all those other things with relative ease. Even though I’ve got some alignment issues and a bit of tendonitis, I can definitely do something about it–and it doesn’t require anywhere near the effort and guts of these guys. Their stories inspire me to identify and work on my own movement issues. If they can change their bodies for better balance and more mobility, so can I.



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 “Better late than never

  1. Wow – what an inspirational story! The mind is such a powerful thing – if you *know* you can overcome something, the body will eventually cooperate and make it happen!


  2. Yes! It’s also crucial to have other minds at work–like my coaches and physical therapist–to help break down these skills into smaller, more digestible movements.


  3. Loved the dance video and accompanying article. I’ve also put my PT into perspective, in my case by seeing how hard my mom has worked for over a year in PT to regain the use of her dominant hand– a much more basic and important function than the ones I’m working on. ‘Not letting my hips tilt back unnecessarily’– that’s a delicate way to put it. I’m trying to avoid that, too, it’s something that happens way too much in my dances. Core work like log rolls is helping me use the TA more, with the goal of connecting the core, glute, and everything else while skating.


  4. Sounds like you are doing lots of important off-ice work, Mary. Yes, those rehab stories are really inspiring for those of us who are trying to improve physical function. For me, it’s a whole new way of looking at skating as well as not taking my body for granted. By log rolls, do you mean this or this ? I tried the first one and almost killed myself? Will try the second instead.


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