This one’s for Eva, who asked me about off-ice exercises that one could do while sitting in a chair or standing in a cubicle at work. There are a number of webpages out there on the subject; I’ve adapted three of these exercises to target the particular muscles that I want to use for skating. Plus I’ve given them new names so that I seem more creative and original than just someone who repurposes web fodder (I feel bad enough about myself when I’m stuck in a cubicle!).
Aligned and kicking. The goal is to learn to sit in a pelvis-neutral position with core and glutes engaged. First, I look at this diagram and think about why the figure on the left is so horrifyingly familiar.
Then, I use the core and glutes to achieve the much better position on the right. For me, this works best if I imagine my pelvic girdle as a kind of bowl that needs to stay level rather than tipped; this requires that I pull my lower abdominals upwards and allow my back to lengthen downwards.
If I do this correctly and also engage my glutes, I can balance on my chair well enough to do a series of little kicks with legs bending at the knees (it helps that I am only a little over five feet tall and my feet don’t always touch the ground).
The floor is your friend. The goal is to feel a sense of dynamic alignment through my left side, all the way from my foot to my upper torso. The first step is to sit and engage core and glute muscles so that I am aligned. From this sitting position, I lean forward slightly and push up from both sides as if rising from a squat, all the while trying to feel how my entire side is connected to that foot pushing on the floor. Again, the key here is trying to maintain a neutral and stable pelvic position and not allow myself to collapse at the hips. Depending on who else is around, I rise all or part way up, then lower myself down again using the same muscles.
Standing hip hikes. The goal is to stretch the hip flexors and to practice shifting weight using the muscles of the standing leg. First I stand up and get into a nice neutral-but-engaged position. Then I shift onto one leg and lift the other by lengthening through the hip on the standing side. It is tempting to do this by actually lifting up from the free hip, but the goal is to develop those muscles of the standing leg.
I don’t normally work in a cubicle; I am lucky enough to have my own office where I can shut the door and do lunges when the mood strikes me. But I’ve gotten a taste of cubicle life this week. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s much harder to have skating fantasies in such a small space, but it’s still possible.
And there are other payoffs to being in downtown Minneapolis all day, like exploring some of the skyway system and discovering the food trucks during the lunch break.