jo skates

Skating in the key of life

I’ve got the power (almost)


First things first: I got a notice from my friend Shihoko about a “step and spin” adult skating camp that is happening October 6-7 in Sheffield, England. Here’s a link to the information, in case any readers are interested:

Videos and pictures from their earlier camp made it look like great fun; wish I could be there! Instead, I will be trying to put my skating body back together here at home, a process that is both exhilarating and painful.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of seasons thinking and working on specific anatomical areas. The good thing is that I now have a much better understanding of particular parts of my body: the muscle groups that make my hips go, for instance, or how ankle bend works. But the danger is that I miss the integrated nature of skating movement. By fixating so much on my left hip, for instance, I tend to forget what my right side is doing. And all the progress I’ve made in strengthening the lower half of my body won’t do me any good in learning how to keep my head up.

So this season I will try to think and hopefully skate a little more coherently. I’ve started up fall lessons, and in a moment I’ll post my notes from this past week. But I wanted to spend a little time today writing about the bigger issues that I am working on, most of which I’ve touched on before.

First up is weight transfer. This came up on my lesson with Laurie on basic stroking. I still tend to spend some of my time in between my skates instead of fully committing to the skating leg and then completely shifting my weight to the other leg. Monica Volkmar at the Dance Training Project has an excellent post on weight shift for dancers that has been really inspiring for me. She does the anatomical explanations and exercises much better than I can.

In order to get to that full transfer of weight, I need to work on ankle and knee bend, especially as I shift onto that new skating side. I tend to put my weight down on the new skating side, bend just enough to absorb the weight but not enough to allow for the full transfer of momentum. Then I compensate by breaking at the hips and leaning my upper body forward. Needless to say, that does not work so well.

The ankle and knee bend is something that I have been working on off-ice, especially since I feel like that motion is limited on my right side. When I bend my knees, there’s a point at which my right ankle stops moving in a relaxed way, probably the result of scar tissue. I have to really think about a smooth action in the ankle joint. Sometimes these things are not just in your head!

The down side is that my right ankle is a bit sore this week from all that additional exercise and mobilization. The plus side is that I’m finding all kinds of cool videos to watch to inspire me to keep this process up. This first one is anatomical (and pretty technical, I warn you). It illustrates the motion of the ankle and lower leg when the foot moves freely (open chain), as opposed to when it has to move against the ground or ice (closed chain).

The second, one of many fun slow motion videos of skaters, shows how a smooth ankle motion can help me do a spectacular quad toe into a nice spread eagle.

Okay, that was a fun fantasy! But back to reality: as my ankles are bending more fully, I’m beginning to be more aware of how I distribute the pressure of my foot over the blade, whether front to back or side to side. I became acutely aware of this yesterday during my lesson with Ari, in which I experienced the agony of foot cramps (the horror, the horror!) doing back power pulls. Ari was trying to get me to do them by using my blade pressure and knee bend and rise (rather than swinging shoulders) to change edge. Ouch!

Two more big-picture goals are to keep my head up and to get more speed. Laurie stresses how looking down at the ice is essentially another form of misalignment; similarly, Ari keeps emphasizing that doing moves slowly means that your body never learns to use speed and momentum properly. That is probably a polite way of saying that my lack of speed is driving him (slowly) insane.

I have to acknowledge that this is true. Even in slow motion, Yuzuru skates faster than I do. A slow motion video of me might well look like I am standing still. Better get cracking!

Lesson notes:

  • stroking: practice weight shift; really get over each skating hip
  • alternating progressives: timing (don’t spend too long on inner edge)
  • outside-outside transitions: practice bringing in free foot toe to instep in parallel while deepening edge (knee and ankle bend)
  • posture, head up
  • 3 turns: skating side lead, don’t put too much effort into free side
  • forward outside three, edge pull (on axis), forward inside three edge pull, then do these with two edge pulls
  • edge pulls: first third is ankle/knee bend, the pressure into the ice happens 2/3 through, then more knee bend, then rise, then knee bend. Use blades, not shoulders.
  • outside back threes: get good push into them, need much more speed. Turn head (and upper body) much more.
  • inside back threes with free foot in front. Again, turn head and upper body to look in direction of travel.






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 “I’ve got the power (almost)

  1. I have the same issues as you, Jo… breaking at the hip, not looking up, need more speed, etc. Are we the same person? 🙂


  2. It would be fun if we were the same person, Eva! Then I’d have that nice split jump (with the balletic line)! I suspect that others share these woes as well–at least we can commiserate!


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