jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Cleaning house


January, with its long hours of cold and darkness, is a good time to clean house. I’ve been organizing things into piles to keep, donate, and throw away. It feels good to let go of things that I won’t be needing again, especially when it’s something that someone else might make use of and that’s been just taking up space in my closet or the back of my drawer.

True of skating as well. The thing about skating is that you don’t really want to be carrying around a lot of unnecessary gear. And you most certainly don’t want to be carrying around old habits that don’t work for you anymore.

For instance, take my tendency to turn my upper body in exaggerated ways when skating forwards on my left foot. I trace this tendency to some of the problems I had getting my left hip underneath me. Because I wasn’t properly aligned over my left side, I would turn my body towards the left, especially when I was trying to do a left outside edge. I would also pull back my left shoulder to balance my left inside edge. This made me feel as though I was actually deepening my left edges, but in fact my edges were fairly flat and I was not well balanced over them.

Now that my left hip is better positioned, I no longer need that grand illusion. Ari and I talked a lot this week about how I need to make myself create the edge with my foot, rather than turning my torso. The hard part about this is definitely mental rather than physical: making myself do rounder edges without pulling my upper body into the circle to create them.

Once I have that down, I think the other part of the puzzle will be to know when to release the hips and upper body so that they can move into the circle and help me with three turns. Laurie and I talked about the problems of trying to keep the hips too rigid, and the fact that there is a constant and subtle change of hip position in skating. One hip leads, then the other, even when you stay basically square to the circle.

Of course, both coaches have warned me about the dangers of over-thinking this. What can happen is that you are going in for a move, then suddenly think “Wait, I am leading with the wrong hip!” or some such. Then you’ve missed the boat completely and BOOM, CRASH, down you go.

So I guess it’s the Marie Kondo method for me: when I catch myself doing something I don’t need to do, I will gently thank that particular body motion for all those years of hard service, and then just give it up.

Thank you, shoulders and upper torso, for trying to twist me over my left outside edge. We’ve had many happy years together working on those progressives, chassés, swing rolls, and all kind of moves. I appreciate how much you’ve tried to make me feel balanced.

Thank you, legs, for trying to do back cross rolls by pulling back and plunking yourselves down. I know that was a way of making me feel like I was doing something productive.

Thank you, free leg, for releasing early and coming in alongside my skating leg without knocking me over on those forward outside edges. But Ari and I have talked about how I look like a sad flamingo and how that needs to change.


Lots of variety with those free leg positions!

Okay, it’s not like it’s going to be that easy to give up those habits. But hopefully I’ll keep myself occupied trying to use those same body parts in other ways. Here’s some lesson notes.

  • alternating threes on a line: outside and inside. To stabilize that back inside edge, work on free leg position with knee turned out; let hips come around on the threes. To help with that inside three, think of the free foot as tracing a bigger circle, like a rainbow.
  • back outside/inside eights
  • power pulls. Push down into the ice to rise on knee, no flappy arms.
  • cross rolls with thumbs in front. Keep new hip back, create edge with foot, not upper body (upper body winds up facing out of the circle).
  • cross rolls backwards. Don’t step back, but using skating foot to push fully and extend.
  • alternating outside edges. On the left outside your upper body should not be twisted to left–create the edge with your foot, not your upper body. Bring foot in turned out, then it goes parallel on the changeover to the inside edge. Push to an immediate outside edge. Try for rounder edges.
  • double threes. Stay on middle/back of blade instead on forward on the blade. Use speed to create lean.

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 “Cleaning house

  1. Gosh, I wish I could just purge all of my bad skating habits!! That would be amazing. I love your advice about the alternating inside 3s. Those have always been awkward for me and my stork legs. 🙂


  2. Yes, Eva, I wish it was as easy as just throwing the bad habits away! But good skating can’t just be bought (although it helps to have money for lessons). Go inside threes! Those of us with flamingo and stork legs can have hope!


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