jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Where did everybody go?


This summer’s skating sessions have been quite busy. Granted, I usually practice on public sessions. And it’s been a rather cold and rainy summer overall, which means taking kids to the pool (or around here, the many water parks) isn’t always an option. Even the figure skating sessions are usually busy too, with kids trying to take advantage of time off from school.

So imagine my surprise when I went to an open figure skating session last Thursday, and I was the only one there for the entire time. Yes, one and a quarter hours of just me. There wasn’t even music playing until the rink staff realized how quiet it was and put the radio on.

Just me and Adele singing her torch songs. Not that I don’t like Adele, but there is a limit to how much I can hear about love lost forever before I want to scream. (“He’s not worth it!” “Just pull yourself together already!”) As if there wasn’t enough to be depressed about these days.

After a while, though, I realized that having the rink to myself meant I could (a) pretty much tune out anything these days when I’m working on those edges; (b) actually practice without worrying about running into someone; and (c) skate consecutive patterns to my heart’s content.

I ran through my entire usual set of exercises and found I had nearly half the session left. So I added in some stuff that I haven’t worked on in a while. One of these things was starting patterns from a dead standstill. It’s always tempting for me to take a running start into everything; it’s definitely easier, especially on a crowded rink, when I can just cruise into moves rather than standing there in a T-position looking for a break in public session traffic.

When I used to test and compete, I had to make myself work on that initial push and acceleration, and it never felt particularly good. But in an empty rink, and with my newly honed pushing skills and dissolving free leg, starting felt much better–at least until I started trying to do it in reverse (clockwise).  Then I had to go back to breaking it down to figure out how to get myself moving.

Basically, I am still needing to do more to keep all the proper muscles engaged as I bend and push. As this is something I have written about at length in this blog, I’ll just say that the correct pressure through the foot, ankle bend, and glute/core/back activation all matter.

Whenever I go back to something basic, I also have that immediate reaction: “Wait, didn’t I already go over this?” I have to remind myself that drilling basics is necessary at every level. No, I’m not regressing or devolving, I’m perfecting! (Snort of laughter). If I need conformation, all I have to do is watch those many YouTube videos of speed skaters perfecting their form, just trying to get that little extra boost. It is isn’t something you can do just by changing your outfit (though some may try).

This was confirmed in my lesson, which really put the alignment issues into play. Here’s my notes.

  • forward progressives: work on glute/core stability on skating side to offset beautifully dissolving free leg.
  • exercise: hold outside edge, bring free leg precisely and quickly back and in, while engaging glutes/core on skating side so that hips don’t shift.
  • back chassés: think about angle of back push and new edge.
  • exercise: back chassés, but bring two feet together before pushing to learn where the proper set-down is for the new foot.
  • back push from inside edge: glutes/core and hip alignment.

So here’s to the new semester, off and running. Here’s the scherzo (third) movement from Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings (op. 20) to get us in the mood. Busy, busy, busy!

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 “Where did everybody go?

  1. Wow – so jealous that you had the whole rink to yourself for that hour and a half! It’s a glorious (yet eery) feeling, isn’t it? I’ve had the fortune of having my own ice when I travel for work and skate those dreaded 6am sessions. But, it’s a wonderful way to listen to the beautiful (or scratchy, in my case) edges and really see the tracings. Happy September!


  2. Thanks, Eva! Fortunately Adele was louder than my scratchy edges (and more in tune than my whining). I found it really exhausting to be a solo skater for an entire practice. But how incredibly dedicated you are, 6 am practice. I did that a few times in years past–really hard to get moving in the cold at that hour!


  3. If I ever get the rink to myself on a public session, and it does happen sometimes on school days first thing in the morning, that’s my chance to play my own selections of music. I’ll ask them to turn off the music if they’ve already put some on, then I plug in my phone and crank up a favorite Pandora station,


  4. I have gotten very laissez-faire about music at the rink. Even when I get a chance to play some, I often don’t–or I keep playing the same old songs. Pandora is great for folks like me–gives that selection without having to make your own playlist. You’ll have to share your picks with us!


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