jo skates

Skating in the key of life



So I read an article from the Waldorf School in Philly about how skating improves both proprioception and the vestibular system that controls balance and helps coordinate movement.  This is yet another reason to be happy about skating!

My approach to practice these days has been less about attempting new moves, and more about learning new ways of moving. I am trying to improve my overall quality of motion as well as my range of motion. I have noticed a definite improvement in both.

So this week I’m working on four things that are pretty basic, but that somehow I haven’t been able to get my head around before.

The first thing is that I need to allow my core to rotate as I move along my edge. I have been pushing off onto an edge and then hanging onto that position for dear life. Then when I need to do something else (like set up for a turn or do a swing roll or cross roll), I have so much pent-up force that my free leg is likely to swing around like Thor’s hammer.

Okay, that was an exaggeration. It actually wasn’t that pronounced. I have been skating in this way for so long that I have been able to disguise this flaw with sheer force of will coupled with the admirable but misguided muscularity of my legs. It just took a lot more effort than these simple moves deserve.

But once Laurie told me to rotate my belly button around, these moves became incredibly easy. So all week I’ve been paying attention to the direction of my navel. It’s like I have an imaginary umbilical cord leading the way!

What this helps: forward and backward swing rolls, cross rolls, most turns 

The second thing is to allow my hips to move in tandem rather than trying to isolate them. Once I tried this, smooth core rotation became even easier. It became embarrassingly easy, in fact, considering how much time I’ve spent torturing myself by focusing only on the position and movement of my skating hip.

What this helps: cross rolls, setting up for three turns and rockers, edge pulls

The third thing is that I need to think about setting down my feet on edges that are outside the circle that my body is going in, not directly beneath myself. Trying to set my blade down directly beneath myself has been the reason I do flats so much. In order to do this on, say, cross rolls, I have to transfer my weight to a skate blade that is already past my midline, not underneath my torso.

This makes it possible to envision my body moving in and out of edges underneath my head and torso.

What this helps: cross rolls, outside edges, mohawks of every kind, choctaws, Kilian pattern (in both directions), crossovers, Rhumba in Olympics short dance (as if!)

The fourth thing is to keep my weight over my pushing foot just a bit longer so that I get stronger push.

What this helps: whenever I push onto a new edge (provided I put that edge outside the midline).

Ooh, ooh, what my body can do! Of course, I’ve been told to do these things numerous times before, but for whatever reason, it has taken me this long to develop enough jo-prioception and vestibular wherewithal to make them part of my skating toolkit. I definitely appreciate how all these things make my body feel more efficient and confident.

As Laurie says, why take the bus when you’ve got a Lamborghini in the garage?

I am so lucky–on my lessons I get great skating advice and humor too!



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 “Navel-gazing

  1. What great visuals and analogies, Jo! Love the comment about not taking the bus when you have a fancy car. Now we just need to learn how to drive the fancy car, with navels leading the way!


  2. Thanks, Eva! I find it hard to get that picture of the car with the navel out of my head now! Loved those mixed metaphors!


  3. ” less about attempting new moves, and more about learning new ways of moving” Still getting my head around that notion. If it wasn’t for bad moves I wouldn’t have no moves at all! Some day even I might be able to do simple moves on ice with a sense of grace and efficiency. Lots to think about.


  4. Definitely agree that “bad” moves are better than no moves, George. But I definitely predict grace and efficiency in your future! It seems like your coach will settle for nothing less!


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