jo skates

Skating in the key of life

It’s all in my head


That title doesn’t mean what you think it does. No, I’m not going skating-crazy, although the term “skatinsanity” does come to mind.

Literally, some of my skating problems have to do with the weight of my head. Laurie pointed out today that one of the reasons I’m not bending my ankles enough is that my head is tipped slightly forward, just enough to bring my weight into the wrong place. To counteract this, I send my hips back.

I have been told countless times to look up, but all I do is get my eyes peeking up while continuing to keep my head down. She suggested thinking instead about rolling the weight of the head back slightly. And what do you know? I was in a much better position on the blade, and was able to bend my ankles like a champ.

As I was looking for pictures of skaters to illustrate this “head weight slightly tipped back” position, I realized that they all have their head weight back! I could find very few pictures of elite level skaters who have their heads tipped forward as I do (unless they are doing it for dramatic choreographic effect, or have some kind of terrible moment that we’d rather not think about).

With their heads in the right place, look at them go!


This provides another way of thinking about body position. It especially helps on the transition from back outside edge to forward outside edge. Laurie suggested thinking about not only the head weight going slightly back, but also the movement of the nose “like a rainbow” as I turn forward.

I realize that all these descriptions are pretty strange to non-skaters. But one more before the “skatinsanity” is finished today. When I corrected my head position, suddenly everything got a lot better. My forward progressives were so polished, in fact, that Laurie suggested that I complete the picture by working on my hand position. I tend to droop my wrists (especially the right one) unconsciously, which looks more than a little awkward.  It’s an easy fix, but I haven’t bothered to do it.

As Laurie puts it, having that one strange wrist position is like being in a really gorgeous outfit, but failing to notice that there’s a piece of toilet paper stuck to your backside. Funny!

Okay, some lesson notes:

  • forward outside edges with hips facing forward (not opening outside the circle)
  • swing rolls: push onto new edge without “unfurling”
  • progressives forward and backwards: experiment with rolling the weight of your head forward and back
  • three turn, back outside edge: weight of head back, make “rainbow” with nose
  • Kilian choctaw: rotate core towards right twice (not just arm); don’t need too much body twist if your core is actually rotating.

And a musical selection that is totally unrelated–but I wish I could skate as well as Ben Bliss (what an apt name) sings. Like buttah!

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.

8 thoughts on “It’s all in my head

  1. One helpful visual my ballet instructor gave me was to pretend like you have a grapefruit underneath your chin. It should force you to lift your head up (even though it doesn’t help with the downward eyes bit). Maybe you could try that too?


  2. A grapefruit would definitely do it! It’s definitely a change from what I usually do–the muscles at the back of my neck are feeling it!


  3. I quite like the nose “like a rainbow” idea.


  4. I’m so glad you like it! I find it really helpful to keep my head moving in the right direction.


  5. I’ll have to try tipping my head back to see if that helps my back edges and swing rolls.


  6. I hope it does, George. I found that doing it with back edges is a little scary (since I feel like I’m leaning back) so do it in moderation!


  7. Having my head tipped up from the chin only is actually part of my slumped/collapsed posture. When I lengthen from the neck and get my upper back arched and my shoulders down it actually tucks my chin more down. Once the posture is correct, raising the chin a little for effect is a different thing.


  8. Mary, I get the lesson on having my shoulders hitched up nearly every week these days. You are so right that it’s all connected! I also find that rotating my “head weight” back a bit helps me lengthen my neck properly; I used to lengthen it by tipping my head weight forward even more. One day I’ll get all the pieces straightened out–hope it doesn’t take me another four years!


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