jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Bend down! Straighten up!


I have a lot of skills and abilities. I know where most commas go. I know not to clap in between the movements of a symphony (Mozart! Haydn! Bring it on!). I know enough to dig up all the dandelions in my yard before they send their tiny aerial seeds aloft into the world. (Dandelion lovers, don’t worry! There are several fields of them nearby.) And I make a mean oatmeal cookie.

But one thing I don’t do particularly well is bend my knees and ankles. I had a physical therapist once ask me why it was I wanted to learn how to squat in the first place. (I stopped working with her after that.)

Achieving more ankle/knee bend has become my next set of physical goals both on and off the ice. On the ice both coaches have asked me to work on a variation of a two-foot side lunge in which I touch the ice. (Just imagine Jason here going around a curve, keeping his right blade on the ice, and touching the ice with his left hand. It’s sort of like that, only much less aesthetically pleasing.)


I’m supposed to do these forwards and backwards on both sides, up and down the ice. There are several impediments to my doing this. First and foremost is that I have trouble bending down that far. On my clockwise side it seems to be my stiff right ankle, but on the counter-clockwise side it’s the left hip. I can’t win!

The second problem is that I get a little dizzy when I come up. This used to happen to me as a graduate student when I spent time squatting down looking for books on the bottom shelves of the university library. I would stand up and before you could say “orthostatic hypotension,” I would get so dizzy that I’d have to sit down on the floor (which sort of defeats the purpose of standing up, I guess). I don’t think this will be a serious problem on the ice, since I’m not going down that far and not coming up particularly fast.

It’s humbling to find that not only don’t I bend well, I also don’t fully straighten my knees on moves. I’ve been put back on the “swing roll regime”: outside and inside, forward and back, making sure my skating leg and free leg fully extend and that I stay on a good curve, with speed. Will it ever end?


Oh well, at least those don’t make me dizzy. Maybe if I fully extend, though, I’ll be so tall that I’ll get vertigo (haha!)

Lesson notes:

  • outside-outside closed mohawk exercise (figure out where your head needs to be).
  • side lunges, touching ice with hand inside circle (lean in, not forwards).
  • swing rolls, fully extended (you heard the man, fully extended knees and hips forward).
  • swing roll, change to inside edge, mohawk, outside edge, step forward into the same sequence in the opposite direction.
  • inside mohawk, push back, back outside three

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 “Bend down! Straighten up!

  1. What a gorgeous line from Jason Brown. If only all of us were as flexible as him! Come to think of it, Jo, I’m not sure if any coach has ever taught us HOW to bend our ankles. We always hear about knee bend, but not ankle bend. Do you have any awesome drawings or graphs on how to achieve a proper ankle bend in skating?


  2. That is such a great question, Eva! I’m going to have to give this some careful thought and get out my magic skating/drawing pencil!


  3. I have a lot of those same issues. I rarely fully straighten my knee. I hate to fully straighten my skating leg on spirals, I feel less stable (but I’m working on it). Same problem with the free leg on stoking and everywhere. I just had a tip from coach Sharon Baker to practice locking my free leg out straight by pushing my heel down. That does work, and now as part of my stroking practice sometimes I’ll push my heel down to straighten my leg and then point again.

    Love that photo of Jason! Oh wouldn’t that be cool to do a great side lunge like that? I’ve never even thought about trying. On squatting: I too had a professional question why I would want to squat, in my case my physiatrist. He said that squatting isn’t good for people my age anyway. I didn’t even feel like going back! At least I got my PT prescription, but really! Don’t we all need to squat down and get back up, at any age?


  4. Mary, it’s comforting to know that I am not alone. That is a good tip about the heel–will try that tomorrow if I get to the rink. And maybe I’ll have to keep a picture of Jason around in case anyone ever asks me again why I need to squat!


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