jo skates

Skating in the key of life


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Eternal mysteries of the skating mind

How is it that I’ve skated for so many years without really being on an edge?

How can something so difficult, frustrating, and exhausting also be so exhilarating and addictive?

Why is it that I would brave a half-hour drive on icy roads to get to the rink when I am too lazy to go downstairs to make a piece of toast?

Why is it called a power pull if I’m supposed to push rather than pull?

These are mysteries that are just too deep for me to solve these days. I just go with the flow. And I do have flow, because I have figured out at least one or two things that seem to help with everything I do.

One thing is that I need to stay on the “uphill” part of my blade. It’s amazing how much easier it is to push and glide from there.

Another thing is that I still need to work on transferring my weight more effectively. I still tend to “fall” from one skate onto another, rather than actually pushing. This is especially true when I am pushing from right to left. An old injury on my right ankle has made it so I favor that side and don’t really engage the inside edge (or the glutes that are supposed to push).

Laurie told me to think about my skates as being like two canoes side by side. To get from one to the other safely, you can’t just jump or tumble or dive; you have to push smoothly and allow the force to be transferred into the new canoe.

I’ve been working on this off the ice as well, especially as I do lunges: glutes engaged on the “pushing” side as I move the other leg forward, then the same thing in reverse as I move back off the forward leg.

All this sounds a little abstract, but it works for me. I’ve been trying to keep the weight over the pushing side longer, and to make sure I am really grounded and pushing from that side, rather than simply releasing into the new side. It seems to be working, but it’s certainly far from consistent. It’s using all kinds of different muscles (including mental muscles), so by the end of the session, I’m pretty much wiped out.

It’s taken me many years to learn to do it the wrong way–hopefully correcting it will take far less time. At any rate, it’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun contemplating skating’s many mysteries.


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Happy 2020!

Happy New Year to all! May this year bring peace and joy and positive changes both on and off the ice.

I’ve been feeling really happy lately, especially about skating. During the holidays, I was mostly off for a week, except for a (gasp!) public session complete with loud music, wild children, disco lights, and (ack!) rental skates. But get this: even that was fun. My niece and younger son went with me, and afterwards we rewarded ourselves with homemade hot chocolate. And I congratulated myself on not getting blisters and not getting taken down by a stray child. 

Once I got back home, my regular public session was there to welcome me back. Though there were still plenty of people, it felt empty in comparison. And my regular skates feel like luxury vehicles with cruise control and heated seats and state-of-the-art sound systems, and . . . you get the picture.

I am also happy that the corrections I was working on before leaving on vacation are still   making a difference. I am working on making some basic changes consistent (these are all related to one another):

  • making sure I actually am on an edge rather than just balancing on top of my skate.
  • getting on the correct part of my blade. This means keeping my ankles flexed and shifting slightly forward through the ankle so that I can actually feel my arches engage.
  • pressing my shins forward.
  • getting my tailbone to rotate more downwards, and elongating the front of my hips. This means that my lower abdominals engage.
  • making sure my leg bones are firmly in my hip sockets, and not twisting in or out unconsciously.
  • keeping my upper body from tightening up unnecessarily.

This sounds like a lot to keep in my head. But because everything is connected, just fixing one thing (like where I am on my blade) makes everything better. I’m starting to feel like I’m actually skating rather than just shuffling my feet around on the ice.

My son just sent me a video of Cory Henry, who can keep an amazing number of strings going at the same time. Hats off!

Here’s to making something so complicated sound so easy. Can I finally make all these body parts work in harmony? Perhaps getting this holiday mug was a good sign.

IMG_9825

Here’s hoping for lots of skating in 2020!

 

 

 

 


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Feeling good, moving well, repeating myself

Scientists have been studying the way people learn new skills, and some believe that practicing different variations on a task, rather than just repeating the same task over and over, helps you learn better. This is due, they think, to the ways in which the brain recalls and processes its memories.

If any scientists out there has funding to study this with adult skaters and needs a test subject–I hereby volunteer!

So at my lesson last week, Laurie told me that my upper body is still moving around in rather random ways. She told me that I should avoid being one of those inflatable figures they use to advertise car dealerships and mobile phone stores. You know, the kind of thing that attracts your attention through flopping around in unpredictable ways.

 

Inflatable

Inflatable man?

Columns_in_the_inner_court_of_the_Bel_Temple_Palmyra_Syria

Or pillar of the community?

Some of this unwanted motion was definitely in response to being uncertain about my edges as well as alignment. I’ve been working on getting a much more solid connection between what’s going on in my blades and what I’m doing with the rest of my body.

Yesterday I went to a rather crazy public session and spent most of my time trying to figure out the optimal spot on my blade for edges.

Today I was inspired by Mary’s post at FitandFed reminding me of Ben Agosto‘s term, “glankles,” in which bending your ankles also fires the gluteal muscles.

This “theme and variations” strategy seems to be working. I’m feeling way more stable this week. Hopefully this will last through the upcoming holiday season.

Some Bach–even with all the times this has been repeated, it’s still beautiful.

Lesson notes:

  • Outer edges from push back: don’t scrunch left side of torso.
  • Lunges: practice basic positions. Also practice just deep knee bend on two feet with feet parallel and not allowing knees to fall inwards.
  • Outside edges: think about where your ribcage is. Turn in new skating foot slightly to grab edge from the beginning.
  • Back inside edge: make sure you are on the correct part of the blade.
  • Progressives: think about what is going on in the skating hip (slight turning in, turn out as the free leg elongates, then the action of the free leg coming in makes it turn in again)
  • Edge pulls, generating speed as you go.
  • Inside and outside mohawk: allow hips to “soften” when the free leg comes in. Work on exit edge
  • Swing roll with edge pull, change edge mohawk: continuous action. Don’t touch down! Do swing roll into skating arm; then arm stays in same place to allow mohawk to turn.
  • Extra work on right swing roll: allow free leg to come around (not directly in or kicking through). Use the straightening of the skating leg to put pressure into edge. Keep hips under.
  • Inside mohawk, push back, toe to heel, back outside three; alternating: foot immediately in front on back edge, mini-edge pull.
  • Inside Mohawk, triple three
  • Three turn, change edge, cross in front, change edge, step forward and repeat on other side: use that back inside edge power pull!
  • Inside counter, back choctaw: work on just allowing the back edge to come around on the back choctaw and just “sliding” off it.
  • Rocker, immediate back three (flat).


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Curling lesson

Some friends of ours went to a fundraiser and came out with a two-hour curling lesson. They invited me, my husband, and son to join them. So today after we shoveled ourselves out of the snow, we drove to the Chaska Curling Center, which is the national training center for USA Curling. It’s a super modern facility (opened in 2015).

Despite the fact that there are a number of curling arenas in the Twin Cities area, none of us had ever tried curling before. We had two really patient instructors who took us through the basics and then split into our two teams: the Mixed Nuts and the Curling Irons (my friend Emma is very creative). Then the games began!

It was super fun. I never quite got into the most efficient lunge position, and wound up sitting down on the ice quite a few times after releasing the stone. But I managed to get the rock down the ice nonetheless, and even helped score a few times. And boy, sweeping the ice is way more enjoyable than sweeping my kitchen floor.

Though curling doesn’t seem all that strenuous, it definitely made us tired and hungry. Several hours later, we all enjoyed a very late lunch at the restaurant which conveniently overlooks the curling arena. Luckily, my husband was there to drive home while the rest of us zonked out in the car.

While I’m not sure I would hang up my skates in favor of the curling broom, I definitely would do it again. Ice sports rule!

 


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Gratitude

A few weeks ago I went on vacation (the beautiful island of Kauai), and the day I got back to skating was pretty rough. I had been off the ice for nearly two weeks and went to the rink only a few hours after  a long flight back. When I started my feet were all swollen, and I could barely get my skates on, let alone feel my edges.

But as the week went on and I gradually got over jet lag and back into the skating groove, I’ve been realizing how much my skating has improved in the past few years.

To begin with, I am much more in control of my edges. Instead of a brief delay every time I got on a new edge (this was often very brief, but I still could feel it), I feel like I know how to get right on the edge. What’s more, I can actually deepen and accelerate edges at will. While I’m not able to use every edge to generate power (you’ll see from my lesson notes how much this is a priority!) I’m getting better at this.

Aside from post-vacation euphoria, what is going on? Well, several things that seem to be working in my favor.

One is a postural correction. In my Pilates class, PT Sarah has been telling me to “bend your knees without really bending your knees”: imagining that my thighs are moving forward as if my knees were starting to bend, but not actually bending at the knees. This makes my lower abdominals and glutes engage as if I were tucking my hips under (posterior pelvic tilt). But the important thing is that I’m not actually changing my hip position that radically.

Instead, I’m trying to learn how to turn those stabilizing muscles on without allowing the hips to go out from under me, whether forwards or backward.

Hip-posture

Another is that this improved posture actually allows me some more mobility in the hip joints. I am actually figuring out how to use the hip joint not only for stability, but also to do turns and deepen existing edges.

Laurie suggested that on cross strokes and progressives, I think about my free leg as folding in and helping to deepen the edge. This seems like a small change, but it makes a world of difference.

So just (a) the right amount of sunshine and snorkeling, plus (b) better posture through the hips, plus (c) hip movement and mobility, plus (d) free leg helpfulness equals one happy skater! Add some friendly skating buddies and there you go! You don’t need to ask me what I’m grateful for this year.

I’m usually a “glass half empty” kinda gal, but I can’t resist.

Lesson notes:

  • Progressives. Be aware of movement in the hip joint.
  • Powerpulls. Watch position of free leg on inside edge (not too far over in front of skating leg).
  • Back chassès. Work on the direction and stability of the inside edge push. Connect this to the action in the hip joint (leg turns in but then moves back to neutral or even turns out).
  • 3-step pattern with inside mohawks. Work on establishing third position before the back inside to forward inside. Stronger forward inside edge.
  • Forward cross strokes. Bend free knee to allow weight to deepen into the skating foot. This is also important on forward progressives; make sure you do this on both the outside and inside edges.
  • Forward inside three, cross over front, back inside threes (in circle).  Work on establishing a stronger inside edge into the three, rotate in hip joint, try to get rid of the skid, hold back outside edge longer before crossing.
  • Creepers.
  • Swing roll (try to get a power pull), change edge, inside mohawk, quick step to change feet, push forward to repeat on other side.
  • Inside three, back cross, outside three-mohawk (continuous action), repeat on other side.
  • Different entry edges twizzles. Keep skating hip slightly open, skating side leads on entry (rather than letting body swinging around), ankles together.
  • Inside counters. Use inside edge pressure to “jump” the turn.
  • Forward power pulls (inside, outside, inside), inside mohawk, back power pulls (inside, outside, inside), step forward, repeat on other side.
  • Swing roll, (try to get a power pull), change edge, inside mohawk, power pull, step forward on outside edge on other side, repeat.
  • Outside rocker, cross in front to back outside (change arms at the same time), back cross stroke.
  • Forward choctaw, power pull, step forward, tuck behind, repeat on other side.
  • Three step outside-outside mohawk. Do this on pattern. Make sure your free side stays elongated.
  • Inside mohawk, power pull, back outside to forward inside (choctaw).


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Roasted ratatouille

Today I found myself with a fridge full of vegetables that need to be used, and a hankering to bake something. I looked at a number of recipes online and decided to make ratatouille. Lots of chopping, and takes a while. But it’s well worth it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes. I left the skin on. I also tossed the cubes with some salt and left it in a colander in the sink for 15 minutes before roasting. I’m not sure this did anything (but they were nice and salty).
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large onions, quartered and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 medium zucchini in 1/2-inch rounds
  • 3 colored bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch strips. I used red, yellow, and orange ones
  • several tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped. I did the “boiling water for ten seconds and ice bath” to peel them first, but next time I may skip that step.
  • springs of fresh herbs. I used rosemary and oregano (not yet killed by the frost).
  • bay leaves. I used dried ones.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread each set of vegetables in a single layer on large, lightly-oiled sheet pans. I used two large roasting pans. Sprinkle some oil olive on top (or you can toss each set with a bit of olive oil before putting them in the pan). Then roast them in this order:

Roast the onions and 3 cloves of the minced garlic first for 10 minutes. Then stir the onions, push them to the side, and spread the zucchini next to the onions. Put the pan with the onions and zucchini back in the oven. Add a second pan with the eggplant. Roast both pans for 15 minutes.

Stir the onions and flip the zucchini. Stir the eggplant and place to one side. Add the peppers alongside the eggplant. Roast everything on the pans for 15 minutes. Stir each set of vegetables and put some salt on top.

Finish roasting (maybe 15-30 minutes more.) Everything should be nicely roasted and just a little bit brown (my eggplant/pepper pan wasn’t quite done, so I broiled it for a few minutes at the end).

While the other vegetables are roasting, chop the tomatoes and the last clove of minced garlic. Sprinkle with some salt and bay leaves.

Place all the roasted vegetables together in one pan along with the tomatoes. Stir until mixed evenly and spread out in the pan. Roast for another 45 minutes. Lots of recipes recommend adding chopped fresh basil or parsley at the very end, but I didn’t have any. It was delicious anyway!

Unfortunately I was so busy chowing down that I didn’t take a picture. I may just have to add one on the next go around, or you can use your imagination. It doesn’t look as pretty as the carefully layered versions, but it’s sure a lot easier to make (and I think it tastes better).

I also made some oven sweet potato fries (peel, chop, toss with olive oil, and bake) at the same time. This was quite the post-skating feast–and balanced out the leftover Halloween candy nicely.


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Quick to judge

I used to be quite opinionated about skating. Just ask me who my favorites were, and I could rattle off a list of names and programs and elements–and even costumes.

But I must be mellowing out, because the other day someone asked me who my favorite skaters were this year, and I had trouble answering. Okay, it’s partly because I’ve been watching for so many years that the list is getting awfully long.

But I think it’s also because everything is on YouTube these days, and I get the chance to watch programs throughout an entire season. I get to avoid watching an entire competition; I can even stop mid-program if it’s clear that it’s not a particularly good day for them. Or, I confess, if I need a snack (watching that many revolutions sometimes requires kettle corn.)

I must say that I do like Nathan Chen’s “Rocket Man” program, and I thought Alena Kostornaia’s long program at the Finlandia Trophy was quite breathtaking. And there are a number of dance programs that I like quite a bit (like Jean-Luc Baker and Kaitlin Hawayek doing the Bee Gees).

Beyond that, no need to play favorites, at least at this stage. Or maybe I’ll just say that my favorite skaters are some of the folks I see at the rink during the week!

I got my skates sharpened last week after months of waiting. The first couple of sessions afterwards felt a little–sharp (duh!) But yesterday was OMG! Amazing to have instant edges again.

No lesson notes today (had to miss last week). Am still working on the following:

  • turning in at the hips,
  • pressing shins forward,
  • being farther back on my skates,
  • engaging my ankles and using my feet,
  • using my ribcage,
  • keeping my head up, and
  • skating happy to my favorite Bee Gees song. Thanks, Kaitlin and Jean-Luc!