jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life


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Put up more speed!

So when I was little, we lived at the top of a really steep hill. It’s hard to imagine now that I live in the flatlands, but this must have been at least 2-3 blocks of a really steep grade.

I’m not making this up. Wikipedia says that North Bergen, NJ, is the US city with the second-most hills per square mile–and second only to San Francisco.

Anyway, my sister and I would be in the backseat of our family car, our ’66 (?) Plymouth Valiant. As the car would make its way laboriously up the hill towards home, we would pretend to step on our imaginary gas pedals and yell “Put up more speed!” We thought this was hilarious.

Anyway, you’d think that growing up on those hills I’d have the strongest legs in the world. Wrong! Skating demonstrates that I indeed have retained my imaginary sense of putting on the gas. I am doing much better in terms of lining myself up over my blades, but I am going putt-putt-putt-gasp rather than cruising along at warp factor one.

Ari told me that I had to try to go at least 5 mph. I’m not quite sure what that means, so I’ve been looking at the speedometer when I’m driving through town. That doesn’t seem to help.

No magic needed here. I think what I need to do is just, well, go faster. Bend my ankles and try to push into the ice whenever possible. Resist the temptation to just hang out over my skates.

Luckily, rinks are not built on hills! So here I go–5 mph or bust! Good thing I have plenty of fuel (a.k.a. pies) and friends to share the hilarity with.

Okay, and music! I seem to be on a “Broadway productions I’ll never see” kick. Here’s Kelli O’Hara in a revival of a Cole Porter classic. I love her voice, but it seems a touch slow. Dare I say it? Put up more speed!

Lesson notes:

  • ankle bend and shin action. Progressives are good!
  • back crossovers–emphasize push on outside edge
  • three turns–free leg pushes out to side.
  • inside mohawks–turn out on forward inside hip so that new edge can be set onto same circle
  • outside mohawks–remember “J” curve and be careful about the placement of the new foot (not outside circle)
  • alternating forward inside change to outside, cross stroke–remember to bend and rise (push into ice to get more power)
  • back inside change to outside, cross in front, step forward, inside mohawk, repeat on other side–turn free leg in on inside edge (to really get over that edge), bend and rise (more power!)
  • forward mohawk, back outside three, toe through to repeat on other side–SPEED, PUSH!
  • forward inside bracket, back inside, step forward outside, repeat on other side–think about the axis of the bracket turn, use core twist and heel to turn (not flinging), watch posture.


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And the boot goes on

So according to this Minnesota Public Radio article, Lake Superior is over 94% covered in ice now. They’ve built “The People’s Rink” by shoveling off the snow in a serpentine pattern. If it weren’t almost three hours away, I’d be tempted! After all, that’s what winters are for,

There is a lot of outdoor skating around here, but I confess that I’ve become a real prima donna when it comes to my ice time. I like it climate controlled, Zambonied (or should that be “Zambonified”?) on a regular basis, and preferably marked with clear lines so that I can be lazy about marking an axis for my warm-up circles. Music, but not too loud or too soft or too angsty. Oh, and not more than ten other people unless they’re total beginners and therefore clinging to the boards. Three if they are working on doubles or higher.

This is very funny because those conditions don’t affect me in the least. I have plenty of room to skate at most of my sessions–more than I need, in fact. I am not trying to get programs or patterns in, and I’m usually the most random skater out there. There are a few regulars who are quite serious about getting through their practice routines, but I pretty much know who they are.

Much of what I do these days is still focused on trying to get my body to move more efficiently and naturally on the ice. Skating these days pretty much feels like a physical therapy workout: isolating certain edges and movements that don’t feel right and then trying to figure out how to improve them.

This past week I have spent quite a bit of time just trying to get my boots on right. Let me explain. During one of my lessons I was having trouble doing a deep forward left outside edge. I tried adjusting my hips, pressing my knee forward, leaning my upper body. None of that really helped. Ari then asked me which side of the boot I felt pressing into my ankle. I replied the left side, which seemed to make sense to me since I was trying to “tilt” my skate over more to the left.

Wrong. As it turns out, I’ve been going about this all wrong.

If you take a look at these doctored speed skating photos, you’ll see what I mean. First the outside edge:

outside

It’s a bit hard to see, but I think you can tell that the pressure generated by the tilt of the blade is actually on the top inside of the ankle.  I had been trying to shove my weight onto the outside edge not by pressing down on the outside of my foot but by loading the top of the boot in the wrong direction.

You can see this principle working more clearly on this picture of an inside edge. The outside top of the boot is really pressing into the ankle.

inside

So since this discovery, I have been going through a major reassessment of all my edges. My right side seems to do this more naturally; my left side needs constant. . . well, encouragement. But the good news is that a little bit goes a long, long way.

Okay, finally got this post done (after several re-dos). Last thing to add is a song. This one is from the musical Waitress. Lots of great versions out there (including one by Sara Bareilles herself) but I find this one particularly moving.

 

 


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Well, blow me down!

Skating has been really awesome on the days that I’ve been able to get there. For those of you outside of the state, Minnesota has had its snowiest February ever, with 31.7 inches so far. And the month’s not over yet.

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My husband took this picture in a school parking lot.

Oh well, at least it’s February and not like April 14 of last year. So far the snow this year has yielded several kinds of cookies, gluten-free apple muffins, banana bread, chocolate pound cake, and the latest, a Japanese-style cheesecake (my second try at making one, here’s the recipe I used).

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Fluffy Japanese cheesecake

When not whipping egg whites into soft snowy (argh, not more snow!) peaks, and covering my kitchen counter with powdered sugar, I have been trying to keep up with skating.

I am happy with my new skates, which are now fully functional. So functional, in fact, that I can’t use them as an excuse when Ari says “bend your ankle.” But I confess that much of what I’ve been working on these past couple of weeks feels like physical therapy on ice. Here’s the list (everything is about posture):

  • weight on correct part of blade (especially when skating backwards, when I tend to be too far forward on the blade)
  • bend ankles, not knees (this will help keep the weight there)
  • “skating hip flat and forward”
  • use hip muscles (gluteus medias) on skating side to keep from dropping free side
  • use feet on inside edges

The other day at my lesson I was lamenting the fact that I tend to try to barrel through things rather than to figure out what is really going on. Laurie came up with a really great quote, something about “there’s more in the toolkit than just a hammer.” I laughed and told her I wanted to quote her on that, only by the time I went to write the quote down, it was gone–except for the hammer part. Darn!

So I went online looking for similar quotes, and only found “If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” Good quote, but not quite the same.

Anyway, I am trying to expand my range of skating skills, not my list of pithy quotations. (Though Laurie also had a good one about digging around in the weeds, ’cause that’s where all the tasty stuff is. . .okay, it’s a metaphor!)

Okay, time for an inspiring and totally kid-friendly video: from the thoroughly enjoyable Zootopia. My favorite parts (aside from the lyrics about falling and getting back up again) are the sloths and the back-up singers. I hope that on the ice I move like the latter, not the former!

 


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Life is good!

Nothing like a polar vortex (minus 28 degrees F was the worst for us here in the metro area) to make me grateful for temperatures above zero.

Nothing like several bouts of white-knuckle driving through fog and snow and ice to make one appreciate being at home.

Nothing like several days of shoveling to make me appreciate some clear and sunny days.

And skating again, ah . . .

Several other things that are making me happy. First is that my new skates and I are getting along great. They are still stiff (what a great feeling to take them off after each practice!) But I have now switched over 100%. I find that they (a) provide much more support, and (b) make it much easier to turn, which shouldn’t surprise me, given how worn out my old skates were.

Another plus is that the new skates are slightly longer, which means that my right middle toe no longer gets cramped up. Given that I am trying to use my feet more, I need all the toe-help I can get!

Second is that I have started do more regular bouts of off-ice exercises and stretching, and even added some weights to this mini-workout. I think this will help my skating, too.

Third is my son’s college auditions are over (fingers crossed!) and I think (hope) that I have finally finished some of the busywork that has been taking up room in my email in-box. ‘Tis the season!

I tend to worry when things are going well (you never know when the next snowstorm is going to hit) and I know that my email in-box will fill up again, probably by tomorrow. But I’m trying to just enjoy these moments. Life is good!

 

 

 

 


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Belly up!

The following is something that I wrote several weeks ago, and never posted. After I wrote it, I took several trips and was away from the ice and lessons (and this blog) for what seemed like ages. So now I’m ready to write a different post, but didn’t want to hit “delete” on this one.

So here’s what I wrote (on approximately January 21):

Okay, maybe saying “Belly up!” gives the wrong impression, as I m neither drinking nor dying right now, and certainly not on the ice. But I am reminding myself that I need to engage my core muscles. And not just any core muscles (though I know there is an awesome six-pack hiding down in there somewhere) but those around the lower spine, hips, and pelvis that will help stabilize my skating moves.

I have written about this before, but there are also a number of dance/Pilates sites that describe which muscles I’m talking about, like this one from Goulet Ballet.

After several years of Pilates, I am getting pretty good about isolating and exercising these muscles on the floor. But on the ice, that’s a different story. I feel like my head gets taken up with different things, and while everything is improving, I am still lacking the confidence and trust in those stable positions.

It helps to think about lifting the lower belly as well as lengthening the lower back. So I’ve been doing this a lot off the ice as well as on. Wish it would become an ingrained habit so I wouldn’t have to think about it so much, but there you are.

It is pretty hard to acknowledge that this is still where I’m at, skating-wise. One of the reasons I haven’t really done this is that these are small and sometime hidden movements that have been difficult to register, especially in comparison to the large motions of the free leg and upper torso that are easier to feel.

But as in the rest of life, sometimes it’s the little things that make the most difference. So I’m taking advantage of this time when transitioning to my new skates (up to 45 minutes! almost ready to switch completely!) to make sure that I’m really in a good place.

My lesson notes are truncated this week, but that’s not because I didn’t learn anything–it’s just that there is so much to do on all. Belly up!

  • Push to outside edge (particularly left outside). Really check your position and prepare for it ahead of time. Get on immediate edges.
  • Three turns. Make sure you fully rise and use your core twist. Check position.
  • Back crossovers. Don’t cheat either push.
  • Deep inner edges, forwards and backwards. Use your feet.
  • Inside counters.

 


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(S)hipshape

First, an homage to the ingenuity of this skater over at Lake Minnetonka, whose video caught the attention of Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins.

We are into the thick of winter now. I am starting my sessions skating in turtlenecks, fleece, and down jackets. But I warm up quickly these days, since I’ve been determined to  begin the session with things that feel particularly challenging: double threes, power pulls, that eight step mohawk pattern, the Kilian and reverse Kilian so that I am equally terrified in both directions, skating with my arms moving through positions (not flailing around).

Oh, and figure eights. Backwards and forwards, inner and outer, then with three attached. I never realized how difficult it is just to hold a proper edge. This past week Laurie and I worked on not “sitting” into my hip. I realized that I’m actually supposed to rise up on my knee and use the edge to accelerate as I do so. (I tend to just sink lower and lower and let the edge devolve into chaos.)

This is so basic that I can’t believe I haven’t figured this out earlier. But I’m just chalking it up to getting back into ship-shape: though in my case it’s hip-shape (groan).

Okay, that was so bad that I have to redeem myself by posting pictures.

Lesson notes:

  • edges: don’t sit into skating hip.
  • three turns: working on loading the foot (knee bend, pressure and twist) and checking.
  • progressives: don’t allow the force of the push to cause unnecessary upper body motion.
  • back inside edges: finish the rotation.

 


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Happy new skating year: 2019!

So happy to be back on the ice after yet another break for a family vacation. This week-on, week-off thing really is not very effective for getting in any kind of skating condition–or in breaking in new skates.

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Yes, here they are! All mounted with new blades and ready to roll. Don’t they look stiff?

It has been a while since I did the new boot thing, though I replaced my blades a few years ago. I’m hoping that this will not be too bad. I have been been in them on four different days. Day 1 was 10 minutes, day 2 was 15 minutes, day three 3, 20 minutes. But today I only lasted 15 minutes, so I seem to be retrogressing.

I’m still skating in my old faithfuls for most of the session so I can get through at least some of my moves. I’m sure the new ones will break in much faster once I take the plunge into wearing them for longer, but for now, I’m trying to ease into the transition. It’s like the sloooow walk into the cold water; at some point you just wind up diving in.

Okay, time for 2019 skating resolutions!

  1. Break in new skates without whining.
  2. Skate as much as possible.
  3. Master the art of the “flat hip” (meaning not breaking at the waist) and other useful positions.
  4. Assertiveness training: no more “nice” wimpy edges.
  5. Build some endurance/aerobic training back into skating.
  6. Rock those inside edges!
  7. Cover more ice (as Ari says, “You’re not that short!”)
  8. Oooh, lots of turns. Fun, fun, fun!
  9. Get back into patterns: dances, moves.
  10. Enjoy good skating company. Here’s a sample!
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Jeff, Brenda, Jo

Happy New Year, everybody!