jo skates

Skating in the key of life


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Putting my “best” hip forwards

So at my lesson on brackets this past week Laurie noticed that I couldn’t shift my left hip  forward of my right without changing the level of my hips or the position of the rest of my body. We spent quite a bit of time just trying to get the right hip forward while skating on a forward outside edge.

Once again, I realized that the actual turn isn’t my problem: it’s the edge into the turn. If I can maintain a good edge, the turn is a piece of cake. I also realized that I still do a lot of skating (and other things in life) with my left hip slightly forward of my right, which benefits certain edges but screws up others.

If I try to force my right hip to move forward, all kinds of things go awry. I immediately start changing the rest of my body. Mostly I compensate for this by twisting slightly towards the left, so that I have the illusion of being neutral.

Once I tried to “encourage” my left hip to move forward, it seemed to help a lot. And this was not just true of brackets, but of many of the things I’m doing.

The lesson really made me think about how far I’ve come in understanding how my body works. I will continue to focus on getting my hips to move more “organically” as well as using more ankle bend for a better position over my skate. I also am trying to push down into the ice more to get more flow. I feel super-positive about these and other improvements that I hope to make. The new skates are working out great, and I have really been enjoying my regular time on the ice and having a chance to work at this.

The weather here has turned much warmer and the snow is melting! Spring is hopefully on the way.

Here’s my son’s suggestion for some super “chill” music to enjoy while I contemplate this new turn in my hips and hopefully the rest of my skating:

Lesson notes:

  • Brackets: hip position; remember that both entry and exit are “forced” edges so they need more attention to correct position.
  • Power pulls:  “sewing machine” action, with equal pressure into both the inside and outside edges. Also, think about keeping body on the axis, and making the edges equal on each side by pushing “outside” and away from the body.
  • New lunge exercise: forward three, push back lunge, push back lunge on the other side, turn into forward lunge, push forward lunge on the other side; repeat. Really push (don’t just two-foot); make sure you can hear those pushes.
  • Variation one: forward three, change edge, push back (really push and bend free leg in; make sure you are looking in the right direction), back three, toe through, repeat.
  • Variation two: forward three, change edge, push back , choctaw, toe through , repeat
  • In circle: inside mohawk, push back, back outside three. Don’t extend after the inside mohawk!
  • Inside three, toe push, inside edge, repeat on other side.


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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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(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!


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Once more, with feeling

So I must be back in some kind of presentable shape, because this week both Laurie and Ari are telling me to up my game.

Ari assigned me the backward double three (Intermediate MITF) and eight-step mohawk (Juvenile MITF) sequences, complete with introductory and exit edges. The objectives are to skate an actual pattern rather than just do edges in isolation. To that same end, Laurie gave me some exercises to try to get me just to move more confidently and to think about choreography rather than just basic technique. These involve basic edges and turns, but with different arm and upper body movements. Once I started doing some of them, she reminded me that I used to do things like that all the time.

So the fact that both coaches are getting sick and tired of watching me skate tiny circles in a tentative fashion is probably a good sign, even though I have been enjoying my leisure-filled, perspiration-free skating. Okay, I guess break time is over. Sigh.

Some years ago, back when I was still competing in Adult Nationals, Ari used to say, “You’re better than that!” as a way of getting me to skate harder. This past week I heard that again from him, and it reminded me that so much of this process of learning is mental as well as physical. It’s amazing how lazy I’ve gotten, even while I feel like I’ve been working hard.

Some of this is, of course, because I wasn’t really on some of my edges, and had some wonky muscle imbalances. But because those issues have improved so much, I can’t really use this as an excuse. It’s no longer the case that I’m incapable of skating faster and on deeper edges without falling over. It’s just that it’s, well, scary.

I never thought of myself as lacking in confidence, unless you count skating in a dress (that’s a whole ‘other kettle of fish!). When first I started skating, I would jump into things with heedless abandon (and I do mean literally). Now that I’m older and wiser, I have to unlearn some of that caution.

Just to get the adrenaline moving, here’s Cipres and James at the recent Grand Prix Final:

Okay, wish me luck. Woohoo, here I go!

Lesson notes:

  • edges pulls on outside edge: think about drawing skating side hip back to finish off edge pull (practice on outside to inside edge transitions)
  • outside three turns (use the skating hip to do the three)
  • in circle, with arm movements: outside three, back outside; inside three, step forward
  • with arm movements: alternating outside threes (use turned-out free leg and step forward behind)
  • backward double three (Intermediate MITF); both starting with outside and then inside back three; weight back more on crossovers
  • eight-step mohawk (Juvenile MITF)


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Back in the groove

The past few weeks have been busy with visiting family and work travel, so not a lot of skating. I finally got back on the ice this past Monday after what seemed like forever.

Could it be that I’ve forgotten how to skate? I certainly remembered a lot of my bad habits, like dropping my free hip down on outside edges. I’m beginning to wonder whether all those years of poor form have lodged themselves into areas of the brain that I normally don’t use.

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I am glad to be back, though. I did finally take the step to upgrade this blog so that there are no more ads, which I hope readers will appreciate.

Anyway, both lessons this week did a lot to remind me of how quickly I can fall back on old (bad) habits. But to my credit, I can recognize (with a little help from my coaches) that something is not right. I can even (with a little more help) correct it.

For instance, I have this tendency to drop my weight from one skate to another, rather than transferring weight over by pushing from one skate to another. I also tend to try to hang out over my skate rather than actually being on an edge, which makes it hard to use my edges in any purposeful way. I also sometimes still break at the hips, which means that my positions do not remain stable.

I could go on and on, but I have better things to do with my precious blog time rather than catalogue all my flaws. I’m hopeful that now that I’m back in the groove, I’ll have lots of positive things to report on in weeks to come.

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So here’s a piece that has been running through my head quite a bit lately.

Plus lesson notes!

  • Outside edge. Really be on the edge (work glutes on skating hip to get free hip higher).
  • Work on push (let inside edge on pushing foot move to outside of circle). Transfer  weight to new edge without falling forward (breaking at hips).
  • Remember that the back inside edge falls on the outside of your midline.
  • Forwards and backwards: 3 cross strokes and deep circle edge. Turn out free side against strong skating side. Going backwards: keep skating arm slightly bent and relaxed, don’t reach forward.
  • Back inside 3 (toe to toe, turn on heel), forward inside three (heel to toe, turn in middle). Check body position in glass.
  • Deep power pull swing roll, three turn, push back, repeat on other side. Do the swing roll with a deep knee bend and use your skating side to push into the ice. Don’t do the swing roll by swinging your free side around.