jo skates

Skating in the key of life


Let me count the ways

I found a video of the eccentric foot/ankle exercises I’ve been doing for my tendinosis, and as it turns out the exercise has a cool name: manual dorsiflexion.

Since January 7, I have been doing these 15 times per set, three sets per session, three times a day. That makes 405 times each day, for the past 33 days. 13365 so far, 36450 if I do the total three months as suggested. I’m going to be really good at it by the time I’m done, though “good” will be hard to assess unless you count the ways that I can now do this at meetings underneath the conference table without anyone catching on.

Skating is full of such repetitions, which we can think of as a kind of devotional practice. The numbers are fun to play with, but we all know it’s not about the numbers.

How do I love three turns? Let me count the ways.

I have actually done a few good three turns (not just “sort of” but “yes, that’s it” three turns) in the past few days. This means starting with a good edge, rising to feet together, turning by picking up the heel rather than leaning into the circle, and lowering on the inside edge to place the new foot down rather than falling onto the new foot.

How many of these good threes do I have to do to make up for the ones where I have fallen into and out of the circle or had a bent free leg or used my free side to fling myself around (fun, but wrong)? Let’s see, maybe if I do 50 each session, 250 each week (if I’m lucky enough to skate that much), 1000 each month. . .

This feels a little daunting. Okay, how about I don’t try to keep count, but just work on the general principle of doing as many correct ones as I can? I’ll have to figure out a way to think about this without getting hung up on the numbers. (It’s like getting older: how meaningful are those numbers, really?)

I got some more footwork exercises this week, thanks to Ari’s endless creativity. I think the idea behind this to vary the sequence of edges and turns so that I develop some facility in putting different combinations together, like traveling sequences in ballet class (which I was never very good at!) Here’s the list:

  • Three turn, push back onto outer back edge, outside back three (at top of circle). Don’t extend out of the three, but stroke push immediately onto an outside edge, then cross stroke (don’t forget to rise and bend).  Repeat on other side. I think you can do this with inside threes too, but I asked politely to be excused from inside threes this week.
  • Women’s European Waltz pattern without the end pattern. Everything (the transitions between outside edges, the post-three turn moment) has to have an inside edge bend in it, and an actual push from that inside edge. Yo, not a faux-push!
  • Tuck behind, inside mohawk, push back onto outside edge, then step forward, cross stroke and repeat on other side.
  • Double threes with cross stroke in between (without that rise and bend in the cross stroke, you are dead in the water).
  • Back crossover, change edge (feet come together), back cross stroke (I got this last week and really like it now).
  • Alternating back cross strokes (like in the Blues) with the emphasis on doing real inside edges.

The big posture issue for this week is to keep my left side in a workable position by using back and upper legs muscles as well as my glutes. I realized last week when I was looking at the picture of Irina Moiseeva from a couple of posts ago that she not only had her hip underneath her, but a much more pronounced arch in her lower back than I have been allowing myself. I realized that I was trying to keep my left hip underneath me by trying to do a kind of “posterior pelvic tilt” to correct for my “anterior pelvic tilt.”


This made it really difficult to skate with any knee bend. Instead of thinking of pushing the hip forward by tensing my glute muscles, I’ve been thinking about keeping a natural amount of lumbar curve in my spine. This seems to help a lot.


I’ll report back later on this change, which seems like one (or more) step(s) in the right direction. But who’s counting?


All clear! All level!

This morning I saw Megan, my PT, who pronounced my leg length equal and my hips level!!! So we are done with PT for this episode in which, to use her words, “your chassis was all cattywampus.”

We went over a final set of exercises for my foot. Here’s a new (medial) view of the tendons, since in my last post I provided a lateral (away from the center line of the body).384foot6

The affected tendon seems to be the tibialis anterior tendon, so she came up with an eccentric muscle exercise to do. I am to flex my foot with very little effort, then push down on the top of the foot to provide resistance while pointing the toe. I can do this seated using my hands, or use a theraband attached to the leg of the bed or circular weights around the foot while sitting. The trick is not to use force to flex the foot (this would undo the purpose of the exercise) but to really work the foot by providing downward pressure while it is unflexing.

So the recommendation for “professional athletes” on these exercises (which of course I will gleefully adopt) is 15 times a set, with 3 sets per session, punctuated by a 2-minute rest between each one. And I have to do this 3 times a day. For 12 weeks.

No calf raises for a while, and I must take it easy on stressing the foot in other ways, which I hope will be much easier now that my hips are level. (I didn’t really need to put that in boldface, but my rapture level is pretty high right now.)

We also talked about my relearning to walk and run and do other things on my new chassis. She gave me some ideas about Feldenkrais and Alexander technique, which I will look into. But the main thing to try is to pull my lower abdominals as I walk (or skate, or stand). When I do this, I can feel the muscles all around my left hip kick in, front and back, which is a reminder that I haven’t been doing this enough so that it’s instinctive.

So it’s a great day. It’s -6 degrees (F) outside with a wind chill of -28 degrees, so cold that our brand new dishwasher has stopped working and they cancelled school for my kids. But I’ll be singing as I’m doing the piled-up and crusted-on dishes and looking forward to those eccentric exercises and standing tall and level. Hooray!


Happy feet

I’ve been working on this post for several days now, but not been able to finish more than a few sentences. It’s a treat to sit down with a nice steaming cup of something warm (I’ve become quite a fan of Kava Stress Relief tea) and actually try to finish this post. But I have done this multiple times now, and each time something comes up: the email that begs attention, the clock saying it’s time to pick up kids, something cooking in the oven for dinner. Or bedtime for those of us who get up quite early (not to skate, but to prepare for the school bus that picks up at the outrageous time of–gasp!–6:55 a.m.).

It is very very cold here, so the cup of tea (or lunchtime soup, since it is so cold) becomes tepid or down right cold before I get back to it. Still, there are those moments of peace, when the only thing I have to do is tap on the computer–and tap my toes along with the music.

One of my goals for 2015: to have happy feet.

I confess that before last year, I did not give a lot of thought to my feet while skating. Oh sure, I’d have that occasional soreness in my left foot after certain moves. And after a hard-skating session, I’d breathe a sigh of relief after taking off my skates, but who doesn’t? Several years ago when Laurie was teaching us the Paso Doble, she had some great things to say about using one’s feet to help articulate the rhythm and style of the dance. But there were so many other things to think about in that dance that I am only now appreciating her comments.

It’s payback time. The last six months have proven to me how much you use those feet while skating, and how important every part of those feet are. I have been writing mainly about my misaligned hip, but my feet have been much more outspoken (if indeed feet could talk!) about all the posture and balance problems. It was my left foot that gave the clearest signal (ouch! help me!) that something was really wrong.

So after reading a number of web articles, I think I have tendonosis, a kind of degeneration rather than inflammation of tendons (tendinitis) in my foot. It occurs in the area of the tendinous sheath of extensor hallucis longus and/or the tendinous sheath of the tibialis anterior (the long blue thing and the blue thing above it that you can barely see in this diagram).


The difference between tendinitis and tendonosis is that, as one of the articles says, while tendinitis is warm and swollen, tendonosis is “abnormal collagen or protein buildup–the tendon’s microfibers start to resemble sticky, overcooked spaghetti.” (Okay, I’m going to need a moment to recover from that image.) Unfortunately tendonosis also takes much longer to heal (I’ve read from three to nine months), and persists in spite of rest, icing, anti-inflammatories, and all the treatments effective for tendinitis.

I am looking into different eccentric exercises that seem to be recommended by a number of sources. “Eccentric” here doesn’t mean skating around with a bag on one’s head; it refers to the type of muscle contraction. Concentric means that the muscle contracts in the same direction as the joint it moves; eccentric is when the muscle moves in opposition to the direction of the joint. The eccentric muscular exercises presumably help to break down all those sticky spaghetti-like collagen fibers and help the tendon remodel itself. I think this type of exercise is what I did a number of years ago to help with with a dogged case of “tennis elbow.”

The good news is that continued activity (without overdoing it) is actually more beneficial than just sitting around. And the even better news is that my foot does seem to be improving with stretching, massage, and these exercises. Less pain, more mobility.

Speaking of pain–ack, time to shovel snow before it gets trampled into our walk. And then time for bed. I will add pictures tomorrow.

Gotta love those feet!