jo skates

Skating in the key of life


Skating ennui

Ce n’est pas possible!

But a number of weeks ago I did have a lesson with Ari in which, after asking him to look yet again at my left forward outside edges, he said “I’m bored.” Then we had to move on to other things, like outside mohawks.

Skating is all about circles and repetition anyway, so it’s easy to see how one might feel stuck in an endless loop (and not even as a jump). Every day I go back and do the same things again. Oh yes, I do them in a different order, just to mix it up a little. But there’s a lot of repeated motion, and no dramatic moves (jumps or spins or lifts) to break this up. And what’s more, there’s no guarantee that things will improve, or that even if they do, that the outcome will be exciting in some kind of demonstrable way. I’ll still be skating the same patterns, maybe faster (or maybe not).

It’s enough to inspire an existential crisis. (Okay, this is an excuse to share one of my favorite internet cat videos; there is a whole series of “Henri” videos, but I like this one especially.)

Strangely enough, though, I feel far from bored these days. Most days I am exhilarated by every little new insight into those edges (pity my poor coaches!). I had a lesson yesterday with Laurie in which she noticed that on the left forward outside edge (1) I was not leaning into the circle, and (2) I was not really using my foot, ankle, and calf to deepen the edge. She had me lean into her on a left forward outside edge and I had a lot of trouble with this position. (I realized that the weakness that I’ve noticed in my left side planks is consistent with this.) I also had trouble turning my navel slightly towards the left.

We also worked on three-turns again, this time adding an exercise of straight-line threes with the free hip consistently turned out. And I got three new sequences from Ari today:

  1. three-turn, back progressive, back cross stroke, step forward, forward cross into another three-turn, repeat the rest. Then switch sides. The focus this week is to make sure I maintain my check. I have to keep looking in the same direction and don’t step wide after the three turn–but lower down on my back inside edge so that the transfer of weight allows me to step onto a true outside edge (instead of a flat or inside edge, which is what happens when I step wide).
  2. left outside edge, cross behind to inside, outside-outside transition, right outside edge, cross behind (alternating cross behinds). This is really challenging, given the build of my legs (something about the tibia-knee-something ratio). I have to sickle my new foot and cross while keeping a marble’s worth of space between my knees. Then I have to remember to rise up before I change feet to the inside edge and let the old outside-edge foot come out in front.
  3. inside three-turn with the foot coming into parallel (like in the Harris tango), then an extension forward with the free leg (again in the style of the Harris tango), rise, step forward onto outside, inside (3/4 progressive), then repeat on the other side. This is really challenging for me on the left side three-turn.

Excitement plus! So maybe the trick to avoiding ennui is to think of skating as exploring what it means to move differently one little move at a time, rather than as trying to perfect something that will never be perfect. That, and not to pretend that my ten thousand repetitions of the kilian will ever amount to more than, well, simply the fun of doing the kilian (which is getting way more fun, by the way, in case you were wondering).

Ah, the delight and quiet contentment of the small, mundane, and everyday. Like my perfect breakfast of yogurt and blueberry crisp (made with frozen wild Maine blueberries). Delicious and perfect fuel for those outside edges. Can’t wait to get to the rink.

Okay, here’s one more internet cat video. Don’t worry, this one is very short.