jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life


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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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Core twist-in-progress

I’ve been paying a lot of attention this week to my core: more specifically, to my navel. I realized after a lesson on brackets that I wasn’t really twisting my core enough (like wringing a towel, they say). So after trying this, I realize that this movement is entirely lacking in most of the things I do.  This includes swing rolls and three turns and loops as well as other moves. Once I tried actually turning my navel in the direction of travel, it was like magic.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. How have I failed to do this for so long?

It’s probably because this is a fairly subtle motion. Now, if it were a full twist of the spine, I might have picked up on how important this was. For instance, if I were a cat, it would be really important to know to twist so I could land on my feet.

cat-righting-reflex

Cats instinctively develop this sense, and it works beautifully even when they are being tortured in zero gravity.

I find watching that video pretty traumatic, mainly because I identify strongly with that floating cat now. I know that I’m supposed to rotate my core but I’m not necessarily sure how much or when.

And I’m sure I’ve had this lesson before. But who knows where or when?

Sometimes you think you’ve lived before
All that you live to day.
Things you do come back to you
As though they knew the way.

Oh, the tricks your mind can play!

Lesson:

  • slide chassés: make sure your pushing hip doesn’t fall behind, keep feet really parallel and even so you can just slide the foot forward without keeping weight on it.
  • back right to back outside left edge (back chassés): think about elongating and staying strong through left side on new edge so you have something to push to; don’t “crunch” side.
  • brackets: don’t “overturn” upper body–use core twist instead; remember that everything faces out.

 

 

 


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Posture progress

Well, in the past few weeks I have felt much better about skating. It’s not that I have added any new tricks to my repertoire, but I am finally feeling like my posture is better and my positions more secure.

I have been working really hard on keeping my core engaged and the front of my hips “flat.” This makes me do more of the work with my glutes. I am also trying to make sure my feet and ankles are fully engaged. And that my knees are bending enough so that they move in front of my skate, not just on top.

The trick is that I have to do this all the time.  It’s like that old song about “always”: not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

Of course, when I’ve done it enough times (snort!) I won’t have to think about it. I’ll just do it and it will look like magic. And everyone will think, wow, how does she do that? It must be the leopard skin! (Okay, it does move attention away from the perfect alignment and deep knee/ankle bend.)

02-Tessa-Virtue-and-Scott-Moir-winter-olympics-2018-billboard-1548

Most of the time I think I’m the luckiest person in the world to be able to devote time and energy to this.  And sometimes I think, oh no, not again! Today I felt really, really tired–one of those days when I had to pat myself on the back for making it through an entire session.

Still, progress is happening!

My son wanted me to share this song through this blog. It happens to be a perfect reminder that I need to (1) use my glutes, (2) bend my ankles, and (3) engage my feet–here, there, and everywhere. I got this!

Lesson notes:

  • Left outside three turn: less twist through hips, more through upper body
  • Inside forward three: think about where your “tail” is pointed after the three (don’t immediately go to open-hipped position)
  • Back outside three: allow hips to rotate into more natural position on inside edge (don’t allow arms to rotate instead)
  • Back power pulls: no tipping into circle, work on knee bend and not staying up too long, don’t force a dramatic “rip”
  • Outside-outside mohawks: “J” edge, don’t let free leg drift into circle (it will make you flatten)
  • Back power pulls: don’t use arms, keep free leg behind skating leg
  • Left back inside edge, counterclockwise toe-toe-toe turn to back outside right, cross in front, cross in front, repeat on other side  (don’t forget to turn your head in the direction of travel)
  • Chassé, swing, change edge, mohawk, repeat (really bend your knee)
  • Back outside-outside (like a choctaw, only to an outside edge)
  • Forward three, push back to back outside three, toe through to repeat on other side
  • Inside to inside mohawk (like a blues choctaw, only it’s a mohawk) don’t bring in free leg with hamstring-use glutes instead
  • Really bend your knee and ankle (engage foot)