Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dec 30: Whining on the ice

"Boh-zhe-moy!" I exclaim after nearly falling backwards while doing back cross rolls. Coach grabs my hands and stops the fall. Disaster is averted. "My boot is too tight. I can't get ankle bend."

"Don't be whiney," Dance Coach laughs. "We do it again."

I'm having a terrible time today because I pulled a muscle weight lifting, now every time I twist to the right a pain shoots up through my spine.  I spend a lot of the lesson whining 'Can't do that,' to various requests. Still progress is made on the Canasta Tango and the Rhythm Blues. For all the evil step behind is a curse upon skaterkind, once you learn the evil steps, the rest of the dance is pretty fun. The Canasta Tango though, that's requiring more power and edges than I'm used to.

"So, what is Russian for 'whiney or whiner'?" I ask. I have fans, they must have a russian word in every lesson post.

"There is no russian word for whiner. Russians do not whine."

Man, he's just full of jokes today. I'm tempted to ask if Russians discovered America, but that's from the Cold War, and he's too young to get the joke.

In two weeks he'll decide if I test in  February. Two short weeks. Two dances. Rhythm Blues is looking good, but in the Canasta Tango (sigh) there are moments my brain refuses to function right after the second swing roll. At those moments, I look like this....


The canasta tango makes me want to cry....

Friday, December 30, 2011

Broken ankle recovery

Alejeather asked for my recovery story. It's a story fraught with good medical care and decent recovery.

When I finally got to my hockey playing podiatrist 3 days after the accident (so nice to have a doctor that skates) I still didn't have any symptoms other than pain. I could put weight on the ankle to walk, but I couldn't walk up the stairs. That was the extent of my limitations.

Hockey Doc told me I had a clean break of the fibula (the little bone), straight across, with no offset. He put me in a plastic cast, the kind with velcro straps and told me to get some crutches. I was told not to drive. Thank goodness for the van pool.

In about two months, the doctor told me I could stop wearing the cast. Four months later he said I could skate. Unexpectedly an unrelated issue arose and I couldn't skate for six more months after that. So that was a total of a year off the ice.

Return was a lot harder than I expected. All I could do was forward stroke. That.was.it.
From the time of the accident, it took me 18 months to be free of the pain from the injury. I had to completely relearn my skating. I also had a boot related issue that slowed me down and had to change boots. Typical. Unconsciously, I developed the bad habit of looking down at the ice during 3 turns. It took a while for coach to fix it.

Everyone's story is different. I was going slow when it broke, so the damage was limited. If I'd been going fast, I expect I would have had much worse injuries. In a way, I was lucky, I had a text book recovery.

The only thing that I have for advice for people with a similar injury, is to always take your crutches with you even if you're in a walking cast. At one point I was in the cast and didn't need crutches, but I found that when I went to the movies or the store or a restaurant, the crutches kept people away from me. It just takes one person bumping into you when you're in a walking cast, to break the other ankle. Milk that sympathy for all it's worth.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Breaking an Ankle--on Ice

Yesterday's post was about 3 turns and my difficulty with them. My difficulty arose because I had broken my ankle on a 3 turn, and during my skating restart I had developed a phobia over them. Now I'm going to share my story.

The Big Guy (6'3", 280 lbs, edges like an angel and lovely single jumps), my skating Guru, and I went to a different rink than our home rink so he could take a lesson with his coach. Although he skated at that rink weekly, I only went occasionally, and had no sense of the rink culture.

The rink allowed speed skaters on public.

Yes, that makes me sick to think about it to this day. I've been told most rinks don't allow speed skaters on public ice as they tear the ice up more than an 11 year old boy in hockey skates. This rink, anyway, allowed speed skaters on public ice, because they had a speed skater program, and it was 'public' ice. All comers in skates allowed.

I was working on my Waltz 8's in a nice polite manner. I would do a couple in one corner, move and do a couple more in another corner. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Waltz 8, it is a testable element in Pre-Bronze moves. You push off on an outside edge, 3 turn, turn forward (back outside mohawk), return to start on an outside edge and do it the other direction thus forming a figure 8.

The speed skater was doing short starts practice in one of the lutz corners where the ice was nice for the 8 pattern. He moved out of the corner, I moved in and started my 8.

I pushed off, did a FO3 to the left and my upper body rotated, but my foot was caught in a rut. I think that rut was left by the speed skater. There was a  sudden sensation of pain so sharp I thought I could hear something snap. I didn't even have a chance to put my free foot down, I just collapsed on the ice. I tried getting my feet under me, but that was not happening. The right foot was totally unresponsive. I was just an amoeba flopping around in the cold.

The Big Guy was 10 feet away in lesson. I called out to him and his coach. I have a really loud voice. I was 30 years in the military, I was trained for what is called 'command voice'. You can hear me down the parade ground yelling "At close intervals dress right. Dress!" in a high wind over the band. But this rink had I what I will call an 'aggressive public ice music policy.' The music was so loud that from ten feet away my friend and his coach couldn't hear my nuclear powered voice.

A teenage girl with a "Rink Guard" jacket stopped next to me. "Did you hit your head?" No. Everyone asked me this question.

She offered to try and help me up. That didn't go anywhere. Someone came to her side. More "Did you hit your head?" questions. Then the rink manager from his office in another part of the building (!) showed up in sneakers. He was skinny and not  much taller than I am. He offered to help me to my feet. It was hard to suppress an eye roll. He thought that he and the rink guard could lift me up. I'm not a little woman. I'm sort of Rubenesque. I'm not trusting myself to a teenage girl and a man in sneakers I could bench press.

I told him, "See that big guy over there," Ten frigging feet away! "In lesson with his coach? Get him."

At this point I've been lying on the ice for about 5 minutes. I'm surrounded by a rink guard, the rink manager, and two other helpful people keeping traffic away. My BEST FRIEND is ten feet away and has no idea what's going on. Stupid loud music. The rink guard whizzes over and taps him on the shoulder.

I will treasure this memory forever. The Big Guy turns, and is so shocked to see me on the ice, he jumped backwards in his skates, his face a mask of horror. He and his coach immediately skate over and kneel beside me. Before they can speak I say, "I didn't hit my head," just to get it out of the way.

The Big Guy and his coach get me to my feet. I'm able to skate on one foot and they propel me  over to the rink gate like leaky ship heading to dry dock for repairs.

Now that I'm off ice I have to get the boot off the injured foot. The Big Guy's coach takes over and manages to get it off. Once I'm bootless I take a stab at standing. I can stand, but I'm in a lot of pain. The rink hands me paperwork to sign. The coach goes and gets an office chair and I'm wheeled out to the Big Guy's car.

I'm in a lot of pain. We stop at a drug store for aspirin and he drives me home. There was no swelling, no discoloration, nothing but pain. When I get home I'm able to walk on it. In fact, I walked on it for 3 days.

Then someone at work convinced me to see a doctor. I got an appointment with my hockey playing podiatrist. It was a broken ankle, he said, nice clean break, easy healing.

I didn't skate for a year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Don't.Look.Down

I had a lot of problems learning 3 turns. There's the whole checking thing, and the posture thing, and the balance on the blade thing. How anyone ever got the idea for a three turn is beyond me. But through a lot of coaching, I've managed to get respectable FO3s. The insides are coming along.

We've covered some of the things that contributed to improving my 3 turns (Center of Mass, the Check, and Bend.That.Ankle ) but one of the key things was Don't.Look.Down.

There's an unconscious fear in the beginner skater (at least in this beginner skater) that the ice is going to reach up, grab my toepick and throw me to the ice like a wrestler.  Or maybe condensation has dripped down and formed an ice bump that I'll trip over and fall. I developed the habit of looking down at the ice to scan it for ice bumps or bad ice.

My nightmares are made of this.
But, realistically, I think I was more of a danger to myself by looking down. As a beginner, looking down also made me hunch; Hunching moved my center of mass over my toe picks. Being on top of toe picks is not a good idea. When you stand on the ground in your shoes, you're not necessarily aware of how much influence on your balance your head has. On an average sized person their head is about 7-8% of your body weight. And it's at the top of the body, it has a disproportional effect on your balance, especially in skates due to the curve of the rocker.

So, this bad habit continued for years. I was really bad about it in 3 turns. I could only do a 3 turn by sort of flinging myself around.  Coaches tried to fix it, but I was unconscious of it. It was a bad habit that I couldn't break because I wasn't aware I had it. It wasn't until I got to ice dance and Dance Coach made me skate with good posture that it got fixed. One day, way back last year, I just made the decision to not look down. Ever.  Dance Coach was after me to not look down in dance hold, and so no matter what-no matter how scared I was, or how bad the ice was, or how crowded the rink was--once Dance Coach put me in hold, I would not look down. 

This became a habit of mine once I stepped on the ice. I kept my head up.  I feel like my  head is in the Janet Lynn position, but I'm pretty sure I'm just in the right place.

The Janet Lynn Position
I have to check the ice and the traffic without nodding my head down. Fortunately, I learned this in my horseback riding days; Looking with the eyes without tilting the head required conscious thought at the beginning, but now it's just second nature.

My three turns improved immediately. Keeping the head up kept me from going forward on my toe picks in the turn, and helped me stay on the right part of the rocker. When I was away at skate camp last year the coaches said I had nice 3 turns, and I credit part of that to Don't.Look.Down.




Tuesday, December 27, 2011

For Men Only

Men don't get enough attention in the figure skating world.  I'm not talking about the elite skaters; They have their coach and the USFSA, and management to look after them. I'm talking about the adult male skater who never skated as a competitor, and who may not know any other male skaters, or a mom who may have a son who is the only male skater at the rink. So, as a service to the handful of male skaters who read this blog (or the moms of young male skaters), I've pulled together a couple of references that may be of use in case you men are pulled into a local ice show  and have to wear a tight costume, or decide to partner above a certain level, or even if you're a man who likes to wear tight pants to test/skate in. This isn't information that the ordinary male rec skater in group lessons will need (unless they are in a local ice show).

Dancers and male figure skaters above a certain level share a common need. They both find themselves with their legs in extreme positions where movement of the legs may result in great personal discomfort. They also may find themselves in costumes where underwear can be seen through the material under theatrical level lights, or where the trousers are tight and can outline the naughty bits. No one wants to see the naughty bits. 

From the dance world there comes the solution for that, it's called a dance belt (There's also a dance brief). Actually a specialized form of athletic supporter, it's required in the dance world, and I've seen plenty of references for its wear by male skaters for local ice shows (such as this one). However, it's not enough just to pull it on, there's a certain technique to fitting it. As a woman who's thinking of the safety of her male readers, I'm providing links to the two best sites on the topic. (Note: These are dance sites.)



I don't know how this information gets transmitted to male skaters when needed, especially if there's no male coach at the rink. It might even be embarrassing man to man. A male coach might hesitate to explain the niceties to a young male skater, given the hysterical paranoia of some mothers. I can't imagine a female coach broaching the subject.  This is where the Internet comes in handy. 


Don't Panic

Monday, December 26, 2011

Surprise Lesson

Russian used in today's Lesson
Stoi-kee -- tough. As  in "Be tough on me Coach."

I went to a public session to practice and passed Dance Coach on the way in. He had a lesson scheduled, but they didn't show up, so I took the session.

"Be tough, " I told him. "I want to test in February. I don't have a Russian word for this lesson, so tell me how to say 'tough' in Russian."

Dance Coach thought a long time on this one. There are a lot of words in russian that mean 'tough'. Tough meat, tough (hardwearing) material, tough problem. I looked up the one he gave me. Stoi-kee seems to mean 'mentally tough'. So be 'mentally tough' on me, Coach. Mmmm, well, may I'd better keep looking for a better word.

We're working on the Canasta Tango and the Rhythm Blues. While I test the Canasta next, I'm doing better at the Rhythm Blues. At the end of the last time we did the dance, Coach said, "You're meeting standard."

"Master's standard." I said, "For the over 50's."

"No, Adult Standard."

Wow. Same standard as a 20 year old. Just, Wow. Of course, that's 'meeting the standard' as long as Coach is calling the steps, but it encourages me that I can do the dance to the standard when test time comes.

Unfortunately, I test Canasta Tango first. There doesn't seem to be anything terribly hard in the dance step wise, until I start to skate it at the right speed. Man, there's all these curvy bits, and I'm not curving enough. Sometimes, I'm not curving at all. Dance Coach say, "You have to help me on that second swing roll, start turning the right direction."

"Just drive me like a truck." I joke, referring to our first lessons last year, when I had little control.

Coach gives a bitter laugh. "This is regime of tough coach. Skate better."

Just great. I asked for it.


Stoi-kee, Ford Stoi-kee

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dec 23 Lesson: New Dances, New Opportunities for Failure

Today's Russian used in lesson:
Shtoe: What?  As in, "You're explaining something to me while skating away from me, with your face turned away me. What did you say?"
zzdes ee-lee' tahm : Here or There? As in, "You usually start the dance at the test end of the rink, but we're standing at the other end of the rink. Where do you want to start? Here or there?"
Boh'-zhe moy: OMG! "OMG! Are you okay?"

Not only did I fall. I fell twice. In dance hold. I hang my head in shame.

We're now working on the Canasta Tango, and the Rhythm Blues, with music. Boh'-zhe moy!
Wow, are they a lot faster than the Dutch Waltz! Not scary fast, but don't stop and think fast. This is my problem as an adult skater, I tend to want to think while I'm skating. Am I on the right edge? Did I get the beat right? What's next?

After I fell the first time, Dance Coach lectured, "Don't think about your timing! Think about your skating! Dance is too fast to think! You must feeeeel the dance!" I feel the ice when I fell a second time not 2 minutes later "Boh'-zhe moy! Do you have your pads on? Yes? Good. Again." So, I stopped thinking about the dance, and started thinking about my skating. What delights are there in the Canasta Tango and the Rhythm Blues to not think about?

In the Tango, there's the wicked cross roll to swing roll transition on the end pattern, and (although they're easy to do, they're hard to make pretty) slide chasses'. For the slide chasses', I just sort of stuck my foot up in front, but I'm then lectured  about how the feet need to be side by side and there has to be some kind of dance thingy there that I've completely forgotten what Coach said.  Tango Expression, I think. No, I don't know what that means. Snap the chasse? Shake my booty? Don't know. I suppose I have future lectures to find out about.

The Rhythm Blues has many little fiddly bits in addition to the Evil Step Behinds. There's lilt in step 5, and a step later there's a cross over and hold with the under push extended. Sort of a low end Jenkins spiral. Plus alternating inside swing rolls.   It's a delightful little dance filled with many opportunities for failure.

The only thing that's not annoying in today's lesson is the music. I like the Tango and Dance Coach is in love with the Rhythm Blues music. Every time he starts the music and steps out of the hockey box, he pauses until the brass section does its little mwah mwah flourish, and he does a little shoulder dance. I think the Blues music sounds like stripper music, but I'm in the minority. At one point I looked out at the other skaters and saw that everyone, including the other coach, were all doing moves to the Blues.

There was an incidental lesson that I learned today; Skating on Freestyle is more exhausting than public ice. I thought it would be the other way around. As near as I can rationalize it, we spend a lot more time waiting for a space to clear on public, while in freestyle, we just keep going the whole time. Thus, I get little rests every few minutes. That doesn't happen on Freestyle.

We finish off with some work in foxtrot hold. These are usually just exercises in the basic steps: crossovers, chasses' and cross rolls. "Someday," Coach says, "You'll do the Rocker Foxtrot." We've been working on the easier pieces of the Rocker Foxtrot (I do not have a rocker).  "Even with the mohawk sequence?" I ask. Dance Coach gets a look in his eyes like a man with PTSD.   That mohawk sequence must be something! Boh' zhe moy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What to wear.....what to wear....

If you've been skating any amount of time, you'll have noted the wide variety of skating clothes. There's black slacks, and black tights, and black skirts....oh you know.  Yeah, the teenagers who look like grasshoppers, and the rare adult woman who looks like that too, can wear tights with exotic trim. The rest of us, those of us who are 'people of size', 'shapely',  or 'Rubenesque', or 'curvy', well, for me at least (at the shorter end of the human spectrum), anything on a 'skating clothes' website is too long or too skinny.

Below stairs
So far, I've stayed with L.L.Bean slacks since they have a nice distribution of petites in stretchy slacks. Unfortunately, they change the line every season, so there's nothing consistent. Every year I have to start over. The only thing I prefer are slacks with no pockets. Just one less thing to catch your hand on.  The L.L. Bean slacks wear like iron though. I have a pair from when I first started skating that I still occasionally wear. This is a pair with a small hole in one thigh, from the time I fell on the tail of the blade when I was doing a Jenkins spiral (you don't see those anymore).  They're still wearable, but I'm afraid after these many years the seam up the back will split at some point. And then it's 'oppsie daisy get off the ice'.

Upstairs
I'm a two layer shirt person. I wear a sleeveless shirt on the bottom and a long sleeved shirt on the top. This allows me to put on my elbow protection under the long sleeved shirt, without having to hide in the bathroom for modesty. And I find this keeps me warm, without bulking up under the jacket sleeves.

I didn't know that adult skaters were as snooty about skating clothes as teenagers. I skated at a rink for a while, and one day decided to retire my white denim skating jacket after I bought a new fancy-shmancy athletic jacket over lunch (hard to find those that fit someone 5'2"). As I was throwing the old jacket in the trash in the ladies dressing room, a cheer went up. I put on the new jacket and someone yelled, "You're a real skater now!"

Ephemera
I find I sometimes need to bring something on the ice with me: a camera, or an iPod. Since I'm small, the pockets in my jacket are too small to hold these things (plus the wallet, the car key, and the headphones). When I have to bring more than I can hold in my jacket pockets, I hand it over to Dance Coach. He has the big man's long jacket, with four zippered pockets in it. He denies he has any pockets (!), but I just point them out. In effect, I treat my coach like he's a purse---my very own Coach bag.



I'll be here all night folks. Don't forget to tip the waiters.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mohawk Muscle

When I started mohawks I had the usual problem with the checking and the foot placement.  But what I really had trouble with was the leg position and the actual strength in my legs.  I had had a broken ankle, and spent a year not exercising, so my leg muscles were pretty weak. Fixing this turned out to be easy.

Having a house with a stairway turned out to be beneficial. I simply walked up the stairs in mohawk position every time I took the stairs.  This meant placing my first foot down on the step at an angle away from centerline, and then stepping up only using the first leg, and putting the heel of the second foot at the center of the first foot.  I'd then repeat the sequence up the stairs, alternating feet all the way up.

When I started out I had to use the rails to help myself up. After a couple of weeks, I was able to do the exercise without using the rails at all. I also did this at work when I went up and down the stairwells when they were empty. When someone saw me I told them truthfully that I was exercising to recover from the ankle injury.

Coach Amazing showed me a variant of this. By going down the stairs backwards, you can get the feel for closed mohawks. Step down with the first foot, then bring the arch of the second foot to the heel of the first foot.

Both of these are simple exercises really helped me out when I was recovering from the aftereffects of the broken ankle.  I found not only did they help me with building up strength in my weakened legs, but it worked on my upper body position and balance. I think you could make it harder by doing two steps at a time, but I've shrunk so much, that I just do one step. (That's my story and I'm sticking with it.)

It will make you look silly if you do it, but it really helped me out, so I was willing to make the effort.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Funnies: Ice Dancers gone Wild!



For the non-ice dancers in the audience, the Hickory Hoedown is a Bronze level compulsory Ice Dance. Affectionately known as the "Hick Ho",  it has a peculiar square dance step I like to call the "Hick Kick".  It's a dance that just cries out for a costume. 




                 The "Hick Ho" in action.



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dec 17 Practice: Starting the Canasta Tango

Coach yelled at me in Russian today. Yes, I do feel like a real skater now.

At the beginning of the lesson Dance Coach told me to do my edges around the hockey circle.  I asked, "Na lay'va eel-lee na pra'va? " (To the left or too the right?). He's delighted. "You have the right pronunciation. I teach you in Russian from now on."

Right. That'll happen.

So we start to work on the Canasta Tango, or as Moves Coach calls it, The Nasty Tango. I know the pattern of the dance, but because we're skating on pre-christmas public we really can't get the power and speed needed. So Dance Coach and I do a reduced size pattern and work on the fiddly bits: The end of the dance, the transition to the presentation glide, the slide chase' (apparently just sticking your foot out front isn't good enough).  We do this despite a little boy of 6 who blithely is right in our way, no matter what we do or where we skate.  We do scare a few people by passing within inches.  But that kid, he's unscareable.

Then Coach stands aside. "Do the Tango by yourself. We work on power," and for the next minute I'm being chased around the rink by Coach roaring at me in Russian. Yes, the Russian does make me skate with more power, but I'm laughing so hard I could only do one pattern before I have to stop and catch my breath.   Coach thinks this is funny too. Then it's back to work. What do the public skate people think is going on?

With the Dutch Waltz over Coach is upping the standards he's set for my skating elements. I'm doing stuff now, better than I ever skated before, and it's no longer good enough.  This is inevitable. The one thing about figure skating, is no matter how good you get, there always more to be fixed.

We finished of as usual with some elements in Foxtrot Hold. The last thing is forward cross rolls. I feel perfectly comfortable with these solo, but with a partner I suddenly felt really, really short.  Ten years ago I was 5'4". Now I'm 5'2". I'd better learn my dances or I'll be too short to get a partner.  All the Russian yelling won't help if I turn into the amazing shrinking woman.


Viktor Petrenko-World & Olympic Gold Champion and Coach

He's got the whole Russian Coach glare down. I bet
he doesn't even have to speak, much less yell. Psychic arrows
of disappointment are direct fed into the student's brain.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Check, please!

One of the things I found the most confusing when I first started learn to skate was the term 'check'.  It became an issue for me when I started 3 turns. "Check your turn." the coach would say. Or "Turn your shoulders opposite to your hips." Oh, yes, that works when you've been skating since you were six.When I started in my fifties and balanced on on foot swiveling my hips and my shoulders in opposite directions, it was just terrifying.

Since I rode horses for a long time before I skated, I had only heard the term 'check' in a horse related discussion. In a simplified description, in riding it means get your seat down in the saddle, and close your fingers on the reins. This 'checks' the horse without bringing to a stop, it causes the horse to shorten its stride as it approaches a jump so it takes off at the right point. The whole 'checking the turn' was a foreign language to me.

To this day I think that 'checking the turn' is harder for adults to learn than it looks. At least it was for this particular adult.   I don't know how various coaches introduce turn checking. I've had the swivel hips and shoulders lesson, the  many demonstrations, none of them worked for me intuitively.

What I needed was practice. And there's just so much time you can spend on ice practicing 3 turns if they give you trouble. But I've found a way.

Let me introduce my 3 turn checking training device, for sale nationwide. Ladies and gentlemen, the paper plate.

I used the ones that are paper with the waxy finish

There's only 3 things I needed for this exercise: the plate, a wood floor, and a pair of over ankle lace up boots with a solid heel.

Step 1: Put feet in boots, lace them up like they're your skates. I used a pair of old jodhpur boots with a slight heel. I wanted something that gave me a feel of skates, with a similar heel.
Step 2: Put plate on floor.
Step 3: Put boot on plate.
Step 4: Do a 3 turn.

It's that simple. I would just leave the plate on the kitchen floor and do 3 turns every time I went through the kitchen. At first I could get the turn but would wobble and not be able to hold it coming out of the turn. Being at home I could try various arm positions and timing. I could look at 3 turn videos and follow the instructions. I could remember my coach's instructions and practice them. Eventually, I got everything to come together and my 3 turns on ice improved. But because I had off-ice practice at home, I really got comfortable with the moves in an environment where a fall was not going to happen. When I was at skate camp last  summer, coaches would ask me to demonstrate my three turns and say "Those are good." So, how much of this was due to off-ice practice, I don't know. I do feel it made me more comfortable with the timing of the check, and my upper body position.

I've read of other people using a spinner for practicing 3 turns. It's probably harder to do them on a spinner, and if you have one it's worth a try. If I had access to one, I might give it a turn myself. Right now, I don't use the plate anymore as I'm happy with my 3 turns. The paper plate exercise, I feel, got me over the hump and cost me pennies.

N.B. If you have larger feet, you may need the paper platter. I have Tinkerbelle feet. I could do a 3 turn on a paper plate, easy peasy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Adult Friendly Rink

I've had good luck with 3 out of the 4 rinks I've called home. Those 3 rinks were adult friendly. One wasn't.

So, what does it mean to be 'adult friendly?'   I operate on a general definition that it means there's a number of adult skaters in private lessons, and a strong adult learn to skate program. Others may have other concepts. But to me an adult friendly rink has a community of adult figure skaters;  not just two or three.

Since I've been in and out of rinks for 5 years, I've picked up on little things.  Some rinks have a culture where adults are welcome; others don't.  I really don't know why some coaches don't like adult skaters--we're a revenue stream after all. If the coaches don't like adult skaters, well, it's just the way it is. But the adult skaters can still like the rink. Maybe it's the ice, or the cost, or the location.  It's an adult friendly rink, if the adults decide it is.

But the trick is how to discover if the rink is adult friendly at first sight.

Sometimes a rink makes it obvious;  the rink has an adult public or an adult freestyle on the schedule. That's an easy rink to call home. Almost certainly there will be coaches with experience teaching adults.

A second sign is Sunday public. I've noticed in rinks that are adult friendly, Sunday public skates tend to have a lot of adults in figure skates. I think this is because adults have a lot of stuff to do on Saturdays (trips to the bank, dry cleaning,  grocery shopping, stuff that can only be done on a Saturday). That leaves Sunday for the adult to do the fun stuff like skating. Go to a public skate on a Sunday and see a bunch of adults in lessons with coaches, that's a good sign. At my present rink, for example, there's 6 male figure  skater regulars on Sundays, and me. *

There are rinks that have a strong adult participation, but it's hidden.  If you are a beginner skater you'll probably be unaware of this adults in Freestyle until you get to Freestyle level. I was lucky enough at one rink to be invited to 'secret freestyle' for adults only, even as a beginner.  Ah, the good old days. I really miss that rink. But if a rink has adult Freestyle, you'll probably see adults skating at publics, since we have jobs, weekend publics are a good place for practice. If the rink has a lot of people in adult learn to skate, and they're consistent session after session, that's a good sign too.

The rink that isn't adult friendly can be easy to spot. I found one rink who had maybe two adults in figure skates on Sunday publics. One of them was an Adult Gold Pairs Skater, the other was me. There were plenty of dads in hockey skates teaching their kids, but adult figure skaters were few and far between. That doesn't mean there wasn't an adult population of skaters, it's just unlikely. I never saw them.

Adults that compete may have complaints about not being included in competitions. Or treated to a single class of adult skaters, as if all adults of all levels fit in there. Adults probably won't be included in the Christmas show. All signs of a rink that doesn't try to make its adult skaters welcome.

Can you take lessons and find a coach at a rink that's not adult friendly? Sure. You can develop your skills, find a good coach, all that. But if the rink doesn't have a community of adult skaters it won't be as much fun.

We're having fun. Come join us!

* Remind me to do a post on the invisible male figure skater.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Move.Smooth

"Don't jerk your foot like that." Dance Coach has the frowny face as he watches me do the Evil Step Behind from Rhythm Blues. If I'm not paying attention, when I  bring the front foot up, I do it too quickly (just to get the thing over with) and my upper body will rock slightly in response.

Ah, yes. Move. Smooth. It's more than just style points. There's actual physics involved.

Since I'm a beginner, up to this point, most of my skating problems have been soluble by thinking about my center of gravity.  It's not until I got to the Evil Step Behind that I run into more complicated concepts.

For those of you pursuing Freestyle, I'd better explain The Evil Step Behind. Think of it as a back cross roll, without the back, or the roll. You skate forward, bring the free foot in front, then gracefully (this is ice dance) move it so it crosses behind the skating foot, to the opposite side, and switch feet so the free foot is now the skating foot. You don't 'roll' so there's not any margin of error of skate placement. This is usually the make or break point for adult ice dancers. And it's in a beginner dance. Fortunately, Coach Amazing helped me past this point with her advice to Point.That.Toe. Now, I have to achieve consistency and 'pretty skating'.

What happens when you too quickly move your foot up ahead of you, either in the first step or subsequent steps? Well, there's a disturbance in the Force. And that disturbance is called jerk. I do not make these names up.

What happens when that front foot snaps up too quickly is that your foot accelerates up, then suddenly stops. The rate of change of acceleration abruptly goes from something to nothing. You get a physical jerk, hence the name.

When you stop that foot too quickly the rest of your body has to respond to the resulting release of force. A beginner skater like me wobbles in the upper body to keep from falling. This doesn't happen when you're standing on the ground, but when you're in skates, you're on the rocker. Your stability is lessened and the upper body is sensitive to sudden changes in acceleration. Even small changes in acceleration such as from a badly done step behind can cause a wobble in the upper body. (More experienced skaters don't have this problem, as they have better body control and years of practice. This is a beginner problem. )

The solution to this is to Move.Smooth. The motion of raising the foot from the ice and bringing it to a stop has to be done so that there's a slow change in acceleration. It should be like stopping a car when your elderly great grandmother is sitting beside you. Don't just 'step on the brake' to stop. Plan that stop so it feels like a soft pillow gently being put on a sofa. Same thing with the step behind. Raise it (increase the acceleration from zero to something), then bring it to a stop in a planned manner. Smoothly.

Interestingly, in the early rocket programs of the 50's and 60's jerk caused the destruction of many rockets. Here's some motivational video of rockets exploding.












Saturday, December 10, 2011

Prepping for a Test--Off Ice

Since I just went through my first test, I thought I'd write some notes for a pre-test checklist for those of you who have never tested and are interested in testing in the future. I'm sure it's not complete.

When you decide to test:
1. Get a copy of the test paperwork. This turned out to be the hardest thing about the test. Despite a request, I never received anything from the club or my coach. Finally, someone I knew who worked behind the rink desk gave me a copy and showed me how to fill it out. This may have been a one time thing because it  was my first test. Now that I know the ropes, I don't think this will happen again.
2. Get your coach's signature on the paperwork to submit to the Test Chair.
3. Submit the paperwork before the deadline. Yes, my club still uses paper. I've heard of other clubs who use an on-line system.
4. This may have been peculiar to me, but my coach was fussy about approving what ever I was going to wear to test in. So, I had to arrange a time when he could skate with me in my test dress.

At this point there's a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. At some point your coach will tell you your warmup time, and test time. I got a text message. All hail the modern world.

The night before:

1. Gas up the car. I forgot this and almost ran out of gas on the way to the rink.
2. Polish the boots. Some people replace their laces. I'm too lazy for that. Besides these are my lucky laces. I don't know what other people use to polish their boots, I just used some Kiwi shoe whitener. I had to run out and buy it at about 8 in the evening in a panic. So, now that I have it on hand, I won't have to worry about that again.
3. Go through the skate bag and make sure everything is there. It's a good time to clean it out, so why not throw away the old passes,  worn out gloves, and pens with no ink in them.  I wish I had put a banana or a snack bar in to munch on.
4. Put fresh batteries in the camera.
5. Attend to your costume. Make sure all the pieces are ready to go.
6. Get your make up together.
7. Go to bed and get a good night's sleep. I totally failed on this. I got about 4 hours sleep.


At some point: LOAD THE CAR. Don't forget your skates. Apparently this happens.

The day of the test:

1. I got to the rink about an hour before my warm up time. I checked the schedule. No changes.
2. I used the time to do lunge walks in the lobby  to get the blood flowing to my leg muscles (there was a rainstorm and I couldn't walk outside), and some yoga poses to open my hips and get my knees ready for skating.
3. Change into test outfit. Put on makeup.
4. To calm myself, I took out my Flip and recorded the tests of some people I knew.
5. Deep breathing exercises. Several of us gathered together and did group deep breathing.
6. My coach checked on me, and I suppose all coaches do this to.

The test:
I just followed my coach's instructions. During the warmup, the dances for the tests are played and the skaters get to skate with their partner to their music. At test time the skater's are announced (totally unable to understand it) and skate out to their start point with their partner.

So what did I feel I didn't do right?
I wish I had gone to a test session before mine, in order to see how they're run. But as an adult with a job, I couldn't find the time.

I always skate with skating protection on. When I tested, I didn't wear any. That really rattled me. I wish I had skated with my coach, without my protective stuff on, a couple of times. It felt weird and all.

I felt I need to have a 5 minute warmup planned, that goes through all the elements of the dance. I was more concerned about getting some knee bend and getting the feel of the ice. Also, I should have practiced my extension. So bad on me.

So, I know some of you have tested, and have better ideas than I've presented for testing. What do you have to suggest?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Selecting a coach

When the time comes that you decide you want a private coach,  I think you should look at yourself first, rather than the coaches. Ask yourself some questions.

 What's your goal with skating? Figures, hockey, dance moves? Knowing this can help you select a coach.

What's your commitment in time? Will you have time to practice? Or will you only skate during lessons? If you won't have time to practice, then look long and hard at yourself and your skating. You're going to need to practice. If you can't commit to practice, then getting a coach may not be the option for you. Just sayin', you might be wasting your money.

How much are you willing to spend?  It's not just the lesson cost, it's the ice time too. A rule of thumb, I've been told is 4 hours for every hour of coaching. Lot's of adults can't do that. Adults have commitments in time, and availability of ice. But 2 to 1 is still a useful planning ratio.

Is the ice time available? If you work, can you make time for lessons and practice? 

Once you have a sense of what you want, how much time and money you'll be able to spend, and your availability for practice, start looking for the person to be your coach.

1.  Are you ready for a private coach? Ask yourself that honestly.  Are your skills such that a coach would find you worth his/her time?  Would you actually be better off staying in group? If group is not working out, maybe a private coach plus group would be a good idea.
2. If you decide to go the  private route , have in mind either a number of lessons, or a period of time (say 3-6 months) as a trial period for your lessons. I've heard this called a try-out of a coach. Too short a time and the coach may not want to bother with you. 
3. Look at the available coaches. Do you like one of your group coaches? Lots of people go this route. Do you see a coach that teaches adults in the discipline you want? Another good option. Do any of your rink buddies have suggestions? 
4. Look the coach up on the bio page of the rink (if your rink has one). Find the lesson cost, and the skills listed. 
5. Have a lot of internal debates.
6. Pick one to approach. Ask the question.

I once switched rinks and approached the skating director about coach availability. (Failed to observe rule number 3-4, because I'd only been skating 6 months and didn't know how to get a coach) She snatched me up in a heart beat. It was not a good match.  I didn't obey rule number 2. I should have had a deadline.

After I broke my ankle and was off ice for a year, I returned to skating. What minor skills I had, were gone. The rink I had been at previously was gone now, so I went to Rink 2. I knew the rules now. I took my time.  I had two coaches in mind that I thought would work out. Both turned me down. Looking back, I think my post-injury skating was too awful. I should have just gone into group. Rule number 1.

Which is actually what happened. I went to Rink 3 and signed up for group. (Rink 2 disappeared. Literally. The roof collapsed under 6 feet of snow) I ran into a coach I knew from Rink 1 and we started lessons to supplement group. Then she decided to move to another part of the country. One day she said, "We need to think about another coach for you." She and I had been sharing the ice for 6 months with another coach and his students. He sounded pretty good (I could overhear him talking to his students), even though I'd never spoken to him, or even knew his name. "What about that guy?" I said pointing to him.

That's how I ended up with Dance Coach. See, perfectly planned out.










What Happens After Learn to Skate?

So you're an adult skater. You've chugged along through a learn to skate program (either ISI or USFSA will do) and now you're ready to skate on your own. Or maybe you have some ideas that you want to do jumps better, or you want to improve your edges, or you see Davis and White and decide to join the Cult of Ice Dance. Now What?

You get a coach.

(Sorry, this was posted accidentally. But, since by the time I realized it, there were 3 comments already, I'm leaving it as it is. )

Let me introduce you to each other.

I've been told that adult recreational skating simply doesn't exist in some countries. There skating is for kids for fun, or competition track kids. So when I started this blog, I expected to see readers from the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

For those of you who have never run a blog on Google, let me explain its crude STATS function. You can tell what posts get a lot of traffic (so you can write more posts like it); You can tell where traffic is coming from (Google, other blogs, twitter); and you can tell where readers are from (actually you can tell where the servers are from, usually the readers are from there too). That's about it.

Most popular post: Skate Bags. Twice the traffic of any other post.  I guess to drive up traffic I'll now have to do posts on  Skate Socks, Skate Jackets, Skate Gloves.....just kidding.

Where most traffic is coming from: Xanboni. Second most: Skating Forums. Xan of Xanboni writes the most informative posts on figure skating from the coach's point of view. Skating Forums is 800 adult skaters. If you have a skating question that can only be answered by other skaters, that's the place to go. They have a strong Ice Dance community, and a weekly practice thread.

But this is the part that's interesting, despite the fact that most countries don't have an adult skating community, there are a brave handful soldiering on. In addition to the bulk of traffic from the US, UK, Canada in Australia,  I see some countries consistently coming up in the stats.

Hello, skater from Ukraine. Welcome skater from Germany. Pleased to meet you, skater from Italy.  Latvia, Singapore, Belgium and Denmark, please find yourselves welcome.  How you found out about this blog, I'll never know. Everybody say "Hi" to our guests!

Now, take a seat,  have a virtual holiday cookie and some virtual holiday hot chocolate.  For the next few weeks, my blogging will be irregular due to the holidays. Check back in to see if I've posted something new, feel free to rustle among the older posts to read something you missed. Happy Holidays! Enjoy the great crowds at public skate!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dutch Waltz -- Test

Passed!

The remarks were "Rushed but basically on time"

The video is painful viewing. Until I passed the first CW progressive I felt jerky and really clunked that progressive. Then all of a sudden, I felt smooth and in control. On the back side I think I did everything correctly, but it's hard to see in the video.

During the presentation glide the judge stood up and applauded. I think that was a nice gesture of encouragement (I was the oldest person testing).

Well, what did I learn from the test?

1. I need to have more videos of my skating up to the test to 'see' what I'm doing, rather than 'feel' what I'm doing.

2. I need to get to where extension is first nature. I think if I had my extension under control, I wouldn't have been so rushed at the beginning.

3. MORE KNEEBEND! It was adequate, I was hardly stiff kneed, but I can really get down there if I work on it.

4. I'd like more power, but that may be physically limited.

5. I need to plan my warmup better. I worked on my knee bend, and stroking. I really should have put some emphasis on my alternating crossovers more.

I stayed for several other dance tests. Two people had to have retries. One woman totally missed the hick kick in the Hickory Hoedown (I'm pretty sure that was a fail).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dutch Waltz countdown: Test Tomorrow

I have my first ice dance test tomorrow.

"If you're not testing, you're not learning" is my philosophy. Without testing I'd just do the things I find fun to do. Testing forces me to do things I don't like, and that improves my skating.

Boots are shined, costume is ready, I can do the dance in my sleep.

Life is made up of tests everyday. A dance test is the least of them.

9:21am Wednesday morning: Showtime!

Monday, December 5, 2011

MySkateCoach.com

Feeling the need for speed!

Well there's a video series for that. Speed For Free with Brian Orser.

In fact there's dozens of videos at MySkateCoach.com. They cover Learn To Skate, Warming up, Dance, Spins, Jumps, and a few other things.

I purchased about 20 videos (and one e-book) in the areas I'm interested in, and decided to do a review.

First, let's talk about the quality of the videos. You've all seen skating videos on YouTube where an ambitious coach gets a camera and a mike and makes a video. I can say, these are much, much better than those. The MySkateCoach.com coaches are radio miked and clearly understandable. The videos are clear, with appropriate use of slow motion, close ups and other effects. The videos are either made on an empty rink or a lightly attended freestyle. There's no music playing in the background. Overall, a plus for production values.

The coaches are personable, and well informed. I found some useful tips in the videos I ordered, and the lessons were well organized. Occasional choppy editing, led to abrupt endings in some videos. The coach would finish a word, and bang! the video was over. The lessons are each about 2 minutes long, so there's not much leeway for expansive discussions. Inside those time restrictions, these videos work very well.

Of the videos I ordered, I found they worked best when addressing a narrow, specific topic where visual explanations are required. I also found the coaches spoke as if addressing an adult (which was okay by me).  Since I only pulled videos out of Learn to Skate, Dance, and Warming Up, I can't make any comments about the spin, jump and spiral videos.

But, when I went to the website, it has its problems  Although the videos are organized in several groups, these didn't always line up.   Learn to Skate and Warming up both had Back Crossover videos from different coaches. Videos in a sequence would be spread through out the list rather than lumped together. Videos weren't listed in any order I could discern. Use the search box to locate the topics you want.

Purchasing videos was straightforward. However, you can accidentally buy two of the same video if you press the 'buy' button twice. This can happen because videos in a series have similar names. Check your list very carefully. This is buyer error, not a website error.

If you order more than 10 videos, use the coupon code TENPACK and you'll get a 40% discount. It's also possible to order all the videos on a USB drive. Each video is $4.99.

The videos are mp4. They played on my Mac in Quicktime. They don't work through iTunes. C'set la vie.  (edit) I have since found that they do work through iTunes. I had to load them into the library.

Worth it? Yes. Lots of good tips and detailed video.  Professional, well informed coaches.
Cons: Be careful when you order to avoid duplicates. Use the search box to find videos you want.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Skate Bags

As an adult skater, you have something that child skaters don't have: a credit card! You can buy your own skate bag so what do you buy?


ZUCA--The Dark Side
You may see the kids in the rink with their Zuca bags trailing them like faithful dogs. Now look around; Do you see many adults using them? Probably not (your mileage may vary). There's a reason most adults don't go the Zuca route. It's the weight.


Kids love the Zuca so they can pull all their things around the rink. But it's Mommy who's taking the Zuca in and out of the car. Imagine how much stuff you can get in that locker on wheels. Imagine putting it in the trunk, then out. In. Out. Feel the back pain yet? Right. That's why I went another route.


Duffels Can Be Evil
 In general hand carried duffels (I'm not talking about the rolling duffels) can be a useful answer for the adult skater. They're anonymous, nothing says 'Skater'. The duffel just says 'athlete'. (Or in my case 'athlete wannabe'.) Duffels come in an amazing variety of sizes, so if you have really big skates you can find something to meet your needs.


But, like a Siren of Greek mythology calling you to a shipwreck, duffles can be beautiful--but evil.


They're widely available, and the quality widely varies too. I've had them that came apart at the seams in a few weeks. The zippers come apart or get stuck in the cheaper varieties. The pockets can be too small, if you don't select carefully. Better quality duffels don't have these problems, but with that big single compartment, even if the bag is well made, all your stuff is mixed higgledy piggledy in there.


As a general rule, duffels come with a soft bottom, and don't have feet, so when you set it on the floor everything just bangs down. The lack of feet means that if there's any water on the floor, it soaks in.


Yoga Totes
If you're a woman, certain totes can be useful for skating. But there's usually ties or or a flap, designed to hold a mat. These can get in the way. I think yoga totes aren't big enough for men. Also, yoga totes don't often have enough space in them to carry more than a pair of skates and some rags.


Rolling Suitcases
I've seen some people bring in suitcases (of varying sizes). Usually these are coaches who carry their lives in there (I've seen a small boom box appear out of one). Ice dancers also seem to accumulate an amazing amount of stuff.  These potentially have the weight problem of the Zucas, but if you need the space and the organization, you need it. These are almost always cheaper than Zucas and can carry more stuff.


Gym Bags
There's gym bags other than duffels. A lot of sports have specialized bags. I've met one skater who used a bowling bag. So if you have something and it fits, no reason you can't use it. Or explore Amazon, eBags or Zappos and see what's offered there.


Do you need a bag at all?
Actually, no. I've seen a couple of high level skaters (not elite skaters), who just used shopping bags. One woman I met used a reusable grocery bag. Adult skaters are usually more impressed by your skating than by your stuff. Pick what you need. 


What I use
I wish I could say I have the magic answer. I'm a 'bag junky' and I want my bag to be perfect. Here's what I want:


Big central area for skates and a light jacket
At least three big pockets for gear
Handles (not shoulder straps)
Stiff bottom
Feet to keep it off the floor
Lightweight


Is it too much to ask for? Apparently so, as I can't find a bag with everything.
Right now I carry my freestyle boots in a duffel with handles and three big pockets. 
My dance boots are in a yoga bag with the mat straps cut off (Not enough pockets) Grr! but it has feet (and a hard floor). Also too small.
I also have a small carry on roller suitcase for when I take my skates on the road. Not enough pockets. Weighty.


I'm eyeing the bowling ball bags now. Someday my skate bag will turn up, like Cinderella's prince.


No, not Prince Smarming. Prince Charming!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ooooh, breezy down there--skating in a skirt

"This skirt is nice." Dance Coach said, "It makes you look like lady, you should wear it to test. Judges like skirts."

I managed to suppress an eye roll. This is the same man who two weeks ago, when I told him I had a skating skirt told me, "No, too late to change costume. What if it bunches up in hold. Or falls off."

I mean, where does he get this stuff? Is it just guy talk?

So, I'd never skated in a skirt before today. The skirt itself is from REI (yes the 'camping' store) and is a lightweight fleece kind of material that ends just above my knees. Under that I've got a pair of booty shorts from Target, and under that a pair of footless Mondor tight from my skate tech. 

First thing, I learned is, even though I had on booty shorts underneath, 60 years of modesty kept me from propping my foot up on my knee to put on my Silipos and my in boot stockings. Plus I had to keep my knees together while I bent over to tie my laces. Note to self, either get to the rink before the crowds show up, or get used to flashing people.

So, I'm the first person to step on the ice, and it's wonderful. They must have finally got someone who knows how to drive the Zamboni. I take a deep stroke and just glide the length of the rink. Wonderful.

It took me a good five minutes to become accustomed to the feel of the wind on my thighs. I even dared do a spiral, with my free foot pointing in the direction where there's no people. I could get used to this.

Then the public shows up. It's public skate. It's winter. It's crowded.  Coach starts chasing me up and down the rink yelling at me. I'm working on my extension in a power stroke, and this guy in hockey skates crosses  from my right to left,  then abruptly stops in front of me. No time or space to even do an emergency stop, so I grab his arm, use him like an axle, rotate around him, let go and slam myself into the boards without knocking him over. "Sorry," I yell. "Sorry." Coach yells. We're back to lesson in a heartbeat. As far as I know, he's still standing there.

We tried the Dutch Waltz a few times to practice for the test. At one point a little girl got in our way while we were in hold. I tried to skate around her to the left; Coach tried to lead be around to the right. We just sort of didn't hit her somehow, with coach still counting the beats.  If dance tests are conducted like obstacle courses, I'm ready.

Coach finally threw up his hands. "Too many people. Lesson only half an hour today." 

And it's going to get worse every weekend through January. 

By the way, getting boots off without flashing people is just as hard as putting them on. I'm saving skirts for special occasions from now on.

Yeah, right. That's gonna happen.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Du-uuu-uutch Waltz Countdown: 6 Days

So, you're thinking the Dutch Waltz is a dance of great antiquity, danced by dutch skaters down the canals of Holland. Sorry that's the Dutch Roll they did down the canals of Holland. The Dutch Waltz was invented in 1948 at the Broadmoor  Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado by the eminent coach George Mueller (who also invented the Fiesta Tango).

George Mueller and wife Leah


As I've discussed before the DW has Stroking, Progressives, Swingrolls. It's all forward movement. Practically anyone past Basic 5 should be able to do a version of it. So why isn't it introduced as a skating exercise in LTS? I mean wouldn't it be great to have a class skating around the rink to music and having a good time?

Yeah, I know why. It's that god awful music.

I have to test to "My Bonnie Sails over the Ocean." The music is so bad it makes my teeth hurt. So I understand why ISU has standard music for testing, but couldn't someone make the preliminary dances fun?

Certainly, all that's needed is some music that appeals to people rather than music that is designed for testing. There's waltzes in zydeco, C&W, R&B, even Rock. Joe Cocker did a waltz time version of "With a Little Help From My Friends" that's almost the right speed. Here's what the Dutch Waltz looks like to a zydeco waltz;

Dance, mon cajun dance!


So, why doesn't LTS introduce ice dance even in this minimal form? Even this simple dance teaches footwork, edges, timing, any rhythm. Oh, I forgot, LTS is all about building your skills to jump, silly me.

But still I think it would be a good idea for people to get exposed to this very simple dance in LTS. With the right music, it could be fun. I'm sorry the USFSA is all about jumps. Dance is where you learn to skate.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Learn to Skate--as an Adult

In an adult group class, the 25 year old coach was teaching us to do lunges. The class is divided between people over 40 and people under 25. The under 25's do the lunge. The over 40's applaud and cheer them on enthusiastically. Then group coach has the over 40's do it. "Get really down in the knee!" she says to our half hearted effort.

The over 40's all burst into laughter. The young coach blushes. Charming Charlie says, "I can get down but I can't get up." I tell her, "Wait 'til you're 60. You'll look back on this day and laugh too."   Hockey Harold gives it a manly try, rams into the boards and pulls himself up. "That's not gonna happen."  Poor coach, stuck with a curriculum for kids and teaching it to adults.

Some weeks later came shoot the duck. This was introduced to us with great enthusiasm. The over 40's laughed again. We didn't even try.  (However, this doesn't mean that older mature senior adults  AARPC eligible skaters can't do it. I saw a woman in her seventies do a classic shoot the duck across the length of a rink. She couldn't do it every day, but she could do it, and do it well. And by the way, every one on the session burst into spontaneous applause.)

So even though I'm in private lessons, and I'm testing, I still take group lessons. What wonderful fun!

Members of the adult group have been skating together at this rink for several years. The rink doesn't use the adult program, but sticks with the kids program. We do Basic 1-8 not 1-4. There's a distinct advantage to this for the rink; Their coaches don't have to keep two separate programs in their heads. For the skaters there's an advantage too; We're learning the program as it's meant to be taught.

We're also fortunate that the coaches don't make us do every skill to pass. I don't jump or spin; The coach substitutes something else. The guys in hockey skates are reluctant to do spirals; no problem, do something else. This is really an excellent example of how an adult program should be run, with flexibility and innovation. Adults are there to have a good time. We don't have a deadline for our triples; We know our limits and we want to have fun while learning a skill. I've had some really good times in the adult Basic class.

Then one day, they passed me into Freestyle. Oh, I was miserable. I'm in Ice Dance, I don't jump. The class is filled with little kids wanting to jump and three adults who are also willing to try. I stuck it out for one round and went back to Basic 8. There's stuff I can work on at that level: waltz 8s, and back edges, and maybe even a lunge. I just didn't want to spend my time in Freestyle. In Basic 8 the coach can send me to a corner and let me practice dance stuff so I can get mid week ice time. I'm so not worried about getting my patch.

Surprise! Surprise! The new coach came in and said to those of us who had been in the program for a while, "You guys are ready for brackets!" So she taught us.

That's what I'm talking' about! A program that says, 'Not everyone fits in the USFSA mold. Let's keep the adult customers by acknowledging not everyone wants an axel. Let's have fun!"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Countdown to Dance Test--Russian Expressions of Unhappiness

So the dance test of the Dutch Waltz is next Wednesday. I'm the first to test after warm up. That's either really lucky or coach told the Test Chair "If her legs get cold and stiff, she'll take a toepick and do a face plant." That's almost what happened Monday morning.

I was trying for more power, brought my right leg forward and clipped the ice with my toepick. Coach swore in Russian. Something like Biyalistockmutteranova. Whatever. I don't think I even came close to falling. Dear Coach, if you have time to swear, it's not a crisis.

Between the two of us, Coach is the Diva. Or is it Divum?  Since he's a guy I guess it needs a masculine ending (yes, I did have two years of Latin). Anyway, he's the prima donna. No that's wrong, maybe, primus puer? Oh, let's put it in English, he's got to be in charge at all times.  I'm getting tense over my first skating test, and he's getting bossier than usual because he wants me to do well. No minor infraction goes unnoticed.

For example, Saturday during lesson I did a Wingroll. Geeze louise, you could hear the shouting all the way down the rink. "What is that! That is not a Swing roll! That is awful!" (Small children were knocked over by the power of his voice, and sensitive adults cowered in the corners)

Me (waving my arms in frustration) yelling right back: "I know, I know. I did a Wingroll! I was using the wrong arm!"

Coach in bossy voice while he skates at me like a hockey player after a shot and yelling at the same time. "If you know what it is to be wrong, then why did you do it? If you know what it is to be wrong, then you be the coach, and I'll pay you!"

By this time we're  standing in the center ice yelling at each other to be heard over Christmas carols on the loud speakers.  I yell back. "Tizloy!"

We both burst into laughter.  I'd just told him "You're mean!" in Russian.

"You should learn more Russian." he tells me. So I have. Phonetically. In case you have a Russian coach and want not to,  here they are:

I'm Hopeless!    bez-na-diozh'-na

Not good           neh ho-ro-sho'


So now you can mutter these under your breath. The trick to saying things in Russian, is to sound angry. If you're not thee angry type, get a French coach.


Stiff Boots Rescue--Katz Straps

Since we're in the run up before Christmas, with prezzies and giftees on everyone's mind, I thought I'd add one more thing to the list: Katz Straps.

I use these every time I skate

Say you're breaking in new boots, or you have stiff boots and want more ankle bend, but you don't like the feel of your boots with the top hooks unlaced; What do you do?

Well, a few years ago I met a former professional skater turned coach, Kathy Hurd Carillo. She showed me how she used homemade elastic straps to loop over the hooks for speed lacing. I liked that idea, and I started using heavy ponytail holders to hold my top hooks together. These kinda held the top hooks together, but not firmly enough.  And they broke. And they popped off unexpectedly. And one pair stained my boots (thank goodness they weren't in my hair!). But they were (marginally) better than nothing.

Then, this summer, I ran into Kathy again, and she told me she had invented Katz Straps to do what I wanted! They hold the top hooks with enough firmness to keep them together, but have enough elasticity to allow for deep ankle bend even in new boots!

These straps are made of industrial grade U.S. manufactured elastic and come with their own little carabiner to attach them to your skate bag. They're sized to perfectly fit over your hook--not too big, not too small.  They're even USFSA approved, which I think means you can wear them in competitions. You can also dye them with RIT dye.  Although the ones in my pictures are white, I know there are guys that  use them so I guess she makes them in black too.


I'll never lose them
I've tried both the regular size and a slightly larger pair, so she can make custom sizes. They really make skating in stiff boots easier, and as a side benefit keep your lace ends tucked out of the way. On her website Kathy has other benefits related to jumping, of which I am completely Ice Dance ignorant, so check it out.

Perfect!

You can reach Kathy at her website, and order them from her there.

Love 'em. Love 'em. Love 'em.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hips, Knees, and Elbows--Part III The Elbow

This took a month to heal. You can't really see the green
skin in this photo. 
The first skating protection I adopted were elbow pads. Here's a picture of the reason why. I was doing figure 8's and abruptly fell off an outside edge directly onto my elbow.

Although it's unlikely that you can break your elbow, even a light fall onto the joint can be excruciating. 


I tooled around the usual sports stores and finally came up with the skateboarding pads below. I wore these for a year. In fact there's a lot of variety of these at Amazon. They all look equally effective.

I got stares when I wore these.
Then one day I'd had enough. These things took up too much space in my boot bag, and I hadn't fallen on my elbow in a year. I gave my set to someone's son, And started skating with bare elbows.

I know. You're thinking: She fell again. Nope, sorry, I've not fallen on my elbows since. But that memory of that fall stayed with me. 

So I was buying knee pads at the Skating Safe site, and I came across these molded elbow pads.

Drool. I love these.

Faster than greased lightning I added a pair to my order. They are designed not to show under a costume in competition. (Skating safe also has a less expensive square elbow pad that works very well. I think it would be hard to see under a costume's sleeves if they were loose.)

Rather than wearing the retention sleeve the company provides, I wear biker's arm warmers to hold the elbow pads in place. I like the arm warmers, since you can wear them instead of a jacket.

The only problem with these is that they are friggin' expensive. I've had jewelry that cost less than these. I'm on my second pair because, I once had cash, a cell phone, and a Flip camera in my skate bag, but someone stole a pair of these, leaving the rest behind. I guess they figured I wouldn't call the cops over a pair of elbow pads.

"Roger. We have a 10-211* in progress.
Send in the SWAT team.
We've got a freestyle session to frisk
and skate bags to search."


* 10-211 = Armed Robbery...Get it? Elbow pads--'armed' robbery? Sigh. Man, nobody likes my jokes.

Hips, Knees and Elbows==Part II Hips

I don't jump, and hip pads are usually reserved for jumpers.  So I'm just going to round up some samples and make some comments. There are more designs here that you can possibly imagine.

When will you need hip pads? Oh, you'll know. It will be the day you limp off the ice and beg for an ice pack, or it will be the day your coach says you do, or it will be the day you wake up in so much pain that you have to take two Advil to get out of bed.

Let's start with the under tights pads.

Skating Safe produces gel pads.These pads are almost invisible, and you can probably get away wearing one during competitions and tests.  If you're a guy, you'll have to wear compression shorts, or fit the pads under tights if you wear them.  There is also a Skating Safe pad to protect the lower spine when learning jumps.

Waxel Pads are a brand of pads that appear to be made of some very thick foam rubber. Like Skating Safe pads, they are placed under the tights.  They cost about half of the Skating Safe pad's price. I don't think they can be worn in competition or testing, the way the Skating Safe pads can. Waxel also makes a wrap around pad that appears to be unique.

The only disadvantage about these two kinds of pads is that some people feel awkward about sharing these pads between skaters, although they will clean off with soap and water. if you're creeped out by sharing, then there's the options of the padded shorts, of which there are many varieties. Some varieties can be worn over clothes, so you can share them between skaters. 

Padded Shorts--as if skaters' butts weren't big enough already....

There's so much variety, that I'll just point you to a few websites of online stores that sell these, and make a few comments.

Most padded shorts seem to try for neutral, but let's face it, they're designed for girls.

Here's a wide selection.  And here's the booty short variation.

Something for someone who want to cover everything. Also, at the same site, if you scroll down to the bottom of this page you'll see a selection of Se-Ku padded shorts. One of these says it can be worn in competition.

Let's see you getting a guy into any of those padded shorts. So what do men and boys wear? It needs to be something....macho.

These appear to be roller derby shorts. Perhaps these would be popular with boys and men. You know, pick the right music and theme, I bet you could wear these as a 'costume' in competition. And here we have an even more macho selection.   I don't know if these are flexible enough for jumping, but I mean, they look so mean and threatening. I could see Vladimir Putin being willing to wear these. You don't get much more macho than that.
Vear pads or I vill shoot you

Have I missed anything? Hip pads are often used by people learning jumps, although many younger skaters don't want to wear them. Still given the variation available, there ought to be something that will suit all but the most finicky skater. And as an adult, wear them. A broken hip can destroy your life.