Friday, April 13, 2012

Mental Rehearsal

Taking a lesson from anyone can  be overwhelming. Move the body here, twist here, hold the arm here, don't do that-do this, BEND THE KNEE, hold the leg up, pputyourrighfootin, puullyourleftfootout, shakeitallabout. .......
This is my brain
This is my brain on skates
 This week between Dance Coach and Coach Cruella, I was mentally swamped. It's easy to lose track of everything in a lesson, especially when you're a beginner like myself. Losing old habits while building new ones requires a lot of effort, probably more than most adults can find ice time for.

Fortunately, there's a way to solve this. I'll call it Mental Rehearsal.

It's an hour each way for me to any rink I skate at. So to use that hour usefully, I've developed some habits of mentally rehearsing what I'm about to do (on the way up), and what I learned (on the way home).  Driving to a dance lesson, I put on my dance music and mentally go through the steps. Driving to an edge lesson, I review what I learned last week; driving home, I review what I learned this week--and attempt to merge it with previous lessons.

Back when I was in the Air Force, the trainee pilots I knew had a procedure called 'Chair Flying'. They would sit in a chair and mimic a training flight they had scheduled. Although they were physically pretending to flip switches, making radio callsk and moving the stick, the actual rehearsal was all in their head. The rule was "Ten in the Chair, is worth one in the air."

If you watch the Olympic skaters before they go on the ice, they'll be stepping through their program, or they'll be standing with their eyes closed. In both cases they're mentally reviewing every stroke, gesture, twirl, jump and stop. Mental rehearsal really works.

Secondly, taking a private lesson is something like drinking from a fire hose. How I envy advanced skaters who only need to tweak a skill. I have to construct my skills like a single person building a castle, one brick at a time. My lessons are filled with corrections, skill upgrades, moves etc. I need the mental rehearsal immediately after the lesson to retain all those little skills. The silence of the car allows me an opportunity to review each skill we went through, and every technique I was taught in the lesson. No distractions of the radio, or music on the iPod. This is focused learning, not just running though a checklist. It's best when you can feel the muscles as you mentally think about the moves. It takes effort and concentration to get to that level of Mental Rehearsal, but it's worth it.

So my 3 rules are:
1. Review skills before the lesson
2. Review the lesson after the lesson
3. Review in a quiet environment.

By the way, Coach Cruella Reads My Blog!

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