Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Learning a New Ice Dance

I found this in my drafts. I'd forgotten all about it. So to tide you over until I'm back, here's a breakdown on learning a new ice dance.

Dance Coach has a structured way to teach me new dances. I assumed this was the only way ice dance was taught until I twice skated with another coach who did it differently. I don't know how other coaches do it, but this is how I'm taught.

My Dance Coach's way.

1.  Learn new elements of the dance separate from the dance.
2.  Skate the basic dance without music just to get the steps in the right places.
3.  Skate to music to get the feel for the dance  beat. Even though I have a strong musical background including instrumental and vocal performance, the first run through with music is always a disaster with the Frowny Face and the Disappointed Voice both making their appearance. (Sometimes, the Deep Deep Sigh too.)
4.  At this point I run into problems. It now takes me about 3 lessons (doing a dance to music 2 to 3 times a lesson) to get a feel for the music and the steps together. I know the elements. I know the steps. I know the music. Unifying them is the problem for me.
5. After I'm sure on my feet, Dance coach adds the fiddly bits and mutters about 'power' a lot and 'lead the turn more' in the corners. This is the point where I get instructions like 'hold for two beats' or 'rise on the beat'. These are pretty easy to learn once I have the rest of the dance down. The whole power issue is never going to go away. It's a constant. At this point the only way I'll get more power is either a time machine gives me the knees I had when I was 14, or I lose 50 lbs. I'll give you a guess which is more likely.
6. Do the dance with all the fiddly bits to music a few times. (and maybe more power).
7. Test

In training this is called chaining behaviors, where the coach breaks down each skill into sub-skills which are first learned; Then the coach chains the sub-skills together into more complex skills.  I used this with my dogs.

--------------------------
Speaking of dog training, I used to train my dogs using a clicker to signal them they were doing the right thing. The other day I found a clicker while I was cleaning out the car (the last dog went over the Rainbow Bridge a long time ago). I was going to toss it away, when I thought of giving it to Dance Coach so he could signal me when I'm doing something right since the music is so loud I can't hear his voice when I'm more than two feet away. But that just seemed too weird. *

What I really need is a two way radio system.

Just kidding.
----------------------------------------
*Except there's a whole skating program built around it. And seems to help little kids and beginner adults.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Skating Forums--It's for Adult Skaters

There will be a pause in the posting for a few days. Silly work getting in the way of my skating.
This week, work is winning the war of work-life balance.
While you're hanging around, why not go over to www.skatingforums2.com and join the forum? There's private forums for skaters, for parents of skaters and for coaches.  There's public forums such as the Pro shop about boots and blades, Media Events, and Off-Ice. You can read those without registering, but you must be registered to post.

SkatingForums is the only US ice skating forum that is centered around the adult skater. (There is a similar UK skating forum.) Figure Skating Universe and Golden Skate are great forums, but they're mostly centered around fans. Skating Forums is where you can go when you have a problem with a jump, spin, or even learning to skate, or you have a question about your child's jumps, spins, or skills.

If you are not a member you can't see all of the 'members only' sub-forums. To see the On Ice, Video Vaults, and Non-Skating discussions and a few others, you'll need to register. The On Ice forum has a weekly practice thread where you can post the results of your skating over the last week. There's also a Rink Rants and Raves thread where you can blow off steam. There are two video vaults: one for skaters with videos of their skating, and the other devoted to videos of tests with judges comments included. 

It's free to join, and free to stay.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sometimes It's Not You

One of the tenets of this blog is that a beginner skater needs to stop blaming the ice, the boots, the blades. Most of the time, whatever is wrong is my fault. My head position, my knee bend, ankle bend, posture.... you name it. It's my problem, not the ice's.

That's the motto of this blog: Don't blame the ice, because the ice doesn't care.

But there will come a point, where it will stop being you, and it actually will be the ice, the boots, the blades.

The issue with skating, is that every time you skate you degrade your equipment just a little. And because it's just a little at a time, you get acclimated to the condition of the boot and the blade. There's a point where the boots are just perfectly broken in, and then one day, they're too broken in. There's a point where the blades are fine; Then the next day they're completely flat and have no edge.

In my case, I kept feeling my blades were too dull. Dance Coach and Moves Coach took a look at them separately and both said, "They're fine." But my coaches aren't me. They're powerful skaters who have been skating since before they could read. The could probably skate on blades with no edges, but what they find skateable is not what I am comfortable with. I need a nice sharp edge.

I've been struggling along for the past 2 months, trying to get certain moves. But I'd skid. Or go on the flat. Or in the case of three turns, I'd really have to haul my upper body to get the turn. But I stuck with it.

Back in November, I had ordered a pair of Jackson Finesse ice dance boots with a new pair of Mirage recreational blades. Last Sunday, I took them out for the first time and skated with them. The new boots are like concrete blocks at first, but when I did a three turn, wow! it was a revelation. It was so easy. My mohawks were easy too.

I went home and compared my old blades with my new ones. My old ones were 4 years old with many sharpenings on them. They were just a tiny bit flatter than my new ones. Not flat enough so that the rocker was nonexistent (I have the world's best skate tech), but just enough so I could see it when they were side by side. I'm not a powerful skater who learned to skate as a child; I'm an adult learner, and my skills aren't strong enough to compensate for the change in the blade's rocker. I'd needed new blades for a while, but my lack of faith in my skate sense made me hold off from replacing them.

Today Dance Coach saw me skate in them for the first time. I'd had a total of two hours in the new boots. I'd do something and astonishment would light up his face.  At one point I was doing solid inside swing rolls and he said, "I never thought I'd ever say this, but you've got too much curve in your swing rolls. Skate them flatter."  Three turns in waltz hold; No skid.  Three turns to landing position; his jaw dropped. I was consistently hitting that outside edge on the glide which I hadn't been able to do in the old boots without a lot of effort. We did a shrunken Canasta Tango in what clear area we could find (mid-winter publics, after a hockey game, ugh!) and again he was happy. Last time we skated it, I skidded all over the ice; This time I was solid.

So I guess getting dance boots wasn't a vanity move after all. My skating's improved with the new blades and the extension and toe pointing has improved with the designed for dance boots.

It's not always the skater at fault. Sometimes it is the ice, the boots, the blades. Knowing when to make that distinction---that's the art of being a skater.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Foxtrot Hold: Inside/Outside the Circle

Imagine you are standing in waltz hold. If you are the lady, your right hand is held in the gentleman's left hand. If you are the gentleman, then you have your right hand at the lady's back. Now the two of you turn to face your clasped hands. You are no longer facing each other, but you're facing your skating direction. Congratulations, you're in Foxtrot Hold.

Now skate.

I like Foxtrot hold. I don't know if I've been introduced to all the subtleties yet, but when we're stroking along, it feels like flying. I know we've done chasse's and maybe swing rolls in foxtrot hold, but Dance Coach really likes to work on crossovers in hold. I assume this is a preparation to getting me ready for progressives.

The first few times we did crossovers in Foxtrot hold, we did CCW crossovers. This puts me on the outside, with Dance Coach on the inside of the circle. It's a little awkward for someone who's on the inside,  they're not skating the crossover in the way they're taught: with the skater facing inside the circle. It didn't really ring the bell of my memory until Dance Coach had me in Foxtrot hold and doing the crossovers in the CW direction.

The lightbulb finally went off. Whoever is on the inside of the circle in Foxtrot hold is facing out of the circle!

[For those of you who don't have a private coach, or who may have never run into the terminology before, the inside/outside of the circle talk may baffle you. Here's a simple introduction. Most skating is done on a curve. This curve is colloquially called 'the circle'. So, if I am physically 'inside the circle', this means that Dance Coach and I are skating on a curve. I am physically inside the circle's boundary, while Dance Coach is on the outside. Facing inside the circle means that the person is turned so that their face and chest are facing the center of the circle, thus 'facing inside the circle'. So when doing crossovers, it's normal to face inside the circle. To do a crossover facing outside the circle requires you to cross one leg over the other and face the opposite way.]

So here I am, on the inside of the circle, and I realize I need to do a crossover what facing outside the circle. I've done this before, and a very useful exercise it is.

I had a figures coach at the beginning of my skating career, Olga Ullman, who had me do crossovers in figure 8 patterns. She had me vary this exercise to do crossovers while facing out of the circle.  Say I'm doing clockwise forward crossovers. My left foot crosses in front of my right foot, while simultaneously my upper body is twisted to the left; In other words, I'm facing away from the direction of  turn.

This is a great exercise! It really forces me to the edge. It's also helped me gain independence of the upper body from the lower body. But I hadn't done that exercise for years.

Still, when Dance Coach had me do the crossovers facing out of the circle in Foxtrot hold, my old skills came to the fore. I laid those things down pretty smoothly.  Like riding a bike, I guess your body never forgets.

Sadly, while I can do this  facing out of the circle thing well, the Foxtrot hold may be the only time I'll ever use it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday Group: I Learn some Mechanics

Coincidentally, Moves Coach is also the Freestyle 1 group coach. She's determined to get me to jump. Helloooo! 60 and 50! (60 years old and carrying an extra 50 lbs, and I'm wearing dance boots) Jumps are not in my future. Still she teaches me the mechanics of the half flip.

Pick behind. Half turn, catch the other pick step forward.

I think.

I'm so traumatized by the whole thing, that even though I never let go of my death grip on the boards, my memory of the steps is blocked out by the memory of my life flashing before my eyes. Still I practice it one way and then the other while Moves Coach goes to another student.

When Moves Coach gets back to me, she has me do a two foot spin. It's a good day; I  get two and a half revolutions CCW. CW I can get three. Stately, elderly lady spins.

"So, you can spin both ways?" she says.

I then realize that Dance Coach has drilled into me the fact that I have to do everything both ways in dance, so I just practice everything both ways regardless.

I know coaches have ways of determining which way a skater will jump and spin. The problem with my spins, is even though I'm more comfortable with CCW spinning, I actually spin better CW.  There's the same effect with my (board assisted) half flips. Moves Coach has me picking behind with my right foot,  which feels safe, but when I pick behind with my left foot, it's smoother. So even though my right leg is the stronger and dominant leg, I actually seem to be better balanced when I'm turning in the opposite direction.

The 'why' of  this phenomenon rather baffles me. Although I'm right handed/footed, I'm left eye dominant, but I don't see how that can affect my balance. It's a puzzlement.

I kind of like learning things both ways. I never know what I'm going to discover.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waltz Hold

Waltz hold in ice dancing is tough on the lady. Well, it's tough on this lady.

Let me describe how waltz hold works. The lady and the gentleman (in USFSA's quaint terminology) stand facing each other. The lady puts her left hand against the gentleman's shoulder. As Dance Coach says: "AGAINST the shoulder not ON the shoulder!" So the lady pushes against the front of the left shoulder, her fingers lightly resting on top of the shoulder. The man places his right hand on the lady's waist. He pulls her towards him; She pushes away from him.  The lady's right hand is held in the gentleman's left hand.

This looks nothing like the ballroom dance waltz hold I learned in the 60's. For one thing, the waltz hold in ice dance is more like a construction project than anything else. With the man pulling the lady forwards, and the lady pushing the man away, the two are locked together, holding the same distance from each other in the dance.

The lady (me) has to keep her arms stiff, but not rigid. And she (me) also has to keep herself facing the center of the man.

And then she has to skate.

The first problem was when I was learning Waltz Threes. I had to conquer 'noodle arms'. When I'm learning something new, I can only concentrate on one part of the body at a time. Yes, that part is the part with the skates on it. I'd forget and my left arm would noodle. I'd drift  towards Dance Coach instead of being the neat 6 inches away I'm supposed to be. One day he chest bumped me and said "Stop that! Keep your arm stiff!" All I could think was, "What do people think is going on out here?" But, yes, I now keep my arm stiff (but not rigid) and the proper distance is maintained.

The second problem was when I was learning forward stroking in Waltz Hold. Back stroking in waltz hold is easy for me. I'm going backwards, Dance Coach is looking over my head. In forward stroking, I am going forwards, and I am supposed to look over Dance Coach's shoulders to make sure we're not skating into anyone.  In forward stroking, I"m looking straight at Dance Coach's chest. To look over his shoulder I haver tilt my head to the left, to the right, to the left, to the....Dance Coach breaks hold and starts laughing so hard he has to bend over and grip his knees. "Don't do that! You look like a prairie dog!"

And a meme was born!

It's those little moments of professional discourse that make skating so worth while.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What's Wrong with This Picture?

From Andy Riley's "The Bunny Suicides"

1. The woman's weight is not over her skating foot.
2. The gentleman has his knee in her back.
3. Her free foot has no extension and she's too deep in the knee.
4. She has way too much clothing on for it to be ice dance.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Skater Emergency Preparedness--Useful Stuff

There's some things I've found useful; Even though I don't need them often, when I need them, I really, really need them.  This is a hangover mindset from my horse show days plus 30 years in the military with 'be prepared to deploy within 3 hours' bags. When I lived in a small town in the Mojave desert, every time I left town I had water and food in the car plus a pair of hiking boots. When I lived in Minnesota, I had a bag of sand, winter boots, and a shovel in the trunk from October to March. Yes, I'm 'that kind of person'.  I'm the one that plans how to survive disasters.  However, the only disasters I have at the rink are my attempts at Choctaws, still, I plan ahead.

Useful Stuff

1. A Screwdriver for the skate bag.  In 4 years of skating, I've needed to tighten one screw, but it's nice to have. My skate tech usually tightens the screws as part of my sharpenings, so they don't have a chance to get loose. Other people, with other stresses on the skates may need to test their screws more often.

2. An icebag in the car. Yes a genuine, screw top rubber icebag, not one of those things you put in the freezer or a ziploc bag. With an icebag you can always put ice in it, over and over. With one of those things you put in the freezer, you have to use it in a specific amount of time, or carry a freezer in the car.  When I broke my ankle I had to use a plastic bag with ice in it that the rink gave me. It dripped all over my friend's car and slid around on my leg. An icebag with a fabric cover stays where it's put and doesn't drip.

3. Colored facial tissue. When you go on the ice and pull out a tissue, it's nice if they're tinted. That way if you unknowingly drop one on the ice, other skaters can spot it. You can find these in drug stores, but it takes some looking. I like the pink.

4.  Over the counter pain killers. I don't need a whole bottle, just a few tablets in a pill case. If I  take a bad fall, I take one right away.

5.  A stone for the blade to take out nicks.

6.  A nail clipper with file.

7. Toothbrush and toothpaste. In case I have a dance lesson after lunch.

8. Blister pads or callus cushions.

9. Hand or foot moisturizer.

10. Old pieces of insoles for patching. (I actually had a nail come up through an insole once.)

11. A $20 bill.

Everyone should have an emergency kit, not just in the skate bag

If you're interested in preparing for a real emergency, there's good advice at Ready.gov.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Boots and Blades: A Test Run

My freestyle boots (Jackson Competitors) are five years old and still have lots of life in them. But the blades are also the original blades, and they're getting a little flat. At my last lesson, I could not get an edge, and turns required hauling my upper body around. I'd been delaying starting on my ice dance boots due to Dance Coach's testing schedule, but since I don't test again until April, I now have time to break them in. So today, I finally brought out my fabulous new ice dance boots with their new blades and took them for a skate down at the rink.

Before I started with the ice dance boots, I skated in low freestyle rec boots that have served me very well.

Jackson Competitors
I like my Jackson Competitors. They're a reliable recreational skate for low freestyle. When I got mine, they were sold without a blade. I have the Mirage rather than the Aspire. After 4 years of sharpenings, they're pretty flat. But, when I put the boots on, it's like putting on a familiar friend. I have the whole inside the boot thing pretty much down to a science. Silipos tube on the right heel, stretch cloth tube on the left. Perfect tying technique. Pronation fix that took me a year to work out, but it's perfect now.  But I though getting dance boots might help me get a better point and help improve my extension so I bought:

Jackson Finesse
I set out with the same in boot fixes as I had in the freestyle boots. Oh, wow, it was total failure. These aren't just boots with a lower shaft and a deep curve at the back, these boots are completely different construction.  Since there are 3 hooks instead of four, I lace them all the way to the top rather than leaving one hook open. The shaft of the boot seems thicker on the sides that the freestyle boot. You can actually see it bulging under the hem of my trousers.  The Finesse also have an instep that it's going to take time to get used to. The Silipos tube on my right heel was a total failure. These boots are tighter in the heel than my  Competitors. I had to stop and readjust the lacing at least twice and remove the tube in the first 15 minutes on ice. The soles of my feet ached for the first 45 minutes, then the pain finally disappeared. I've had this occasionally happen in my Competitors as well. I don't know why it occurs. 

The blades are new Mirage blades, freshly sharpened. Unlike my old blades, these have a decent rocker.

So I went out to a local rink and spent an hour stroking, doing swing rolls, chasse's, crossovers and three turns. My friend the Big Guy came out to watch. The shortness of the shaft means I really have to get my blade placement on the ice right. Initially, I felt like I was skating without any support, although this was just a mental illusion due to the short shaft. These are new boots and it's like skating in bricks. After the first half hour, I began to feel at ease with the boot.  Towards the end I felt fairly stable, and much more comfortable. 

I don't know if my extension and toe point is actually better in these boots.  I was more concerned with just getting the feel of them rather than doing any extensions requiring a high leg position. I didn't feel that comfortable yet.  The Big Guy said I looked less stable than in my Competitors. Duh! These boots will require some adjustment in my technique.

Downside to the Finesse is the padded collar. I thought I would like this, but it actually rubs painfully on the back of my ankle when I extend the leg and point the toe. I now will just slide the Silipos tube around my ankle to protect it.

The new blades were great. After having to haul around for turns it was nice to be able to just turn with minimal effort. I tended to over turn, I was so used to my old blades and their intransigence.

My judgement's still out on the Finesse. These are new boots, and feel like concrete blocks. Although in Jackson's rating system, they're 'less stiff' than Competitors, they aren't 'less stiff' than 5 year old Competitors. Also, the lower shaft seems to make them more appropriate for experienced skaters. I dread to think what would have happened if I had started in these. 

I'll have to report back after I've been skating in these for a couple of months, and after Dance Coach has made comments.

As for the Competitors?  They're getting new blades. I'm thinking Wilson Majestic.



Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Rhythm Blues

I've been unable to find out when the Rhythm Blues was introduced to ice dance, but it must have been later than the Blues, which was in the 50's.

The RB (so I don't have to type 'rhythm' over and over) is the first dance I've done where the steps have a tiny bit of complexity. Progressive, stroke,  RFO swing roll, LFO stroke with 'lilt', progressive, progressive with hold, LFI Swing roll, RFI swing roll, progressive, step behind step behind step behind, progressive.

Whew! For once I find the steps along the side actually trickier than the end steps. After the 'progressive hold', I have to step into a LFI swing roll. I'm used to having a stroke in front of a swing roll to give me time to meditate on what I'm about to do next. Here, I'm down in the knee for the progressive and hold, bring the left leg out from under the crossed right leg, step on the ice and do an inside swing roll. .....Hmmm....tricky. I think I have to have myself canted towards the centerline in that progressive  rather than straight down the side coming out of that progressive. Must ask Dance Coach. Step too wide and the whole thing destroys the power I need to get into the next swing roll. Bleech! The following RFI swing roll with the step into the round the corner progressive has a fiddly touch to it too.

Compared to that, the end pattern with its evil step behinds is now a cuddly teddy bear of comfort. The only problem with the end pattern is that it needs a certain 'blues feel' about it. Unfortunately, while I've looked at all the RB's I can find on youTube, I can't find one with a blues feel in the end pattern. Everyone looks mechanical. I'm putting my 'amateur auteur' hat on. I think it would look more bluesy if the free foot were held lower on the rise after the step and had a little hip action, but that's not what the judges want to see.

If I'm mentally messing with stuff anyway, it would be fun to do the RB in foxtrot hold.  I wonder if Dance Coach will do it with me once, just for grins.  We always end the lesson with some stuff in foxtrot hold, it would be fun to do a whole pattern (and shock the ice dance purists!) Or maybe not.

[After I wrote this post, I asked Dance Coach about doing a dance like the Canasta Tango or the RB in Foxtrot hold. Apparently, he's a purist. He gave me a look of such horror and shock, I knew I'd stepped over some forbidden ice dance line. I'm surprised he didn't cast me into the outer darkness with the freestyle skaters and people who put lemon in their coffee.]

"See what happens when  you do something different?"




Friday, January 20, 2012

Me and My Ice Stalker

Several years ago (before the broken ankle), I was stalked on ice by some guy in hockey skates.

I occasionally skated at a rink with my friend the Big Guy. He's 13 years younger than I am, and I have been identified by waitresses as his mother. (I tell them he's my gigolo.) Anyway, it's pretty obvious we're not a couple.

So the Big Guy is in lesson, and I'm working on my back edges. Every time I set up a pattern, there's this guy in a funny hat standing in my line of pattern and staring goofily at me. So, I move to another part of the rink. It happens again.

And Again.

This has got to stop.

I switched to forward edges and set up a pattern. When he got in my way, I glared at him and snapped out my copyrighted "In a pattern here!" in my best, do.not.mess.with.me voice.

O....M....G

It was like feeding honey to bees. I skated around the ice, and he followed me at a distance.

I didn't feel threatened. For one thing, the Big Guy is 6'3"and he would laugh the guy off the ice. For another, I spent 30 years in the military. Even on skates I could handle a guy. (As an aside, back when I was young and good looking, I once put a guy on the floor of a bar when he copped a feel.)

But he's messing up my practice.

Finally, the Big Guy finishes his lesson and I tell him about my stalker. He and his coach stare at the guy.

"You could take him." The Big Guy says.

If this were to happen today, and I told Dance Coach about it, the first thing he would ask would be, "How were his edges? You need a partner."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Evaluating Ice Rinks--Part II On Ice

Now we move onto the ice area:

Are the mats in good shape? If there are areas where its worn through (such as at the gates) are extra mats placed down?  Are they secured in some way so they don't move around? Are there loose areas of mats where you could trip? Is there equipment lying around? Do the mats look clean?  If they don't you'll want to take care to wear your skate guards.

Are safety rules obeyed? No one on the ice during ice grooming. Are the doors shut during grooming. One rink I went to had an announcement: "We are about to open the gates, please move slowly onto the ice." and the rink guards stood at the gates to monitor.  Very professional. Do they keep people out of the hockey boxes during public? I don't like this rule personally, but I admit it's a good rule in general. Do you see hockey sticks or pucks on public ice? I've never seen this, but people I know have. Big no-no.

Are the rink guards clearly identified by a jacket or vest? Do they put out the cones? Do they actually patrol around the rink or do they fool around and mess with their friends? Yes, I've seen a girl in a rink guard jacket practicing jumps and spins in the center with her friends. Also hockey boys on duty playing with their hockey buds. Poor management oversight.  On the other hand, I've been at a rink where the guards not only wear prominent orange blaze jackets, but red fanny packs marked First Aid and had Bluetooth headphones to talk to the front office (it was a huge facility). Nice touch. And they were clearly patrolling.

 My observation is that rinks seem to vary widely on the competence of their on ice staff. Some are awful.  Some are great. One of the best  rink guards of all time was a teen age girl, weighing all of  110 lbs, who broke up a fight at my home rink between two hulking grown men. 

The Ice: It's almost certainly going to be hockey ice. Why even bother hoping for figure skating ice. I think it's nice for the ice to be groomed at least once during a heavy public session, but locally this is rare. At one U.S. rink I was at, not only did they groom the ice mid session, they reversed the skating direction. I felt so Canadian.  Is the ice deeply rutted? Does it have Lizard skin (aka tire tracks)? Condensation bumps? Toepick potholes? Thin ice?  I had a home rink for many years that had a spot that  occasionally showed sand. That was bad. Finally, is there a big pit like depression in front of the resurfacer doors? Does the ice tilt or undulate? Extra minus points for both tilting and undulating. There's something going on down beneath the ice to cause that.

It's probably not the dead rising from their graves causing the ice to undulate.
...Unless you're skating in hell.
Personally, I like rinks with high ceilings. I've skated occasionally at a local rink that had one of those lowered insulated ceilings. I felt like I was in a shipping container. But that's a personal preference.  There's no safety, or business issue associated with it.

You'll note that I have completely bypassed the rink snack bar. You should too.

What's a deal breaker for me? Believe it or not, it's not the ice. No one has nice public ice anymore. My deal breaker is the booting up area. If I have to sit on the floor, it's not a good sign. The one rink where this happened, I now know to take a towel to clean up the floor so I can sit down. But the second thing is that  at my age, seeing me get up from the floor in skates is like watching an arthritic cat trying to get up on the couch.  It's a sight you don't want to see.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Evaluating Rink Facilities--Part 1 Off Ice

I'm a systems engineer.  I work and skate with other engineers. For us, walking into a new rink and checking out the facilities is always fun.  I'm not talking about evaluating the coaches or the freestyle sessions, or the psychotic skating moms. It's the facilities, staff and public sessions I'm interested in.

First off, the exterior:  Does it look presentable and welcoming? Parking lot well lit? People think of rinks as safe. Generally true, but a place that's surrounded by trash and has an unlit parking lot should set up mental alarms. There is one rink I won't go to after dark because of the parking lot. It is unlit and surrounded by dense stands of trees. Oh so pretty in the daytime. Oh such a nice place for bad guys to hide at night.

Front Lobby:  Is there a manageable line to the cashier, or is it a big pool of people trying to figure out who's next? A rink I visited recently had a roped off cashier's line to keep it neat. Classy. Is the cashier organized? Or are they confused by the POS menus and credit issues. I've stood in line for 5 minutes waiting for a single person to get a credit card payment to work.   What about the skate rental area? Is there one of those boot sizing mats on the floor? That's very helpful. Now for a caution: If there are lockers, do they look like they've been broken into? That always makes me think twice.

What I'd like to see in a front lobby is an standalone system where regulars with their own skates can upgrade their cards and pay for sessions without going through the cashier. That would be sweet.

Seating area: Are there benches (preferable), or individual chairs welded to tables (ugh)? Are there places to put skate bags?  I was at a rink recently where they had only a single line of benches, no place to put shoes and skate bags. The lobby floor was littered with people's stuff.  If the fire marshall had seen it he would have closed the place down.  Are the booting benches placed so rink observers take up space there? Or is there a special observers area? I skated at a rink where the booting area was placed so observers could see the rink. I had to sit on the wet floor to put my boots on so lazy, fat parents with their kindles could watch their precious. Look parents, if you care that much about your precious, get your lazy fat self out on the ice, other wise go sit in the stands, not the booting area. Yes, I'm still ticked off. That floor was nasty.

This is an area of rink design that I've only seen done well in a couple of rinks. The metal benches with the cross bars underneath so you can't put your bag or shoes out of the way are particularly odious. One rink had built crude benches with shelves underneath; nice touch. It kept the lobby clear.  The booting up area is done so poorly at some rinks it  sometimes seems like the skater is the last thing on anyone's mind when they're building a rink.

Rink Staff:  Uniforms such as rink T shirts are nice. But rude and confused lobby staff send a message that worse is to come. The cashier is particularly important. A poorly set up POS system that the staff cant work with , can really mess with guest time in line and overall satisfaction. I either have a rink card or pay cash to avoid any problems with paying. (Although one rink cashier looked at me in shock. "No one pays in cash anymore.")

Summary:
1. Exterior--watch for safety and crime issues
2. Front lobby--payment and staff should be well organized.
3. Seating--places for shoes and bags,  seating should be structured so that it's convenient for skaters not for observers
4. Rink Staff--are they visible? Paying attention to the customer rather than their friends?

Tomorrow I'll talk about the ice side of the rinks.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Much Does it Cost?

I'm a beginner skater. But I'm a serious beginner skater. I have a private lesson every week, plus I take group so I get mid-week ice time. And since I'm 'mature', I figured I'd never advance unless my lesson was an hour a week, so that's more than most people (also, I've found the hour lesson really built up my old lady stamina).

Does it run into money? Yeah. Serious money? Well, to me it's a costly sport, but not an expensive sport. If I was a teenage girl working part time, yeah, it would be serious money. But I've had more expensive hobbies. I flew single engine and aerobatic aircraft back in the 80s,  and rode horses in the 90s. Skating is a lot less expensive than those. To me skating is like 'golf expensive' without the country club membership but not 'skiing expensive' or 'cruise ship vacation expensive'. If in my twilight years I want to have some good times, I hope you won't go all "Occupy Skating Rink" on me.

Let's break it down with some rough numbers:

$2100 a year for privates or $1050 if I took half hour lessons
$400 for group
$600 for gas to/from the rink
$100 for boot care and sharpening
$240 for test fees (6 tests)
$220 for coach fees for tests

So roughly a little over $3500.  or say $2600 if I took half hour lessons. Maybe $2200 if I dropped group too. Note I don't count ice time. Publics are covered by my group tickets, and my freestyle sessions are just a few times a year. Not enough to count. If I had to add ice time, since I can only get to skate on publics that's bout $1400 a year, if I have to pay it for myself. If I skated on freestyles, It would cost me $450 a year per hour a week I skated. Two hours a week--$900. Four hours a week--$1800. 10 hours a week--$4500.  Even then it's cheaper than many other sports.

In comparison, Spin Guy from my rink and I got into a discussion about what he paid for his daughter's synchro.
$1800 for the team fees
$2200 for travel, costumes, and hotels, but not including coach fees, boot care, etc.
~$1250 for private lesson fees (my estimate)
He's a dad. As he says, "I just write the checks." He started skating when his daughter did. He's taught himself some wicked spins, but as he says, "My money goes to synchro".

How does this compare to hockey? Youth hockey can be inexpensive, but once you get on a travel team, I read it goes up to $10,000 a year.  And that's for 10 year olds. How much it costs for an adult league, I have no idea.

So for a beginner skater, who skates almost every week it's something between $2500-$4500 a year including ice time.  You could make it less by not taking privates, and restricting the number of Freestyles. I suspect it could get really expensive with custom costumes, competition travel and fees, but I'm a rec skater, those fees are not in my budget.

As an adult you won't have the deadlines that kids have if they want to go to the elite level. You can shape your budget to meet your needs and income. You can skate on publics rather than Freestyles to keep ice fees down. If you can sew you can make your own costumes or skating outfits.  This is an affordable sport for those interested in skating for exercise and maybe some testing. Those wanting to compete can go as high as they want!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ex-cuuuuse Me!

Russian word for the day:
iz-ven-eetch-cha -- sorry: as in "Sorry, I forgot the dance step", "Sorry I fell"*, "Sorry I put my foot wrong."

It was a federal holiday, so Dance Coach and I squeezed in a freestyle session to work on the Canasta Tango to music. The CT and I are not friends yet. We're more like mortal enemies forced to fight together to save the earth in a third rate paranormal fantasy novel.  The steps in the CT are a lot quicker in parts (the progressives), but not to be rushed in the other parts (the swing roll and slide chasse). So, yes, I'm too slow in the fast parts, and too fast in the slow parts.

After the second time where I failed to make it around the second pattern. Dance Coach blew past the Disappointed Voice into Full Lecture Mode. "Why you do that? You know the pattern. You just skated the pattern, why can't you skate it twice?"

"Iz-ven-eetch-cha." I say, "I was thinking so hard about the end pattern, I started it too soon."

Speaking Russian to Dance Coach seems to take the edge off the lecture.  "Okey, we do again."

I feel so manipulative.

My problem with the CT is that it requires strong pushes every single step and the progressives have tighter curves than I'm accustomed to, plus I think Dance Coach is secretly pushing up my power. This means that I have to be precise with my upper body and knee action.  For example, in the swing rolls, I really have to time the shoulder action and the knee action together. In the cross roll I have to get deeper in the knee. In anything in this dance, if I look down even for a second, there's no time for a correction. I haven't had the nerve to practice all this alone at my (elderly lady) top power , but I guess I'll just have to force myself to do it from now on, or I'll never get that end pattern without skid. You could hear the skidding on the end pattern in Moscow today.

Third time's a charm. The only skid was in the cross roll. Now that it's going right, Dance Coach's mood lifts. He starts teaching me parts of the swing dance, and then we go to back cross rolls. I make a face. He's in a good mood. "Tizloy!"

At least all my work on posture has paid off. I no longer hear any comments about "Hold yourself like an ice dancer." No comment, that's figure skating coach praise.

*(And yes, I nearly fell, in foxtrot hold doing something I've done a hundred times. I think it's the upped speed. Gotta practice, practice, practice to get better, better, better.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jan 14 Lesson: I Discover Fire!

I'm going to embed an important skating point in this post. Unfortunately, there's a lot of rambling before hand.

When I was learning to skate somethings were easy, some were hard. I learned things out of sequence of the learn to skate curriculum. My skating guru, the Big Guy, told me that it was normal. He learned mohawks in an afternoon, and took a summer to learn FO3. He was the one who inculcated in my the spirit of "Learn to Skate is not a race."

But since the broken ankle I had to relearn everything: proper stroking, proper crossovers, three turns, mohawks. For some reason, I couldn't do FI3. I tried at the boards, I tried in the center with coach providing assistance. Many times if I hadn't had something to hold me up, I would have fallen and hit my head.  I finally found a coach at Lake Placid who forced me to center my mass by keeping my legs together,  head up, and arms spread to balance me.  She also had this ankle action in the turn, I can't possibly describe. She got me doing FI3, but I didn't like being far from the boards. I still had a tendency  to fall off the back edge but it was 1 in 4 rather that 1 in 1. It was progress.

But my problem wasn't physical, it was also in my head. I'd developed this mental blank spot with FI3.

Over the last couple of months, I worked every session I skated on the FI3. I gradually worked my way away from the boards. I used behavior modification to desensitize myself to the fear I felt from falling. Then in Saturday lesson, Dance Coach said, "Let's try forward inside 3."

I popped one out. It was a proper FI3, with arms, body and legs in the right position. Dance Coach was delighted, "I never thought you'd get it!" Me, I thought I'd go to my grave without it. But in that moment, I felt like I had invented fire. I had got over my skating block.

I have Forward Inside Threes!
What did I do?
1. I practiced what I could every session. Even though they scared me.
2. I watched videos and tried what suggestions were presented
3. I followed the coaching advice I was given
4. I got over bad habits (looking down, hunching, not being centered). In fact I forced myself to get over bad habits.
5. I desensitized myself to my fear by slowly increasing the distance to the boards when I practiced. 
6. I KEPT ON TRYING.

And now I have FI3, something so easy that most people learn it in a lesson. Learning to Skate isn't a race, it's a journey.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

ISI WeSkate vs USFSA Basic Skills

You're an adult skater, or maybe you're an adult with a child who skates and you want to skate too. You may have a choice between a rink with the Ice Skating Institute (ISI) weSkate program or the US Figure Skating Association (USFSA) Basic Skills program, which one do you pick?

Really, it doesn't matter.

You may run into people who tell you in an excited voice, "USFSA is the better program because that's the one that trains Olympians." Well, that's a slightly odd statement. USFSA is the national skating assosciation that interfaces with the International Skating Union, so yes USFSA oversees US elite figure skating for international and olympic competitions. ISI is an association of rinks and stresses recreational skating. You (and your child, if you take your child to learn to skate) aren't elite skaters; Don't worry about which program you're learning to skate in. In fact, I've been told that for many years USFSA did not have a learn to skate program. Instead, everyone learned to skate via the ISI program. Kids switched to USFSA when they had an axel.  World champions have come out of both learn to skate programs.

Basic Skills

VS 
weSkate

Which rink should you pick?  With one exception, I wouldn't make a decision based on the rink's skating program. There's more important priorities: Driving distance, schedule of classes, the rink culture, the quality of the ice, the parking, the presence of people you know, the size of the adult program, even the area of the city. If you take a couple of sessions and don't like that rink, you can switch to a completely different program at another rink. You're not locked into one program.  You'll learn the close to the same skills in both programs, but arranged in a slightly different way, since the programs don't line up exactly.

I've known coaches I respected a lot who swore by the learn to skate program for ISI. You can tell you're in this program if they talk about pre-Alpha, Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma levels. ISI focuses on recreational skating. There's lots of competitions with imaginative programs: interpretive, props, family, similar pairs, etc. that won't look like USFSA competitions you've seen on TV. It's a really recreational skater friendly program, and focused on making skating fun for the entire family. I started skating in an ISI rink and I like the program.

USFSA Basic Skills for kids levels are numbered 1-8, but there is an Adult basic skills program numbered Adults 1-4. I will say that if you have a choice between a rink that teaches an Adult 1-4 class, or teaches Adults in the 1-8 curriculum, I personally would prefer to take group lessons at the rink that teaches adults using the Basic 1-8 curriculum or go to an ISI rink.  I don't understand the logic of giving adults a truncated skating curriculum a la' Adult Basic 1-4, but it seems to be normally what you'll find at USFSA rinks if there's an adult program. I have not found anyone who defends the USFSA Adults 1-4 program. If you understand the rationale for Adults 1-4, I'd like to hear it.

If you get to a rink and find out that they don't have adult classes, ask if you can just skate in the kids classes. My skating guru, the Big Guy, started figure skating in his 30's in the kids curriculum at an ISI rink. A decade later, the kids (now in their teens or twenties) would come up and chat with him on public. No one seemed to care there was an adult in the kids class. I've heard of other adult skaters doing this too.

Regardless of which program you go with, depending on your age, athleticism, and ability you may find you need to repeat certain levels. Don't worry about it. (I met a woman who took Alpha 3 times while she took her grand-daughter to her learn to skate classes.)  Have a good time.  Better to learn your skills well than to speed through. Learn to skate isn't a race. If you have a significant other, I've seen some married couples having a wonderful time at the rink and sharing the experience of a Learn to Skate Class.

The Xanboni website, talks a lot more about learn to skate as Xan is a dedicated Basic Skills Coach. It's worth it to go through her posts and get some insight into learning to skate programs from a coach's perspective. Her post is much more technical than this one and compares the programs level by level.

There are still some rinks out there that have their own internal learn to skate programs.  They may be seasonal rinks, or just have a a long history of independence. Don't worry if you run into this; You're going to learn stroking, crossovers, three turns, and backwards skating, no matter what learn to skate program you're in.

Finally, none of the adult programs I've skated in have had any of the interpersonal drama that seems to come from the parents of kid skaters. I took learn to skate at 3 different rinks (two ISI, one USFSA). Uniformly, the adults were easy going, genial and collaborative.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I'm a Numbers Person

I'm running a poll just for grins.

You'll note that I've put some unusual answers in there. There are unusual people out there.

For example, there was a flurry of activity for a couple of weeks of people from the UK googling "Center of Mass".  My guess? It was a class assignment. I wonder if my deathless prose is now forever enshrined in someone's homework with words with an extra 'u' in it: Colour, Behaviour, Humour, Crossouver.

And every week I get at least one hit from someone googling "Putin Muscle" which was a picture in My Hip Protection post. Mr. Putin is a leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world, I get that. But who are looking for a picture of Vladimir Putin's muscles? Must be fans.  Kinky fans. Well, here's one of Vladimir on ice.

Get down in the knees Mr. Prime Minister!
And and get your weight over those skates!

This blog is now reaching countries I never expected. France. UAE. Hong Kong. Singapore. Belgium (please send chocolate). Welcome all. Hope you have a good time. Keep fighting the good fight for adult skating wherever you are. Big Hugs to everyone.

Don't worry, there will be a skating post tomorrow.

Thursday Night Group

This time last year practice ice was packed with a hundred little kids, all speed and no control. We still have the little darlings, but there's a lot fewer of them. I don't know if it's the economy, or just a normal fluctuation in rink attendance. But the LTS practice ice amazingly has open space in it.

Somehow, although there's fewer than half of the little darlings on ice than last year, THEY ARE STILL IN MY WAY EVERY TIME I TRY TO DO ANYTHING! I can get one swing roll--little kid. Two chasse's -- little kid. Alternating swing rolls--two little kids zip into my path, no escape to the left or right, no time to stop, just pick one up and swing her to safety. Of course they don't watch where they're going. Sigh. It's a lesson in random movement. I can't predict where they're going next. It' like this for a solid half hour.

Typical Little Kid path from one side of the rink to the other.


Oh yeah, then I had to go learn back threes in group. BO3 are the leading source of head injuries in adult skaters. It will be years before I can do them without fear.

Okay, okay. I'm better now. I've still got some egg nog in the fridge, I may just have to go chug it. Excess sugar held in suspension in a mixture of fat, protein and carbohydrates is very soothing. Especially if rum is involved. I just have to remind myself I took up skating to relax.


Center yourself. Be One with the Universe.
Calm the %*&# Down.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Paying the Coach

I've read about rinks with elaborate schemes for paying coaches. You have to get a card, or you have to get a ticket, or you have to check in at the front desk and pay there, or you have to sign in and give a copy of some ticket to the ice monitor. I get confused with all the ticketing, and signing. The rinks I skated at, I paid cash.

Cash to the ice monitor, and sign in. Meet my coach on the ice, give him/her cash after the lesson.

When I first started skating, I paid by check. Then I had a coach who looked at me and said, "Babbette, let me tell you something, coaching is a cash business." So ever since then, I've always paid my coaches in cash. I've never skated at a rink with complex billing systems (except Lake Placid and that doesn't count).  What happens between a coach and the IRS is none of my business. I assume they report every penny.

But these easy days of forking over some of my walking around money in order to go on a freestyle session are coming to an end.  I'm about to start Freestyle sessions at a new rink. I was going through their freestyle rules when I found the payment chapter:



    1. Payments for freestyle sessions are made at [rink] Guest Services using a [rink]  Debit Card, [rink]  Gift Card, credit card, check or cash. Please note that there is a $50 minimum for placing funds on [rink]  Debit Cards.
    2. It is the responsibility of the skater and parent to pay for each session BEFORE the session begins, including morning sessions. Bridging half of one session and half of the following session as one session is not permitted. Skating for any part of a session counts as skating for a full session. No exceptions will be made for lessons.
    3. Skaters must register at Guest Services before every session and leave a copy of their paid freestyle receipt. It is the responsibility of the skater and parent to notify Guest Services if they are having a lesson, and to name the coach and duration of their lesson. Each skater must sign-in and attach his or her receipt to the Freestyle Log.
    4. All lessons are scheduled in advance. Instructors must be notified at least 24 hours in advance of a lesson cancellation. Coaches will charge students the full lesson fee for any absence from a lesson that is not cancelled at least 24 hours in advance. Outstanding fees must be paid before lessons can continue.

  •         5. Salutes will be rendered to the ice monitor when stepping onto the ice. (Just kidding.)


    Permission to enter the ice?
Did you catch that? There need to be at least THREE(!) receipts. One for the desk, one for the monitor, and one for the payer (because they have to give you one to keep).Plus there may be another receipt if the coach is given one they don't mention. And you have to register at Guest Services and the ice monitor.  Shouldn't one receipt be enough? Everyone will tell me this is typical or normal. Man, it sounds like a jackbooted accounting hassle to me. I still remember 'secret adult freestyle' at my first rink, where all we did was stuff cash in an envelope and sign in at 0800 on a Sunday morning,  then skate for as long as we paid for, no matter what time we showed up. Good times. Good times. 


I'll never see the like again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don't.Quit!

One day after Dance Coach had been beating me up and down the rink, demanding more power, better edges, get the steps in the dances right, do this, don't do that, I stopped. My breathing was deep and hard, my legs were shaking and before my mind could engage, I blurted out "I this wasn't so much fun, I'd quit."

Coach had a belly laugh. "Yes is like that, isn't it."

But sometimes it's not fun anymore.  If it's not fun for you, here's some thoughts,

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, (Man is the zam broke again?)
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill, (The ice is heaving too?!)
When the funds are low and the debts are high, (Typical)
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, (Smile in program, no matter what)
When care is pressing you down a bit, (Stupid double sal)
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns, (Stupid Choctaw)
As every one of us sometimes learns, ($25 an hour for coaching, I'd better learn)
And many a failure turns about, (Stupid Back 3s)
When he might have won had he stuck it out; (One more round of power threes)
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–(Must improve my edge pulls)
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than, (One more pattern and I'll be finished)
It seems to a faint and faltering man, (That fall on the axel is killing me)
Often the struggler has given up, (No.No.No.More.Skating.I.Quit)
When he might have captured the victor’s cup, (SHE won! I'm better than her!)
And he learned too late when the night slipped down, (I could have won that comp!)
How close he was to the golden crown. 
(But I quit)





Sunday, January 8, 2012

Jan 7 Lesson: Canasta Tango Obstacle Course

It was Canasta Tango and Rhythm Blues today, on a midwinter public session. Coach will decide if I test in February, so I'm desperately laying down all the pieces preparatory to doing the dances. He's trailing after me, hurling imprecations about my swing rolls. I got no excuse for those; Apparently, I suffered a brain fart and switched my arms--Unbelievable!

I'm on an inside roll, when I pass near a kid. I don't touch him. I never get closer than two feet away. But apparently, I glared at him with my laser eyes.  If you had a Russian dance coach yelling at you, you'd use laser eyes too. The kid looks at me like a bunny and falls.

My laser eyes

Coach and I kind of glance back at him as we pass. He's up again. Man I wish I had knees like that. At my age, getting up from a fall involves some grunting and a small civil engineering team.

Sad too say, I've turned into one of those scary people on public ice that can pass within inches of other people on public and don't think anything about it.  Since I'm in dance patterns I'm down the sides a lot and not in the center and I pass close to a lot of people. And I look fast to them. I feel good about my skating when I'm on publics.

Unfortunately, on freestyle sessions, it's different. A week ago Dance Coach put me in the middle during a freestyle. "Should I be here in the middle? That girl's in program," I said. "She can skate around you," Dance Coach said. "I can skate around you," the girl said.  "She can skate around you," her coach said.

Great, I'm so slow I get a pity pass from Freestyle etiquette.

Freestyle hand of pity bursting the bubble of my skating ego

Sunday Funnies: Lady Coach vs. Gentleman Coach

I've had a number of women coaches and one male coach. They really are different.

Every single woman coach would let me fall. They didn't even step in to steady me. "My goodness," they'd exclaim as I'm crawling up from the ice, "You're a slow faller." (I tilt, and get some hang time and then fall. I think it's telekinesis).

Dance Coach? I show even the tiniest bit of wobble, he gets a panicked look on his face and moves to be ready if I fall.  It's sweet, like he's ready to catch his grandmother falling down the steps. "Boh zhe moy," he'll swear under his breath.

Female coach--you're on your own. Male coach--you're his responsibility.

I'm sure he wishes there was a handle sometimes.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lake Placid Adult Skate Camp Part III--Facilities (updated_2013)

All Lake Placid Posts here including latest reviews.


The Rinks: There are two rinks usually used for the adult classes: The USA rink (rarely) and the 1980 rink. The dressing room is between the two rinks. When you sign up for the program, make sure you get a locker. It's only $10 and really saves you a lot of effort hauling your skates around. The Locker Rooms seemed to be reserved for adults. The only time I saw a kid skater in there was when one came in to sit with her mother who was an adult skater.

The Ice: Hockey ice. Uniformly hard and bumpy in the mornings. 2011 ice was much better than 2008 ice.  It may be because we see so many competitions at Lake Placid that we expect better, but I found it to be just like the ice I skate on at a suburban ice rink. (THIS CHANGED IN 2012 and 2013, SEE LINK ABOVE)

The Miracle on Ice: It's all over the place. There's even a museum in the facility. If you like hockey history, you'll enjoy it.

Other People at the facility: Adult Skate Camp is just one of several activities taking place at the facility. There's a kids skating camp going on at the same time. In 2008 there was also a hockey camp going on,  There are also tourists and tour guides going through.

Off-Ice Facilities:  They offer a lot of off-ice classes. Most of the attendees are from the kids classes, but adults still show up, but in limited numbers. There's Pilates and Yoga and other skating focused classes. I think there was also a ballroom dance class, but I didn't attend it. For most of these off-ice classes all that's needed is a big open room. If there are weight lifting facilities, I don't know about them. There's also an outdoor trampoline for jump training.

Overall:  It's a big commercial facility with lots of hallway and stairs, expect to get lost several times your first day there. Although there are elevators, you'll find it faster to go up and down the stairs. I recommend leaving your skates in your locker. I didn't know about the lockers the first time, and I exhausted myself hauling my skates around.

Skate Bags:   All the kid skaters had Zucas. I don't remember seeing any adults with one because of the lockers. In fact if you keep your stuff in a locker, a zuca is just another thing to worry about. I kept my stuff in a locker, and carried a yoga bag I occasionally put my boots in, around with me to hold camera, phone, tickets, schedule, wallet, a book etc.   I never heard of any theft, but leaving a purse lying around while you're skating is stupid. So a small skate bag was better for 'purse like' duties. It looked just like another exercise or skate bag.  I also kept my credit card case with me at all times in a zipped pocket in my jacket.

Pro shop:  There's a gift shop that offers jackets etc. It's not the pro shop. The pro shop is in the corner behind one of the rinks. It's run by Jack Devitt, who is one of the coaches. He does sharpenings and fix-its , but it's not the kind of pro shop that makes its money off of skate junk. Jack is very knowledgeable and helped me with a skate problem when I was there in 2008. He also did a great job sharpening the Big Guy's parabolic blades which require special handling. I think he had laces for sale, and maybe some guards and soakers, but it was mostly a place for skate sharpening.

What to do, other than skate: Shop. Lots of good shops. There's a boat tour of the lake. Eat. Fall exhausted into bed at the end of the day.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lake Placid Adult Skate Camp Part II: Getting Started

All Lake Placid Posts here. including more recent reviews.

Reception:  There's a reception at the Olympic Skating Center the evening before the Monday start. It starts at 7pm. You'll get a reception packet, an ID, and a schedule. When I went there previously, the website just had an outline of the group class themes they thought they'd offer. The schedule is the first time you will actually see the classes to be offered.   Sometimes, various resident coaches will be there. The Protopopov's will be introduced. Non-resident coaches may be introduced too. The last time I went, there was a skating session after the reception, and a group class.

The schedule: My procedure is to go through the schedule as soon as it's in my hot little hands. I circle all the group classes I think I'll attend so I can set up my private lessons around them. Then I start tracking down coaches. I have a couple I like, and if they're there I try and set up my schedules with them at the reception. If it's a resident coach you can email them if their address is on the website. The schedule will vary between weeks. One time I went, there were a lot of dance classes, the next time there were hardly any.  To schedule lessons, you'll need to have the ice time schedule (for the 3 rinks) and the group class schedule, in order to schedule your lessons with the coach. It's a little like juggling with chainsaws.

Paying for lessons:  Group lessons all cost the same. Private lessons are different. You buy tickets at the box office. (If there's a class on the evening of the reception, you'll need to buy a group ticket the next day and find the coach.)    If you're buying a ticket for a private lesson you'll need to tell the clerk in the box office the coach's name. I like to buy a couple of days worth of tickets at a time for group sessions, and all the private lesson tickets for the week all at once. They do have occasional group class changes so you don't want to get stuck with an extra group class ticket (you can get a refund, but it's a hassle). I had an extra ticket so I gave it to one of the male skaters to partner me in the beginning ice dance class.

Private lessons: How do you pick a coach for a private lesson? Well, I found the website listing of coaches helpful the first year, and I coincidentally knew one of the non-resident coaches so it wasn't difficult for me. You can also try a private lesson with one of the group coaches, if you like their style.  If it doesn't work out, it's just 30 minutes of your life. [For example, I set up two lessons with a non-resident dance coach that resulted in sharp words from me. I was willing to give him the ticket for the second lesson just to get rid of him, but we came to an agreement about the lesson. Still, it was a relief that it was only two short lessons. ] I suggest trying to line up private lessons early, they fill up. (If you want to skate with the Protopopov's they charge double, as it's two coaches at once. )

Exhaustion:  Don't over extend yourself when you're setting up your schedule. The last time I went, I skated five hours a day, plus two hours walking back and forth to the rinks. I didn't have any problems, but I want to warn everyone not to overextend themselves. At another skate camp I attended, people did overextend themselves, resulting in 3 people in one day (Wednesday) stepping on the ice with their guards on. Head cracks all around. You've been warned.

Food:  There's many expensive restaurants in the town. The rink also has a small snack bar, with soups and stuff, so it's not crap rink food. If you want to go to a grocery store, you'll need a car unless you're super tough. I hiked it one day, the nearest grocery store is several miles away (uphill going back to town, with the groceries).

Tomorrow will be Part III--The facilities.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Too Tired To Type

Sorry, just got in from group where I was learning back 3s. Don't have the energy for the second Lake Placid Adult skate camp post. It will need to wait until tomorrow.

Back threes are the spawn of the devil. And everyone knows that heavy metal bands are the spawn of the devil. Therefore, back threes are a heavy metal band.

I want to Shout at the Devil! for Back threes.
I need to get a motley crew of coaches to help  me!
This gentleman skated with Jennifer Wester on Skating with the Stars, and coincidentally, I met Jennifer when she was coaching at Lake Placid Adult Skate Camp. See, I'm still on topic.

Lake Placid Adult Skate Camp-- Part I: The Lay of the Land (updated_2013)


All Lake Placid Posts here.



I've attended the LP adult skate camp twice, in two different years. They should be announcing the summer skate camps starting in February, so I'll prep you what to expect.

How to find out: Sometime in February, LP will announce the dates for its adult camp. In the past there has been one in June and one in July(edit) August. I usually find out about the  LP sessions on the www.skatingforums.com website. Every year in the Off-Ice Forum there will be a thread listing all the adult skate camps for the summer. In addition to Lake Placid there are also dance camps, Theater on Ice, freestyle camps and figures camps. The Skatingforums moderators make sure no local rink's 'kids camp' slips in. If you're seriously interested in going to a skate camp, it's worth joining SkatingForums just for that. You can post questions and quiz other members on their experiences with particular camp. You can also search for previous posts on experiences with Lake Placid and other adult skate camps.

Housing: The camps take place in beautiful (but isolated) Lake Placid, New York. How that town handled not one but TWO winter Olympics, I'll never know. The town is small and expensive. It's also a tourist town, so it's casual wear all day. Even the upscale restaurants  allow casual wear.  There are hotels (expensive), athlete dormitories (you give up some of your privacy), and private homes for rent to stay in. The best deal is to go up with a group and rent a house. The most expensive is to rent a hotel room. I understand the athlete dormitories are reasonable, but I have no personal experience with them.

Travel: There are three ways to get to LP: car, train, and plane. I took the train one year when the Big Guy was still skating. From where we lived it was the same travel time as a car trip and it cost way less. But cars do have conveniences associated with them once you're in town, so it's a trade off. Last year two of the skaters in the group I was with flew in and rented cars. It's a long drive to the airport which is some distance away in Saranac Lake.

Signing up: The controller of the skate camp at Lake Placid is the Olympic Redevelopment Association (ORDA). When the camp is announced, you can go to the website and download the forms (there's a lot of forms), fill them out and send in your money. The fee last year was $275. (In 2013 a 'processing fee' or $50 was added). That is just ice time and three receptions. That doesn't include lessons. Usually the website has an outline of what group classes they think they will hold. This is vague. Don't expect to see an exact list until you show up and sign in. (In 2013 a pdf of the schedule was emailed the week before).

Coaches: There are a number of resident coaches at LP, and ORDA brings in some guest coaches who are elite skaters.  Since there's usually an ice show during the August session, sometimes ice skating stars show up and give a group class. Jeremy Abbot showed up and gave an adult group class last year.   There are also some non-resident coaches who show up with a stable of students, and these non-resident coaches are also available for lessons.  You can look on the Lake Placid website for coach listings. Many (but not all) of those coaches are available for Adult Skate Week. For example, in 2011 and 2012 I never saw Paul Wylie, Gregory and Petukhov coaching (but in 2013 I did) . Non-resident coaches are not listed here. You won't learn about them until the initial reception.

Tomorrow--Part II: Getting Started at LP Adult Camp

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Don't.Slouch

I can't tell you how many skaters I've seen, young and old, amateur and elite, slouching while they skate.  As an ice dancer I am sometimes forced to look at video of myself skating and I occasionally see myself as bad as everyone else. Slouching is a terrible posture problem for both young and old, and it's easy to fall into bad habits. It's also bad for you.

Let me describe the kind of slouch I'm talking about.

1. The shoulders roll forward so the chest is narrowed.
2. The upper part of the back curves so the chest is collapsed
3.  The head is pushed forward

This posture has a lot of effects. It can impede deep breathing since it compresses your internal organs and rib cage into your lungs, it can affect the angle of the pelvis causing back pain, it disrupts your balance,  the angle of the head can cause pressure on the brain stem raising blood pressure and most critical of all....

It makes your boobs sag and your stomach pop out!

MO-TI-VA-TOR! Right, am I right? People will ignore the health issues, but talk about looks, and everyone's all standing up straight!

So what do to? Good posture is mostly good habits, stand up with chest out, shoulders back is enough. But you have to do it all the time. Every minute. Every hour. Every day.

Is it hard to be consistent? Yes. I lift weights, do Pilates, and yoga and I still catch myself slouching. Still, there's some simple exercises that you could try to help you straighten up. I found these on  the Women's Health magazine website.

No matter how young and beautiful you are. Slouching is ugly.
(And bad for your health)
Skating with out slouching gives you more breath to skate with, centers your balance, improves your looks. All you have to do is be conscious of it. All.The.Time.


Johnny Wier. Always perfect posture. A lesson for us all.