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.


  1. "Check your turn" was the biggest mystery I heard people throwing around but never truly explained, sigh.

  2. Yes, checking the turn is kind of mysterious. Checking and lilt are two things I wish some coach would make a video on. I was going to do a physic-y explanation, but really it wouldn't do much good. Checking goes so fast, I just had to practice, practice, practice.

  3. love the blog! thanks for sharing! i'm an adult beginner too (started in fall 2010, at 34), and my coach says maybe i can take my first test in february. the paper plate idea is fantastic for three-turns -- wish i'd thought of it!

  4. Welcome I'm glad you like it!. Good luck on your test.

  5. Oh. My. Dear. God. I'm an adult beginner, who started skating because my mare is now retired, her filly is only a yearling, and I was going out of my head with nothing to ride. I'm a transplant from the H/J world, I've been skating for almost 3 months now, and I just started 3 turns in my last lesson, so for me this post was sheer gold!! LOLOL!

    I have paper plates, I have ariats, and I have a wooden floor. Bring on the fun. :-D :-D

    1. Oooh, Ariats are nice. I still have my Mountain Horse winter paddock boots even though I haven't ridden in more than a decade.