Wednesday, December 28, 2011


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.


  1. Three turns! I actually didn't have a huge problem with outside ones, but inside are another story. I have worked on them for AGES and you are right - not looking down is a major hurdle. My coach finally got it through my head that I needed to start turning my shoulders first. The left inside is finally getting consistent.

    Where did you go to skate camp? That's my dream.

    And Janet Lynn - I LOVED her!

  2. i'm the anon who commented about the paper-plate 3-turn idea (gotta sign up for blogspot someday).

    anyway, i too dream of skate camp someday, so i second the above commenter's question: where did you go? what was it like? maybe a blog post about it sometime?

    whenever i have to remind myself not to look down (which is often), i put my nose in the air and think, "pretend you know exactly what you're doing." :D

  3. I tease my coach that he can say, "Don't look down" without an accent. And guess 3-turns are awful! Maybe I should listen to him. :-)

  4. @ Nancy and @Anonymous I plan to post later about skate camps. I went to two, but only one is still operating. Also, there will be an article in Skating magazine in the next issue, I think, about skate camps.

    @Mer It took me a long time to get over the fear of 3 turns. I broke my ankle on a 3 turn, and that self protected habit was hard to break. Wow! Tomorrow's post "How I broke my ankle"!