Sunday, August 30, 2015

Awkward moments.....I skate waaaay too much

I've started wearing hip pads while planning for the day when my coach, Miss Bianca, has me do back threes 'touch free'. To wear hip pads (from I wear a pair of capri tights under my skating pants, and slip the pads between my skin and tights. I like to do it this way since I can move the pad around on my hip to cover just the right place.

So, as Miss Bianca and I get off the ice and sit down, the booting up area is empty, and  I unconsciously reach down inside my waistband and pull one pad out...those things get hot after a while. Then I look up. There's a man now sitting in the booting up area, giving me a 'funny look'.

I realize, too late, that oh, yeah, this was public skate not freestyle. I look at Miss Bianca and she gives a 'don't worry about it' shrug.

WTH. Miss Bianca and I continue our conversation and I face away from the man to pull the other one out.

Then today, I had a major fall and didn't have my pads in because it's a hassle to go into the ladies to put them in and take them out. My hip still hurts.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A 12 min No Equipment Needed Figure Skating Off-Ice Warmup

I wanted to do a no equipment required warmup before my skating so that I can get my on ice warm up down to 5 minutes. Here's the method I picked; a high intensity, progressive system of timed exercises that requires only 12 minutes. The only hitch: while it's a great warm up program, it's also a program you should do every day. But, c'mon, it's only 12 minutes a day.
When I joined the USAF, they gave us women a little pamphlet called XBX--Ten Basic Exercises.  This little book consists of ten exercises in a set period of time, 12 minutes.  The author of this book was an MD who worked for the Canadian government. He tested hundreds of women and discovered that intensity of exercise is more important than length of the exercise. This book was used by the Canadian Air Force until 2008.

There are four graded tables with 12 levels each; Table 1 has the simplest variation of the ten exercises, Table II has more complex variations, etc. As time goes on you work your way up from the easy version of the exercises, to the harder ones.  You never do more than twelve minutes of exercises.  If you can't do the exercises in a new level in 12 minutes, you step back down a level.

A couple off weeks ago, I dug out my historical artifact (my old copy of XBX from 1973) and talked two women from work into joining me in doing the program. We started on Chart I, Level 1. Here is a video of a young man who appears to be doing Chart 1, Level 11.

The only problem with the program is that it was designed in the 60's to be done without supervision by a population that was basically unfit. The exercsies aren't what the athlete of today would call a challenge.  Since that the 60s,  people have split into two groups: the fittish and the fattish. My friends and I are in the fittish contingent so we made some slight modifications:

1.  We do the exercises as fast as we can in order to increase the intensity, while maintaining good form. The book says to spend 8 days at each level, but since we're doing levels in less that 10 minutes we do a new level a day. We're now on Chart II, we'll see if we get up to the 12 minute wall in this chart and have to start repeating levels.
2. I misread some of the descriptions of counting for the leg lifts, arm circling, and side leg raises so we did double the exercises for Chart I.  Well, Chart I wasn't much of a challenge. And even with the increased difficulty, we were still blowing through it.
3. We don't do the sit-ups. Instead, we do crunches.

Does it work? Well, yeah. And in surprising ways. I had a snap in my right shoulder. Even though we only did the first Chart, the arm circling made the snapping go away. I'm also a chronic failure in push ups. I just shifted from the super-girly pushups on Chart I, to the regular girl push ups on Chart II without a problem.  I hope that when I get to Chart III I'll be ready to do 'manly' push ups. Also, my lower back has stopped hurting.

Today I did Level I, Chart II before I skated, my knees and ankles were ready to go and my lower back didn't give me any trouble on ice or in the car on the way home. 

The pamphlet is pretty self-explanatory, you can download it from the link above. Also, although it was designed for women, I don't see anything wrong with a man doing these exercises before skating as the exercises are seem to parallel many needs for the figure skater warm up: flexibility, hip and knee warm up, and upper body strength. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Apparently, I...

I Didn't See THAT Coming...

And I started out spinning left when my natural spin is right, and doing waltz jumps the opposite way too. So, I have to relearn everything.

Oh well, it's not like I'm going to ever worry about doubles. Maybe I can do waltz jumps both ways. Moving on....

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Figure Skating Warm-up

Up until a few weeks ago my warm-up was lap skating with alternating forward and (if the rink wasn't crowded) back crossovers down the long boards, followed by the pre-bronze forward to back crossover pattern with the swing mohawk transition.

I've been skating 8 hours a week and my legs are much stronger, so I've been looking at coaching videos for warm-up regimes. Here's what I'm doing now, with my goals for the next stage.
First Round:
One lap around the rink, no crossovers, no real try for power.

Second round: (Working on my ankles)
Now: Swizzles up one side of the rink with 4 quick crossovers across the shortboards, followed by deep in the knee forward slaloms with hands behind the back down the other side. Then back swizzles down one side, back crosses across the short boards, and back slaloms (hands behind the back) down the other. 
Goal: half a side of forwards, turn backwards then half a side of back swizzles. Back crosses. Turn Forwards. Half a side of forward slaloms. Turn back. Half a side of back slaloms, back crosses across the shortboards (I'm pretty sure I can do this next week)

Turn Forward.

Third Round: (Resting lap--hey, cut me some slack. Next year I have to register for Medicare)

Slow lap of forward stroking and back stroking (Inside and outside edges) as can be fit in due to traffic.

Fourth Round: (Knees and hips)
Forward cross rolls down one side of the rink. Stay down in the knee! Forward crossovers down the short boards. Forward swing rolls down the other side. Forward crossovers across the end
Goal: Foward cross rolls down one side. Back cross rolls down the other. (No where near back cross rolls, they're like in magic dreamland where I lose 40 lb and wake up with an axel--and back cross rolls).

Fifth round: (I'd drop this one for time, but I keep it in for the mohawk)
Pre-Bronze crossover pattern.
Goal: To get that f*%#ing swing mohawk in the middle done at some speed other than 'turtle'. 
Turtle speed
Sixth Round: (quickness)
In a circle with the following pattern for forward crossovers: slow and extended power crossover twice followed by 4 quick crossovers. Repeat around the center circle twice, both ways. 
Goal: To get my quick and power crossovers to be substantially different.  Right now my quicks just look like choppy power crossovers--so annoying. I'm quicking my little heart out and my coach says, "That doesn't look much different." 

Yeah, I know
This takes me about 10 minutes so it won't do for a 5 minute warm-up at a competion, but it gets the major leg muscles and joints moving without putting too much stress on the joints before they've got blood flowing and the ligaments and tendons warmed up.

I need to develop a 5 minute warm-up for tests. Meh, I've got a few months to work on that.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

When There's No Music On Public Skate

I Can't Skate Without MY TUUUUNES

Hockey Boys
"Wow, you mean they play music on public?.....whoa..."

Figure Skaters

Then today they turned the music back on, just as they started my lesson.....First World Figure Skating Problem.

Saturday, August 22, 2015 vs

It's a Canada vs United States smackdown in the compare / contrast review of the two major figure skating videos sites available in North America!

MySkateCoach...This site seems to have primarily Canadian coaches, including the divine Brian Orsrer (swoon). Most of the names may not be familiar to the American customer (although Doug Leigh who coached Orser, Stojko, and Jeffrey Buttle among many other famous skaters will be a well-known name)

Primary customer focus: Skaters although there are also videos providing tips for coaches.

Delivery: Download of videos and with the "Gold Membership" streaming of videos. Cost of downloads decreases with the level of subscription from Bronze to Gold. Bronze membership is free, and cost of videos is $1.99. Subscription Details

Video Quality: High. The coaches are miked, and the camera work flows with the demonstrations, so you aren't stuck w/ a fixed camera view. Length of video is 2 to 4 minutes is the norm.

Video Previews: Yes, 10 or so seconds per video.

Range of Skating Skills:  From beginner skaters to the axel. Also off-ice exercises and dance.

Video focus: Videos are usually narrowly focused to a single particular skill. For example, entry to a flip jump, a particular step in a dance, spin entry.

Favorite Coach: Brian Orser. No kidding. The guy is fantastic on camera and coaching.

Recommendation:  If you are a beginner skater looking for advice on certain skills, this is certainly the most economic way to do it.
 ICoachSkating. . . Primarily US coaches. To Americans the names will be familiar: Frank Carroll, Audrey Weisinger, Charlie Tickner, Tom Zakrajsek and numerous others. Curiously, Robert Tebby does videos for both sites!

Primary customer focus: This site has a lot of videos that are focused in giving tips to coaches but that may be because I'm focused at looking at the low end of skating. Certainly everything here is usuable by both coaches and skaters. STRONG SUPPORT OF ADULT LEARNERS!

Delivery: Online video--no download. You may experience skips in the video. I find myself scrolling back to check the video when I'm looking at a foot position or something. You pay a monthly fee of $29.97 a month for unlimited viewing.

Video Quality: High. The coaches are miked, and the camera work flows with the demonstrations, so you aren't stuck w/ a fixed camera view. Length of video is  5 to 8  minutes seems to be the norm. I like the longer video format as it's easier to tie complex techniques together.

Video Previews: No, although if you sign up for their free sample videos you get access to four videos.

Range of Skating Skills: From beginner to axel. Some videos are addressed to adult learner problems. Off-ice training is covered. I've looked for dance videos but didn't find any.

Video focus:  The videos I've watched cover a topic more broadly than MySkatingCoach which is narrowly focused. 

Favorite Coach: Nick Perna and Amy Brolsma because of where I am in my skating journey.

Recommendation:  If you are a beginner skater looking for advice on certain skills, this is probably not the most economic site. For ~$30 a month you could get 15 downloaded videos a month from MySkatingCoach with the free Bronze membership.  If you are an advanced skater working on a lot of skills, or if you are a coach with a lot of students at different levels, you may find this appealing even at the monthly charge. Obviously, all this depends on your skill level and needs. 

Except....if you want dance tips, it looks like MySkatingCoach is the winner.

So Who Wins?
Oh, Canada, Our home and native land...of the free and the brave

Try them both, and see which you prefer.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Great Katelyn Crash of 2015

So a coach I slightly know was telling a tale of a skating accident that had happened on ice to a group of us adult skaters. She has an adult student we'll call Katelyn that all of us adult skaters know and admire. Katelyn is the best adult skater at the rink.

"Last week," she began, "Katelyn had an accident on ice. Katelyn was just wild and out of control, and skating too fast, she slammed into the other skater, Katelyn and the other skater had to be taken off the ice since she'd broken a tooth, fortunately it wasn't too bad. Katelyn ended up with a bruised jaw and a scrape on the leg."

"Wait," I said, "Katelyn got injured. Is that why she's not here tonight?"

"No, Katelyn's not injured she's on a family trip."

"Wait, you just said Katelyn was injured."


"And that she was skating out of control. That doesn't sound like Katelyn."

"Right." The light went off in the coach's head, "Oh, it's not our Katelyn, it's the other Katelyn, who was slammed into by yet another Katelyn."

Katelyn, Caitlyn, Kaitlynn.  The poor coach even has two skaters named Katelyn--spelled different ways.

For God's Sake Parents stop naming your daughters all the same name!

The Tough Little 5 year Old

My coach, Miss Bianca, and I were stroking around when we came across another coach with a 5 year old student. The little girl in pink helmet, pink knee pads, and brand new skates was giving her coach the hairy eyeball.

Miss Bianca and I spontaneously burst into laughter. 

"I don't expect to see an expression like that on a 5 year old," Miss Bianca said, "That's more like you."

Wait. What?!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Knee Bend, 3 turn Checking, Posture Correcting Offi-Ice Training Tool

I wanted to buy a spin trainer, but it was kind of expensive, so I bought what's called a 'figure trimmer'. That didn't work for spins, but what it did work for was improving my knee bend, 3 turn checking and posture in the turn. Not kidding. This thing helped me immediately to identify and feel what I was doing wrong and rather than being on ice I didn't have to worry about people running into me. Not to say this thing was 'safe'. I nearly fell off of it a couple of times until I fixed my posture.
Figure Trimmer
Here's how I use it:
  1.  Stand with both feet on the trainer, feet as close together as possible
  2. Make sure I am near something where I can catch myself if I fall (a wall, the back of a couch, a counter)
  3. Hold my arms in position for the turn I'm about to do
  4. I make the turn
  5. If I do it correctly, I don't tip over, fall or roll off the trainer 
  6. If I do it wrong I get instantaneous feedback, and I can make instantaneous corrections
What I learned using this tool that to make the turn correctly (no tipping over) I have to do the following:
  1. I learned I have to go much, much deeper in the knee than I'm used to
  2. According to my coach 'much, much deeper in the knee than I'm used to" is the correct amount of knee bend
  3.  I learned that I do the knee bend so that I drop straight down--no butt sticking out or leaning forward.
  4. According to my coach, butt out-tits forward is a typical adult turn problem. 
  5. I learned that once I got the correct amount of knee bend, and the correct posture (no butt out-tits forward) I could do the turn on the trainer without falling off
  6. Once I got the kneebend, posture right, I could work on my checking and timing.
  7. I'm now working on the checking and timing, but bad habits are hard to break 
  8. Learning what I was doing wrong took about 5 minutes. Fixing it didn't take much longer. Getting better is an ongoing process
 Just a heads up, if you give this a try, if you don't get everything just perfect, the trainer will send you flying. So  make sure that you start out near someplace where you can reach out a hand to steady your self.

So, when I showed my coach what I had learned, she was tactful enough not to say "Finally!"  She had been working with me on this for back 3's, but the temptation to lean forward is awfully strong. Using this trainer made a world of difference and corrected my bad habits between lessons.

P.S. Don't use this for one foot turns. I think it's too unstable

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ice Skating with Children Is Like a Car Wreck Waiting to Happen

We have 45 minutes of practice ice before group, and there are only a couple of parents on the ice. I like for parents to be on the ice with their kids, because sometimes it's just so sweet to see a mom or dad working with a kid learning a new skill.
But if there are no parents, and no rink guard, no cones and the coaches don't step's Kids Gone Wild!

I've written about this before, but kids have no idea that anything in the world exists outside of the 3 foot bubble that surrounds them. They don't see you coming, they just see where they want to go and they go there. The best thing I can compare our practice ice to, is  a multiple car pileup.

at least none of our kids have burst into flame
Sometimes, I have to dodge several kids going different directions in the space of a couple of feet...

It is frustrating to me that I will never, ever be able to get a single complete dance pattern on LTS practice ice, or be able to do any backwards work down the length of the rink. But I realize, that the kids see me as frightening. I'm big, I'm slow and I'm always there. I'm sure some of them have thoughts about me falling on them. 

Here I Come!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Skating Celebrities: The Mystery Man

In a photo taken in 1959 by famed photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, this casual black and white portrait of one of (if not 'THE') literary lion of the 20th Century astonishes me. Who knew that our mystery guest could skate, much less had a decent inside spread eagle?

Do you know who this is?

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've seen movies based on his books, television programs based on his short stories, maybe read his books, or maybe you even saw one of the two superb biographies on film of him that came out in the same year.

He was also an actor in comedy, a celebrity on television, and a luminary of the NY social world.

 Here's a close up. Recognize him now?

Okay, here's one when he was older in a portrait by Irving Penn.

Recognize him now? Truman Capote! Who knew he figure skated!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Invisible Male Skater

My rink has about 7 adult men who skate on publics in black figure skates. Let me put this bluntly, men in their own figure skates out number men in their own hockey skates regularly, sometimes by as much as 4 to 1 on publics. I've been on the ice when the male figure skaters outnumbered the women figure skaters!

I call these men the Invisible Male Figure Skaters. None of the coaches teach them, and yet I think they really influence the younger boy skaters on the rink just by being there. Boys go to the rink for public and like to skate, and there's a grown man, or two or three or four in figure skates.  And their dads see our male figure skaters out there to. And these are all convivial male skaters willing to help or give a few tips to other skaters, including dads with their kids on the ice for the first time.  They're kind of like skating ambassadors.

I  Boys in LTS and who want to do spins and jumps can always say "I want to skate like Mr. X." And even if they never articulate this, black boots on grown men is something they've seen. Men doing spins, and spirals, and jumps are something they've seen too. That's more exciting than the forwards and backwards of hockey.

I think we've had an increase in the number little boys in figure skates on the ice in the last few years. I don't see them all the time but there's 3 or 4 little regulars on public, including one in junior high who just started learning to figure skate (working on back spins). Then there's 4 or 5  guys on freestyle who I seldom see. 

I can't prove it, but I have a theory. Our male figure skaters are like invisible role models to people who never see men in figure skates outside the Olympics. Boys who want to figure skate now have someone they can point to, and someone their dads can meet to talk about figure skating for men. It helps make men's figure skating less unfamiliar when there's someone you know who can tell you about it.

It's a kind of trope that figure skating is a 'girl's sport', but not at my rink! 

Thank you Mr. Invisible Male Figure Skaters for making our rink boy friendly! 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I Have a Waltz Jump!

Not This WaltzJump


More Like This Waltz Jump

Not at the boards, but with a proper bent leg kick, and both feet were off the ice.
I know what you're thinking...

I'm More Like This


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Testing: With You In Spirit

My rink had testing today.

My rink also has full motion video of the ice posted to the internet

I watched from work...not continuously mind you. I had the session open on the computer and if something interesting popped up in the corner of my eye, I would check it out.

Wait, what just happened there?
Except for the coaches I had no idea who anyone was. I'm probably 50 years older than most of the kid skaters, so to me everyone under 15 is "dearie". I only saw one adult doing the Quickstep, who I didn't know.

Lot's and lots of Gold Moves. I don't know what level freestyle tests were being done.

I was sad when one skater was called to the judges to repeat an element, then messed it up.

I was happy that falls were rare, and no one had a meltdown on ice.

I could hear faint supportive applause from the other skaters, parents and coaches when a freestyle skater finished a program.

Sadly, no one applauded for the ice dancers. It's a lonely road, ice dance testing is.

Still, on behalf of my Club, even though I couldn't be there as announcer, gate monitor, or music monitor, or anything else, I was there to support them.

Congratulations if you passed!
Better luck next time if you got a 'Retry"

Monday, August 3, 2015

Back Three Injury Prevention

I once read that back threes are the leading cause of injuries in adult figure skaters (sorry, I can't find the cite). I mean, who categorizes stuff like that?

Anyway, I have an Ice Halo. I'm very respectful of head injuries. I don't ever want to find myself flat on my back on the ice with this looking down at me.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Spins without Spotting

The difference between spins in skating and rapid dance turns is that you don't 'spot' in spinning on skates.

From Wikipedia:
As a dancer turns, spotting is performed by rotating the body and head at different rates. While the body rotates smoothly at a relatively constant speed, the head periodically rotates much faster and then stops, so as to fix the dancer's gaze on a single location (the spotting point, or simply the spot).
According to various sources, skaters don't spot, and while spinning without spotting makes them dizzy, 'they get used to it'.

Until recently, I 'spotted'. If there was a large contrast in color somewhere in my vicinity, my eye would fix on it every rotation. Advertising signs on the boards. The open gate framing the blue matting beyond, a bright yellow ladder leaning against the wall outside the ice. Of course spotting slows me down, sometimes to a stop.

One day I was practicing my spins on public, when Dance Coach came into my vision as I was spinning.
  1. He's a big black coated form contrasting with the ice
  2. He used to be my coach so reflexively, I stared at him. 
  3. I mean, that's a thing skaters do. See Coach. Stare at coach. Check coach expression for eye rolls.
Naturally, not only did I grind to a halt, I fell out the the spin and nearly crashed over.

Dance Coach started mock mocking me. "Why did you fall out of your spin? You have to be better. Work harder."

I can counter mock with the best of them. I yelled back, "The sight of your male beauty distracted me and made me fall."

Dance Coach started laughing so hard that he bent over and gripped his knees.

It was like old times. One of these days I'll make him laugh so hard he'll fall off his skates.

Nowadays I spin fast enough that I don't have time to spot. The problem is that when I realize I'm going that fast, my toes unconsciously clench, pushing me onto my toepicks and I stop abruptly. Stupid toes.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Really Crowded Open Freestyle

1. 25 skaters on Open Freestyle plus 6 or 7 coaches
2. Moves, Dance, Programs all going on

What Needs to Happen to Skaters Standing in the Dance Pattern While the Dance Music is Playing and The Dancers are skating in Hold

What Needs to Happen to the Skater in Program Who won't wear the Vest--Especially
Since there are 4 other people in the center making dramatic poses at the same time

What I'm afraid will happen to me--the slowest skater on freestyle 

I finally got off the ice and in the lobby I ran into the guy  who's got double lutzes. "Are you taking a break?" I asked.

"Too Many people," he said.

 If there's too many people for him? What about me?!