Monday, February 27, 2017

Poultry In Motion

During last Thursday's freestyle group lesson, Dance Coach started us off with power threes. Not just any power threes, but ones with the arms up over the head.

"You enter the three as you do," Dance Coach did the entry to the three, "then as you skate back, you raise your arms up. up. gracefully up." He then lowered his arms as he entered the back cross, "And after you do the back cross, and we are gliding backwards, you raise them up again."

We all took a try at it. FO3, arms up on the back edge, lower arms, back cross, raise arms again.

Dance Coach shook his head. "No, no, you are  much too stiff. You turn, you raise your arms gracefully," he gave us an impish look, "then you throw the chicken."

 His arms arced out upwards from his shoulders....and I swear all of us went "Bwak, bwak!"

If someone new ever joins this class, they're going to be soooo confused.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Guest Blogger: Attending the Paul Wylie Seminar

While I'm off ice this week, I have a returning guest blogger who previously posted "Why We Skate". This is a long post, but enjoy.
Learn What You Know
I attended an adult skating seminar led by Paul Wylie.  PAUL freakin’ WYLIE!!!  It had excellent points and aspects that could be improved; overall, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  (Or, as soon as my legs are working right again, whichever comes last.)  My main victory in skating life now is that Paul Wylie told lil ol me that my spreadeagle was nice.  He saw me use it as an entrance into a flip.  He complimented me on it *internal jumping up-and-down* and called me out to do it in front of the group *instant regret*.  This is when I made an example of myself.  (Not the good type.)

I took off from where I was and went and did my thing.  However, where I was and where I was going meant that I ended up doing my spreadeagle with my back to the group.  As I go by, I hear him say "Really?  You're gonna do it with your back to us?  REALLY??" 

I was committed at that point; so, yep, really.  I made my turn, stuck my tongue out, and with a "TTHHHHPPT!!" picked in and took off.  It was a good flip (for me): Nice & high, comfortable rotation, soft landing; I glided out, and with a back outside 3-turn I triumphantly faced the crowd, who was cheering.  And a stern-looking Paul Wylie, who was all-the-way not cheering.  "Did you do that in the right direction?" he asked me in a tone that conveyed the answer.  "At a Technique, Artistry, and Presentation seminar, you're gonna do a trick with your back to us?"  He wasn't impressed with my Technique of Artistically Presenting my backside.

Me:  [sheepish mumbling]

He pointed back to where I jumped.  "Again."  Paul is a small-ish person; he is friendly and personable.  However, I would have to find someone else to trifle with, if that was my intention.  So, I picked up my embarrassment and tucked it away in a pocket to savor later on, and I got on down there.  All right, what the hell:  Let's perform this one.

 I hit my spreadeagle & stretched it out.  *Go, go, Gadget ballet arms!*  (Hey, look, there are people here!  Hi, People!) Turn, pick, jump, rotate, land, kick out & back, stretch it out, aaaaand, finish.  My leading foot had a little shimmy at the start of the spreadeagle.  Air position on the flip wasn't as good as the first, so the landing wasn't as solid.  (Perhaps the embarrassment in my pocket was throwing off my balance.)   But, I felt that I had sold it.

I turned to face the crowd, who was cheering (more).  And Paul, who was cheering.  I like happy Paul.  That's a Paul that's much more fun to be around.

I'm glad it happened that way.  A cornerstone of the seminar was that the 'selling it' is such a big part of a performance.  Paul's visual device was to have us all come to center ice and visualize all the elements and tech stuff as taking one side of the ice, and that the performance was the other half.  The tech side is judged strictly and according to rules, but the performance is all up to us.  And they count equally.  Well, of course, there was no disagreement there.  Nobody had an epiphany about it; it makes sense.  It was a good reminder, though, and it bears stating often.  BUT nothing makes a point like experience, and I got this experience to prove it.

The feedback I got was the best kind:

1)  It was immediate.  Timely feedback is best, and you don't get any timelier than immediate.

2)  It was given by my peers.  Anyone in a supervisory position can tell you that peer feedback is the most powerful.  You know an audience is going to at least be polite.  You know your family and friends are going to be kind.  You know your coach is going to be … well, your coach.  *clears throat; moves along*   But here were a bunch of adult skaters.  These were my people.  I came into a room full of strangers, but by being an all-the-way grown-up and setting down a figure-skating bag at an adult skating seminar, I had told them at least half of my story.  They’re not going to shine me on; nor are they going to cut me down.  A thing I love about the adult skating community is that a person’s win is always a team win.  And everyone knows you don’t get them with fake praise or negative energy.  So therefore:

3)  It was genuine.  There was no doubt that I was seeing honest reactions.

4)  It was undeniable.  My second effort was technically inferior.  But the room was happier.  No doubt about it.  I was happier.  Isn’t that why I’m doing this in the first place?  I’m not a showman by nature, but I like being happy.  (Odd, I know.)  That’s why I’m doing this, right?  Right.

I appreciate how a concept that I’ve heard so often gains much more heft when you experience it.  I learned something I (thought I) already knew.  I’m also excited to work on improving the performance. 

Oh, and by the way, *laces fingers behind head; leans back and puts feet on desk* did I ever tell you guys this thing Paul Wylie once said about my spreadeagle?...

(Yeah, I’m gonna get some mileage outta that.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Revelation...On the Ice

At group freestyle, Dance Coach got round to me to give me my drill assignment.  He leaned against the boards and said suspiciously, "Have you been skating some place else?"

So, he's probably mentioning this because my skills have become much better in a short period of time. But I can't help but feel like I'm being accused of cheating on my (non-existant) boyfriend.

I confessed. "I went to Rink2, to take Basic 6 again to work on my Forward Inside 3." 

I need this, because to date the number of successful FI3 with full glide out, lifetime 2.

This confession cheered up Dance Coach. "Okey, show me."

So, I do my crippled FI3. Nice entry, very nice turn. Grind to a halt.  Believe it or not, this is much better than the last time he saw me do FI3 a while back. 

He holds up his  arms and I rest my hands lightly on the back of his hands, and do a perfect FI3. "Very nice." He says.

"But you're holding me up." I point out.

He gives me the standard coach reply, "Practice." Then he skates off to another student.

Then as I stand there, mulling over my consistent failure to master the FI3, I HAD A REVELATION!

I can't do the  FI3 at Rink 2, even when the coach there is giving me support. Not only can I not do it, with the Rink 2 coach, it's actually scary. I can do it with Dance Coach, and Miss Bianca. What's the difference between The Rink 2 Coach and Dance Coach and Miss Bianca? 

Rink 2 Coach is taller by several inches, even taller than Dance Coach.

Soooo.......maybe when I do it at Rink 2 with the Coach there, I'm holding my arms too high, and....maybe that's pushing me on my flat or even so I lean outside the circle. And since I've been focusing learning from this coach, maybe I've developed a bad habit. fix it....I need to....

.......lower my arms through the turn?

I lower my arms. Push off onto the FI edge. Bring the free foot to the heel of the skating foot as I rise up...turn on the inside edge....keeping the arms lower than normal....

Life time total number of FI3?.....5! With 3 of those in a 2 minute period at the end of freestyle!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Adventures in Rink #2: The Rink of Misery

The story so far. I signed up for Basic 6 in Rink 2, so I could get some mid-week ice time and work on my FI3.

So far, life time number of FI3 done successfully? 2.

So, yes, I can do a FI3 turn, but I can't glide out. A few weeks ago, I had my epiphany about how to do them, then no matter what I did, I could never get that moment back again. I spent 45 minutes on public one day trying to work through them, and they actually got worse!

However, the rest of Basic 6? I'm a star. I can even get my elderly leg up to true hip height with toe point on both sides with good style points. Back stroking. Yes, fine. I'm doing back edges already. T-stops. Yes, yes. Great T-stops. Alternating with  only two strokes in between. Tits up, short complete stops with good shoulder position. Two foot turns? The coach actually told me they were 'elegant'. On a curve, either direction, on the straight ditto. Two foot spin--passing. Bunny hop--passing.  FI3--no passing.

So, this week I was the only student. I turned to the coach, and said, "I'm not getting out of here am I?"

He kind of talked me down from whatever pinnacle of FI3 agony I was suffering through at having to do Basic 6 again.  He give me a pep talk. "You can't pass without forward inside threes.  You came here to work on these, you really need to master them."

So we spent the most of the lesson working on my FI3. I finally got back the feeling of the entry the turn. And he identified the the problem with my exit glide: I glide out on the flat, so I just grind to a stop.

Still not passing.

There are times like these I just treat whatever I'm doing like structural engineering: Bring the free foot to the heel, hold, rise up turn, ....then try to hit that back  edge somehow without forcing it for the exit glide.

"You're like so many adults," the coach said, "You make it so mechanical, I want you to feeeell it." He demonstrates.

Nope. Not feelin' it.

 So what do I do?



 Yes, I will take Basic 6 again!

The answer? Probably, B. I may be able to twist the next sessions coach's arm and just tell him/her to let me work on FI3. Thank goodness I have freestyle group at my home rink to keep me from going mad from boredom at Rink 2!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Magical Back Edges

My Coach, Miss Bianca, said "Show me your back outside edges."

So, I laid down a complete set of back edges right through a group of girls doing spins and half jumps, without even thinking about it.

Miss Bianca wanted to fiddle with my arm positions, and my power. We went across the ice, three or four times. Nice solid back edges, with the coach standing some distance away; no glove of shame, no supportive hand; just me and the ice.

I looked at Miss Bianca. We haven't done these in months. I haven't practiced these. These have not even crossed my mind. The ice has been way too crowded to practice anything going backwards.


Although, I'd like to feel like magic can happen, it's really unlikely.

So what happened? Well, I think my lap skating a mile before I started skating has significantly built up the strength in my legs, core and hips. (I've had other skills that improved too) Also, I finally got to the point where I can lace my boots to the top, which gives me extra support when I skate backwards.  Good ankle support, a tech pointed out to me some years ago, is essential to skating backwards.

Miss Bianca didn't anything about my miraculous improvement in back edges.

"You know, a month ago, I couldn't do these," I said.

"Oh, yes?" Maybe she has so many students she's forgotten I've had historical problems with these. "They were nice. Want to work on your inside ones?"

Now that's a coach for you! Minimal praise, always be moving forward!

Friday, February 17, 2017

How to Sharpen Blades: A Romance Novel

"The model with sharpening (for me) is that you don't just push the blade against the wheel.   You *engage* the wheel, as you would the ice.  You're not doing something *to* the ice; you're doing something *with* it.  Treat the wheel the same way, and you'll get a solid COMFORTABLE edge-- one that doesn't jack up your rocker. "



and smak dab in the middle a cute little ballet jump

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Great Moments in Figure Skating History #2

When a coach who hasn't seen me a long time says 
how amazed he is at  how far I've come

Then when he tried to give me a high five;
I missed it...twice
I mean, is it one hand or two? Left or right? 
And what's the deal with bumping clenched 
fists then doing 'jazz hands'?
Are psychic powers involved in the timing?
I'm active in a sport, I should know these things.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Loop Jump Tip of Mystery

This is a Loop Jump

During the last freestyle class, Dance Coach was coaching  and he wanted the skaters to do loop jumps after a round of skating skills.

As he was teaching another student how to do the jump he either said:

"Squeeze the chicken"  or "Throw the chicken."  But he was facing away from the rest of us and we couldn't quite make it out.We had a discussion about this after ballet class. We are absolutely sure it's nothing naughty to do with chickens, but...

But the skater got her first loop jump ever, so it must have worked. Maybe associating things with chickens has magical powers. The Romans even had sacred chickens...I do not make this up.

Randomly yelling out 'squeeze the chicken' could be useful for any jump where you want the skater to tighten up the jump position, and 'throw the chicken' for those times when you want the skater to open up the arms after the jump.

It can be our new cue word

It's just...

How I Felt In Saturday's Lesson.....On Ice

When my coach tries to get me to do a loop jump

Rocker into a Spin

When I struggle with my head position---for anything

When I finally get home

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Exercises I'm Doing Now

On Ice--My warm up mile
After watching some Brian Orser (swoon) videos on skating warm ups last year I started doing the exercises he suggested as I did 9 laps of my rink (that's a mile). I also added variations. This consistent mile lap has really increased my speed.
Lap 1: Slaloms
Lap 2: Swizzles
Lap 3: Used to be forward edge pulls till I fell and tapped my head, now it's cross rolls
Lap 4: Alternating crossovers
Lap 5 & 6: Fast hard perimeter stroking with crossovers on the short boards
Lap 7: Alternating T-stops hard and fast, no more than 3 strokes between stops (complete stops by the way), though I'm mostly doing 2 strokes between stops. This improves my push off from a T position.
Lap 8: Fun lap--usually two foot turns forward and back, and some mohawks, and maybe some change edge serpentines. I can actually do two foot twizzles too, not that that means anything.
Lap 9: Forward stroking at a cool down pace.

All this warms up my joints (particularly in the hips, knees and ankles) and actually has built up my leg strength and stamina. The issue for the nonce is the rink is packed so I can't do anything backwards due to the ice tourists. When Spring comes, I'll start doing backwards.

Off-Ice--Hip openers for lunges and spirals
My trainer gave me a new exercise where I slide my free foot back along the floor and then draw it forward to the heel of the skating foot. In order to get the slide to work, I put my free foot down on one of those old waxed paper plates. 10 reps on a side, 3 sets. I did them 7 days in a row and FINALLY could get my free leg up to hip height  on my spirals, both sides.

The part that makes this a skating lunge, is to lunge with the free foot on its side, rather than back to the toe.

Not This
 So as a hip opener, this works. But I need to build the muscles up a bit more to get better lunges, so I keep up with these.

Off Ice--Getting up from a fall
I've complained over the last few years how slow I am to get up from a fall. No more!

I do a simple exercise of sitting down on the floor without using my hands and getting up from the floor without using my hands a couple of times for each side (left and right) every day. Now I bounce up from a fall like a rubber ball.

I'm the one on the right

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Team Coaching

A coach I know joined my coach and asked, "What are you working on?"

"Change edge serpentines," my coach replied.

Now, I've done these for years, and I'm pretty good at them. But not that day. With the two coaches standing at the end of the blue line, I could feel them sucking all my knowledge out of my brain. Okay, I've got performance issues, but...

They were the vampires of skating skills

After the lesson was over I told my coach, "No team coaching ever again."

She laughed, "You want to know what happens in team coaching? We usually aren't talking about the skater. We're talking to each other."


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Curse of the FI3

After three weeks in LTS USA Basic "FUNdamentals!" 6 at Rink 2, I am only fractionally better at FI3 than I was when I started.....the 'fraction better' is rather interesting.

I can do  a passing FI3 when I'm looking at myself in the plexiglass above the boards.  When I'm in the middle, I pop my hip and don't stay over my skate. I do it at the boards--not touching the boards mind you--just facing the boards: It's fine. Think, oh, I've got this now. Go out in the middle....Fail.

Frustration--Let it all out

Every once in a while I do a mohawk each way just so I can practice something on the inside edge that I'm not going to fail at.

"Those are nice mohawks," the coach says with kindness. 

Inside I'm grinding my teeth. Except for these FI3, that I put myself back to Basic 6 to learn, I'd be in Freeskate 2 where I belong.

It's times like these I wish they served beer before Group Class.
 Oh, yeah, and that I liked beer.

On the other hand, after 10 days of off ice lunge exercises, I can now hike my free leg up to hip height and do passing spirals both ways. Not bad for 65. So not a total waste. At least I'm doing better than the only other student.....she's 11. I should feel kind of bad that I'm smug about that.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Why We Skate

Husband, father, grandfather, our guest poster talks about his experience skating, its relationship with his life, and why, despite his many obligations---he continues to skate.
When I was a kid, my family moved around a lot.  Then I joined the Navy and continued moving around a lot, so I’ve become pretty good at leaving. I have stood in many places—schools, homes, neighborhoods, workplaces—knowing that I’d likely never be back.  And it doesn’t really affect me.  It’s a rather practical matter:  when it’s Time to Go, you just go.  The same with people, even.  I’m not a cold or distant person; but even back before the internet erased the permanency of ‘goodbye,’ it wasn’t a big deal. 

So, in November 2014, I was rather unprepared for the weight of feeling that bore down on me as I stood in the Manitowoc County Ice Center.  It was Time to Go; but for some reason, this was different.  Here was an unfamiliar pang, and I didn’t understand or like it.

After the Navy, I had managed to settle somewhere for seventeen entire years.  But, the plant where I had built my career had shut down and I was now going to relocate seven states away.  I viewed the move as nothing more than a series of tasks.  The list of places I’d leave was just data.  Until right then, that is.  At that time, I did most of my skating in Green Bay; but it was at this rink, at the tender young age of *ahem* thirty, where I first put on a pair of skates.  I then shambled and wobbled my way out there to join the ranks of the wall-huggers, and to marvel at the easy confidence of those around me.

I was going to miss that place, and it hurt.  Why?  Well, I had done much there.  I’d done new things I hadn’t thought possible.  I invested effort and time and it paid off in skill (a little, at least).  I made friends and managed conflict there.  BUT:  I’ve done these things before in places I’ve left without a second thought.  What was the difference here?

It’s taken a while to sort that out, but I think I have:  It is choice.  When you’re a kid, you don’t have a choice about where you are.  And for me, joining the Navy was a choice made by my financial position.  Then, when I got out, where I went was a factor of (a) my training and (b) who was hiring.  And outside of the major relocations, obligation was the main driver of where I went on a daily basis.  But the rink is different.  It is a place I go for no other reason than I want to be there.  And skating is a thing I do for no other reason than I want to do it. 

I’ve wondered if it is selfish—to spend time, money, and effort on something that benefits only me.  I’ve decided that it is; and that it’s okay.  It makes me happy; and no one suffers.  Figuring out what is so different about a rink, the choice, has helped on and off the ice.  While I’m on, the skating doesn’t have to go well for me enjoy it.  Knowing and appreciating why I’m there (just because I want to be) brightens the tone regardless.  When I’m off-ice, doing whatever I have to do, for whomever I have to do it, I know that soon I’ll be on it again.  And there I can work—just work, without weight of obligation, where the effort will yield benefit regardless of the results. 

I’ve recognized that in this world of duty, having a place to go, just because you want to be there, is priceless.

I didn’t come up with that back then.  I just stood there, confused by what I felt.  The horn blew, and Public Skate was done.  A quick glance around at the topography of a beginning skater’s ice:  Over there’s where the Goalie’s half-circle endured so many misshapen attempts at a 3-turn, as I tried to sort out what “twisting your shoulders against your hips” was supposed to mean.  There’s where I split my chin open on a failed loop jump landing (6 stitches!).  Here’s the corner where I first landed a flip (and checked the landing so triumphantly that I cruised straight into the wall behind me).

As the graceful, the powerful, and the wall-huggers made their way to the benches, I grabbed my water bottle, spun the top off, and pushed out to center ice.  I T-stopped in the circle, scooped up the snow, and put it in my bottle.  Sort of a ‘taking it with me’ gesture, I suppose.  It was Time to Go, and so I went.  I got off that ice for the last time the same way I got on it the first:  Tentative, shaky, and somewhat bewildered.  There would be others, but I would miss this place.