Sunday, August 31, 2014

There Are Limits

Everything was in place. The Kid's new school supplies were tucked neatly in his backpack. I had registered for ballet classes and connected with Dmytri about starting up skating lessons again. New hockey sticks were ready to be taped and the practice and pre-season schedules were loaded into my calendar. It was time to get the season started.

The Kid and I snuggled up with my laptop to map out where his pre-season games were going to be. It didn't take long for me to realize that his schedule meant I would miss almost every ballet class. I thought about contacting the MYB to see if they would either give me a refund or put my money toward classes in the spring, after hockey season was over. The Kid had a better idea.

"Mum-mum, take your class!" he insisted. "It's the pre-season, you can miss some of my games."

Proving there are limits to every sacrifice however, he continued seriously, "But you have to be there for the regular season games."

It's a deal.

Monday, August 25, 2014


I'm that skater. The one who's been doing the same things for years, seemingly making no progress. My skating experience has been long, painful and frustrating. Not at all how I envisioned it when I registered for that first Pre-Alpha class.

Today was the first fall practice session. All the regulars gathered on the benches tying skates and lamenting that no one has been skating this summer. It was nice having everyone together again talking about what we hope to work on in the coming months.

"I think I'm at a crossroads," I admitted quietly to one friend. "I keep asking myself if it's worth all the effort I have to put in - on and off the ice - to be hurting so bad and making so little progress."

"That's what's so liberating about it," he said cheerfully. "No one is making you do it, you can walk away any time."

Liberating? All this time I've felt trapped. But as I skated I began to really see what he meant. I was choosing to do my unsteady stroking. I was choosing to skate on wobbly edges. I was choosing to tip over into crossovers that I used to be able to do with much more confidence.

I was choosing not to give up.

My leg felt really weak and unsteady, but my ankle and hip remained relatively pain-free for almost an hour. I felt myself lose my footing skating backward, just like my fantastic fall, but this time I stayed upright. That's progress.

I was gathering my stuff off the boards, preparing to head out to get the Kid from school. My friend coasted over, eyes sparkling. "You don't look miserable," he teased. "Will we see you later in the week?"

Yeah, they will. I'll be working on all the same old things. That's my choice.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

But I Have Nothing to Wear!

I had spent way too much time scouring the far reaches of the Internet and 'pinning' links to pants, leotards and skirts. Of all the challenges associated with figure skating and ballet dancing, the one I didn't anticipate was my inability to find suitable clothing. I needed a solution to what Caroline Gick and Nia Shanks call "a fit girl problem."

I don't have a figure skater/dancer's body. Like Caroline and Nia say in their interview, "I'm not big", yet on the ice or in the dance studio "I feel bulky and bad." Also, I have boobs. In the real world, they're completely average. On the ice or in a ballet studio, I'm endowed like a porn star.

On the Ice
The situation on the ice isn't so bad. Despite the ubiquitousness of Chloe Noel leggings and strappy tops, there are other classy options. I have one pair of real skating pants and I love them. Add a sports bra, tank top and full-zip hoodie and I've got good support while taming "the girls." (Although, even a thin hoodie gets awfully hot.) Finding a flattering but not outrageously expensive test dress was a little more complicated, but thanks to the help of friend, I found one I really liked.

In the Ballet Studio
Ballet clothes are tough because mostly they're designed for impossibly thin young people. I've found very few options for a boobalicious weightlifter. The other girls in my class look lovely in their spaghetti strap leotards and gossamer skirts, but those choices aren't flattering on me. Right now I'm rockin' my demi-pointe in capri yoga pants and UnderArmor t-shirts. This works fine for seeing if my feet and legs are doing the right thing, but any arm movements are restricted by my clothes and I'm never entirely sure if I'm doing them correctly. So I search for options and wonder will this work ... how about this ...  something like this ... oh! a skirt!

Reality Check
I can learn to skate and dance in the clothes I've been wearing. My clothes are not holding me back, not at my level. Still, I'm increasingly seeing how properly fitting clothes really do impact performance, confidence and the ability to assess whether or not I'm achieving proper positions. And I'm just enough of a princess to want to catch a glimpse of myself in the studio mirror and see a real ballerina. Someday.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


There were five people on the Olympic ice - two coaches, two skaters and me. Ideal conditions on a regular day, extraordinary for summer skating. I took a couple of laps to get my skates under me. My broken body was really struggling to get back into the swing Dutch Waltz of things. I kept at it, trying unsuccessfully to will my muscles into action. A couple of laps of forward stroking with unstable crossovers, then I put it in reverse.

My left leg gave out on me and I came down hard. A coach yelled from clear down the other end of the ice, "Are you alright?!" I hadn't planned to tell the story of my spectacular fall, but then I was over at On Thin Ice and he was describing a recent fall. I started thinking about how people react when they see a skater bite it.

Kids fall all the time and unless there are tears or blood, mostly they're ignored. Experienced skaters fall all the time and they typically pop back up before anyone has a chance to say anything. When adults fall, noisy rinks become silent, crowds surround the poor victim, "did-you-hit-your-head" is asked so many times it begins to sound like one word. In my case, a coach actually yelled clear across the rink. A fall that probably could've gone unnoticed was suddenly the focal point of everyone on the ice, all the parents watching their kids' lessons, the guy at the skate rental counter and probably the hockey camp kids in the NHL rink.

I'm a very low-level skater, so when I fall on the ice it's really no different than if I trip and fall on the sidewalk. It's typically unexpected, it hurts a bit and I'm shaky when I get back on my feet. If I fall on the sidewalk, I get up and keep walking. If I fall on the ice, I get up and keep skating. Both situations are mildly embarrassing, nothing more. When I fall on the sidewalk, rarely does anyone say anything. Apparently, it's much more compelling when I fall on the ice.

I assured the coach that I was fine. Silently, I thought my biggest concern wasn't my aching back or the slight pain in my neck. I was hoping I could get back on my feet with some degree of gracefulness now that I had an audience. Get up, keep skating. Nothing to see here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

You Can't Dance Here

There's no dancing in my life and it's making me sad. No ice dancing because I can't get on the ice. No ballet dancing because my class is on hiatus. I'm working out, studying my ballet terms and watching figure skating videos. But it's not the same.

Where's Kevin Bacon when I need him?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Extemporaneous Figure Skating

Summer skating has turned out to be even harder than I anticipated. I have easy access to four, yes four, ice rinks that have altogether ten sheets of ice and somehow each week I compare my work and parenting schedule to the rink schedules dice ice. Finally, today all the planets aligned. While the Kid practiced hockey in one rink, I got to figure skate in another.

I remember shortly after I started taking skating lessons I was watching a competition and the play-by-play guy explained that the skater (may have been Alissa Czisny) had screwed up a jump. Then moments later, she added a jump to help make up for the missed one. I thought it was pretty impressive that a skater could extemporaneously change up a program.

Today I was working on crossrolls, which I had failed at in spectacular fashion during my last lesson. As I practiced I was mostly going from outside edge to flats, but then I caught my right toepick which launched me onto my left toepick which launched me into a one-foot glide.

The judges might call it a botched crossroll. I call it an extemporaneous bunny hop.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


It was the middle of the afternoon on a pretty laid-back day. The Kid had gone to work with me before hitting a stick-and-puck session and now he was chillin' out watching a documentary about the Pittsburgh Penguins. (We're hockey-starved, we'll watch anything at this point.) I was taking advantage of a few quiet moments to get as close to inbox-0 as I could. Hockey on TV, an unseasonably cool breeze coming through the window, and the PTA listserv abuzz with school supply lists and open house discussions. It felt more like September than July. And suddenly it hit summer chakra nutrition project!

Let's just say, this has been the most anti-climatic project in the history of anti-climacticism. (Autocorrect is freaking out right now.) I had envisioned embarking on a journey toward renewal, a fascinating and empowering change in my health and outlook. Angels would sing!

Except, not much changed. Apparently, my chakras are in kick-ass shape. At it's core, chakra nutrition is really about eating lots of fruits and vegetables, choosing a variety of flavorful food and being appreciative for its nourishment. If I learned anything from this project, I learned that I do a pretty good job of this.

But I had planned to post pictures and write inspiring things about what I was eating. So dammit, I'm posting pictures. (Writing inspiring things is probably too ambitious.)

Sun Tea

Tea is my go-to drink during the summer. Cold, bitter, thirst-quenching. Throw a teabag or two into a small mason jar filled with water and let it sit in the sun. Go about your business then after a few hours put the jars in the fridge. When you're thirsty, take 'em out and drink right from the jar. (Inspired yet?)


Lettuce, red cabbage, carrots, broccoli, chicken, balsamic vinaigrette. 
Yeah, that's about as culinarily creative as I get. 


Because I spent all day in the blazing hot sun painting my back deck. 

Dancing Farmer

On my way to ballet class I walk through a really great farmer's market. Looking at all the amazing foods and seasonings and wines being displayed makes me want to enjoy preparing good food as much as I like eating it. But I just don't enjoy cooking. I continue on to class, because I enjoy ballet dancing. 

My final thoughts on chakra nutrition? I find it to be an appealing premise. I like the idea that when I'm feeling out of balance with life, I can consider food choices to get back to center. Maybe my project didn't result in any earth-shattering changes, but it was time (and thought) well-spent.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Beautiful West Coast Caps

I was cleaning up the dinner dishes when I heard the Kid yelling, "Mum-mum! Mum-mum! Come here!"

I could tell by the tone of his voice something very cool was going on in my family room. I raced downstairs.

"So, I'm watching iCarly," he explains excitedly. "And they're going to a beauty pageant in Seattle, but look!"

On the TV: The F Street entrance of our favorite hockey arena. Let's go Caps Carly!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Best Lesson Ever

I was mesmerized as I looked onto the ice. All of the skaters were highly-competitive - the older teens who earn medals and wear the officially sanctioned Team USA jackets and have their pictures in the magazines. Coaches followed skaters around the ice, barking orders. This was clearly their dedicated ice time. Serious ice, serious coaches, serious skaters. Not wanting to ruffle any feathers, I wouldn't get on the ice until Dmytri skated over to get me. Dmytri thought this was unnecessary. Then things got good.

It really is amazing to see these skaters up close - beautiful extension, deep edges, impossibly fast. Watching them compete on a computer screen, they make everything look effortless. On the ice with them, you see just how much strength and power is involved. They are fantastic athletes.

"I feel like I have to work extra hard to earn a place on their ice," I explained, nodding to a particularly talented couple.

"They don't see it that way," Dmytri said. "It's just ice, we skate on it."

As I looked around, I decided he might be right. There was no special treatment, good or bad, for the adult skater. I didn't get any strange looks or patronizing comments. They focused on their skating, largely ignoring each other, except to avoid collisions. And they largely ignored me, except to avoid collisions. Intentionally or not, they made me feel like I belonged there as much as they did. Maybe it's because I was wearing their uniform...all black.

Having such talent whooshing around me was at first intimidating and then extremely inspiring. I put real effort into everything. Dutch Waltz was at tempo, crossrolls were a mess. I started to become more comfortable with the speed of the ice and better able to jump into the fray with the others. I'm not sure if Dmytri could tell, but I began to enjoy the intensity.

Other skaters would come barreling toward me; to me, near-misses, to Dmytri, plenty of room. And when Dmytri asked why I screwed up a swingroll I had to admit it was because I got distracted by the cool thing another couple was doing. I refocused on my own skating. Serious ice, serious coach, serious skater.

At the end, Dmytri and I compared calendars and he identified an opportunity for my next lesson.

"I don't know. Might be longer," I admitted. "I'm not sure I'll be able to practice. No sense having a lesson if I can't practice between now and then."

"Practice," Dmytri demanded. Serious ice, serious coach, serious skater. "Text me."

Now I'm highly motivated. I'll practice. I'll text him. If I skate with the competitive kids again, I'll wear all black and I'll get on the ice by myself. We'll share the ice, we'll share a coach, we'll ignore each other. And even though I'll be working on things they mastered in kindergarten, I'll be working hard right along with them. Very cool.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Progress Me Not (Yet)

I was at center ice working on mohawks and 3-turns. Each attempt was getting worse and my leg was screaming at me to stop. I would never progress a client until he or she was absolutely ready. Somehow, I wasn't applying that same rule to myself. My leg isn't ready.

My left hip bone is significantly lower than my right. It's because my left leg is always rotated in. To the untrained eye, off the ice it's imperceptible. To every eye, on the ice my leg looks crooked.

This is me in the Kid's skates. I'm not intentionally bending my left leg, 
that's my knee naturally caving inward and my foot pronating. 

Once I get my hips evened out and my leg straightened, then I'll be ready for turns. To do this, I need to lengthen muscles that are probably short and tight (those muscles turning my leg in) and strengthen muscles that are weak and not doing their jobs. I have to do this for my entire leg, but for the purposes of this post I'm going to give a snapshot of what I'm doing with my hip. (I'll hit the ankle later.)

To lengthen the muscles in my hip and thigh that are short and overactive, I'm using a combination of self-mysofascial release (SMR) and stretching; and, I'm hitting my hip flexors, piriformis and adductors. I do this every day.
  • Hip flexors - Hip flexors are muscles that originate from the spine and attach to the leg. They are responsible for hip flexion and external rotation, extending and rotating the lumbar spine and stabilizing the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC). I use a Trigger Point ball on my stomach to try to inhibit overactivity and pair that with static stretching (holding the stretch for about 30 seconds), often a kneeling hip flexor stretch (sometimes band-assisted.)
  • Piriformis - The piriformis runs from the sacrum to the femur and is responsible for hip external rotation, abduction and extension. My weak glutes have been causing this little muscle to work overtime. It hates me. I sit on a Trigger Point ball for a bit then do either a supine hip stretch or a table hip stretch
  • Adductors - Adductors are the inner thighs and they are responsible for hip adduction, flexion and internal rotation. I use a Trigger Point Quad Roller and static stretching

I'm doing a whole lot of butt work. On the ice, my glutes aren't strong enough to hold me up. You can see my adductors doing the work instead by the way my knee caves inward when I skate. This is what gives my leg a crooked appearance and it's ridiculously painful. 
  • Floor bridges and tube walking - These were the first exercises I did when I started the first round of physical therapy. Tube walking was especially helpful for turning on gluteus medius (the muscle on the side of the hip.)
  • Single-leg-this-and-thats - Bulgarian Split Squats (my favorite), single-leg squats, skater squats, single-leg RDLs, single-leg windmills, lunges in all three planes of motion. Oh...and this little gem. I do 'em all all the time.

And this folks, is just some of what I do for my hip. 

Some skating I can do using (mostly) the correct muscles - forward stroking, edges to a degree and, increasingly, backward skating and backward edges. I can do this stuff well enough that I can work on it on my own, stretch properly afterward and be relatively pain-free. But when I tried working on turns on my own, my butt wasn't doing its job. I should have stopped right away but I didn't. Because stubborn. And I paid for it for several days, feeling pain and enough weakness that even crossovers weren't happening the next time I skated.

So I'm regressing. I'll keep plugging away on the stretching and strengthening off-ice and on-ice I'll continue to work on those things I have the strength to do without aggravating my injury. Turns I'll do with Dmytri, but not on my own.

Not yet.