Thursday, May 28, 2015

Clubbin'

"We are now accepting membership renewals for Washington Figure Skating Club," the email read.

In other words, "Pay up, Buttercup."

I became a member of WFSC because it was a requirement for taking my test. I haven't been involved with the organization in any other way. I'm trying to determine whether or not to renew my membership. I said I wasn't going to do any more testing, and even if I amended that rule, I'm a loooooong way out from being ready for something like that.

So tell me skaters, are you a member of a figure skating club? Why? (Or why not?) How did you first become involved with your club and what types of things are you doing with your club now? Help a girl out!

As always, comments or emails work. I'd just love to hear what you all are doing!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Summer's Coming

There's no such thing as an off-season in figure skating.

I've heard this, or some variation of it, countless times. Of course there's an off-season. Having an off-season is an important part of athletic training. You inhibit your ability to perform at your highest level if you don't maximize the role the off-season plays in conditioning and competing.

Mine is on the horizon, so I thought I'd take a moment to discuss what an off-season is, why it's important and what mine will look like. (Yours likely will be very different.)

Periodization

Pre-planned, systematic variations in training specificity, intensity and volumes organized in periods or cycles within an overall program.*
Manipulating training intensity and volume while being respectful of the seasonal demands of a particular sport and athlete.*   

The concept was proposed in 1960 by Russian physiologist Leo Matveyev. (C'mon skaters, we totally get the Russians, right?) Periodization in training is important for helping skaters gain and maintain appropriate levels of strength and endurance, recover from competition and heal injuries, prevent future injuries and minimize the chances of over-training or burning out. For top level competitors it helps them "peak" at (close to) the right time. For the rest of us, it helps us stay healthy and sane.

I would argue that all adult skaters, at every level, can benefit from periodization in their training. Whether you're competing, testing, or simply learning because skating is awesome, your skating coach and any off-ice trainers or coaches you're working with are probably thinking along these lines already.

My Off-Season

My off-season is dictated, in part, by the school year. The skating schedules change, resulting in a natural decline in ice time and instruction. I've made remarkable progress since I came back to skating - I'm pain-free (mostly), my ice-time has increased and while my progress videos aren't showing much improvement in my skating skills yet, my comfort level on the ice is higher than it's been in quite a while. I couldn't be happier with where I am now, so I'll use the off-season to maintain what I've been able to re-build.

Here's what I have planned:


  • Vacation! I will go on vacation and I will not skate at all for at least a week. I will swim, lay in the sun, read books and drink wine. It will be awesome.
  • Skating practice. I'll still skate in the off-season, hopefully 2-3 times a week. However, instead of hitting the ice for an hour at a time, my sessions will be knocked down to 30 minutes. And I won't be guided by practice agendas. I'll just get on the ice and do whatever I feel like doing. I'm not looking to improve my skills, just have fun and keep general muscle memory. And if there are days I choose to skip the rink and hit a museum with the Kid, so be it!
  • Skating instruction. It's rare that Dmytri and I are able to get our calendars to cooperate when the skating schedules change. I typically can get a lesson or two with him during the summer, which helps keep the ol' dance patterns from getting too rusty. I might take a class later in summer.
  • Dance. I'll continue to take a weekly ballet class and will do barre work on my own. It's great for both strength and flexibility and besides that, it's just fun! Monika Volkmar at The Dance Training Project has some thoughts on summer cross-training. Replace "dancer" with "skater" and some of this really is applicable to us.
  • The gym. Less time on ice means more time in the weight room. I credit strength training with getting back on the ice largely pain-free. I'll keep doing the abs-and-ass work that has been so critical to my being able to come back to skating. 


Six months ago I returned from my skating hiatus, limping around the boards for 10 minutes once a week and fighting hip and ankle pain the entire time. By completely changing my mind-set and my off-ice training, I've been able to increase my ice time and start taking lessons again. And I'm almost completely pain-free. Making the most of the off-season will enable me to maintain all of that progress and attack next season with energy and enthusiasm.

Now It's Your Turn

There is an off-season in figure skating, even if it looks wildly different to different types of skaters. How will you use yours? If you're not sure what to do (or even when your off-season happens), talk to your coach or your trainer. Or email me if you want to - I'm happy to answer questions or brainstorm ideas. And if you do have plans for the off-season, please share! It's more fun around here when we're all sharing ideas.




_____________

*Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning/National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. Baechle, Roger W. Earle, editors. - 3rd ed.







Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rewards

I was recovering from what had turned out to be a surprisingly brutal workout. Every step reminded me of the split squats I had done the day before. The last thing my legs were interested in was skating practice. But after my swingroll debacle during my previous lesson, I had to practice. Just 30 minutes, I promised myself. Edges and swingrolls and done. Fast forward to my lesson.

As Dmytri and I got on the ice, I told him about rumors swirling around that ice dance was going to be eliminated from Olympic competition.

"We're going to have to start training pairs," I said.

Apparently, picking my ass up and hurling it across the ice is not Dmytri's idea of a good time. We Cha-Cha'd.

Over and over and over again. I'm still at the point with this one where I'm trying to get the pattern in my brain. While I have been practicing the pieces of it, I haven't once tried putting it together on my own. I'm not there yet. The repetition during my lesson was awesome. We worked out a lot of the areas that were causing me confusion and after several runs it was starting to feel possible. I think I'll be able to start messing around with it on my own now.

I stayed after my lesson to practice. As Dmytri left the rink his parting words to me were...

"Good job on your swingrolls today."


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Peace. Love. And Edges.

"I just worry that I'm going to lose that edge and I'll fall and then you'll fall on top of me," I admitted as I explained my hesitancy about the final swingroll at the end of Dutch Waltz. That's how it works in my world.

"Don't think that far," Dmytri said all casual-like. Because in his world, I lose an edge, he catches me, twirls me around the corner and sets me down gently as if that's exactly how Dutch Waltz is suppose to go. (He once added a beautiful lift to our Rhythm Blues pattern.)

I love the partnering aspect of my skating lessons. It forces me to commit to movements and speeds that I shy away from on my own. Skating with someone else, you have to problem-solve, you can't just stop. It's dangerous to just stop. And yet, that's exactly what I did as Dmytri and I trudged through another awful Dutch Waltz attempt.

"Seriously, stop."

"I'm really pushing you," he said, sympathetically. He wasn't speaking metaphorically.

Dmytri is bigger than I am, stronger than I am and a better skater than I am. (No seriously, he really is.) Sometimes I'm surprised by how physical skating with him can be. He's shoving me around, I'm trying to fix my skating while shoving him back so he doesn't knock me over. It can be intense.

"Peaceful fighting," Dmytri says, which really is a beautiful way to describe it.

There was a whole lot of peaceful fighting going on and I couldn't figure out why. My recent practice sessions had been strong, my last lesson had been a blast and we were working exclusively on Dutch Waltz, all moves I'm feeling increasingly better about. Why couldn't I skate? Even my brain wasn't skating. Dmytri would ask for changes to my free leg, I'd try to implement them on my skating leg. I added random kicks into the pattern. But mostly, I couldn't get my body to be where it was supposed to be without Dmytri physically putting me there. Peaceful fighting, indeed!

"Why is today so rough? I feel like I'm really getting jostled around."

"We're working on edges," Dmytri shrugged.

Well, that explains it. If I weren't willing to take on edges in the extreme I wouldn't have chosen ice dancing. After my lesson I felt a bit like I'd been hit by a Zamboni, and honestly, I loved it. If Dmytri wants to hammer me with edge work, I say, "Bring it, Tough Guy!"













Fail

"You lost your edge on the swingroll," Dmytri pointed out.

"Yeah, I could feel it," I admitted.

"I could hear it," he said, referring with disgust to the sound my blade had made as it scraped sideways along the ice.

"That sound must be like nails on a chalkboard to you," I laughed.

"No. It's the sound of failure."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sartorial Confessions

I was chillin' over at Babette's site thoroughly enjoying this post and the comments when I decided perhaps it's time to make a confession: I was wrong.

It all started with my laundry. You see, I have a work uniform. Not because I'm a hip and trendy minimalist (although, I have been meandering down that road), but because I work in a gym that requires me to wear black pants and company-branded shirts and jackets. It makes life pretty easy actually, except that I need a lot of black pants and given the beating they take, I'm finding investing a little more in quality is worth it.

So...back to the laundry. I was putting away laundry when I noticed that two brand-new pairs of black yoga pants had faded to that not-quite-black-not-quite-gray color that usually comes from countless washings. And they had shrunk. Just in length, but even on my short frame, they were "high-waters." That's what I get for taking a chance on cheap athletic clothes. Later that day I was curled up with my computer looking for black pants. In my search engine up pops a pair of pants and matching jacket on serious sale. But I couldn't buy them because...

...they were Chloe Noel.

And no one older than 13 should wear Chloe Noel. I mean, Chloe Noel screams "little ice princess" not "friendly, hard-working, mildly-obsessed adult skater and personal trainer." Right?

A week later the package arrived. No stripes, no designs, just plain black pants and matching jacket. Both pieces were impossibly small. Setting aside the invoice and return label ('cause I was gonna need 'em), I slid into both items with remarkable ease. When I took a hesitant glimpse in the mirror I was surprised at how flattering the look was. And comfortable. Really comfortable.

I kept the clothes, even though I'm way more "dowager ice queen" than "little ice princess." I guess I'd been wrong all along.

But Zuca Bags ... no one older than 13 should ever roll a Zuca Bag ... Right?


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Worthy Cause

$20,000.

That's how much it costs for the Montgomery Cheetahs to skate at the Cabin John Ice Arena. I've been on the ice with some of these players and seeing the joy in their faces as they skate with their mentors will put a smile on your face for the rest of the day. For the past four years the Cheetahs have hosted a fundraiser to help offset some of the costs associated with this important program.

If you're local, check it out.

4th Annual Cheetah-thon: for Montgomery Special Hockey
Saturday, May 2nd 
5:00 - 7:00 p.m.

There will be a family skate, raffle and silent auction. If you can't make the event, consider making a donation online by clicking here.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Face Plant

Of course I hadn't checked to see if the Rockefeller Center skating rink would be open. I mean, come on...it's April! So imagine my surprise as we walked along the streets of New York on a gorgeous spring morning and found the Zamboni creating a beautiful little oasis in the middle of the city.

"I wish I had my skates!" the Kid exclaimed. Alas, they were packed away in his hockey bag back in Washington. (Correction: they were probably strewn all over the gym floor along with all of his other hockey equipment. My child did not inherit his mother's neat freak tendencies.)

When there's freshly zammed ice, it must be skated on, so the Kid rented skates and got to it.

"It should be easier for him in figure skates, right?" asked DC Giant.

I explained that yes, generally speaking figure skates are easier to skate in than hockey skates. But the Kid is used to hockey skates, rental skates are notoriously uncomfortable and rarely sharpened properly, and let us not forget he now had toe picks, something he hasn't had on his skates since he was five years old.

"Honestly, I'm surprised he hasn't bit it already," I admitted.

No sooner had the words escaped my mouth than the Kid came gliding along the ice, confident even in rental skates. He eased into a nonchalant set of crossovers to round the corner when...

SPLAT! The Kid "Doug Dorsey-ed" in spectacular fashion.

The Kid has seen The Cutting Edge (which may or may not be an example of questionable parenting on my part.) I think he'd have an even greater appreciation for Dooglas now.






Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Interesting Times

I stood at the glass watching the Kid skating and stick-handling and thinking that this is turning out to be a very interesting moment in both youth hockey and hockey parenting. Right now the Kid was passing the puck, skating around cones and smiling broadly. Fist pumps for other players and big laughs all around. All looked good. But just moment earlier, the picture wasn't so rosy.

"My groin hurts," the Kid said. I was skeptical. He's participating in a hockey clinic that's been pretty tough. Lots of players who attend every camp, take private hockey lessons, try out for every team. They're fast and they're good. The Kid has complained that he's struggling to keep up. Cue groin injury.

"Do you really have a groin injury or are you looking for an excuse to get out of practice?" I asked. "Only you know the truth."

He got back on the ice and appeared to have a lot of fun. He's reached a crossroads, which means he has some decisions to make. And I largely need to sit back and see what happens.

He can play recreational hockey 'til the cows come home. But if he wants to continue to play more competitively, he's going to have to put in some extra effort. He signed up for the pre-tryout clinic and it's been a robust camp. Watching him out there, he seems to be keeping up okay and I keep emphasizing that his coaches will appreciate any time he puts in total effort, regardless of the outcome of a drill. And let's face it, skating with highly-skilled players will help him improve his game. He's asked to participate in a power skating program, which I think is a fantastic idea. His skating always improves when he takes any skating-specific clinics.

I'll support him, whichever road he takes. I love watching him play, whether he's rockin' it out in the House League or hauling us all to Lake Placid for a fun tournament. I'd even be fine if he decided to stop playing hockey altogether to pursue another interest, although given his obsession, I think that's highly unlikely. My only rule is that he finishes what he starts.

Work hard, have fun and always know I love you. No matter where hockey takes him, that's my message to my son.




Friday, March 27, 2015

Gettin' Sassy

"Bad ice?" Dmytri asked as I skidded out on yet another swingroll.

"Bad skater," I answered. Truth is, the ice was a mess. I'd raced from work to the rink to catch a lesson on the last 30 minutes of an unusually busy two-hour dance session. This was better than the alternative - a public session on a 'no school' day.

My consistent practicing is starting to pay off. We did CCW crossovers that I thought were amazing, no small feat given they're such a challenge for me. (Yes, I know this is typically people's strong side, but Wonky Leg Lady here butchers them with appalling regularity.) Dmytri seemed unimpressed, proving we have different perspectives on what it means to exceed expectations.

This lesson, he actually let me warm things up before declaring, "Dutch Waltz."

"Can we do it slowly at first?" I asked.

"Yes, slowly. No music," Dmytri agreed.

"Definitely no music," I laughed.

We worked our way down the ice. Even though our turns weren't particularly deep, I was feeling my edges better than I have in a while. The CW crossover was trippy per usual because I'm always worried I'll kick my partner. The end of the pattern definitely wasn't as tight as it needs to be. But we got through it. I figured the next run would be better.

Dmytri, meanwhile, was laughing.

"That was test tempo. You take off fast, I think okay here we go. Good there's no music, we would finish before the music."

It may have looked awful, but it was fast dammit.

Then I learned the difference between crossovers and cross overs. Dmytri was throwing something new at me, something about swingrolls, crossover, step behind, swingroll. Honestly, I heard a list of words that sounded familiar but I couldn't quite picture what he was looking for. I did a swingroll and a crossover and skidded to a stop completely bamboozled by the step behind. We headed to the boards where we stepped around - swingroll, cross over, step behind. Eventually we swapped the words "cross over" with "step over" and it started making just a wee bit more sense.

"What is this for?" I asked.

"Cha Cha."

I made him show me the steps two more times. I immediately liked the sharp sassiness associated with it, but I couldn't wrap my head around how to make it happen. At all. So we decided to just go for it. Which means Dmytri pushed me around and I tried to have the correct skate on the ice at the correct time.

"We'll do it again next time," he assured me.

"I'm not practicing it without you yet," I told him and he laughed in agreement. He showed me what I could do to at least start to work my way toward it. That'll be fun to futz around with at practice.

I rushed home. I knew I had a busy weekend ahead and I had a million things to do, so...I pulled out my tablet and looked up Cha Cha to see just what it is I'm working on. I'm gonna like this one.