Wednesday, December 17, 2014

(Not so) Wordless Wednesday: Bioenergetics

Is Wordless Wednesday still a thing? When I first started blogging it was fairly common. This post doesn't qualify for Wordless Wednesday since I'm, you know, typing words and all, but being able to fall back on this concept could be pretty helpful for me until I figure out what the hell I'm doing with this space. Some of you with whom I'm connected on other social media platforms may recognize this photo. Just studying bioenergetics. Next time, I'll post a picture and shut up. A true Wordless Wednesday.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Because I'm a Sucker

Bad things happened on and off the ice in 2014 that make me more than ready to belt out Auld Lang Syne at the top of my lungs. Being well aware that my singing has the power to make people's ears bleed, I'll save it for the shower. That said, I'm a huge sucker for fresh starts and new-year-new-you exuberance, so I'm excited and hopeful about what lies ahead in 2015. For the purposes of this space, let's talk skating.

It's in You
I quit. I hadn't been happy with skating for a while. I was seriously disappointed in my (lack of) progress and I had run out of ideas for trying to make it work. Dmytri was pseudo-supportive. He agreed that I should "take time off." But he never used the word "quit." He spent my last lesson making me do edges that he insists would pass adult moves, admiring my determination to come back after a serious injury and pointing out all the progress I had made in spite of some pretty crappy circumstances.

"It's in you," he said with a gentle smile. And he insisted he would get me on his schedule if I ever decided to come back. All of this made me question whether or not I was making the right decision. And honestly, I still don't know if I did.

No Answers
"What are you going to do instead of skate?" Dmytri asked. I didn't have an answer then and I still don't. I'm taking and loving my ballet classes, but I just don't see it as a replacement for skating. Friends have suggested everything short of underwater basket-weaving.

I do know that I'm working on a program to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). It's a certification aimed at trainers who work (or want to work) specifically with athletes. I'm really excited about this.
Breaking Policy
The Kid's hockey season hasn't been going very well. In fact, I've been disappointed enough with what's going on that I agreed to let him quit if he wanted to. Those of you who have been around here a while know I have a strict Finish What You Start policy. There are exceptions to every rule, and without going into detail, we've seen exceptions. The Kid, however, is a better person than his mom, because he's sticking it out with a remarkably good attitude. He loves hockey, even bad hockey.

Keeping the Ice Pact
The primary purpose of this blog is to share fun stories about experiences the Kid and I have with ice sports. Sadly, there's not as much fun coming out of youth hockey this season and I'm not skating, so...what's a girl to do? I'm not quite ready to close up shop, mostly because I enjoy writing and I love the connections I've made with others in hockey and figures skating. I don't want to lose that. I've thought about shifting my focus to off-ice training for both figure skaters and hockey players, which I could cover regardless of hockey records or my presence on the ice.

Eventually, it will all shake out. Until then I'm going to enjoy the sparkle of the holiday season, read history books in front of my Christmas tree and let the end-of-the-year chaos propel me into 2015.

Because I'm a sucker for fresh starts.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

No Rabbits in this Hat

I had high hopes for the fall. The leg was feeling good. I was crazy-energized to train hard and get back to those dance patterns. Starting in September, I skated three hours a week. Skills I had completely lost were starting to come back little-by-little. I was taking lessons here and there and doing absolutely everything Dmytri demanded. Then the pain and weakness started to come back and I thought, “Not this time!”

The writing was on the wall. (The etching was in the ice?) Skating was the problem. Stop skating - Complete physical therapy - Feel better - Resume skating - Aggravate injury - Repeat.

I was determined to break this cycle, so I tried something new. Instead of trying to push through when my leg started feeling bad, I took a week off. I lifted weights, I ballet danced, I stretched (things I can do pain-free), but I did not skate. After a week, I felt stronger and got back on the ice. Perhaps I didn’t make any skating progress during that week, but I also didn’t lose anything. Given that my prior track record is to lose everything and start over, this time I felt a little bit ahead of the game. I wasn’t starting from scratch.

So that’s how I’m skating these days. It’s a very slow, tedious process. I can feel incremental improvements; trust me, no one’s seeing them. And often it’s boring as hell. But try as I might, I can’t quit skating. There’s something about the ritual of skating - going to the rink, taping up my skates, feeling the cold air - that’s just become what I do. Even though I do it poorly.

If slow and steady wins the race...let me be the tortoise.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fake It 'til You Make It

It was the end of the first period and I opened to the door of the penalty box for the officials. They sat side-by-side talking about what was happening on the ice and I was loving getting the insider scoop. Through their conversation, I learned that the one ref was 14 years old and this was his first time officiating. The other reminded me of Santa Claus, kindhearted and mischievous.

"Look," Santa said to the teenager. "Whenever you blow that whistle, everything stops and everyone is looking at you."

Um...dude...not sure that's a good talking point for the rookie. The teen's eyes were big as saucers. You see, he'd messed up a call. Against my son, of all people. The Kid and an opposing player had collided and slid into the boards. The whistle blew and I knew we were going on the powerplay. Until the young ref pointed at the Kid and said undecidedly, "Tripping...uh...hooking?"

It was the wrong call against the wrong player. The Kid joined me in the penalty and he was understandably pissed. But there are going to be bad calls sometimes and if there's a good time to get a bad call it's during a pre-season game.

Now it was between periods and the veteran official was using that incident as a teachable moment for the rookie.

"When you blow that whistle, step just a little bit away from the play or the boards to give yourself some room," he advised. "Take a deep breath, decide your call and announce it loud and clear. Make the best calls you can make. And if you're unsure, you gotta sell it. The more confidence you show the less likely people are to complain. Sometimes you gotta fake it."

The rookie ref didn't call any penalties the rest of the game, but he caught off-sides more often than not and he announced goal-scorers with increasing authority each time he approached the scorer's table. It was really fun to watch him.

As they were getting off the ice the veteran official patted the rookie on the back. "You did good out there," he said. The rookie's smile couldn't have been brighter.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


My dance instructor and one of my classmates were in the hallway as I came out of the dressing room. We chatted briefly before my classmate and I headed to the exit together.

"Do you do any other kind of dance?" he asked, after telling me about his adventures swing dancing.

"I do ice dance," I said. And silently I laughed at the absurdity of that statement. 

I don't typically admit that I skate, mostly because I'm embarrassed by my lack of skill and progress. But teetering on my little demi-pointes makes me feel strong and energized. Maybe it was the post-ballet buzz that made me declare myself an ice dancer.

My little delusions of grandeur.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Athletes (Who Are Adults)

For most of my life, I've been the least athletic person ever. I survived one season of basketball cheerleading in junior high and there was a brief volleyball experiment in high school, but I was awful at both. No strength, no coordination, no interest in trying to build either. Just give me a history book and I'll be fine.

No one was more surprised than I was to find myself in my early-40s taking beginning figure skating lessons, having a legit sports injury and becoming both a personal trainer and a rookie ballet dancer. Who have I become?!

When I was a kid, I don't remember being around many adult athletes. There were a few casual golfers and tennis players ... and Jane Fonda. Today, I'm surrounded by adults who are competing in every sport imaginable - figure skating, hockey, baseball, softball, soccer - you name it, adults are doing it. And we're hitting the gym to train for our sports in an effort to perform better and avoid injury. We're lifting (heavy!) weights, running through agility ladders and improving our flexibility.

I think tonight I'll set aside my history book (a pretty engaging biography of Elizabeth Tudor, Henry VII's wife) and will dive into my IDEA Fitness Journal. A quick glance tells me they didn't include anyone participating in ice sports. I just might need to fix that.

And I just might need your help. What are you doing (on and off the ice) as an adult athlete? Are you training? Alone? With a coach and/or trainer? How did you get started? What motivates you? Help me tell the story! Feel free to leave a comment or you can contact me via email if you'd like.

More to come...

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.