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

Delusional

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

Pro-Choice

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

Splat!

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 and...no 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

Well-Balanced

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 me...my 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?)


Salad


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


BBQ


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.