Sunday, February 14, 2016

Aging Gracefully


You have my attention, Mr. Cressey. 

Whenever I hear from you all, either in blog comments or emails, I'm always impressed but how committed folks are to getting in training to support the sports they participate in. And even those who struggle to fit it in tell me they recognize the value of training to improve their athletic performance, they just don't know how or what to do. Seemed like a no-brainer to share Eric's article.  

So click on the link above and check it out! 


Saturday, January 30, 2016

I Swung. And Got Up.

Pond hockey on Mirror Lake
We were pretty excited for a long-planned trip to Lake Placid for a hockey tournament. If you’ve never been to Lake Placid, I recommend it, especially in the winter. It has so much charm and the Olympic history is fascinating. You can play pond hockey and skate on the Olympic Oval . The little museum has a cool display of old skate blades and if you’ve never seen an Olympic ski jump ramp thingy up close...just wow!

It's called Miracle on Ice and is made, appropriately, with vodka











Hockey tournaments are a blast, but let’s face it, there’s way more food and booze than physical activity, at least for those of us not playing hockey. Snowzilla, which brought us a week of closed schools, closed rinks and closed dance studios certainly didn’t help. I’m ready to get back to something resembling normal training again.

With no youth hockey games on the agenda today, I’ve been able to catch up on all kinds of things - computer back ups, the news, Nationals. And I actually picked up something heavy. Sometimes I wish I had a garage so I could set up one of those cool garage gyms all the Crossfitters have. Luckily, I do have a room in my basement that serves as pretty good training facility. (The low ceiling isn’t a problem for me. Short girl.) And it’s particularly helpful during times like these when Snowzilla makes finding parking at the gym a deluxe nightmare.

Today’s workout was inspired by Pavel Tsatsouline’s book Kettlebell Simple and Sinister and involved two exercises: the kettlebell swing and the Turkish Get Up. Tsatsouline describes the Swing as the ultimate quick lift and the Get Up as the ultimate slow lift. For me, these two combined provide a good workout with minimal equipment and an efficient use of time.

The Training Session*:

Swings - 5x10 @ 16kg



Get ups - 5x1 @ 8kg



*Sets are listed first followed by repetitions, thus 5x10 is five sets of 10 repetitions


Here're the thing...while these exercises are sinister, I'm not sure I'd call them simple. The hip hinge, critical in the swing, can be a challenge to execute properly. The Get Up is complex enough that it's often taught using a shoe instead of a weight until people have mastered the technique. If you're interested in trying these out, have a professional help you get started.


Having gotten that workout in this morning, I’m feeling a little bit back on track. Next week I should be able to resume a normal skating, lifting and dancing schedule. Thankfully ... because I like skating, lifting and dancing.



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An Unintentional Experiment in Sport Psychology

Crossovers were a big deal for me. When I first started skating I perceived them as being a "real" figure skating move. They were the first "hard thing" to learn. I signed up for the crossover class and showed up the first day in my brand new Jackson Classiques. I mean, there was no way I was going to learn crossovers in rental skates.

One day I noticed my ankle was swollen and was hurting. I had just finished a run, so I thought I had a running injury. But instead of getting better, it kept getting worse. I spent tons of time on doctors, tests, physical therapy and eventually training certifications in my quest to fix my leg. My skating never improved. In fact, it got worse.

I didn't know it at the time but I would never be able to learn to skate in those skates.

Over time, I developed severe pronation and terrible knee valgus on my left side. Try as I might, I was never able to line up my leg (or hit a left outside edge). I chalked it up to me being a rookie skater. I clearly needed to work on my technique. It never occurred to me that perhaps my blade was misaligned. I mean, the skates felt great!

The first thing I noticed when I got my new skates was that my pronation was gone and my knee no longer caved in. Gradually, my pain decreased and my ice time increased. I could skate for more than 20 minutes at a time. Oh! A left outside edge! Skating on my left leg had never felt so stable and controlled. But now my right skate was wonky. When I put my right foot down on the ice, I was never sure how the skate would react. I just couldn't catch a figure skating break. I toyed around with it a little on my own, and thought maybe it was "good enough." But eventually my back and right hip started hurting. There was no way I would let myself develop another debilitating repetitive use injury. I decided I needed professional help. Is there a skate tech in the house?

Now my skates are fixed and are performing as they should. But sometimes I feel like I need another type of professional help. Is there a sports psychologist in the house? On the one hand, I'm thrilled that I'm skating pain-free and I'm rebuilding my strength from my ongoing injury. But oh-my-god what could I have learned by now if I'd only known my skate was causing the problem? What skills would I have? What achievements could I have made in that time?

On bad days, I dwell on it. On good days, I'm excited and optimistic about skating again. Maybe I've finally caught a figure skating break.






Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Transitions

When I started this blog it was simply to share some fun stories with family and friends about the skating adventures the Kid and I were having. I love my skating lessons, but writing about them has become, dare I say it, stale and redundant. The Kid is a peewee hockey player, which is tons of fun, but less cute (and way more stinky!) than adorable little mites. It's time to evolve.

Here's my plan:

  • Step away from skating adventures. You won't believe the crazy that has gone down with my skating! While I don't plan to write about my skating lessons as specifically anymore, my on-ice training still will come into play. I'll give a snapshot of recent events (if nothing else, that will be an interesting look at sports insanity psychology) and I'll reference my own skating when it makes sense to do so.
  • Focus more on training. We're adult athletes. As adults, we can't just replicate what our favorite skaters are doing. Well, we could, but I fear the consequences. I'd like to spend more time exploring the unique needs of adult athletes and what we can do with our training to improve our performance and extend the longevity of our skating careers. 
  • Work on a visual overhaul. If the content of this site is going to evolve, so should the look and maybe even the name. I'm toying with some ideas. It probably will be a slow transition. Don't expect much, my technological savvy is limited.


No matter what changes are implemented going forward, the one thing I hope will remain is you all and the discussions we have around here. That's the best part! This still will be a place to laugh, commiserate, work hard and party a little.

So for now, I hope you'll bear with me as I work on some changes. Stay tuned...






Friday, October 16, 2015

Get Your Priorities Straight, Lady

I don’t remember what I was doing when I first encountered minimalism. But I do know that the concept immediately resonated with me. I found myself pouring over articles and videos and blog posts that suggested ways to streamline different facets of life to make each day more fulfilling and enjoyable. Even the very small steps I took had a remarkably big impact.

Working on household clutter and whittling down my wardrobe was pretty easy. (The hardest part was doing it in a way that wouldn’t freak out the Kid and DC Giant. They seem to be doing okay.) Now I've entered new territory and it's giving me a lot to consider.

So...um...what does this have to do with ice sports and athletic training?

One of the most compelling aspects of minimalism is how it creates freedom...freedom to do the things we love with the people we love. It encourages a thoughtful approach to how we spend our time. Right now how I want to spend my time and how I actually spend my time are slightly misaligned. Luckily, it’s not a huge disconnect so I think with some small tweaks, I’ll be able to bridge the gap.

Now...we’re getting to ice sports and athletic training…and writing

I like writing. I like the process of researching and organizing thoughts and concepts. I like playing with words and telling stories. Once upon a time, I was pretty good at it and got paid to do it. I’m not so good at it now, because I stopped doing it. I certainly don’t get paid for it anymore.

I like ice sports. I want to learn how to figure skate. I love the hockey mom lifestyle. I like the rhythms of the ice rink, the skating music, pucks hitting sticks. It's a fantastic, high-energy environment. It sharpens my focus. It feels right to me.

I like training. I love helping people become stronger, more athletic and less stressed. I want to explore more opportunities to train athletes - kids on sports team, adults who compete in sports at any level. Remember that certification I started working on? I want that.

It’s time to figure this out.

If there's a perfect time to be selfish and prioritize the things I want to do, now is it. The Kid is getting older, he needs (and wants!) less of my time and attention. I work part-time, so I certainly can find hours in the day. And I have a family that truly supports me. In fact, the Kid keeps yapping at me about getting my certification because he’s convinced it will result in a job with Caps. And wouldn’t I be setting an amazing example for him if he saw me busting my ass on things I love?

  • The next time I’m thinking about writing but I’m not doing it, I’m going to take notice of exactly what I am doing.
  • The next time I skip skating practice, I’m going to observe with heightened specificity why I’m not hitting ice.
  • The next time I glance at my certification materials but choose not to open them up, I’m going to determine what exactly pulls me away.

If I can identify the hurdles that trip me up, then I can develop a plan for getting over them.

*****
There are countless Web sites, blogs, YouTube channels and newsletters devoted to minimalism in all its incarnations. If you’re interested in learning more, a good place to get started is to check out the links here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The If-Word

For a loooong time now I've thought in terms of if I could learn to skate. As I trudged through countless doctors' appointments, x-rays and tests; worked through several rounds of physical therapy; and made more failed skating comebacks than I care to remember, in the back of my mind I always wondered if it was even possible for me to participate in this sport. Now I'm starting to shift my thinking away from that awful if-word.


I'm once again strong enough to skate, but I'm not able to skate for extended periods of time. The only way to become a better skater is to skate, so my intention is to increase my ice time in the fall. That means endurance training starts now. My priority continues to be abs-and-ass, because my left side is weak and Dmytri has a habit of hitting my stomach in various places and saying, "Use these muscles!"

So, here's a snapshot of some of what I'll be doing over the next few weeks. There are videos, because videos are helpful, as well as thoughts on intensity and volume.

ABS

We have a whole lot of abdominal muscles and they have different functions. All told, they are responsible for flexion and rotation of the trunk, compression of the abdomen and stabilization of the pelvis. Kinda helpful in figure skating. I've already mentioned a couple of exercises that hit these muscles very effectively. But I like variety so I'm adding some reverse crunches. Wait, what?! Yes, I'm on record as not being a huge fan of "regular" crunches, but reverse crunches are a different animal. They may not be my go-to exercise, but I'm comfortable throwing them into programming every now and then.


ASS

Aaah...glutes. For the longest time I neglected my poor glutes (gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, for the purposes of this conversation.) They're responsible for leg extension, lateral stabilization of the knee and hip joints, abduction of the hip and stabilization of the pelvis. My awful knee valgus on my left leg when I skate is, in part, because of weak glutes. 

Kettlebell Swings


I like kettlebell swings because I can really feel my glutes and abdominals working when I do them. The proverbial killing two birds with one...kettlebell? Plus, they're a ton of fun to do.

Step Ups


Doing this exercise with my left leg really forces me to work to engage those hip muscles. I have to pay close attention to what I'm doing, otherwise my knee caves in something fierce.

PROGRAMMING

Resistance training is all about building strength, power, hypertrophy and muscular endurance. Narrowing down your focus to one area at a time is often the most effective way to make progress in all areas. I want to up the intensity of my skating in the fall, so I'm using endurance training now to prepare my body for increased demands down the road.

With the above exercises, I'm choosing an amount of weight that allows me to do the following:

  • Sets: 2 - 3
  • Reps: 12+
  • Rest: about 30 seconds between sets

BANNING THE IF-WORD

I want to ban the word if from my skating vocabulary. It's taken a lot of hard work so far, and there's more hard work on the horizon, but I'm feeling pretty confident that I can stop thinking in terms of if I learn to skate. That's a pretty cool place to be.

***

So how about you? Do you do any of these exercise? Love 'em, hate 'em? What are the areas you focus on? As always, would love to hear from you in the comments or feel free to email me. The discussion is the best part!


Monday, June 29, 2015

Relationship Building

Two weeks and one awesome beach vacation ago, I had taken a test spin in my new skates. It was a disaster of epic proportions. So it was with some trepidation that I returned to the scene of the crime. Summer sessions tend to be busy. Add in the camp kids and there's very little room to maneuver. Of course, I didn't expect to do much maneuvering anyway. I carefully stepped onto the ice. This time things went better, mostly because I knew what I was up against.

I went back to all those things one does in the very first intro level classes - swizzles, swizzles with one-foot glides, pumping around circles, chasses on the circles, etc. I tried some outside edges along the goal line and even a couple of wobbly crossovers. None of this was for skating practice mind you, I was just trying to find my positioning over the skate and figure out how much muscle I needed to get momentum. (Related: I can probably skip leg day.) Eventually, I was able to do a couple of laps of slow forward stroking with hesitant crossovers at the end. Power and extension optional.

There were a couple of times where I expected to glide, but my skates stopped instead. That was awkward. And the time I backed away from a flailing kid, I was reminded that casually backing out of harm's way might be harmful. (But hey! I moved backward without much thought and I didn't end up on my ass.)

It's like I know how to skate, but I don't know how to skate. (Could I write a weirder sentence?) Every time I would start to feel stable, my skates would do something unexpected. If I can anthropomorphize skates, it's almost as if they're figuring out how to adjust to me as much as I'm figuring out how to adjust to them. A silly thought perhaps.

Regardless, we have forward motion (only forward motion!) That'll work...for now.





Monday, June 15, 2015

Blasted Blades

I stepped gingerly on the ice with my left foot. I was in brand new skates and not sure what to expect. Holding on to the boards I pushed tentatively with my right foot and...went absolutely nowhere. I was stuck to the ice.


The breakdown had been gradual. I noticed that my right skate would become loose quickly. I started tying it extra tight and taping it for good measure. That helped for a while. Eventually, I found myself stopping quite a bit to jam my heel back into its proper place. Before long I was having to adjust both feet. It got particularly frustrating when I found myself stopping my lessons, repeatedly, so I could readjust my skates.

I had a really easy time with my first pair of skates. There was no breaking in period. They felt comfortable from the get-go, no blisters or rubbing of any kind. They weren't fancy, but they were exactly what I needed. I figured they'd be the only skates I'd ever own. Likely, that would have been the case had it not been for the timing of a fortuitous email.

"I have a pair of skates to off-load. Want 'em cheap?" Brand new skates, tried on once, but the girl didn't take them. Ordinarily, my answer would have been, "No thanks, I'm good." But I'd just wrapped up a particularly frustrating practice session. My equipment was driving me nuts. Here was a possible solution. They were the same brand as my original skates, but a different model. They also were the same size, 4 1/2, but they were narrow width. Well, it wouldn't hurt to try.

My first reaction when I opened the box was, "These are going to be way too small." I slid my foot into the right boot and was surprised at how soft it was. Both skates on and tied. Ooooh...they were meant to be mine. I couldn't wait to try them out. That's when disaster struck.

The blades. What a freakin' nightmare! They felt like they were mounted differently than my old ones. Not in a bad way, actually. My left foot wasn't pronating nearly as much as it normally does and several times I almost toppled over to my left because I inadvertently hit an outside edge. I never hit a left outside edge. Ever. Sitting both pairs of skates beside each other, I can't see a difference. It's just a feeling.

But the really bad part was the sharpening. They're waaaaaaay too sharp. I could not move. I tried to push forward and all I managed to do was propel my upper body forward, my skates sticking to the ice. I looked like one of those big balloon mascots that have their feet anchored to the ground and air whipping their arms and torsos around wildly. I spent most of my time forcing my way back and forth across the width of the rink. A couple of the skating instructors, who know how I really skate, gave me confused looks.

Thirty minutes in, tired and frustrated, I swapped out my new skates for my old ones. But my old ones felt hard and uncomfortable compared to my new ones. I slipped back into the soft new boots and headed back out to fight the blades.

After an hour I was getting across the width of the ice with a little more stability. I couldn't get up enough speed to try holding edges or doing crossovers. Thankfully, the boots are wonderful! They don't pinch or rub and my feet stay comfortably nestled in the soft padding.

Once the blades start cooperating, I think I'm really going to like the new skates. May have to postpone the backward edge work for a while though.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jumps Revisited: A Spectacular Finish!

It was likely to be my last lesson for the summer, so I wanted to work hard. Apparently, Dmytri was thinking along those lines as well (or maybe he was just well-caffeinated) because we took off fast and furious - stroking, outside swingrolls, inside swingrolls (still skidding out on the left), crossrolls. And then something new...alternating chasses with Dmytri skating backward and me skating forward.

"Now we go the other way," Dmytri joked. "You go backward."

I called his bluff. I mean, why not? I'm just barely starting to skate backward again, it would be good to give it a shot with training wheels. I could work on my posture and edges. It turned out to be a little terrifying, given we were going much, much faster than I expected.

"You should give me props for even trying that!" I said. I was feeling all proud of my bravery.

Dmytri was unimpressed "No, you're an athlete. This is just what you do."

"No celebration for you, Michelle," I joked, but deep down, his response captures exactly how I want skating to be, no matter what level I'm at.

A lap of Rhythm Blues and a lap of Cha Cha. I butchered the cross-behinds in both.

"Now the fun stuff," Dmytri said. I knew he was up to something good because he was sparkling brightly enough to light the entire rink. "Waltz jumps." And he did one. One big, beautiful Waltz jump.

I never thought I'd jump again. And honestly, I was okay with that. Yet somehow it felt right working on it during my lesson. I didn't try any on my own. After about half a dozen attempts I was getting the take off okay ("I didn't help you with that at all," Dmytri would say) but I wouldn't have landed any of them without his help. I was damn near giddy as we got off the ice, not just because I was jumping, but because I was feeling strong enough to try jumping again.

"Do you think it's possible?" I asked.

"Yes," Dmytri said. I believe him.

This was the absolute perfect way to close out the season. Leaving the rink I felt like everything in skating is possible again. And I know exactly how I can spend my skating time this summer...in reverse! I need to buckle down on backward skating. Summer will be a good time for that. The busy ice will make working on "big moves" nearly impossible. Swingrolls, dance patterns, and such will be a rare treat. But I won't need a lot of space for backward skating. If I can clean up my backward stroking and start holding some reasonable backward edges, then this fall we can get back to mohawks, 3-turns and Waltz jumps.

Because everything in skating is possible again!


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Life's Good

Ting! My blade struck Dmytri's as we went into the slalom. He busted out laughing, knowing that sound induces near-panic in me.

"Keep going!" he called out. He was enjoying himself an awful lot at my expense. Somehow I managed to propel myself through the rest of the Cha-Cha.

"Come on!" I implored as we settled into a calm coast. "Didn't that make you just a little nervous?"

"No," he laughed. "Stay beside me next time. That happened because you got in front of me."

As my blood pressure returned to normal, we lined up for another run.

"Keep your blades to yourself," I said.

"Stay out of my way," he shot back.

I have to admit, despite my firm belief in an off-season, I'm a little bummed it's happening now. Skating is fun again! I'm enjoying my lessons, practice is starting to feel like real practice again, I might even be getting new skates (something I never thought I'd do.) After such a long time of feeling stuck in place or having ridiculous fits and starts, things feel like they're moving forward. Slowly, perhaps, but consistently in the right direction. This is good.

"No! No! No!" I exclaimed as we crossed the width of the ice. Again, Dmytri was laughing, because I was nothing short of entertaining at this point.

"You can do this! This is your dance!"

Out of nowhere he'd decided we would revisit Rhythm Blues. It is no longer my dance. I couldn't remember any of it and of course Dmytri went fast because he assumed I knew what I was doing. Silly man. Alright, progressing in some areas, regressing in others. This is good.


I'll probably be able to sneak in one last lesson before summer, time to transition into the off-season. Yeah, this is still good.