Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boot Surgery

A few months ago I ordered custom Jackson boots hoping that this would be the end to my boot fitting nightmares. My Reidels seem to be made for a kids foot. Even though they were wide in the front and tight in the heel they still had to put me in a longer boot to the right fit for my foot. The nose of the "correct" size boot dived too soon and hit the top of my toe even though the end of my toe was clear of the boot. The tongue also regularly slipped over and unlaced my boots for me which was particularly hazardous since it was my landing leg. I went down at least one time after skating over my laces and was constantly having to relace my boots after doing MIF. So I splurged and ordered my very first pair of custom ice skates. I was so looking forward to something that fit perfectly. Instead when I got my boots they seemed too big. The tongue wouldn't tuck in very well and got caught on the padding on the inside of the boot. The guy that fit me kept telling me that they were fine so I figured I would give them a chance and see if things changed as I broke them in. After two months you could see the edges of the tongue curling up where they were running into the boot padding. My heel regularly slips in these boots and the front of my foot can wiggle around a lot. Now mind you these boots are very stiff and you just can't pull them tight with the laces at least not until recently. Of course I blame all of these problems squarely on the guy who took my foot measurements and ordered the boots. The only thing about Jackson boots themselves that I don't like is the fact that there is no arch support in them what so ever. Horrible. I was used to my Reidels that had intimate contact with the arch of my foot. Before I laid out another $600+ on yet another pair of custom boots I decided to go to my chiropractor and get fitted for some custom orthotic inserts. He had me step on a scanner that took a very nice color coded picture of the bottom of each foot. He called the company and told them the inserts were for ice skates and they immediately recommended one of their styles. This sounded very encouraging. They knew what figure skaters were after. I needed to be able to feel the ice under my feet and be able to control the boot with the small muscles of my foot. They recommended one of their thin sole models that was skinnier than a their regular insert and had much less padding than the one my doctor recommended. All sounds good. $200 later I got to put them in my boots today. While I was fitting the inserts I decided to do a little surgery to the tongues. I took my kitchen scissors (heavy duty) and tapered the padding on the tongue so their would be a gentle transition between the tongue and boot. I also cut off the sections that were obviously catching on the boot padding. I also made a slit that pointed toward the ankle which would aid the tongue in flexing so I could cinch the laces tighter in the ankle area. I matched the toe pattern on my old inserts to the toe ridge in the new ones and trimmed the new ones to the outline of the old. I bent the new ones up a bit and in they went. I then stuffed my bare feet into my boots so I could feel the boots really well and laced them up, cinching them tightly. When I stood up I couldn't believe the difference! My custom boots now fit like a glove. I have very little heel movement and I can feel the sides of the skate with my feet. I also have a nice hard arch support under my foot. I can hardly wait to try them out tomorrow. I wouldn't be surprised if I will need my blades moving again. The arch supports will probably make me stand differently in the boots. I'll report back and let you know what happens, but right now I think the surgery was a great success.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weights and Measures

About a month ago I started weight lifting with a personal trainer. Turns out that my quadriceps are very weak and my hamstrings are very strong resulting in a weird muscle imbalance. It wouldn't surprise me if this is a big part of my knee cap problem (I have to tape my knees before skating to keep the caps tracking in the right place). Everything else seems fairly well matched. Since I am no longer 20 something I have divided the lifting work out between two days. I do the lower body and torso on Monday so that I have two days to recover before I skate and then I do the upper body and torso on Thursday in between skating days. When I was younger the regimen of lifting every other day to tax every muscle group with one day in between to recover worked wonders. When I went back to weight lifting prior to the car accidents I was in my early to mid forties and I had to have at least two days in between preferably three to recover or my muscles would just get weaker and weaker. I have never seen this discussed in any weight lifting literature. Apparently my muscles take much longer to recover now that I am older. According to weight lifting lore I shouldn't be gaining much muscle mass only lifting what equates to one day a week. However, I am finding that I am steadily increasing my weights each week. I am decidedly stronger than when I started out a month ago and even my heart is beating slower (I wear a heart monitor for giggles) and my cardio workout has to be harder for me to get the same level of workout. So much for what is written in stone. Listen to my body. This is working.

An added benefit that I wasn't expecting was weight loss. I am quite chubby. Always have been. Probably always will be. I never was a dieter and instead try to eat well balanced organic whole foods in smallish portions. I find I feel better if I break my meals up into small snacks instead of sitting down and sating myself into a stupor. I try to eat at least two fruits and three or more vegetables a day. Since I have a wheat allergy the normal junk foods are pretty much off the table (pun intended). Yet I remain chubby. My husband was musing on this the other day. Wondering why I weigh so much when I eat so well. He was giggling when he asked if I consumed boxes of donuts at work when he wasn't looking (the answer is no since I would be horribly ill). It is just the weird metabolism that God gave me and I am stuck with. What I had forgotten is how well my body responds to weight lifting. The other night when we were walking around a mall killing time while waiting for a table at a restaurant, my underwear started working its way down. Thankfully I was wearing pants so it didn't have far to go before getting stuck. Then it struck me that I was hitching my pants up constantly as well. I had lost weight!! Since I generally don't go near scales as a rule I had no idea what the weight lifting was doing. Plus muscle weighs more than fat so even if my scale weight has gone up I might have lost fat since I know for a fact my muscles are getting bigger. The next day I had the joy of going pant shopping and got to pick up both trousers and underwear in the next size down. Monday when I got to the gym I stepped on the scale and saw a weight I hadn't seen since prior to the car accidents. I must have dropped at least four pounds and probably more since starting the new regimen. How exciting! For me regular exercise just doesn't cut it for weight loss. When I started skating I dropped ten pounds and then got stuck. I always lose a few pounds at skate camp but I am on the ice three hours a day which I can't possibly do while holding down a full time job. Weight lifting is the only thing that does the trick for me. It changes my metabolism and burns more calories even when I am sitting around. Now I am skinnier and my sit spins are getting pretty good as well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Axel Dreams

Sometimes I feel like figure skating just courses through my veins. I am consumed by it. For days it will be the only thing I think about. My body is tense and ready to launch into a spin or jump even though I am running around on dry land. I am possessed. When I am like this for several days I dream about figure skating. Last month I dreamed that I landed a perfect axel. I am not even attempting them yet. I am hoping that it is a premonition of things to come; that I will, some day, land an axel.

Last night my skating dreams were neither as elegant or even relevant to the real world. I skated yesterday for about an hour practicing spins and the beginnings of my program. Last night I couldn't sleep because I was so excited about my lessons today. No wonder I dreamed about skating. But I didn't dream about my program or doing figure eights like other nights, instead I was in a strange rink where they had laid down fake ice mats on top of the real ice. I tried to skate on the stuff but my fancy blades got stuck in it like I was skating on couch cushions. The mats would move rather than my blades. Suddenly I was up in the stands naked (don't you love those naked dreams?) and they started taking the mats up revealing the lovely ice underneath. By the time I got dressed and got my boots on the Zamboni came on to resurface the ice and I didn't get to skate at all. I was very disappointed. (I am hoping that this dream is NOT a premonition of things to come.) Then as suddenly as all dreams go I was in Lake Placid with my family eating beef wellington in a cafe after being in the 1980 rink at the Olympic center, which is completely odd since I neither eat cows nor wheat although I did like beef wellington when I was a kid. In my dream it was quite tasty and I finished it all up without any of the normal digestive consequences which is what makes dreams so wonderful.

Today I am very glad my skating did not go like it did in my dream. I did a double session today. Two hours solid of skating. I am beginning to find that one hour is just too short a time to practice everything that I would like to do. The two hours allowed for some serious figure time. I did FO, FI regular and serpentine 8s, then some FO 3 turn eights. I didn't get to back 8s since I got distracted with loops. I have rather large drunken loops. They lay on their side. From the tracing it looks like I am going into them too late and exiting too early giving both lobes an odd tilt. This is when my coach came over for my turn in the "group" lesson. Turns out I was skating the entire figure too large. When I shortened it up to closer to the correct size they became easier to do. She also told me that the figure is actually traced with the free leg rather than the skating leg and the turn is initiated by pushing into the ice rather than bending the knee (I still don't really get that bit). I kept doing loops and they magically straightened up. She told me that I have a much better sense of them than the kids trying to learn them for MIF. I am actually doing the edge work rather than just swinging my leg around forcing the turn. since she doesn't give out complements lightly this made me very happy.

The second hour was my private lesson which was mostly consumed with breaking down the Salchow jump and the back spin. First just doing the entrance three turn over and over again until I got all the body bits in the right place. Then she would add the next body movement which I would repeat over and over and then the next. This was all done in slow motion until my skating leg ached. I never actually completed the spin and I only jumped one correct but minuscule Salchow but I feel like I have made a lot of progress. I have a lot to practice and I am over the idea of it has to be perfect and fast the first time. Now I have given myself permission to do things in pieces, go as slow as I want and two foot any part of it. She said I am very close to having the spin in the backspin and I will eventually be able to jump. I trust her absolutely so I know these will come eventually.

Just when I thought my right glute was going to cramp into a pretzel we started on my program. I showed her the stunt I learned from watching old John Curry videos, a spiral into an attitude, which is much harder than it looks since you have to have tons of control to execute the slow lift from the spiral to the attitude. She loved it and immediately put it at the beginning of the program. Now I am doing the spiral from a dead stop into the attitude. This helps tremendously since I just do some forward stroking and crossovers to get myself some speed for the spread eagles. This is much smoother and easier for me than last week's pivot into back crossovers and then the spread eagle. I could never hit the forward edge quite right to smoothly get into the spread eagle. Now it was easy. Next comes the three turns down center ice with the ina bauer and sit spin at the other end of the rink. Man, I hit that sit spin dead on. It was such a good one I stayed with it and made myself totally dizzy. It was awesome! She then added on two edges, one three turn into a waltz jump. When I caught my breath I did the whole thing again from the top. I was tired this time so it was much more sloppy and I had to stop dead after the sit spin since I missed the entrance and was off balance but I made it through without forgetting any of the steps. Boy does it need work. She then had me try back cross steps which are from the silver MIF which I haven't even started practicing for yet. Since I could do them reasonably well she added a pivot and the steps which will eventually lead into the salchow. I had skated the entire hour. It was over. I was pooped, sore, out of breath, and very very happy. Next week she is going to teach me how to do a change edge spiral. I have good spirals both forwards and backwards now I need to get fancy with them.

Until next week I hope I have more axel dreams.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Embrionic Stages of a Program

My next test requires music. I am hoping to take the Adult Bronze Freestyle test once I can land a decent Salchow and Waltz-Toe Loop and of course do a backspin. My sit spin magically appeared after I got my new skates. Not sure where it came from since I could only do it occasionally before. Suddenly, I can do one cold. One less thing I have to worry about for the test. Yeah!

Today we started on the choreography for the program. Now, you have to realize that even though I skated as a kid I never EVER did a program. I skated in lots of group numbers in the club ice shows but never my very own program. When you are in a group number the choreography is done for the lowest level skater in the group making most of the steps very very easy. I am very excited about doing my own program as a grown up. I am skating to "Dawn" from Pride and Prejudice. I am keeping the slow start and end but cutting out one of the fast bits in the middle. I am only allowed 1:40 of music. What is left after the edit I am going to digitally stretch to fill the time since with the edit it is only 1:30. This is going to make a nice slow tempo for it, more like a ballet piece than a manic skating piece. Just right for me ;-)

We started with the straight line footwork. It is simply two three turns into a power crossover repeated twice with an arm flourish during each three turn. Once I got this down she added a pivot on my toe pick into back crossovers into an outside spread eagle then an inside spread eagle. This got added to the beginning of the three turn sequence. It is working out that the spread eagles are done around the hockey circles and then the three turns head down the rink kitty-corner where I end up at the other hockey circle. She then added an Ina Bauer at that end into back crossovers into a sit spin. I ran through this a couple of times dodging people along the way. I couldn't believe how klutzy I was suddenly. Then I realized that I am used to performing these as individual elements which means I get to take my time setting them up and getting out of them for each individual stunt. While I have performed every single part of this well and some of it for years, it is more like playing scales up and down the piano rather than launching into a good Rachmaninoff piece. Way different! During the run throughs I stumbled over my own feet and then lost the arm movements altogether during the three turn sequence. While I did manage to get through the whole little bit end to end, from a performance standpoint it looked like crap. I am going to have to practice this a lot, starting quite slowly. This was also done without music which is going to add another stress on top of me tripping over my toe rakes and forgetting my arms. I suddenly have a new admiration for the kids whipping through their programs. I am going to have to ask for an ipod for Christmas so I can skate to my music the odd times I get the ice rink to myself during a public session.

To go back to the music analogy, I know the notes now I just have to learn the song.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Off Ice Training

Well, I finally did it. After talking about it for over a year I finally got a gym membership, hired a trainer and started weight lifting again. This is the first time that I've worked with a real trainer one on one. Usually I just get the gym tour and set up on the machines and then get left alone to do my own thing. I must be used to working out from ice skating because this return to the gym has been much easier than in the past when I have gone back after being couch potato for many months (usually due to some illness or surgery or other life disaster). I'm looking forward to having my routine tailored to help my skating. I have already increased some weights and she has me doing extra cardio so I can make it through MIF.

I went for my second visit Tuesday and while I didn't do anything out of the ordinary she kept me going at a brisk pace that soon had me sweating buckets. I miss working out on the ice. It is much cooler in the rink. I felt like I was trying to exercise in a sauna. Very weird being that hot.

I was sore today from the workout. Not bad but I could tell my muscles had a good workout yesterday. I was very glad that I had arranged for a full body massage tonight. Boy did that feel good. Well, not during. She is a deep tissue worker which means she digs into all the bits that hurt the worst. It feels wonderful when she is done. I have more range of motion now and the stiffness is gone. Of course I could well wake up in the morning feeling like I got his by a bus. This has happened in the past and I haven't had a massage since June. But right now I am reveling in warm soft pliant muscles. Time to go park myself on the couch for the evening and watch Glee.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Muscles Have Alzheimers

The person who said that muscles have memory must never have been an adult figure skater. Last Wednesday was "one of those days" where my body had completely forgotten how to skate. Okay, maybe not completely: I could still go forward and backward but that is about as much as I could handle. Crossovers; back to swinging the leg in a wide arc before putting my foot down- I thought my coach had gotten rid of that last year? Spins; couldn't center one to save my life. Spread Eagle; forget it. I couldn't even do a decent forward three turn. What happened? My muscles go on vacation early? I have a list of possible reasons (excuses?):

  • Too much weight lifting on Monday
  • Not enough sleep (always a problem)
  • That two day old yogurt I found in my lunch bag: blech, why did I eat that thing?
  • Boots too tight
  • Boots too loose
  • Too much skating over the weekend? (I uncharacteristically skated three days in a row which is usually results in muscle weakness but three days later??)
  • Forgot to take my vitamins this morning?

I just want to plead temporary insanity on the part of my muscles. They've lost it. Forgotten everything I've learned this past year in the space of two days. Fortunately this is a temporary insanity. Friday I had a great skate and practiced my spins from a standstill until I got them back. I was even doing small Salchow jumps. When I have days like Wednesday I just have to leave the ice (usually in disgust) and try again another day.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Spin Notes

Since my spins have been so variable lately, first I could do them very well with my new blades and suddenly I'm having trouble, I decided that today would be spin lesson day. My coach is back at group today after being sick last week and we had a person missing from our adult group so we each got a 20 minute lesson today instead of the usual 10-15 minutes. Yeah!

We started with my scratch spin which has seriously deteriorated over the last two weeks as I have gotten used to my blades. Here is my list of corrections from my coach and things I remembered I'm supposed to do:
  1. Go slow
  2. Take time on entrance edge
  3. Look slightly to the left
  4. Step into the center of the circle
  5. Turn 180 degrees in the three turn BEFORE starting the spin
  6. Look straight ahead
  7. Keep everything lined up over the skating foot (no sticking the hip out)
  8. Keep skating foot turned in (which in my case makes it straight: I have a wicked turn out)
  9. Lift knee up, cross legs keeping knee forward
  10. Slide the free foot down the skating leg
  11. Exit gracefully

After much practice I finally managed a tight centered spin.

Camel spins:

  1. Same entrance as above
  2. Keep low with leg behind until I make the 180 degree turn
  3. Come up quickly on skating leg

After a few tries I did a couple of three revolution turns. They aren't fast yet but they have much better form than they used to and more importantly I stopped skidding on the entrance three turn.

Sit spins:

  1. Same entrance as above
  2. Sit, pull free leg and arm around at the same time (don't fall on your butt)
  3. Sit more and pull leg around more
  4. Turn free foot parallel to ice and bring heel over the center line of the supporting leg
  5. Hold, hold, hold
  6. Stand up and finish with a scratch spin

I'm still getting used to the feeling of this one. I am always shocked when I manage to do this spin without sitting down on my butt. When I was a kid I fractured my tailbone trying to learn this spin because I didn't have the strength in my quad to sit and hold the spin and my coach would yell at me to do it over and over again. Now that I am an adult I must be much stronger and I also don't have someone yelling at me to get lower than I am comfortable with. I have no idea what it looks like. I am sure I am up higher than I should be and my legs aren't close enough together but I am just happy that I am actually spinning in a position that loosely resembles a sit spin. My coach was happy with it as well. She didn't have many corrections to it at all. At least not yet.

Back spin:

  1. Take a left forward inside edge with the free foot in front
  2. Step into a right forward inside three turn
  3. Turn and set the back edge
  4. During the turn snap the free foot in front of the body and the arm around
  5. Once the edge is set bring the arms in and the knee up to start spinning on the back outside edge

This was my very first lesson on the back spin. So far I have been only futzing with it on the ice copying one of the other adult skaters which it turns out wasn't doing it quite right. My coach had me do the entrance one step at a time. First just the three turn, then the three turn and the back edge and then everything in my list. My last spin actually had a revolution in it before my toe pick caught and stopped me in my tracks. The whole thing felt much better than what I had been doing on my own.

A very happy skating day. I feel well enough to start double sessions next week. There were only four people on the ice after our group lesson. I am finding that one hour isn't enough time to practice everything I want to do. I hope my blades get fixed soon so I can do better edges. My spread eagles suck right now due to the right blade being in the wrong place. Patience!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fun things from this week

ankle gellie

Skate Spinner

I finally made it to the gym this week and met with a personal trainer. She came up with a split program for me where I work the lower body on Monday (the furthest day away from ice skating) and then work my upper body between skating days. That way I can waste my muscles weight lifting but I should still be able to skate. She put together a mix of weight lifting machines, free weights, ball work and mat work for me. I am working all of my major muscle groups and throwing in some cardio as well. At the end I get to walk on the treadmill at an incline to get my heart rate up. Never done that before. I used to weight lift fairly seriously 17 years ago and have done it on and off since then in small spurts. I am looking forward to getting back into it and recovering some of my muscle mass. Mostly I am looking forward to sit spins being easy again.

On another note, I got tired of rubbing the skin off my ankles with my new boots so I finally ordered ankle gellies from Rainbo Sports. Since I was putting in an order I decided to try an off ice spinner as well. It was a difficult decision since I had no expert advice on them. There are two basic designs: plate style or rocker style. The plate style is actually two plates with ball bearings in the dead center. You stand on the top plate and can only spin around if you are perfectly centered on the bearing. Otherwise the top plate hits the bottom and the whole thing grinds to a halt. The second style is a piece of plastic that has a double curve on the bottom. One is cut to approximate the rocker curve of a skate blade. The second curve is more drastic and is on the short axis of the spinner so you can simulate edges. In the description, the rocker style is endorsed by the PSA (Professional Skaters Association). Well, with no other input, PSA's recommendation is good enough for me. Rocker style it is.

My son was very disappointed when the UPS truck showed up yesterday and the package turned out to be for me instead of him. He chucked the small envelope at me with disgust and I couldn't rip it open fast enough. Out dropped the gellies and the extra laces I ordered but I needed to do some more ripping to extricate the spinner. Once I managed to free it from the almost too small envelope I devoured the enclosed instructions which turned out weren't terribly helpful so I just dropped it on the kitchen floor and took it for a spin (sorry I couldn't resist). I spent the next half hour doing scratch spins, attitude spins and back spins. If I had enough room I would have tried camels but as it is I would have wiped all of my pots off the stove along with the jar of cooking utensils and possibly the block of kitchen knives as well. Considering the potentially disastrous consequences I'll have to stick with upright spins.

I went skating today. Not a bad crowd; the usual Friday ice dancers with the odd speedskater in the mix. There were only three of us figure skaters there. With this particular crowd it is relatively easy to pick a corner and get left alone. I started with eights and loops. I only used them for warmup since I haven't had my blades adjusted yet I don't want to get too comfortable doing edges on them. My loops are getting a distinct lean to them though. I am going into them too late and exiting too early making them lean severely to the left. They look like they've had one too many vodka martinis. Not good especially this early in the day. I'm going to have to work on that. On to the spins. After all that practice last night I should have no trouble with them. HA! Wrong! It was more like starting over again. Bad traveling. Going off my edge. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. I seem to be getting sloppy again now that I am used to my new boots. I am even falling off my inside edge during my camel which I used to do all the time in my old boots. I guess when I was first on the ice with my new boots I was being extra cautious, taking my time and doing things correctly. I was spinning much better two weeks ago than now. Suddenly all of my bad habits are back. I decided that I needed to slow down, take my time and concentrate on my actions. I did a decent scratch spin, a couple of nice multi revolution camels, a half decent sit spin and a back spin with the correct entrance and two full revolutions! I definitely need to slow down so I don't get sloppy. I don't want to start developing a fresh set of bad habits.

I have rave reviews on the ankle gellie. Love the thing!! No pain. No blister. Just copious amounts of sweat. Ick. My little toe went numb but I'm not sure that is the fault of the gellie. I'll find out when I use it again tomorrow. I'll have to get one for the other leg.
All in all a good skating week. Now I just need my blades adjusted and a second ankle gellie and I'll be ready to take lessons again.