Archive | October, 2011

A Group Endeavor

23 Oct

A month and a half ago I signed up for two group skating classes to get back into the swing of things on the ice. My thought was that it would not only force me to be on the ice twice a week but also to practice in between to keep up with new elements. So, I found an Advanced Freestyle class for adults about 40 minutes away from me and I also found an Adult basic moves class at a rink 10 minutes away from me. The adult basic class I took more because I found a good deal for 50% off the total price of 7 classes as it also included 7 free public session passes. In my mind, that was as good as free ice! As it turned out, I was a little too advanced for the adult basic class so they placed me in Freestyle 4 with the kids. My first thought was that I was going to be a huge hulking adult in a class of tiny little jumping beans but my classmates were mainly a 13 yr old and a 15 yr old who were neither super tiny or complete jumping beans.

In taking both of these classes I revisited both new and old moves and jumps to practice. I was given instruction and tips that helped me remember points that I had long forgotten, mainly on my moves. In addition I went from skating 2 times a week to 6 times a week just to keep up practice and build up my skating muscles. Both classes have ended this week and I am so happy that I threw myself into both of them! After I had my blades permanently mounted correctly two weeks ago though things just took off. I haven’t skated this much since grad school 9 years ago!

It feels so great to be able to go out there and practice almost every day on the ice too. Everyday I feel just a little bit stronger and more stable. There have been days when my knees have been extremely sore or when I’ve run out of energy but just going out onto the ice and doing some basic moves or spins really helps get things going. I do have a goal in mind this year and that is to finally take the silver moves and freestyle test. I’m very focused on the moves portion right now as I am fairly sure that the freestyle portion will be fine. Then, I plan on competing in the Adult sectionals in MD. Ambitious? A little. However, I’ve been working on the silver level moves and freestyle for a couple years on and off so it’s about time I put it together. Having a solid goal makes me work harder though and gives me perspective on what I should be practicing at each session.

I just passed the Freestyle 4 test last week in my group session which actually involved the 8 step mohawk sequence in the silver moves test. We also worked on inside three turns (my nemesis!) which are also on the silver moves test so it was definitely good group practice ice. I’m not sure if I am going to take the Freestyle 5 class yet since its at the regular price but it may be good for my camel, flip and moves patterns if I do. In today’s last lesson I practiced loop-loops, sal-loop combos and then my lovely flip jump. Anyone reading this, knows how I’ve struggled with that jump. I’ve taken the last month or so to really only do a limited amount of full flips. I’ve been working on just jumping back on one foot going backwards down the ice over and over again careful to stay on my right side and then completing one turn to the front and landing on both feet. I’m trying to break the habit of bending my leg on the jump. Today I completed all my flips, not perfectly but I did, I felt, do a better job then in the past keeping my free leg straight and waiting to tap in.

The advanced freestyle class I took exposed me to other advanced adult skaters. One of which was doing doubles just recently learned. That is very inspiring to see as you are always exposed to children or coaches doing these advanced moves or jumps but it’s a different experience to be next to someone who you can connect with on a similar level and actually aspire to reach. I did work on my forward to back scratch which I didn’t even know I could still do! As well as back inside and outside three turn patterns. We also learned brackets which is really very new to me. I do remember many years ago being introduced to these but I neither remembered the actual move or have practiced them. At any rate, I love them! I work on them every chance I get from a stand still to get into the rhythm/cadence of switching from that inside to outside edge.
Amazingly enough, I would be much more willing to do a pattern with brackets then with back inside three turns!

Also, just this week, we also started axel preps. I liken those practices to watching my life flash before my eyes as I fling my body around from a stand still and land on both feet. I know flinging is not at all what its supposed to be but from my eyes that’s what it feels like! I can only hope that gets better with time!

After both of these classes I am now left with either continuing group classes or starting private lessons again. I know that I will need to eventually start privates again as I’m reaching my limit with practicing what I know and those moves pattern need some correction to be up to par for the test. I also know my camel and lutz as well as any type of axel practice will need to continue under private coaching. So, for the next 2 weeks I will be sharing lessons with another adult under a coach I took group lessons from a year ago. So, for now that will work and then in two weeks I will make the decision to move onto private lessons!

As with my previous posts from other years I’ve always posted my notes from my lessons and I’ve been saving them up! These are my notes and my interpretation of the coaching I’ve received so always read them with that thought in mind

Onto the recap:

Make sure you have a nice knee bend, soft knees going backward.
Pushes are like your crossover, you want to make sure that free foot crosses over in front of the skating foot before lifting it up.
Push outside the circle
Push the ice as if you were making it move and you were standing still. This should increase the power of the progressives and give you a more solid push.
(these instructions were give to me by a male ice dancer, I just had to add that! πŸ˜‰

Mohawk in the Eight Step Mohawk sequence
Step very close to your skating foot, do not make a wide stepping 3 turn.
Place the free foot next to your heel as you step down into the mohawk.

Back Spin (yes, again, more notes)
Keep strong left check, left arm should always be in front and kept in front.
Left check on right inside edge.
Knees bent.
Make sure there is that transition of moving the free leg from the back to the side and then in front.
This is something that I’ve never felt before this year, it’s almost like the free leg on the scratch. You need that side position to center yourself before pulling into the spin.
Stay over your right side.

Start on deep inside edge with same arm in front, develop a down up down cadence when turning onto the back outside edge.

Old notes from private lessons in the spring:
Lesson 3-9-11

Forward Power Pulls
Start on two feet, parallel to boards
shoulders should always face forward
Actions should be in a twisting motion.
Shoulders and rib cage should twist against your skates.

Do on two feet first on the line, short turns where your shoulders sharply twist to the front while feet are going side to side

4 on two feet, 4 on one foot and switch

Make sure you are twisting against yourself each time.
Short motions
Foot should be beside the other foot.
Head up, shoulders down.

Off Ice Jump Lesson 3-8-11

Practice plie and releve to the front of your toes. Careful not to roll ankles outward
Then, practice jumping straight up arms in front, hips should be held tight to the front when jumping.
Think…pushing in (forward) butt and hips sharply to get that lift.

Push through toes to get lift.

Then, start practicing 1/4 turn, 1/2 turn, and whole turn
Then whole turn with legs crossed, practice landing with feet crossed, hop twice around on landing and then hold landing position.

Lesson for Sit Spins
Bend from the waist, balance out the butt with chest and head against thighs, flat back. Bend also from the ankle deeply. Try to get lower!

Scratch Spins
Push out quickly from the spin, don’t wait to come out of it.

Backward Inside and Outside 3 turns
Push into turns – opposite arm leads on outside and same arm leads on inside.
Keep core still, use muscles! Lock thighs together when turning backward outside three. Keep free hip up and look outside circle. When turning inner three’s look inside the circle with arm crossed in front of you. USE SPEED FOR MOMENTUM!

Quickness for jumps –
Loop Jump – don’t wait, move quicker into the jump.
Ride outside edge.

Happy Skating!

A Skaters Paradise

16 Oct

For any of you who are in the DC/Maryland/Northern VA area and need to have your skates worked on you should definitely, without a doubt, visit Michael Cunningham of Waldorf, Maryland. Tucked away in the corner of a Recreation Center inside a hockey shop is Skaters Paradise. Skaters Paradise is just large enough for a small counter, a few chairs for customers to sit on and a small stock of figure skating merchandise. The real treasures are, of course, Michael Cunningham and his wife. Photo upon photo of skaters, young and old alike are scattered upon the wall, a testament to the duos longevity in the skating business.

I had made the appointment 3 weeks ago to have my blades permanently mounted on my skates. It was more than an hour drive for me and in my mind well worth the trip. My severe pronation on my right foot had made this trip a must. If anyone could at least adjust the blade under my right boot to compensate for that constant inner pronation, surely Michael Cunningham could. Well, that was my hope anyway, having never been there before.

After briskly examining my skates and how I placed my weight while wearing them, he immediately went to work. Adjusting and readjusting the blade, testing my weight on them and having me skate till they met his and my approval. While I waited for each adjustment in the small room of Skaters Paradise, I chatted with his wife, who was very pleasant. As we talked I admired the large photo of Tara Lipinski just beyond her left shoulder signed with a flourish. Quickly after I noticed another photo, this one of Dorothy Hamill (a testament to her Baltimore days) and then another with Sasha Cohen and Tatiana Malinina. Interspersed throughout these photos were colorful drawings from admiring kids of broken skates now “fixed”. I barely minded the wait, it was just fun to look around at the photos of incredible skaters young and old who had come here before me (I should say rather, their old shop in VA since they had moved to Waldorf just a few years ago).

I asked Mike, as he came back in the shop, the one burning question I had, “What was Tara Lipinski like?” He laughed and said he had worked on her skates leading up to the Olympics. “She was a kid, like all kids,” he explained. “I remember a birthday party with tons of other kids still in their skating outfits playing pin the tail on the donkey, or something like that.”

Afterwards he led me out on the ice once more, with a lollipop in his mouth. He told me that it looked like he had been able to adjust the blade at an angle and place shims underneath the boot to compensate for my inside pronation. Out on the ice, I felt a huge difference in my right foot. For the last 6 months I had felt like I was skating on a permanent inside edge. I tried a loop jump and it felt off, I barely landed it. Mike said, “You’ve been compensating by switching from an inside edge to an outside edge going into the jump, now you’re going to have to relearn it doing it the right way!”

Since the loop is my favorite jump that was a little disconcerting, but it was just so nice to feel centered over my right skate! No, inner drooping. I tried my horrible backspin. Amazingly while it was not even a good backspin I could immediately feel myself over my right side. I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t all me!
I said to Mike, “This is so awesome! Even if I can’t do everything I usually do, it’s like I am actually balanced!”

He nodded and referring to my severe pronation, said “Well, while I can fix your boot, I still can’t fix you!”

When we went back into his shop his wife gave me their card with the number of a podiatrist in Wilmington, DE who dealt exclusively with skaters and their issues. Mike said, “He’ll be able to figure out how to correct or help the pronation and then that will help me fix your skates later.”

I smiled, because I was already planning my stopover in Wilmington on my way to see my family in Jersey. Finally! maybe I’ll make some progress and it wasn’t all just me! Later, after he finished permanently mounting my skates, I said goodbye and thanked both him and his wife.

I left “Skaters Paradise” thinking what if I had just come here earlier? It was only by circumstance that I had heard from other adult skaters that this was the place to go. I few others were recommended as well and it would have been easier to go to the others as they were closer and open week round. Skaters Paradise is only open three days a week and you must plan in advance by at least a week or two or even three for the appointment during the hours of 1-5pm.

I will tell you though, It was well worth it. I highly recommend stopping by Skaters Paradise ( in Waldorf, MD if you plan on buying figure skates or need your blades mounted or even sharpened. Even if you have to wait, you should try here first and save yourself the trouble of going elsewhere.

Two days later I skated out in a public session to try out my new skates. For the first time ever I was able to do decent forward power pulls on my right leg with more ease than I ever could before. It could be the practice but I prefer to think that the blade adjustment had more to do with it.

I was centered, finally, by Skaters Paradise.