Tag Archives: Patella-Femoral Syndrome

Here’s to 2014 and Better Skating!

9 Jan

I’ve been skating over the last few months a lot, indoor, outdoor, small and large rinks. We are talking about at least 3-4x times a week up until the holidays. Now that the holidays are over again, I am back to the rink! I’ve skated twice this week with another two sessions planned. A year ago this would have been a dream and now it is finally a reality. My knees while not perfect are so much better now then what they were and now that they are I can practice everything I wanted to do two years ago.

This is so exciting to me! I’ve been taking lessons weekly and have been learning so much and big surprise, none of them have been about freestyle. The younger me would’ve freaked out by this and I admit, I am still dreaming about those doubles and layback spins but for now I will focus on my basic skating skills like a good student 😉 and soon I will return to lessons on beloved jumps and spins.

This blog has been left to it’s own devices for a few months again and this time I am determined to update regularly. I think it’s important to keep a record of skating lessons as we go on because it is so easy to forget the details and we all pay so much for them!

So to begin with, the last few months have been a whirlwind of technique changes in stroking, crossovers and practice patterns for the silver mif test.  And…yes, I am still working on that same test. I am happy to say, that now with my knee pain under control and with so much diligent work on my stroking that I have improved in leaps and bounds and can honestly see and feel the change in everything I do skating wise. I can also say laying off of the jumps and spins probably gave my knees a break as well. While I will still practice my freestyle, it is only for 15-20 min of an hour or hour and a half long session and I do believe that has helped.  I have also been seeing a massage therapist every week or so and that has helped relieve a lot of my muscle tension in my IT band and back which I believe has been a large driving force behind the knee pain. If you have patella femoral syndrome (runners or jumpers knee) I highly recommend seeing a massage therapist. It may take some time but you will see a huge difference in the knee pain. Targeted Stretching (I mentioned Bikram too in earlier posts) before and after skating, vitamins (yes, I am talking about glucosamine) and a change in diet has all helped my knee pain. I will go into this in more detail in another post but suffice to say, everything is so much better now that the knees are under control and I am able to skate pain free for the most part. (Knock on wood! ha.)

But back to the skate lessons, my warmup every day on ice is to stroke around the perimeter once or twice to get a feel for it and then I launch into what is essentially the pre-juv and adult bronze Forward and backward perimeter power stroking. These consist of alternating forward crossovers with a strong inside edge hold down one side of the rink, two crossovers around the end of the rink into a right inside mohawk. Then going down the other side of the rink I start alternating back crossovers with a strong back inside edge hold till the end pattern which consists of 4-5 back crossovers and then turning forward and stopping. I do that at least 5-6 times sometimes even more in a day. When I first started doing it, it was not a warm up, it was half my session! It’s not even on my test but when I first started doing them I could barely control my forward inside mohawk and my left forward crossover took me down more then once on a a session as did my first back crossovers because I neglected my underpush.  I’ve been doing back crossovers for 10 years confidently however, with technique changes I struggled to change the way I did things. This move is not on my silver test but this alone has improved my basic skating skills so much that I wanted to note it here for future reference. I realize now that when I took my bronze test that I did NOT do these correctly. That may be why I barely passed that test! You should have speed and power and each crossover backwards and forwards should point you towards one side of the boards or the other never diagonal. 3 months of doing these sometimes for 15-20 min a day has made forward crossovers 10x better and faster and they will make yours better too, I promise. Just make sure you do them right aka get a coach to show you and wow, what a difference in just getting from point A to B going to do a jump or stroking.

This is my base to warm up everything else for the silver moves. In one of my next posts I’ll talk about the silver moves, at least the ones that I have somewhat mastered. Exciting stuff. Yep, I know. Where has the young freestyler gone? Well, she hasn’t gone anywhere, just waiting for her chance to leap high in the air once she masters the basics! I’m chomping at the bit but holding myself back!

My boyfriend bought me tickets to the Figure Skating Nationals in Boston for the Women’s and Men’s free so I hope to see some truly awesome skating to inspire me even more! I’ll be taking photos and I hope to post some here as well.

Here’s to 2014 and better skating!

Till next week.

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New Season and New Knees

3 Sep

New season, new skating, new practices! My new motto for this year. As long as my knee holds out, I am off to a good start.

I just started taking private lessons again and I am back to the grind of practicing those silver moves. I have been taking 2 days off in between skating sessions and seeing a massage therapist. Those two things seem to keep my knees in better shape so far. Stretching before and after skating helps immensely to keep my IT band from getting too tight. Paying attention to how I feel off the ice has really helped me control how much pain I feel on ice. However, I keep my skating to 2-3 days a week right now. Sessions can be 1 1/2 hours long, sometimes 2 hours and my body seems to respond ok to that. Anything more at the moment and my knees seem to stiffen up and feel overworked. I started lessons up last week because I finally feel like I can comfortably skate enough sessions to get a benefit from them.

I have found on occasion that advil helps immensely to keep my knees from becoming to stiff or painful but I only do this once in a while. I’d rather not depend on advil to skate. I have also started taking GNC’s Women’s Mega Joint vitamin pack. I did this last year when I was not skating and I noticed a huge difference in mobility. It’s glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oil, and a multi-vitamin pack. I thought it might have been in part due to not skating but I was running a lot and I felt a lot less pain doing that. So, I just started taking these again and I noticed an immediate difference in stiffness and pain. Everything seems to be working smoother where my knees are concerned. I also feel a lot more energy. I will update on how my knees feel in the coming weeks as I skate more.

For now, I’ve had two lessons that I want to share. Lucky for all they are all about power pulls and cross overs. So exciting, right? HA!

At any rate, here are my newest notes:

Forward Power Pulls – Silver Moves

– do them with the free leg directly behind you and with toe pointed (this is a change from keeping the free leg in front)

– you want to make one line with your free leg hip up so you can balance better on your skating leg.

–  keep the leg very close but do not touch one leg to the other. Touching one leg to the other is like throwing yourself off balance when you bump into something or someone.

-Keep Your Head Up and Core tight.

-Arms should be held high and steady (out)

Starting the Power Pull Pattern for Silver Moves:

4 nice strokes

Start on left foot

One Crossover

Then Start on Outside Edge of Right Foot on Axis,

Switch feet halfway down the ice to start on outside edge of left foot.

End on inside edge power pull

One held crossover into Mohawk

Then backwards to start on Outside Edge of Right Back Power Pull

Here is my crazy sketch and basic outline (and yes, this mess is what is looks like inside my mind…bwahahaha).

forward power pull drawing_01(3)

These, much like my flip, are terrible. I have a lot of issues with the left knee, getting down low enough and generating enough of an edge or curve to power a continuous power pull on my left is a challenge in and of itself! However, I have seen in a short 3 sessions a huge improvement. I can actually make it down the ice now instead of coming to a standstill halfway down the ice. Yes, I was a snail and now I am like a turtle coming down the ice 😉 A turtle is faster than a snail, right??

I also learned a  basic warmup exercise which I will use every time I get on the ice now, I believe part of it is on the bronze test.

Alternating forward inside edge cross overs: Start with a few basic strokes, toes pointed, knee bend, then deep crossover, free leg held extended before crossing under then a deep inside edge hold. Continue down the ice alternating cross overs.

Alternating Back Outside Edge Cross Overs:  Mohawk, back outside edge hold, cross under, hold, alternate, repeat and then at the end of the pattern hold a nice landing position.

One thing that my coach noted was head position. If you can control where you are looking then you can control your edges or body position on the ice. The best skaters can control where their head is when skating.  Something we hear and kind of know already in theory but we don’t really think about it. So I am really working on controlling where my head is on my cross overs and really looking where I am going. I look into the circle on these and hold my back arm up and way to the back, as far back as I can get my shoulder. I hold each edge and keep a very deep knee bend and then push under.

This all very rudimentary but I think that my skating is going to go from small quick sloppy pushes to long, steady, and powerful pushes. I’m hoping to really dig deep into the ice finally and improve on my overall skating.

I just hope my knee lasts!

Ta Ta.. till next time!

Shifting the Focus

8 Feb

Up until November I was skating 4-5 times a week. All in an effort to take the silver moves and freestyle tests by January or February at the latest. The final goal being to compete at adult sectionals and adult nationals in March and April. Since sectionals were to be where I lived I was very excited to work towards that goal.

However, it’s February now and did I take the test? No, unfortunately it didn’t happen. Not from lack of trying though, this time I didn’t have a choice. I just couldn’t skate anymore without major pain. It had become completely impossible to skate crossovers let alone silver level moves patterns down the ice.

I  had started my training last August from scratch and worked very hard at achieving my former level of skating (pre-summer) before actually working on test elements. August and September were also spent in group lessons rehashing the basics and learning a few new moves. I really focused on my moves like I never did before. Always being obsessed with freestyle this was a new focus for me. I wasn’t worried about the silver freestyle test, it was the moves I completely stressed about.

By the end of October, I had decided to take private lessons again and was ready to start working seriously on the silver moves patterns. I doubled my efforts on perfecting the 8-step mohawk sequence and then started in on the forward power pulls (the bane of my existence!) as well as alternating backward inside and forward outside 3-turn pattern. I learned a new way to pull into my camel AND for the first time started experiencing a pretty stable spin. But then…. my knees starting getting worse, especially as I performed those power pulls on one leg over and over again. The pain in my left knee was so bad that as soon as I stepped on the ice and tried to complete any type of crossover or three turn I would feel immediate stabs of pain. Not only was unable to do crossovers but the forward power pulls on my left leg were completely out of the question. It seems that my focus on moves was putting a tremendous amount of stress on my knees something that I had never really had much of an issue with practicing freestyle… makes you think how much harder moves can be on your body, doesn’t it?

I had also noticed since September that my warm up time had been getting longer and longer and my knees had been getting stiffer and stiffer while I skated. I was determined though that I make it to testing in January so I went back to my “old” physical therapy exercises and ramped up the warm up before I got on the ice. Nothing worked. Ice, heat, wraps, nothing. I was taking ballet, I had to stop. I could hear the crackling of my knees and I’m pretty sure that the movements especially the jumping were just making things worse.

When I finally went to my new orthopedist and had my knee x-rayed the final prognosis was patella-femoral syndrome. Something like runners knee, extremely common. My choices were arthroscopic surgery to allow the knee to track better (something my old orthopedist never advised) or physical therapy. Of course, I went to physical therapy. As much as I was in pain, it seemed extreme to do surgery. I also took a week off skating to rest. Just until I felt a little better. Surely that would happen in a week or two of rest and therapy?

Not so, I did therapy for a month. Skated twice, both times with the same pain. It seemed to be getting worse not better with therapy. At the same time I was doing the elliptical on my own, walking or weight training trying to desperately find something I could do to exercise without pain so I could keep up my fitness level. It just wasn’t happening, even the elliptical hurt. So, I finally had to stop thinking about taking that silver test. Darn it! By December I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I was disappointed to say the least.

Now, if you read back in my blog you’ll see reoccurring issues like this one over the past two years or so but nothing with pain so severe that would keep my off the ice for months just because of it. It was clear that this time I might need to really give up skating for a prolonged period of time or even for good!

Because… not only couldn’t I skate but I couldn’t really do anything else either. Walking sedately down the street seem to be the extent of my sportsmanship. Standing up, kneeling, going up stairs were all  a major pain and worse while I was skating. I wouldn’t even dream of running or jumping! So, I backed off the therapy and everything else in an effort to just give my body aka my knees a rest.

I completely stopped everything until maybe 3 weeks ago. Through the holidays and early January I avoided heels and anything remotely exercise related. I didn’t even look at skating because I knew I couldn’t handle it with my knee plus it depressed me ( to be honest). By January my knee was better, I could at least go up and down stairs without much pain just the usual slight achiness and I could go about my day to day schedule without an issue as well. It seemed that letting my knee rest had done some good.

I was left with this empty space though where skating and exercise had been. I knew my knee wasn’t really completely healed and I knew that as soon as I went back to skating it would come back.

… And it did. Something about the motion of skating just really aggravates it. So, I had my blades re-mounted and had new insoles put in hoping that it was an alignment issue. No such luck.

Now, I’ve never been a person of half measures. I am an all or nothing type of girl. Thinking about only skating once every 2 weeks or so just so my knee can have a time to recuperate each time was and still is to me like not being able to skate at all. So, I started looking at other options. It was clear to me that not having skating or any form of exercise was driving me and yes, my boyfriend completely crazy. I’ve always known it was a stress relief and a major outlet but after not skating for 2 1/2 months I realized once again how important the act of skating it is. However, I think it’s slowly killing my joints. I’m saying that in a nice way. I’ve gained much from the sport but after years of twisting myself into strange positions on the ice and repetitively jumping on thin steel blades I think that my body was/is trying to tell me enough is enough. My body is in knots, completely tight from repetitive use of the same muscles etc. and the knees are just the tip of the iceburg.

So, I’ve started to look at ways to unknot and re-align myself. Part of my knee issue is from tight hamstrings, calves and most definitely a tight IT band and also unbalanced muscles. Physical therapy tried to balance these muscles  but how can you balance something that isn’t even working properly? No one really has a full-proof treatment for patella femoral syndrome and there are many ways people have tried to rehabilitate themselves with mixed results.

So, over the next few weeks I’m hopeful I can blog about my new experiment to “unknot” and “balance” my body in the hope to not just return to skating but to fix some of those alignment issues I have seen re-occur because I pronate, have flat feet, and have had past injuries.

I decided to start with an exercise I would never have considered before, Bikram Yoga. Crazy? Yes, a little. Considering I’ve never been a yoga fan but heat and yoga appeals to my Floridian native self like other yoga never has. Plus it can be gentle and I need something to loosen these old muscles up.

My first bikram yoga and its results as related to my skating to be covered in my next blog post… Bikram pose below. Hmmm.. It looks like a spiral to me!

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga Pose