Things I’ve Learned in the Ice Follies

It’s been just about a year now since I restarted figure skating after being away from it for something like 35 years. There are some things I’ve learned in the past yeas.

  1. Ice skating is not like “riding a bike”. It’s not something that you learn once and then can come back to after long layoffs and can still do it. I had to essentially start over.\
  2. t’s a lot harder when you’re older (had just turned 58 when I started last year. 59 now). I don’t [i]bounce[/i] like I did when I was 18. Falls hurt more. I get injured more easily. Recovery from injury takes longer. This means that I can’t push as hard as when I was younger and so have to balance how hard I can push, and therefore how fast I can progress, against enforced layoffs from pushing too hard and getting hurt.
  3. At least nine tenths of my difficulty with techniques I have learned (new ones I’m just learning have their own problems) can be traced stiff knees and ankles. This is a matter of flexibility and condition as much as anything else. Keeping flexed knees and ankles requires better condition in the supporting muscles.
  4. Be persistent and you [i]will[/i] make progress. When I started a year ago once or twice around the rink, with a break every half-lap to rest and let the foot pain decline to bearable levels. Today, I went a full 70 minutes (best guess–I did some work on the circle before I thought to check the clock) non-stop. And the foot pain (bad arches–just something to live with; my podiatrist does not think that custom orthotics for the skates are called for) was modest at worst. [i]Huge[/i] improvements over where I started.
  5. It may seem like it’s more “chore” than “pleasure” (see “twice around the rink, having to stop each half lap to let the pain subside”) at first, but with persistence, getting through those initial challenges, and you can find out how fun it is. I spent much of that hour plus with a grin on my face.
  6. You may think you’re getting good but there’s an eight year old girl out there who can skate rings around you and make you look like a drunk epileptic rhino. And that’s okay. You’re not competing with that eight year old girl. You’re facing your own challenges, the skater you were yesterday, or last week, or last month, or last year. (You can, however, tell the mother of that eight year old girl that her backward crossovers are so graceful and smooth that they are a thing of beauty. Because, really, it’s true.)
  7. Skating is an activity that, when done with even moderate competence, is so graceful that even big ugly guys (like me) look good doing it.

For a while there were two techniques that I was able to do when I was eighteen that I had not been able to do now: forward crossovers and T-stops. I am now doing them. Not just “practicing” them, but actually doing them as part of my skating if you get the difference. I still have to think about them. They’re not completely automatic yet, but when I get to the end of the rink and round to go the other way, I do crossovers. When I need to slow down because of traffic ahead of me, I T-stop.

Here’s a little video of me skating Sunday.  I’m hard to pick out of the crowd but I’m the one all in black with the elbow pads:

On the whole, I am very pleased with my progress.

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