First to start with, I used Shotcut to put together two videos of me working backward crossovers. The first part is from my first practice after my instructor started me on them. The second is from this past Saturday’s practice. It shows just how much I’ve progressed in that two weeks.
In addition to those backward crossovers, I’ve been working on forward outside three turns:
And hockey stops:
The big trick about learning hockey stops, for me, was starting slo-o-o-o-o-w. Get the movement down, the 90 degree turn of the hips, legs, and feet, while leaving the upper body facing in direction of travel, and get the blades angled to scrape rather than catch. Once you have the basics down you can then start working on increasing speed. This shouldn’t have been a revelation since that’s how I learned snowplow and “T” stop.
In Sunday’s class, I had the great good fortune to work with Trevor, the “coach’s coach” at Indy Fuel Tank (where I skate). Trevor is the guy who was the coach for a number of the other coaches back when they were actively competing. We worked on forward outside edges in an “S” across the ice. Apparently, I had been doing the arm position incorrectly (at least according to Trevor). On the circle we’d always done “hug the circle”. That means the outside shoulder and arm is forward and the inside shoulder and arm are back. For Forward Outside Edge, Trevor had the inside arm forward and the outside arm slightly to the back but more to the side. Then, a quarter of the way around the circle you scissor arms and legs, bringing outside arm and leg forward and the inside arm back so you’re positioned, once halfway around the circle, to switch feet, push off, and start the next lobe of the “S”.
We also worked on crossovers. Trevor noted I was still pushing a bit too much to the back with my back leg and reminded me to push to the side, towards the outside of the turn. Then we got into backward crossovers. Now, while I am rather proud of the progress I made (and, I am told, rightfully so), there is still considerable work to be done. One thing was that when I pick up the back leg and bring it in, I was bringing it too far in. This leaves my feet rather “splayed” and reduces how much of a pump I can get on the front foot, reducing the power and speed I can get or alternately, requiring more effort for the same power and speed. His suggestion is to bring it back right next to the front foot to what he called a “neutral position.” To help me get there, he suggested that when I pick up the back foot, to just hold it there, hovering above the ice for a couple of seconds and just glide on the front foot (backward inside edge), then bring it around. By breaking it up into two separate motions I’m not whipping the foot around to catch balance and I can better control where I put it.
The other thing he suggested was that it looked like I was clenching my toes. Not that he could see my toes through the boots but the way I kept getting my weight too far forward and onto the toe picks did suggest that. I can see it. While whether my toes are clenched or not are not going to have a significant effect on the position of the blade on the ice and where my weight will fall on the blade, it will be symptomatic of other things going on with my muscles that will affect that. That was at the end of class so I didn’t get to try explicitly keeping my toes open and see what that does. Will have to try it next time I get to practice.
Speaking of practice, I’ve settled into a routine in how I do it, breaking up the time I have on the ice into several things. Basically, I do the basic roundy-rounds but every five minutes I do drills on something I’m particularly working on. I have three techniques that I’m focusing on and cycle through so each one gets exercised every fifteen minutes. A typical session goes something like this:
- Start, do a couple of quick laps to warm up.
- Circle to work on backward edges, twice around the circle for each of the four edges.
- Five minutes in, either hockey stop (get a slow, stable, two-foot glider, then stop, repeat for one lap of the rink) or forward outside three turn (on a curved line on the ice turn, go back the other way and turn, back and forth for a couple of minutes). I generally do the three-turns in “public skate” where they have standard bright lighting. During “cosmic skate” where they have the main lights off and “disco lighting” I’m not about to try three turns so I do hockey stops then.
- Roundy Rounds
- Ten minutes in, forward crossovers in the clockwise direction. (Get plenty of practice counter-clockwise in the roundy-rounds.)
- Roundy Rounds
- Fifteen minutes in, backward crossovers, three times around the circle in each direction.
- Repeat until done for the day.