Since I started visiting my local ice skating rink once a week, I’ve found a new appreciation for figure-skaters’ grace and skills, but lo and behold I’ve actually been improving a bit, myself! Over the last 2.5 months that I’ve been at it, I have missed a few weeks due to sickness or having other plans come up, but I’ve otherwise consistently been at it and I’m seeing a noticeable difference in my skating ability… as one would hope when a skill is being practiced :).
The most notable improvement, of course, has simply been my comfort on the ice. When I first hopped onto the rink for the first few weeks, there was always a bit of a wobble in my glide for a while until 1., I had acclimated a bit and 2., the other skaters and I had carved up the ice and made it less slick. By now, though, I’m pretty easily skating right on out there and moving as fluidly and in-control at the beginning of the session as at any other time. I’m also just a lot more confident in my ability to move around on my skates. I’ve been learning how to better-judge the directions other skaters will be taking and anticipate the best path around them with a lot more ease than I did before. I’m extra wary around the littlest kids, since they are less aware of their surroundings, but I also give way to those who are better on the ice than I am — namely the figure-skaters. It’s a really interesting network of movement out there, between the pros who are zipping around like its nothing, the amateurs who hug the wall, and all others in-between (including me), and it’s been nice slowly adapting to an understanding of my place in it.
I mean, the pros still have to occasionally compensate for a bad directional choice I made, but they’re very capable of doing so (while I’m just a rudderless bull in comparison), so I only feel half-bad :).
I’m no Elvis Stojko, yet, but here’s a list of things I’ve done or have been working on lately:
- Crossovers. When turning around on the ice, one loses momentum by simply digging in the blades and following the curve by leaning in or, if the speed isn’t enough to do even that, continuing the regular skating style. Crossing one foot in front of the other allows for a tighter turn and the retention of energy, but it can seem a little daunting. My crossovers have been a little heavy, mostly because I’m probably bringing my skate up too high and letting it just hit the ice with a thud, as opposed to a more graceful light step. This morning, though, I pulled off a few that were really smooth, and I was darn proud of that!
- Single-foot glides. I’ve been doing these since I started, and it’s definitely been a challenge. I’m hardly lifting my leg straight out behind me, or anything so fancy, when I practice this move; at this point, I’m just holding one skate off the ice while gliding forward on the other. Well, forward with a veer to one side, as I still have yet to figure out how to keep moving in a straight line on one skate. It’s not an issue of strength, as I regularly do single-leg exercises when I work out, I’m merely trying to understand how to keep my balance so that I don’t keep meandering off one direction or the other.
- Squats. The other week I thought it’d be fun to see if I could tuck down into a deep squat as I was gliding down a straight path, and I pulled it off smashingly. Mostly due to my body structure, but also the fact that I practice, a deep squat is a really easy and comfortable position for me, so it was very fun to translate that onto the ice. Today I watched a little figure-skating girl do this with ease and with one leg out straight in front of her (pistol-squat form), so I suppose there is some future potential, but I’ve just been doing it for fun ;).
- Stopping. Yeah, seems like an important thing to be able to do. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve started trying to slow myself down with my own skates, as opposed to simply slowing down over time and/or using the wall. I started off just letting my skate drag behind me a bit for a second or two at a time, just to get used to the feeling, but today I made a concentrated effort to practice two movements: a snowplow stop, which is really basic and not very graceful (legs go into a wider stance and the heels push out), and a t-stop (which I didn’t realize I was doing [also, I was doing it incorrectly]). Again, I’m veering off toward one side more often than not when I try the single-skate t-stops, which involve keeping one foot straight while the other is behind it at a perpendicular to dig into the ice, but we’ll get there.
And that’s about it so far. Hockey stops will be in my distant future, I think… a skill I’ll likely learn later rather than sooner, which is the opposite of what I had originally thought. I may try to start skating backwards next week, at least just pushing off of the walls backwards to get used to the feeling, but with summer now officially upon us the rink is busier than before, so I’ll just have to weave around the little wall-huggers and carve out some practice space.