Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!

Well, the day is finally upon us: Christmas Day is here and I hope all my lovely readers and followers are having a wonderful day, whatever you might be doing.

I'd like to take the time, if I may, to reflect on the last couple of months. Two months ago exactly, my rink opened its doors for the first time, and although I wasn't there that day, I went down there as soon as I heard about it. Since then, the number of skaters has started to increase and there is now a really nice atmosphere amongst the regular skaters. I started taking lessons after my first visit, and my skating has improved dramatically. So, here's to 2013 and more skating successes for me and my new skating friends.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and I'll be back with my usual lesson blog at some point in the new year.

Merry Christmas everyone x 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Another Level Passed

Well, I had my last lesson til after the New Year today, and it was a good one!

I have officially passed Skate UK Level 3, and have now gotten further through the program than I did as a child - so I'm very happy. 

I had no falls today, which was nice, and am starting to make friends with some of the other adults who regularly visit the rink, which is even better.

I have some visual impairments that mean my balance and co-ordination have never been great, so every success on the ice is something I am very proud of, and so is my coach. We made another video today, this time of me doing forward chasses. These look very simple, and I admit, I do find them easy, but they're a starting point for crossovers, so very useful, in that they get you used to the feeling of lifting one foot off the ice, something that can be quite daunting at first.

So, here's the video

I've posted the link on a couple of skating related sites, and have had a few comments about how I'm smiling at the end of the video. I don't normally smile during pictures/videos! I prefer to be the photographer rather than the photographed, if you get what I mean. So the fact I'm smiling like that shows just how much I enjoy skating.

I love it, because it's hard sometimes, and some days you have a real nightmare time on the ice, like I did last week, 3 falls in 2 sessions. But it's all worth it when that move you've been working on for what seems like eternity, finally clicks. And some of the stuff I'm learning is scary at first, and sometimes I fall, and that makes me more scared. But I have a lovely coach who helps me push through the fear and when I overcome it, it's a real sense of accomplishment. 

I also shy away from wearing skirts, and tight fitting clothing, so for me to have the confidence to do that on the ice is great. You just wait, one of these days I'll post a video where I'm wearing a full on practice dress/tights combo! 

So yeah, there's lots of progress, and I'm kinda sad that I'm now not skating til after the festive period. 

Oh, and I love my rink - when I walked in today, everyone who saw me fall and bruise my elbow was lovely, asking how my arm was and if I was OK, and it felt good, I knew I was somewhere I belonged. I love that the rink has been open less than 2 months, and we've already got a nice little group of adult skaters who all hang out and practice together.

Yep, I love skating, I really do. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Time for my first Skating Rant

Right, I'm sorry it's come to this, but I need to rant a little bit. 

I went for a practice yesterday, because apparently there are a fair few adults who go on a Friday for lessons, and I want to make some skating friends. 

So, I get to the rink, pay my money, and the lady on the desk says, "Oh, by the way, there's a party of 20 school kids coming in a bit".

Oh joy. If they were 5, all cute and tottering about on the ice, that'd be fine, because I could avoid them easily.

No, dear reader, they weren't 5, they were teenagers. They were out of control, skating at warp speed without a care in the world, showing off and generally being annoying. But, you learn to live with these things and I practiced what I could.

All good, til one of them crashed into me. He was going backwards, I was going forwards in front of him, or is that behind him, I dunno, but we couldn't see each other. He bumped into me, and knocked me off my feet, I landed hard on my right elbow.

It really hurt, I seriously thought I'd broken it, but I could move it, and after a poke about by my  first aid trained coach, I went home to soak in a nice bath.

So, my rant is this, can we PLEASE have some order on the ice?! My rules for the rink:

1. Skate anti-clockwise, and don't skate against the flow of traffic.
2. Don't skate backwards, even if you are following the flow of traffic, unless it's quiet. You can't see people, they can't see you, it's a bad plan.
3. Control is everything - don't go tearing round the ice if you can't stop.
4. If you're a skater who can do a bit more on the ice, do take care. A busy session is not the time to go spinning and jumping, especially, if like me, your rink is tiny.
5. Just, take care in general. Look out for each other, don't do anything stupid and everyone will have a great time. 
6. Accidents do happen, I understand that. If you do take someone out, make sure they're OK, offer them a hand up, and apologize. The lad who hit me, did do this, so for that I am grateful. 

So yeah, please, please, please can everyone look out for each other? I nearly had 6 weeks minimum no skating, was so lucky my elbow is just bruised. 

Take care and skate safe, everyone!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Art of Falling Over

Yes, there is an art to falling over, and it's one I'm now starting to have a appreciation for, however, before we get to that, there's the small matter of yesterday's lesson to talk about.

I headed down to the rink yesterday, to see if I could have my lesson a day early, as today, I'm being taken out for a belated birthday lunch by two friends. Fortunately, there was no problem with me doing this, so we began.

I now have an on ice warm up as well as the one I do off ice. The new on ice one consists of:

Moving round the rink by use of two foot slaloms, this is to help warm up the back muscles, the twisting motion helps with this, and prepares the back for doing turns, twists etc. Do this for 2 circuits of the ice. 

Moving round the rink using forwards sculling, or lemons. Now, a slight pause, just to explain what a lemon is: you start with your feet together, push outwards, and then bring your feet back in, and it looks similar to this: (). Anyway, I have to do 2 circuits of the ice doing these continuously. This warms up the legs.

Then I have to do 2 circuits of forward stroking, again, warming up the legs.

Finally, I have to do a couple of 2 foot glides on a curve, to get a feel for the edges and as a last bit of stretching.

See, it's serious business, this skating lark!

So, after that, we started with 1 foot glides on a curve, on the inside edge. These are nearly ready to be signed off, just need a little bit more practice. Then we did the same but on the outside edges, and this was a lot harder. I think it's just a case of me needing to get comfortable on my outside edges, so will definitely be practicing these when I go back to the rink tomorrow. 

Then it was onto chasses, which again, are very near passing standard, I just need to get some speed going with them, and practice the other direction a bit more, as well as remembering to straighten my free leg after I do the initial push. Must remember to bend before I push, as well. Anyway, they'll be practiced tomorrow, too. 

Then we did backwards skating, and this has progressed, which is good, so we incorporated a 2 foot glide once I'd got some momentum, and this was signed off, which is good. 

Now we get onto the cause of fall number one for the day. 

Backwards lemons - the same procedure I described earlier, but in reverse. I've got them signed off, as they're passable, but both my coach and I want them to improve a little bit. Anyway, I was practicing them, coach was giving me pointers, to which I was listening to, then BANG!

I'd not been paying attention, and basically skated backwards into the rink barrier, which had the effect of knocking my feet from under me, and I landed on my rear end! I burst out laughing, so did my coach, and so did the other coach and her skater, who were also on the ice.

So, the art of falling. Well, the main thing, is to protect as much of yourself as you can. I wear wrist guards, which do help, and I'm considering wearing my knee pads tomorrow, I'll explain why in a second. So, I take reasonable precautions. 

The other thing, is to not take yourself too seriously. When you fall, after you check you're not injured, laugh it off. Easier said than done, I know, but some falls are just plain funny, like mine was yesterday. Some hurt, but after the initial pain goes away, try and have a little joke with yourself, like "Oh, only I could fall on a totally smooth, empty rink". It happens to us all, and it just means you're pushing your boundaries (or not looking behind you, in my case!).

Now, after my lesson, I always stay on and practice a bit, and yesterday I had the ice to myself to do this - I am so lucky I can go in the middle of the day! I was doing a few inside and outside edges, and after a while, it happened. I was practicing an outside edge, and I'm not really sure what happened, but I fell again. BOOM! Straight onto my knees, and fortunately protected, wrists. I got up, smiled, skated for a minute or two, then decided to quit while I was ahead, and go and get some food. 

I'm going back tomorrow, so no doubt I'm going to be adding to my collection of bruises, but hey, I'll get there in the end! 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Thinking about the Future...

So, had another lesson on Wednesday, and finished Level 2 of Skate UK. Very pleased, as I'm also halfway through Level 3, and that should get signed off this week :)

In my lesson, we did the following:

Started with basic forward skating
Then did forward chasses
Then did forward crossovers - getting better, although dreading having to learn the other direction at some point! I can now do anti-clockwise ones without my coach holding my hand, which is progress in the right direction.
Then we did moving backwards - much easier to get a glide with sharp skates. This has been signed off now!
Then we did forward one foot glides - also signed off!
Then it was 2 foot glides on a curve - signed off too! 
Then we did a 2 foot jump while skating forwards - scary, but signed off now! 
Then we did one foot glides on a curve (inside edges) - these took some practice but I'm getting them now.

So, things are progressing really well, and it's got me thinking about the future - where will I go after Skate UK? Skate UK Star is the next step, but it has 4 tracks, free skating, ice dance, synchronized skating or speed skating. Well, I'm not really into the idea of speed skating, and I'm not sure our rink has enough skaters for synchro, so that leaves me with free or ice dance.

It's a weird one, this choice. I could do both, and that would give me more options later, but the thing I can see holding me back will be a lack of partners for Dance, and my ability to jump and spin for Free. I think for now I'll keep plodding along with Skate UK, and then try both, to see if any of these problems come to light. 

The more prominent thinking I've been doing is; I think I'd like to try a skating competition, probably as a free skater. In theory, there are a couple I could potentially do in March/April 2013, if I can get to the level I need to; which just seems to be that you need a couple of jumps and spins, but no official minimum, although for the lower levels there are maximum standards. 

I want to do something with this hobby, and I think at least trying one competition would be really cool, just to say I'd done it. I've never competed in anything in my life apart from school sports days, so this could be my time to shine. Or make a complete fool of myself. 

So, do I? Don't I? I guess I'll need to speak to my coach, see how far we could get by March, but I reckon a competition in 2013 should be an achievable goal for me. 

Would love to know your thoughts on this, so please comment :) 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Skate Sharpening, Skirts, and Some other Stuff

Well, this week, I've had an enforced break from skating. I'm doing a college course, mostly by distance learning, but this past week, I had to go in for 2 days, one of those was Thursday, when I normally have a skating lesson.

This was slightly annoying, as I do enjoy my weekly escape to the ice rink, but in other ways, it was A Good Thing. I wrote in a previous post, that the factory grind on my new skates, was just starting to become blunt, and that I didn't fully trust my edges anymore. So, this week, I got my skates sharpened.

This in itself, was a bit of a mission. The rink doesn't currently have someone who is trained to use the skate sharpening machine, so they can't do it. The next nearest rink requires you to leave your skates with them, as they don't do on the day sharpening. There's another shop that does, but that's even further away than Rink No 2, so was a last resort. Then there was a man who would turn the job round in 3 days: pick up skates by courier on Monday, sharpen them on Tuesday, return to me by courier on Wednesday - but that cost around £26.

In the end, with my week off ahead, I dropped them off at Rink No 2 last Sunday. I pick them up tomorrow. The good thing is, because I got the skates at Rink No. 2, the first sharpening was free :)

So, this Thursday, I will be back on the ice, with nice sharp skates, and a new addition to my skating wardrobe.

When I learnt to skate as a child, after a couple of levels had been passed, I got my own skates, and then a lovely practice dress. I was looking at getting something similar if things worked out with taking lessons, as I loved how I used to feel on the ice, but, I'm a 22 year old, slightly overweight woman now, it would not look good! And my skating isn't that good, so I'd feel weird wearing the full on dress and tights look on a public session even if it is empty apart from me and my coach

So, I began looking at skating skirts on the internet, but I wasn't sure of sizing, and didn't really want to pay £20 plus for a skirt, plus delivery charges, for it to not fit. So, today, while out Christmas shopping, I called into a local dance shop, because essentially, I'm after a similar thing.

I now love this shop. The lady in there was very interested in my skating, and showed me various types of skirts, at various prices, and I decided I'd try on a simple circular skirt. I chose light purple, as it's my favourite colour and all my skating stuff seems to be purple, haha. The skirt fits great, and on me (5 foot 2) it comes to just above my knees. With black leggings, it looks ace. It cost £19, which I think is pretty good, and they've said when the time comes for a dress, they have a supplier who can make me something, again, great to know.

So, I can't wait to get back onto the ice. When I started skating in my leggings, I realized it made me feel good, and I think my skating improved, so we'll see what the skirt does.

Because I've not skated this week, I've been watching lots of skating on Eurosport. Wow. The skaters in these competitions are amazing, and make everything look so easy! It also reinforced the number one thing my coach tells me, that getting the basics right, is very important. None of the jumps, spins or lifts can happen without good solid basic skating skills.

It also got me thinking: when I complete Skate UK, what do I want to do next? Jumping, at the moment, seems very scary, so don't know if free skating is for me. I watched some ice dance on TV this week and I think that's where I'll go next, assuming we get some more skaters at the rink, and some of those are male dancers. I would like to do free skating as well, but jumps are a big mental hurdle at the moment, so we shall see!

Right, that's enough from me for one post, I'll be back soon, probably after my next lesson.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Making Progress

Well, it's been a busy week, skating wise. After testing my new skates out on Sunday, they left a nasty red mark/slight cut in my left leg, so I stuck a plaster on it and soldiered on.

On Tuesday, I decided I needed to go skating again, to help break in the boots. So, off I go to the rink, and find it nearly empty. There were two school aged lads, although they might have been college students, either way, they were there on a free period and were tearing round the ice, carving it up something rotten.

I think at this juncture, I need to point something out: I may make reference to "hockey boys" occasionally, but I have no problem with people (male or female) who wear hockey skates, I wore them myself until recently. What I DO take issue with, is people skating dangerously, and intentionally doing things to create big ruts in the ice. It makes it harder for everyone to enjoy themselves, and can sometimes cause accidents, collisions etc.

Anyway, I managed to avoid these boys, and they eventually left, to be replaced by two nice ladies who were getting back into skating, and just one guy who was tearing around on his skates (again, hockey skates, must be something about them...). I was practicing my basic skating, edges and attempting chasses and crossovers, but it was a bit tricky, the factory grind that was on my skates was starting to fade :( I did, however, manage to crack backwards skating, which I'm very happy about, as it\s been something I've been trying to teach myself for years! It needs work, but it's started to take shape, which is the important thing.

So, today was my next lesson, and it was a lovely one, I have to say. I arrived early, saw the last part of the Ice Tots session (toddlers in tiny skates - so cute!) and, after doing my warmup, got on the ice, while another lady had her lesson.

I was just, again, practicing my basic skating, and overheard one mum say to her toddler (people were still retrieving shoes or simply watching the 3 of us who were on the ice) "Look darling, that lady can do it properly!", referring to me, and my skating. I was quite proud of that!

Then the lady who was in her lesson before me, said "You're really, very good", and I blushed then and said, that really, I'm not! My coach (who also teaches this lady) later told me, "Oh, X asked me earlier if you were a professional. It just shows, although you can't do the fancy stuff yet, doing the simple things well makes you look like you're a higher level than you actually are."

She's right, and she's been teaching me that from our first lesson - get the basics right, and the rest will follow.

So, my lesson today, actually started with a coffee break, where me, coach and X had a chat about various things and got to know each other. Then we got on the ice, and began with basic forward skating. Coach was happy to sign this off in my Skate UK book, so we moved on to 2 foot glides on a curve.

These took a bit of practice, I kept getting confused with which knee needed to bend when, so we went to the barrier and walked through it, before trying again. It really helped, and the glides got a lot better. It was then that coach taught me a new "trick" as it were. If you maintain the glide on a curve, the circle you skate gets narrower, and narrower, until you can pull your arms in, put your feet together, and do a two foot spin!

This kept me entertained for ages after the lesson, and my spins are slowly improving!

After that we did snowplough stops, and these were also good enough to be signed off!

So, I've only got to master the 2 foot glide on a curve, and moving backwards to complete level 2 of Skate UK!

Coach also took some videos for me, to show me how far I've come in such a short space of time. I've edited them together and want to show you all a comparison.

This was a couple of years ago, on hire skates at a local Christmas rink (I'm in the blue waterproof)

And this is from today's lesson:

Well, there's definitely improvement, and I'm sure there will be more, but I've rambled enough for one post, so I'll leave you all to digest that, and return when I have more skating news.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

New Skates!

Well, I finally got my figure skates today. I went to a nearby rink with a shop, I was there anyway to watch an ice hockey game, but got there early to try on skates.

I had some idea of the skates I wanted, but when I got there, that kind of changed. The girls in the shop were both high level figure skaters, and the first question they asked was, what level was I? Turns out, the skates I was set on buying, would've been too stiff for me, as they are designed for people doing jumps and spins, which I'm a way off doing at the moment. I would've found it harder to progress, and might've given up, if I'd got the wrong boots.

So then they got my size for me, and I tried the skates they recommended. I've got wide feet, and was looking at a brand called Jackson, which are known to be wider fitting. The girls showed me how to lace the skates properly, and got me to stand and walk in them. They felt fantastic, and I decided then, that I'd buy them.

What I really liked, was that the shop didn't try to force me into a boot that wasn't right, because it cost more. They sold me a skate that was suited to my level (and some accessories, so they made up the difference in price!) and were helpful in correcting my misconceptions (that buying above my level was a good plan).

So, they checked my blades, and said that I had a factory sharpening on them, so could go and test them on the public session, which I did. It was weird at first, I kept catching my toepicks, and stumbling around like Bambi on ice. But then, I got my flow back again, and it became easier.

I'm still struggling with lacing my skates, it's the 4 hooks at the top that confuse me. Maybe because I'm practicing with the boot on my knee, I suspect if I put said boot on and tried, I'd get it.

I also now have a red mark just above where my socks ended - this is normal as the skates need to mould to my feet and ankles, but it is very annoying. Hopefully, with a few more hours on the ice, that problem will go away, because other than that, the fit is great!

I love my new skates!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Skating Jargon Buster

OK, so I promote this blog on a few different sites - some skating related, some now. So, I thought I'd write this post so that if I go all technical in the future, there's a reference point. I'll explain moves etc as I come to learn them, and will probably provide a link to a video so you can see what I mean, but this list is more general.

So, let's begin:

Patch - Patch is a session that has rules governing who can use the ice at that time, usually only figure skaters are able to use patch ice. You usually have to have your own skates, be at a certain level, or be having a lesson with a coach. Some rinks have other rules too.
Practice Book - A small notebook, that a coach will write notes in for a skater. This means that when the skater is not in a lesson, they can refer to the notes and have tips on technique, timing or other things. It also helps with planning what to do on a practice session, so you're not simply skating aimlessly around.
Skate UK - The UK learn to skate programme, created by NISA (more on them in a minute)
NISA - The National Ice Skating Association. The body that oversees skating in the UK.
Outside Edge - This is the edge of the blade that corresponds to the outside part of your foot.
Inside Edge - The part of the blade that corresponds to the inside of your foot.
Toepick - Found on figure skates, this is an implement to trip over assist in elements such as jumps
Penguin - A penguin is a skating aid that looks like, funnily enough, a penguin. They're child height, and are designed so that children can start skating independently straight away.

If I think of any more, I'll add them to the list, but you'll hear me talk about these ones quite often.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Falling in Penguin Hell

OK, so had another lesson today. Really enjoying the experience of skating again, and can see progress is being made, which is great motivation.

There's a vote happening in the UK today, so the rink was REALLY busy when I arrived at about 11am. I did my warm up off ice, and had a skate round to let the crowds die down. It was during this time that my coach coined the term "penguin hell", because there were so many kids with these penguin skating aids, and they were all over the place, against the flow of traffic, cutting across the centre of the ice, etc.

Anyway, eventually we began, although we still had to dodge people. We started with basic forward skating, and apparently my progress after just two lessons is really good, and she's really pleased.

After that, we did some forward chasses, and worked on doing more of them, more quickly. This worked very well, and I had great fun with it. Still not 100% sure what chasses are actually FOR, but mine are closer to being signed off, which is good.

Then we did forward crossovers, these are going to take a while to click, I think. I've got the motion, but just doing them with any kind of speed isn't happening yet. It was here that I fell, for the first time in what feels like forever. I think I got my feet all tangled and just sort of, fell over. I was wearing my new wrist guards and a pair of gloves so didn't hurt my hands, my right thigh took most of the impact. I did practice crossovers again later, which is good, don't want to be scared of doing them.

We then did one foot glides in a straight line, which I had no problem with, and we signed off in my Skate UK record. We also did snowplough stops, which are OK, just need a bit of polishing to get them to passing standard.

Backwards skating next, and another thing I just can't fathom. I can STEP backwards, no problem, but can't turn those stepping motions into pushing ones to get me gliding. I've tried watching a few Youtube videos, and they've kinda helped, so we'll see next week.

Then I did some practice to finish, and had great fun. I also impressed my coach somewhat. I was skating around, and then just stuck one leg out in front and glided round the corner of the rink. Apparently it was very elegant and a great inside edge! I didn't even think about it, it's just something I was doing for fun. I also had a go at skating clockwise, because by that point the rink was empty.

My coach, at one point, was showing off her jumps and spins, and telling me "I'm going to teach you all these." At the moment, the idea of both feet off the ice, or spinning, both scare me!

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Journey Begins...

Why, hello there. You're probably wondering what this is all about, aren't you? Well, this blog is going to document my figure skating journey. The journey actually began when I was a child, around 1996/97 when I took part in some classes following what was then the TESA FunSkate programme. I got to grade 3, then stopped, although I can't remember why.

Anyway, on 6th November 2012, my journey started again. A new ice rink has just opened in my area and I went down to have a skate (I have a pair of hockey skates now, as my old figure skates don't fit), and got talking to one of the coaches at the rink. She offered to teach me, and I booked the first lesson for 2 days later.

So, yesterday, the 8th November 2012, I had my first private lesson. I'd had group lessons as a child, and with the sight problems I have, I don't think it helped my progress. Anyway, my coach and I totally clicked, and I had a great 15 minute lesson.

We did:

My off ice warm up - never had one of these before, but it makes sense, I don't want to hurt myself.

Basic skating - my hockey skate wearing time had caused me to develop a hockey player-esque skating style, which although it got me round the ice, wasn't particularly good for figure skating. So I now have a nice, graceful skating stride, which is good.

Two Foot Glides on a Curve - I'd never done these before, and it was scary the first time, as my coach had me leaning into the circle we were gliding round. I also kept getting my arms mixed up, must remember the inside arm goes behind and the outside one goes in front. But, after we did a couple, I like them, and can enter them from a skating stride.

Forward Chasses - I REALLY liked these, I'm not sure why, but I found them quite easy to pick up. I find them really fun to practice too.

Forward Crossovers - these are trickier, and I'm still not sure about them! But, I think that's partly due to the fact I'm attempting them in very bulky hockey skates. I'll get there, I'm sure, but at the moment they're my least favourite thing to do!

I also got given my Skate UK Record of Achievement, and got Skate UK 1 signed off, which is good. We're not following the levels rigidly, we're doing bits from all over the place, which keeps things fun, and I much prefer this way of working.

I also now have a "practice book" for if I go to the rink between lessons, which isn't possible sometimes, but if I can, I will. The book is basically notes my coach has made for me, to help me remember what I need to do on each element we've covered - things like bending the skating leg on crossovers. So, that'll prove very useful.

I'm also getting some figure skates as a birthday present, which should hopefully make things easier, I just need to get to a skating shop to try some on to find the ones that fit me best.

So, that's the beginning of my journey, and to commemorate that, I shall leave you with this video of me skating on a Christmas temporary rink a couple of years ago, in rental skates. I'm in the light blue water proof coat:


I hope I'm already better than this! I need to get someone to video me again soon to compare...