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...