Figure Skating after a 30 Year Absence…

I was a competitive figure skater as a little girl, in New Orleans, Louisiana of all places. I learned to skate, not terribly long after I learned to walk. I was three-years old, I understand.

I competed in freestyle events and as part of a precision team called the L’il Dixies. I used to have a stuffed raccoon that held all of my medals, and I just learned that my mom has all of my old patches and even some of my testing paperwork.

I skated until sometime in 4th grade, after we moved to Covington, when the commute to the skating rink multiple times per week ended up being too much for me. I think I was in Freestyle 4 at that point.

In my competitions, there was an “Over 40” division and usually there were not many competitors. I remember a lady whose name was Lulu, but I don’t remember much else, other than she competed in a lower division, like Alpha or Beta. This stayed in my mind as time passed, and I always thought it would be cool to be that lady, competing as an “old person”. (Oh how our definition of “old” changes over the years).

Well, I’ve finally made it to the “Over 40” division…..

In the 30 years that have passed since I was a competitive ice skater, I have skated a handful of times. While at graduate school in Indiana, I would occasionally drive to Carmel, Indiana to skate with their skating club. I had the best intentions to start skating then, but I was really busy in graduate school and the hour drive was too much for me. Another problem was my skates.

When I quit skating, my mom had already purchased a pair of boots for me to grow into (it was always easier to get used skates for a growing foot). However, she didn’t have new blades. Somewhere along the way, we decided to put my previous blades on these new boots. The boots were about 1/2 size too small for my feet and the blades were a little too small for the boots. The combination made them very uncomfortable.

I moved back to Louisiana and then to Texas, five and a half years ago. Again, I was resolved to start skating since I again lived in a state where ice rinks were present. However, I was a single mom of a very overcommitted baseball player, and the rinks are an hour away. There really wasn’t time, and besides, I still had that terrible skate problem.

It wasn’t until two years ago that things started to change…

The little change is my mom bought me a pair of ice skates for Christmas. They are Riedell Royals, the same skates I wore when I competed in the 80s. The skates are used, but they’re in great shape and most importantly, they fit!

The big change is that I got married to an amazing, supportive man. My family of two became a family of five. Together, we have three boys, now ages 11, 15, and 20. My baseball player is the middle child and he’s playing high school ball now, so we aren’t traveling the world as much for baseball tournaments. It won’t be long until he’s driving. The youngest is learning Tae-Kwan-Doo, but that’s not yet to a point where it’s schedule prohibitive.

I longed to find a sport my husband and I could pursue together, but that hasn’t been as easy as I had hoped. He’s into long-distance cycling and I get bored too easily. I’m into heavy lifting, but his knees can’t do squats. We’ve tried dancing, but I’m too much of a perfectionist and often too serious. I think the best thing to do is encourage his cycling and pursue my own interests. I tried that with CrossFit, which I love, but I’m a competitive person and honestly, I don’t know that I am ready to make the lifestyle changes I would have to in order to successfully compete in weightlifting type events.

On December 26th, my mom, my 15-year old, my husband, and I all went skating at the Memorial City Mall (my dad was with us, but he didn’t skate). Unfortunately, that morning, I woke up with a huge knot in my back, which bothered me more and more as the session progressed. I also haven’t fully recovered from a sprained ankle I managed a couple of months ago.

Two years ago, when I first tried my “new” skates, I could attempt a couple of jumps and spins, but now, I was hesitant to try anything because my back and ankle hurt so much. My stroking felt okay, my back crossovers in one direction felt strong (not so much on the other side), I squeaked through a couple of almost three turns, and I did a nice lunge. I did some edges around the hockey circle, but nothing exciting. My entrance to a spin attempt was terrible, I didn’t even try to jump, and my center of gravity was so far off on my spiral, it was embarrassing.

I convinced my husband to try skating with me in a dance position and reasoned that maybe we could learn to ice-dance and maybe he could even wear hockey skates. Unfortunately, he struggled with his knees after skating, so while I still have hope, I probably am better off working on my own skating.

I think it’s time. I have been taking a break from CrossFit and while I miss lifting, I want the chance to really be good at something. My husband says I could be great at CrossFit because of my strong legs, but I have those strong legs because of my figure skating foundation. They will also be beneficial to my return to ice skating. I have always missed it and always envisioned competing in the “Over 40” category. I’m in the right age bracket now, so why not?

I am considering signing up for an adult “learn to skate” class at the rink closest to my house. It’s only 20-minutes from my office, so it would be easiest to go after work. I can also go on some Saturdays. I am headed to the public session after work today to check out the rink and the commute from work and back home. If all goes well, I can either sign up for the winter session that starts next week, or try practicing on my own and then sign up in March.

But, first things first… Let’s see if this even makes sense…

Checking out the Aerodrome

There was a public skating session on Wednesday at the Aerodrome, and I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to check out the rink.  I took the Beltway after work and it only took ~15 minutes to get there.  The public skating session was crazy… There were fast hockey skaters zooming around, people hugging the wall, new skaters using walkers for balance, a couple of figure skaters trying to maneuver in the center, and the most insane thing I’ve ever seen – blue sled contraptions.  Most of the people using the sleds were teenagers, who were pushing each other across the rink.  I guess beggars can’t be choosers, so I tried to make the best of the crowded rink, but I quickly determined that playing dodge person isn’t my strong point.

My goal was to go through as many of the USFSA basic skills as I could to get a better idea of where I am prior to starting a beginner class.  I was excited that my back wasn’t bothering me much at all, and I felt I had better balance and strength on the ice, as compared to Monday.  My stroking felt good; I could get some decent power from my legs.  My front crossovers (in the skating direction) felt solid.  I was determined to watch all of the basic skills videos I had found on YouTube, one by one, and demonstrate each skill.

I ended up only doing the Basic 1-Basic 4 skills in order.  For fun, I tried a couple of the skills from the higher basic levels, but those don’t really count because I didn’t look up the videos to make sure I was doing the moves correctly.  I felt pretty good where I am starting, but I definitely saw some areas to work on.

Snowplow stop – Oh how I used to take this for granted… I quickly learned that my outer thighs are really weak, as I couldn’t push out very well, especially with my right leg.  I think the right leg is worse because my ankle is still weak from the sprain, but I seriously need to get stronger in both legs.  I think strength will come from working on my skills, but I may want to supplement with some outer-thigh exercises at home.

Two-foot spin – I guess when you consider only two revolutions are required, I was able to do this, but for me, it wasn’t good enough!  I can’t remember the last time I even attempted a two-foot spin, but I definitely feel I should be able to do better.

Backward stroking – I think I was motivated more by fear of going backwards, but stroking backwards was very difficult for me.  I look forward to trying again on a less crowded rink!

I also need to work on the length of my one-foot glides, both forward and backwards.  My forward crossovers in the clockwise direction (against the traditional skating direction) were terrible.  I felt clunky and uncoordinated.  I wasn’t really sure how to work on these in a crowded public session, but they definitely need help.

The extra skills I tried (without verifying the videos) were pivots on both feet.  I had zero problem with pivoting around the left toe-pick, but I really struggled on the right.  I also did the inside three-turns to correspond to the outside three-turns from Basic 4.  The inside three-turn on my right foot was really weak.  Maybe my struggle on the right side is because of my ankle, but my backward crossovers felt fine in both directions, so I’m not sure.

I skated until I started to feel my back ache and that was probably a few minutes longer than I should have skated.  The rest of the evening, I was plagued by a sore back.  Luckily, my second chiropractor appointment for Sunday night’s back issue is today, so I expect to be back in full skating form by the next time I go to the rink.

I have decided to sign up for the Thursday night beginner class to meet people and make sure all of my basic skills are up to snuff.  Then, I can figure out the next steps.  I was excited to learn that this rink has an adult “Theatre on Ice” team.  I hope this is something I can do in addition to my individual skating!