Adult figure skating – I learn to jump, and I break my tailbone.

The Picky Eater took up ice skating late in life. Very late in life. She picks up here where she left off last year, talking about her adventures in advancing up the figure skating ladder. You can find the beginning here, or learn about her attempts at learning to spin here.

Excitement Level: No excitement, just terror
Rink Temperature: It gets colder the longer I lie on the ice
Number of Falls: It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality

My coach announces that our class is going to start learning jumps. Apparently it is not enough to slide around a sheet of ice on two thin blades of metal. Someone, and I’d like to know who, came up with the idea that you should build up speed and launch yourself into the air. Over ice.

pole-vault

Why stop at jumping? Why not pole vault on the ice too?

I always assumed that any jumping would be done at much higher levels, and I’m only a level 7/8. I am barely qualified to STAY on the ice, let alone try to leave it by jumping. But my coach is taking no excuses. Did I also mention that my coach is a big fan of “learn by doing”?

I watch as my coach goes down the line, picking up children and lifting them through the jump. As subtly as possible, I keep moving to the end of the line. Eventually though, I find my coach and I standing face to face, having a bit of a wild west-type showdown. We both know she can’t lift me through the jump. We both know that I am just going to have to go for it on my own. And we both know that I am looking to run away, but can’t run on skates.

I’d give you the details of where it all went wrong, but all I remember is kicking hard and then a lot of pain. According to spectators, I looked exactly like a cartoon character dramatically slipping on a banana.banana_slip

I don’t know about you, but when I fall down spectacularly and publicly, I would pretty much like to get up and act like nothing ever happened. And I’d really appreciate it if everyone could go along with me on that. But instead, the ice is suddenly swarming with coaches, students, hockey players, people from the front office, and people I’ve never seen before, and apparently they all brought friends.

“I’m fine,” I tell everyone. This is my standard answer. I could be missing half my skull and I would still tell everyone that I was fine. “It looked really bad,” people helpfully tell me.

I both heard and felt my tailbone break when I landed, but I choose to believe that words are powerful, and that if I keep repeating how fine I am, the words will somehow heal the broken nub at end of my spine.

Another mob of people greet me as I hobble off the ice. (Geez, how many people does this building hold?) They want me to know two things: that I’ll be okay, and that it looked really bad.

I won’t let fear get the best of me. I’ll be back on the ice again, trying it again. But not for the next two weeks. I get to spend that time sitting on an inflatable donut, telling co-workers how fine I am.

Top 10 Reasons I took up Adult Figure Skating

After seeing me on the ice, but before seeing me fall badly, people often ask me why I took up figure skating so late in life. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know:top ten

10.   Why did you take up figure skating?

I decided I hadn’t broken enough bones by doing other sports and this would be a great way to speed right through that process.

Also, standing on a treadmill in a gym, watching a little green blip make circles just wasn’t cutting it for me. I thought there had to be a more fun way to exercise. And I was right!

9.       Why now, so late in life?

Well, I’m not going to get any better looking, daintier, or shorter, so I figured I should get started right away. Besides, is there a rule that you can only try new things before age 12? I didn’t get that memo.

8.       Are you going to wear one of those costumes with the sequins and the skirt?

Heavens no! Well, actually, probably yes. But I’m going to make a costume that doesn’t look nearly so gaudy and ridiculous. I am obviously the first person ever to say this.

7.       Why don’t you take up something more suited to you, like tennis?

I know that’s you grandma. We talked about this.

6.       Do you get to hang out with cute hockey players?

I’m not sure. I can’t actually see any of them. They are covered head to toe in some kind of wearable track and field-style crash pad and they all have helmets and face protectors. Also, judging by the shouts I hear, they are all named either “Smitty” or “Dude.”

5.       Ice skating doesn’t actually look as hard as you make it sound.

You know nothing about skating. Also, that’s not a question.

4.       Do you have a coach? Does he or she yell at you?

Yes and yes.

3.       Aren’t you embarrassed to take lessons with children?

Embarrassed? No. Mortified? Yes. But it’s great for pushing yourself. I can’t really say, “This move is too difficult” when I am surrounded by six year olds who can do it.

2.       What’s the hardest skill you’ve worked on?

All of them. Sadly, I am completely serious about that. Skating backwards was incredibly hard and scary until I got used to it. Skating on one foot was incredibly hard and scary until I got used to it. Every new skill I have tried so far has always been the hardest thing I’ve done yet. I’m still waiting for the day that something comes easy. Gosh, that would be nice.

Edward_Cullen1.       Why do you stay with it?

Because I can’t help it! Because I love it!

Adult figure skating is that dangerous boy with the long, dark hair falling into his eyes. You know he’s not good for you. You know you’re going to get hurt. Your friends all think you’re crazy and before the whole thing is done, it will probably empty your bank account. But you do it anyway and you love every minute of it.

Dear darling ice skating, they just don’t understand you the way I understand you.

My first day as a Level 6 Adult figure skater – I learn to spin!

Excitement level: Moderated with substantial trepidation
Rink temperature: I’ve seen worse
Number of falls: Some real whoppers

It’s time to get serious here in Level 6 – it’s time to spin! I’ve been looking forward to this, because frankly I’ve been spinning a lot on the ice, albeit unintentionally. I would like to learn a controlled spin. We are learning the one-foot spin, which contains a “mere” three rotations.

From what I can tell, I look like a gawky, flapping chicken picked up by a tornado. I spin incredibly fast, flail, and fall down. To be fair, my spin *does* contain three rotations; it’s just that only 2.5 of them occur while I’m upright.

MySpins

I’ve been practicing at every open skate session I can get to, and I can see that it’s really increased my stamina and fitness level. I can get through a class without panting now. Holding your arms up and out like a lone can-can dancer for 30 minutes is surprisingly tiring. But I’m grateful for the workout. Despite the cold, we don’t wear coats anymore at these levels. Your coach needs to see your body shape to correct you, so I just wear jeans and a hoodie. At times of extreme embarrassment, the hood provides an excellent place to hide my face.

Some of the children in this class were also in my Level 5 class, so they can’t pretend they’ve never seen me before. One of them finally decided I might be harmless and came up to me. She made me smile when she said, “I’m doing really good. You’re also doing okay.” Unfortunately the smile died on my face when she opened her mouth to show me she had just lost her two front teeth, which makes her about six years old. I’ve owned this hoodie longer than she’s been alive.

As I continue to work on spins, I have learned that there is a sweet spot on your blade. If you can hit it, you will spin nicely. If you hit nearly every other spot of the blade, you are essentially slamming on the brakes and you go flying. But you can’t look at your blade while you spin, even if you could somehow mark where the sweet spot is. You just have to feel it. I keep shaking my foot, as if to knock some sensitivity into it. I can’t find the sweet spot.

SweetSpotGolfI’m pretty sure this concept exists in other sports. In golf, I think there is one special place on the club you want to connect with; in baseball, I imagine there is one special place on that bat; in diving, there is probably one special place on the diving board. For those of you that can relate – how did you find the sweet spot? And then how do you keep finding it every time? Do you eventually get a feel for it, or is it always a gamble?