Tie on your skates and jump on the ice. We've got lots of life lessons to discuss today...

Moving the site

I decided to move this blog over to my main website. You can now find my ice skating blogging at
http://www.alwayssababa.com/taxonomy/term/1 or just go to the main page at http://www.alwayssababa.com and look for new posts at the top of the left hand column.

If you've been reading this blog in an RSS feed reader, you'll want to change your subscription to http://www.alwayssababa.com/taxonomy/term/1/*/feed

While you are over there, you can check out some of the other things that I get up to when I'm not on the ice. There's technical stuff about computers, my ideas about education and work, random rantings about life in general, and even poetry and short fiction. Everything is in its own space over there, with its own block and page and feed, so it'll be easy to find just what you want to read and ignore the rest.

I'm looking forward to seeing you at the new site! 0 comments

The power of breath

Spending two weeks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada was so good for me. I needed some time off between my regular life in Tel Aviv and my work this Summer in Seattle. It was a grat vacation spent with my long time friend Julie and her partner Sebastien.

Juli and Seb are Yoga instructors and are working towards opening their own studio soon. Julie was also a competitive gymnast and a coach for many years. As you can imagine, we spent a lot of time "talking shop" as well as catching up on personal stuff. The super bonus was learning some Yoga postures and breath techniques from Julie that I had never done before. Of course, I've been taking those lessons and thinking about how they apply directly back to the ice.

One of the keys to strength, endurance, and health through yoga is the concentration on breath. When and how you breathe is as important as simply remembering to breathe. Yoga isn't alone in this teaching, either. In karate, taekwondo and other martial arts, attention is paid to exactly how proper breathing can affect the power of every hit and kick.

It struck me that ice skating should be no different. By paying attention to your breath you should be able to increase your power and endurance, and in some case even improve your technique instantly. With the theory in mind, I tried some experiments. You can bet that my students will be seeing more of these experiments in their future training sessions!

The next time you are on the ice, try this exercise on for size:

First, do two laps of power three turns in each direction as you normally do. This is just to establish a baseline of your performance and feel what your three turns are like normally.

Next, do a lap of power three turns in whichever direction you prefer using a special breathing pattern.

  1. As you take your preparatory steps, breathe deeply a few times.
  2. Just before your first three turn, breathe in through your nose
  3. As you perform the three turn, breath out through your mouth.
  4. Breathe in through your nose as you do the back crossover.
  5. As you step forward and through each three turn, breathe out through your mouth, and then breathe in through your nose during each back crossover.

Try this exercise for a few laps in each direction.

Did it feel different? 0 comments

The frustration factor

One of my students came to me a few months ago as a newbie skater. She could go frontwards and backwards and could do two foot spins, but she hadn't been able to figure out a one foot spin yet. The problem is, before we could get her one foot spin to work, she had to undo some unhelpful muscle memory she'd picked up in her two foot spin and teach her how to center a spin correctly. Then, we started working on the one foot spins. But still, it took about three weeks before she got the spin to last more than a couple of revolutions, and a couple of more weeks before she had enough balance and centering to turn that one foot spin into a nice, fast scratch spin.

The whole way through the process she was so frustrated with herself. She wanted the spin to be perfect now. I had to show her that even advanced skaters had to go back and tweak the basics from time to time. A truly centered scratch spin is not so easy!

When, a few weeks after getting her scratch spin she was having troubles with her sal chow, she confided, "Before I got the scratch spin, I thought that I just had to get that one thing and then everything else would get easier."

That student is not alone. Last week I had a conversation with another coach at iSkate in Luna Park, Tel Aviv about how our students deal with the frustration of learning new things. Both of us have seen students who work super hard on some element, thinking that once that can do this one thing everything else will be easy in comparison. They work and work and get so frustrated when the move doesn't come to them in a day or a week or even a month. And then suddenly, the get it. The element is mastered and they move on to the next challenge...

At which point they discover that the next element is the hardest thing ever, that everything else in skating will be easy in comparison, that this one thing is so dastardly difficult that it takes weeks of frustrating effort to conquer.

Not every element you work on in skating will drive you crazy and lead you to tears, but you can guarantee that as long as you continue to work on improving your skating skills, you will keep running into new moves that seem impossible to accomplish. Learning to trust the process is maybe the most important lesson you can get from this. As you learn more and more things -- on ice or off -- you learn more about how you learn, about what it takes for you personally to master a new idea or task. Once you know that there is a path from new idea to fully integrated skill and knowledge, you can ride out that path with more confidence and, hopefully, a bit less frustration. 0 comments

Tuesday night half hour off ice classes

Last week at iSkate in Tel Aviv I started teaching a new class. It's a half hour off ice training meant for before or after your on-ice workout.

A half hour isn't a long time, but it's long enough to work on a few exercises, learn some new techniques and take something home to work on to improve your skating. The class pulls from a variety of sources: yoga, pilates, capoeira, and dance. Each week we work on a key issue (or two), learn some new exercises or push ourselves on exercises we've learned before. Not only do you get a workout, you learn what is important in each exercise for helping you reach your skating goals.

If you want to try it out, be at the rink and ready for class at 7:25. Class starts promptly at 7:30 and ends at 8. Wear comfortable clothes. Athletic shoes are optional. (Some students wear athletic shoes, others go barefoot. I usually go barefoot.)

Cost 10nis. 0 comments