Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Warm up vs muscle memory: Physical, Mental or Neurological?

The title of this post brings to mind the old question: Animal, Mineral or Vegetable?  As I circulated around the perimeter of the rink during the first half of last night's Free Style session I experienced the usual frustration of trying to find a patch of ice that didn't have a coach and/or their skater parked smack dab in the middle of it.  Coach A. generally rigs my lesson so that I have thirty minutes to "warm up" while she coaches another skater.  Most of the time I wind up blowing that time advantage just perimeter stroking and taking evasive action to avoid other skaters. There's very little opportunity to attempt working on elements which I know are going to be part of my upcoming lesson.  Out of the corner of my eye I watch the digital hockey clock count away my precious warm up minutes without really finding an opportunity to explore any of my weak side elements.  If I do get a gap I usually attempt something in my strong direction, at least for the first few times.

After my lesson, which focused unsuccessfully on my list of usual suspect elements, I started to wonder what part of a warm up is physical vs mental?  It occurred to me that things like 3-turns and Mohawks in my strong direction require very little in the way of "warm up" before attempting them. Further, they require very little thinking on my part.  The same elements taken from my weak side don't happen at all during the first ten or fifteen minutes on ice.  After that if they do happen, a lot of thinking has to occur before and during their execution.

Even though I've been doing the weak side stuff for the same length of time as the ones from the strong side (actually more so, since I double up the practice on the weak side) they just refuse to enter into muscle memory. Why is that?   I have to think the whole process through: remember to bend the knee, pre-rotate, don't wide step, lean either into or out of the circle, etc. etc.  The amount of "admin" required is soul destroying.  And even with all this mindfulness going on in the background, sometimes (most times) the best laid Mohawks o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley.

Over and over, I come back to the same realization:  I don't have to think much about the strong side.  Those just happen.

Now before I go much further, I have tried different types of physical warm ups, (brisk walks, jumping jacks, etc.) followed by stretching regimes recommended by various skating gurus, and have come to the conclusion that the best warm up for a specific activity is probably the activity itself.  I've also come to the conclusion that muscles are at least "blood-heat" warm 24/7, so little if any further "warm up" is required.  Think about it:  if you suddenly had to jump up and run away from danger would you want a system that required a long and careful warm up plus stretching before making your escape?   Short answer: not unless you're bucking for a Darwin award.  You'd want a system that puts the pedal to the metal and gets the hell outta Dodge tout suite.

Then again, maybe what's not happening is precise muscle function, which is in turn controlled by the nervous system--ya know, maybe what I need is to have an acupuncturist chase me around on the ice and stick needles into various meridians until the correct muscles fire on my weak side.  Instead of Ice Capades I could have a debut role in "Acupuncture on Ice". One of those "spotlight" kinda things I suppose.

Or maybe since I have to think so much about the weak side elements, a therapist is in order; one who speaks with a heavy Viennese accent:  "Vie do you hate so much this forvard right inside Mohawk?" 

I don't know; I just don't know.

Meanwhile, those who have Face Book can watch this short video of a young fellow doing a wonderfully graceful double axel on in-line roller skates--something I'll never do regardless of which side I might try it from.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The future looks bright for Canadian ice dancing.

Dear faithful reader:  Not much to report here at diarist central.  Still chipping away at the dreaded Mohawk. Making glacial progress. Coach A. and I have added other foundation skills to work on to break up the monotony.  After all, one can only do so many Mohawks during a 30 minute lesson.  To that end we've been working on back chasses in waltz hold (makes my lower back and Achilles tendons ache in v. short order!), two foot turns (much to my embarrassment I still can't do back-to-front two foot turns without losing all momentum), forward cross rolls with an emphases on making them more progressive-like  (seems like everything is supposed to become more progressive-like, i.e. skimming the ice with the advancing foot rather than lifting the blade), back cross rolls with deeper edges and stronger push, etc. etc.  Anyway, that's life at present.

What's more fun to talk about is the  state of ice dance, particularly in Canada.  There's been a lot of gnashing of teeth over the prospect of Tessa and Scott retiring in between Olympic cycles.  I say, not to worry:  Marjorie Lajoie & Zachery Lagha are the ticket.  I've been watching them for the past three years and they get better each year.  Above is a video from a novice competition in  2015.Click on full screen for the best view.


Here is a pair of videos from the current competition at the Junior GP at Richmond: 

 By 2022 this will be the pair to beat.  See if you don't agree.  If I watch these videos a hundred times I won't see everything.  The foot work and edges happen much too fast for this old geezer.  Thank God I'm not a technical analyst or a judge.  How do they keep the choreo in their heads?  I struggle to remember a 14 step pattern dance.