Well, this is certainly not the blog post I had planned to write around this time. I had, in fact, had two entirely different posts up my sleeve. I was going to write one about my trip to Montreal for Worlds, but I never made it to Canada and the competition was cancelled and I think everyone’s hearts are still slightly broken. I was going to write another about preparing for your first competition as I prepared for my second Adult Nationals, but that was also cancelled and now rinks around the world are closed and no one knows when they will open again. All they know is that it sadly won’t be any time soon.
This leaves skaters across all continents stuck indoors, bereft for their beloved ice, like thousands of athletes miss their swimming pools or gyms or teammates or tennis courts – the list is endless. I have been wondering why running is not my chosen sport instead because then at least I would still be able to do it to an extent as like several countries, the UK has not forbidden outdoor exercise for the time being. However, my problem, as I have truly discovered over the past few weeks, is that I don’t actually like exercise, I just like skating. I don’t skate because it keeps me fit, I do it because I simply love to skate and the fact that it is an excellent form of exercise is a happy bonus.
If the wealth of home workout videos popping up on your phone have begun to irk you a tiny bit, I’m here to remind you that it is OK to not want to jump on the home workout bandwagon as enthusiastically as so many people have. Home workouts are not fun, let’s stop pretending that they’re fun because we all know we’d rather be at the ice rink doing what we love. (OK, yes, I am exaggerating a little bit, home workouts are not the worst thing in the world and they can, of course, be fun, but sometimes I think we all get hit with a wave of, ‘well I really would love to be skating instead of this right now because it’s really, really, really not the same’.) Furthermore, not everyone is fortunate enough to have a spinner to practice spins off ice, off ice skates or rollerblades. Many people live in a small flat with no outside space so they don’t have anywhere to practice off ice jumps either so it can be extremely disheartening and demotivating to see people mastering double axels in their gardens when you don’t have space to throw a waltz jump without crashing into a table. Honestly, don’t stress though because it’s easier to spin and do jumps on ice than off so your spins and jumps will be there waiting for you when you go back.
So here are my tips for what you can do to stay connected with your love of figure skating when you don’t have much space to do much or much inclination either.
With love from a skater who doesn’t enjoy doing any other form of exercise and who just really, really, really wants to skate to all of you other skaters who feel the same way because I’m sure (hope) I’m not the only one.
While I may not be the biggest fan of off ice, I do love stretching. I love pulling and forcing my body into odd positions and I find that stretching requires the same patience of practice that figure skating does. I’m currently doing the splits in 30 days challenge: I did it in January for the first time and while I did not end up being able to do the splits, it certainly made me more flexible than I was previously and trying it for a second time, I am starting to believe that I may one day actually be able to do the splits. I stretch for about ten minutes a day and it makes me feel productive because I know I’m doing something that will be beneficial to my skating when I go back. I like to watch Friends or listen to Billie Eilish while I stretch because I find both things comforting and calming which creates a nice stretching atmosphere. Take pictures of yourself from time to time because it’s nice to see progress.
2. PRACTICE SPIN POSITIONS
This is sort of still related to stretching, but slightly more comforting because you can essentially try to pretend that you’re on the ice. Put your skates on and try to see how long you can hold a camel spin position or sit spin; you’ll be building up muscle which will only help you when we do skate again and it’s much nicer to think, ‘I’m doing a cannonball spin’ than it is to think ‘I’m doing a one legged squat’. You can build balance and control by transitioning into different positions as if you were doing a combination spin. Again, I recommend taking pictures or videos of yourself so that you can effectively coach yourself and improve your body position.
As I mentioned already and would like to reiterate again, I don’t like running so I don’t run. I never have and I’m not intending on starting now. I’m all for discovering new hobbies in lockdown, but running is not the one for me. I’m lucky, however, to have an exercise bike at home; I won’t pretend to enjoy it, but if you can coax yourself into doing a small amount of cardio – even if it’s once a week for half an hour – it’s better than nothing. Again, watching something makes it more bearable: I favour rewatching old skating competitions. Convince yourself to do it by reminding yourself that future you will thank past lockdown you for doing it when you’re skating again. If only you do two minutes of high intensity cardio (for example, run on the spot as fast as you can or do endless powerful star jumps), then well done because that’s the same length as your skating program! Yay! Obviously do more if your program is longer and if it’s not and you can do more, then that’s wonderful too. I believe in helping yourself with tiny, little, manageable chunks of things because it can be hard to motivate yourself and convince yourself to exercise when you’re used to exercising without realising that you are and this becomes even harder when you’re in the midst of global crisis filled with uncertainty and anxiety. So do what you can and don’t be hard on yourself if you feel you can’t do anything one day or many days.
4. WATCH VIDEOS OF YOURSELF SKATING
I, like many people, film myself when I skate because I find it extremely helpful when I’m not in a lesson (which is most of my practice time) to see what I’m doing/what my body looks like and then imagine what my coach would say and make the corrections she has told me to do. I also like to remind myself that I have made progress on those days when it feels like I haven’t. If you have lots of videos of yourself on your phone keep scrolling back and watch them. Notice the progress you have made, observe how fabulous you are, look at the super cool things you’re able to do with your body and remind yourself that you will skate again. You will.
5. WATCH VIDEOS OF YOUR FAVOURITE SKATERS ON YOUTUBE
Of course, watching videos of yourself can make you emotional because you’ll think, ‘what if I never get to do this again?’ or it will remind you that you miss skating so much it hurts your heart and makes you cry. This has indeed happened to me because I am an emotional wreck at the best of times so when it does, but I still want to watch skating, I like to rewatch my favourite programs of my favourite skaters because it’s a great comfort and motivation. Plus, it’s also nice to get sucked into a YouTube hole to distract you from the outside world. My top three program recommendations would be: Gracie Gold’s Firebird at US Nationals, Alina Zagitova’s Don Quixote at the Olympics and Alexandra Trusova’s Game of Thrones from the Grand Prix Final because if they don’t make you determined to skate again, then I don’t know what will.
6. TALK TO YOUR SKATING FRIENDS ALL THE TIME
Talk to your friends. Every day if you want (hello, if you’re reading this, I love you). If you don’t feel up to talking on the phone or FaceTiming, that’s OK, just text them because they’re feeling the same way as you and you need to help each other through this. Talk about skating, don’t talk about skating, talk about everything and nothing, send funny memes and gifs, talk about how much you dislike and don’t want to do off ice, laugh, giggle, cry, moan, rant, send pictures and videos and voice notes. Talk all the time. It will make social distancing a tiny bit better if it feels like you’re seeing them and they’re in the same room and it goes without saying that they will just get it. They know how badly you want to skate because they feel the exact same way so you can pine together for the day when you will get to do your synchro spins again.
Above all, be kind to yourself. It’s OK if you only feel like moving your body once a week or even not at all because this whole coronavirus situation is confusing and stressful so your body – and more importantly your mind – isn’t going to feel OK all of the time and probably most of the time it will just want to lie in bed or on a sofa with some chocolate or ice cream beside it for hours and hours on end. Believe me, this is what I spend most of my lockdown time doing because it’s hard to get out of bed when the world is upside down and you don’t know what you’re doing today, but it’s probably not going to be that different to yesterday. However, I tell myself that if I do a little something, I will be grateful for it when I skate again, even if it’s only half an hour. That’s half an hour of your day and then you can go back to embracing life as if you were posing for a still life painting. So if at some point, you manage to convince yourself to do a tiny bit of stretching or cardio here and there, with the knowledge that it will help your skating, then that’s a wonderful thing. Yay, well done, you’re an amazing human and I am proud of you. If you don’t and simply want to curl up in a ball under your duvet with Netflix and chocolate, then well done, you are still an amazing human and I am still proud of you.