Wednesday, November 4, 2015

You can call me Julie Yamaguchi - Lessons 1 & 2 of 8

Winter Olympics in Sochi. Russian skaters. Hard work.  I don't want to fall.

These were the thoughts that skated through my mind as I stepped onto the ice for my first two lessons. There were two other women on the ice ready for our lesson. I was relieved. Moments before, I'd laced up my skates and appeared to be the only adult taking lessons. I felt the familiar unease of a new experience and kept breathing.

A woman approached me, and asked if I was enrolled in a class. She introduced herself as the teacher, and invited me to follow her onto the ice. The first lesson was a skills assessment. I know how to skate, but I don't know the technical names for anything. The teacher spent time with each person meeting them where their skills were on the ice. I was pleased that each time she came by she confirmed that I had the hang of what I'd been practicing and I was ready for the next thing.

That first night I marveled at what the other women were working on. They were figure skating. Free style. They were doing fancy things. I got excited and terrified at once. “Don't watch them. It will freak you out. Just stay right where you are and trust that when it's time to be introduced to those moves, you'll be ready for them.” Can you hear how reasonable my self-talk has become? How “in the moment” is becoming my default? 

Just like the trapeze artists, they make skating look so easy. Cutting Edge.  These were my thoughts as lesson two started.

Lesson two reinforced the role of muscle memory and the importance of repetition. My moves felt awkward, and I couldn't seem to muster the power I needed to propel myself forward and the next moment I was doing it. I learned how to half swizzle on both feet. First in a straight line and then I graduated to half swizzling in a circle.

I'm a right-handed skater, which does not necessarily corresponded with being right-handed off the ice. With this determined, my teacher taught me my first “fancy move.” The pivot turn. I dug my left toe into the ice and using the half swizzle I practice all class, I pushed my right foot out, twirled, and drew my right foot back with my left and then shifted my weight to my right foot and glided on one foot—arms outstretched.

It's impressive the way I'm being taught how to figure skate. Just as I suspected last week when I had my little “stay where you are” chat with myself, each move I am taught is a building block to the next move and by the time I get there, I feel confident that I can master it.

More than anything what my time on the ice is reinforcing is how good it is to be active in my body. I marvel at all of the physical challenges I put on my 4040 list and how I am meeting each challenge and exceeding my expectations. I'm also reflecting on the FUN I've had. I spent entirely too much of my first forty years not having fun.

Adulthood is HARD. Physical activity—in all the forms I've tested this year—has helped counterbalance the hard parts of life. I can't get over how different I feel being present in my body versus being stuck in my bookworm's head and heart.  I move differently.  I feel confident.  I feel happy. As I skated back and forth in my half swizzle repetitions I told myself, “I've got to keep taking lessons. This is fun.”

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