Posted by: trish alexander | June 16, 2011

How we learn

I had the chance to skate with a good friend Mario the other day and he was telling me how he learned to skate.  It was in an era when more skaters were skating.  He had a few friends who were skating our local lake (Greenlake) which is nearly three miles. I has a few slight hills and so the trail is a bit of a challenge to those who don’t know how to brake. It is also the busiest park in our state with a fairly narrow widthwith walkers on one side and wheels on the other, so defensive skating is a must.

Determined to skate with his friends, Mario purchased skates that fit him well and protective gear, all of it, and found himself a space mostly out of the public eye and practiced his skating. He fell a lot but each fall taught him a better balance position (what not to do) and eventually the falls came less often and subsequently, his form improved and he could join his mates and skate comfortably with them.He had taught himself to skate.

A decade later, or more, he still enjoys skating and stretches his legs skating fast on local trails. He’ll finish a skate and, as he explains to me, he felt exhilarated, efficient, and the legs were pushed to the point that they hurt in a muscle-yummy kind of ways (my description, not his).

While I live in the world where people take lessons to learn, there is easily an equal amount that learn on their own.  I am sure it is done in a variety of ways but the drive it requires to learn to skate is no small feat, especially for the self-taught who are more likely to fall, more often.  I certainly remember my own learning to skate on ice–my mom finally bought my sister and I ski pants with cushion which allowed us to slide more (we also learned by having butt sliding contests). There was definitely a learning curve.

Skating is not intuitive and therefore is hard won. Biking is usually done learning from a parent and running is a good example of intuitive and easy to learn.

Skating isn’t that easy, so for all of you who learned, one way or another, you are in an elite club for which you cannot buy your way in, unless you can put a cash value on falls.

Laterskaters, Trish

Posted by: trish alexander | May 12, 2011

Falling off the wagon

It’s been cold and rainy here in Seattle although I admit that sun beckons me outside just now (wait ten minutes, it will be cloudy) and the weather is not supposed to reach 70 degrees until mid June.

Thus, I am finding I must be crafty in finding ways to get or stay in shape. The long winter and poor spring has helped me ‘pad’ myself a bit more than I like and I’ve fallen off the exercise wagon… what is a Seattlite to do?

Friday, Saturday & Sunday I skate at the rink (Bellevue Skate King) and although I can get in great skate sessions, I am far too efficient in skating to do much good for my cardiovascular & muscle development. I know there is some, but not a lot.

This past Monday, even though I woke up with the local strain of influenza, I decided that seven days a week of exercise was necessary so I began by walking around Greenlake, a man made lake which is 2.7 miles (about) around and it is the busiest park in Washington state. With walkers, joggers, strollers, long boarders and even skaters, it gets plenty of use.  After the walk, right after, I was a bit sore as my body was made neither for walking or running (including missing the menisci in both knees). After that walk I felt a bad kind of sore, the kind of high-impact-not-good-for-my-body sore so I grabbed my Nordic Walking Poles  and went Tuesday. No pain, and I walked much faster with the poles. On Wednesday I clipped on my pedometer and the distance was 4,500 steps in 38 minutes. And it felt good. And it was pouring rain, even the turtles were hiding. I mean pouring. The feeling of being outside to exercise in the rain, was magical. As skaters when it rains we just look out the window and look wistfully at the smooth pavement, but I’ve found something I can do every day.

For other types of cross training, I put a P90X DVD in the player (occasionally) and enjoy the weight workout. I wish I would do it more. And some days I get on my Stairmaster (bought on Craigslist for $75, $10 delivery) but when I’m tired or sick it’s really hard to talk myself into getting on that taskmaster.  I just got a Total Trainer on Craigslist too but I need to set it up in my spare room so it’s available anytime.

What I like about the Nordic Walking is that it’s easy to do (trust me, 90% need a lesson or two but after that you are good to go) and I can do it in any weather, anywhere.  And I’m likely to do it. If I’ve got a good movie from Netflix on the computer then I can get on the Stairmaster, Total Trainer or simultaneously watch P90X . It all works.  I just gotta do it.

Why do the exercise?  It’s an easy answer: because I don’t skate as well when I weigh more. I know how much to weigh because my skating feels effortless. When my abs are solid my form is better. When my cardiovascular system is running well, then I adore trail skating.

It’s easy to get out of shape, hard to get back into shape. I think the Nordic Walking is my consistent ticket and the other forms of exercise I need to do more consistently will be picked up because I’m enjoying the fitness again.  Anyway, it’s a plan, and I love a good plan.

[In the name of full disclosure, I should say that I am a Nordic Walking Instructor ]

Posted by: trish alexander | February 11, 2011

Learning, small victories

I went skating yesterday afternoon. Two days before I was in Miami and it was 81 degrees, yesterday in Seattle it was 41 degrees. But the sun was shining and with the proper clothes it was the perfect time to skate.

Slalom Skating practice was the goal. I’m crappy at it, especially in comparison to  Jeremy and Naomi who live nearby (not to mention all the Skate Journeys Slalom skaters). Further, I just watched the entire “Mini Battle, Miami” and even the skaters who didn’t win were far beyond my skills.

So, okay, I’m not good, but I still enjoy it and from time to time I work on it. I like it because it’s difficult. I have to technically think about what I am doing: balance, rotation, edging, pressure.  I concentrate on one fundamental and another needs to be added but my brain is slow to follow two of the four fundamentals simultaneously.

I skate for about 45 minutes, small victories that no one could have seen but me. Skating is personal and learning for me is about the swoop of my edge, the effortless rotation if only lasting a nano second, the balance hitting my ‘block’ for such a short time even I almost missed it.

The small victories compel me to skate, my joy is found in my small victories. Learning. That is what I love, skating is the vehicle.

Posted by: trish alexander | February 9, 2011

Skating in the sun-Escape!

There is just no substitute for skating in the sun. For those of you in Seattle, or a northern clime you already know this.

I am sitting just 25 yards off the beach in Hollywood, Florida and I spent the day finishing up certifying another awesome skater to become an instructor, took a nice stroll, er, roll on the boardwalk and then took off my skates and laid in the late sun for an hour.

I know how fortunate I am and I encourage you to become fortunate as well. Plan a trip to a sunny place and skate. Miami is handy because it really has a wonderful beach trail that goes on for miles. Too often we get hooked into the usual places we skate whether it be rinks, or a specific trail or a specific tennis court.

Step out and roll the world. Zephyr Tours has trips to Amsterdam, Paris & Hilton Head. A bunch of skaters in the northwest organize a trip to the Coeur D’Alene Trail in Idaho. There are highly organized social skates in NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and Washington DC, to name a few. There are races in Texas, Atlanta, Duluth and well, many more. A good place to find all the events is InlinePlanet

Just consider skating somewhere else. You can skate the world, where do you want to skate?  Not only will see new places differently as you roll around, you will also meet new and wonderful people.

I forgot that my world could be bigger, but my trip to Miami for the Great EsSkate reminded me that I get to skate differently. And, the new people I met this week reminded me of the true wealth of the world.

Posted by: trish alexander | January 31, 2011

Off Balance

Where does balance start?  Most skaters think it starts with the skates but it actually starts at the top.

For new instructors, I encourage you to stand far enough away to start looking for balance issues starting with the helmet. For the self taught skater, when working on a move, set yourself up for success by checking the direction of your helmet (eyes), where your shoulders and arms are, and what type of flex you have in your hips, your knees and your ankles.

Drop your head and your legs will open wide.  Chin up!

Keep your shoulders rolled forward and you will bend at the waist. Roll ’em back and lift the ribcage!

Keep your hands either down or swinging to and fro and you’ll fall backwards.  Arms in front of the lateral line of your body and keep ’em QUIET!

Bend forward and your legs will be straight and you can’t do anything. Stand tall, bend your knees softly.

When you skate, maximize your skating by doing a quick checklist: head up, shoulders back, arms in front, lift up your ribs, flex in all the right places and none of the wrong places.

Set yourself up for success. Make every stroke excellent, every rotation perfection, make every glide feel like you are flying. Start with your head and work your way down. And when you get to the feet go weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! as your skates whirl like an angel’s wings flap when happy.

Posted by: trish alexander | December 10, 2010

Top Twelve (or so) Gifts for skaters

It’s that time again, so let’s get going:

1.       Helmets: These cheery helmets are so fun, so crazy, from a watermelon to “Danger!” they are  silly and will make you want to go skate. Nut Case Helmets

2.       EZeeFit gloves: and er, well there are numerous products worth mentioning. The gloves are awesome, I love mine. But, they also have ankle booties if your skates are digging into your skin. Full foot booties which would work perfectly for those of you who have too much room in your skates and dang if the cushion shorts don’t look tempting after my fall last week.

3.      Gear guy alert:  A bearing puller. It won’t fit in your bag, but it will pull them out effortlessly when you mount it on the table. Awesome find at Fast Girl Skates

5.       Shirt (I still Rollerblade) Found it on Ebay, Perfect. Unfortunately it does show the down slide of our sport but what better way to let everyone know we are still here. The perfect shirt.

6.       Skate Bag.  While I have the one which holds your skate on the outside and I LOVE it, Love it and actually just love it, I thought I’d point out this funky one…it works great if you want to hang them up in your closet or have several pairs of skates. I think for those of you who are super tidy, it is the perfect way to keep track of them. Skate Carriers

6a.)  I can’t leave this product section without adding that I love my skate bag. I saw a similar one in 2000 at Duluth as the Hyper Skate Bag where you carry your skates on the outside I didn’t buy it. When I saw someone with a similar one made by SEBA I glommed onto it. I love it. I couldn’t find you a pic on the web, but skate crazy might have a few…..

7.       Skate Lace Puller. For those of you who require tight laces, this is your new best friend and you can find it Inline Warehouse

8.       A trip to Miami on February 4th for the Great EsSkate to warm up from all this cold. Even if it isn’t as warm as usual there, it’s better than ‘here.’ The Great EsSkate!

9.       Grease/oil/cleaner: Tiodize makes the very best Speed Skate Lubricant. You can spray it on while you still have your skates on. It goes on as a cleaner and then evaporates leaving the perfect amount of oil. I used it all the time when I skated outside and it was threatening rain. It cut down on my bearing cleaning sessions by half. (Okay, I rarely do it.)  Anyway, can’t find the stuff so it would really make a GREAT holiday present.  Maybe we can launch a campaign to get Inline Warehouse carry it. Stan, are you in?

10.   Slalom Cones. These travel easily and lay them out and you instantly have a party and an audience. Even if you don’t slalom skate, they are fun. Look out for those cones!

11.   New skaters.  We need more skaters to skate with. Question is, how can we wrap them up and get them under the tree?  Do your part to build our sport, invite, teach, share, cheer.

12.   Skates. You knew I was coming to this: All I want for the Holidays is four new pairs of skates:  If you feel the same way then maybe consider these models:

Riedell, build your own skate, your colors, your way.   I have some with pink on one side and black on the other. Still trying to learn to skate as well my Reidell’s as I do on inline. Darn, I only have my lifetime to get better. Weeeeeeeeee. If you don’t quad yet, you are surely missing something fun.

SEBA Skates, the Seba High, almost every part is replaceable with a Phillips or regular screwdriver. Replaceable lining, priceless. The ones shown are the IGOR Pro model which run a bit more expensive. No matter which ones you get, get some!

K2 Skates has a new feature, the “skate of the month” and it offers one for each gender. Very cool sporty tennis shoes on wheels. How fun is that?  

Rollerblade And just because I can, I want to share with you that Rollerblade makes ice skates, so for those of you who think you have too many skates, think again. Check out their line.

Just for fun, a bakers dozen: K2 Cruiser, The REVO KICK. Why not?

Here’s hoping that I’ve listed at least one thing you need, want or drool over.  Enjoy the holidays and remember, there is great value in giving than in receiving. Maybe give someone a pair of skates in just the right size for you.

Later, skaters, Trish

Posted by: trish alexander | November 30, 2010

Pain or Pleasure, facing the challenges of growing our sport

With a double nod to Tony Robbins I’d like to have you consider what our challenges are in bringing new skaters to the fold.

I wrote the ad campaign, “We know you can fall, but can you skate?” to address the biggest issue. With a bit of whiplash going on in my neck due to a fairly spectacular fall it is of note that falling is inevitable and it’s often, although not always, painful.

Pain is THE demotivating factor in getting new skaters to skate and often caused skaters who already knew how to skate, to quit.

But what about the pleasures of skating?  Grace on skates: crossing the finish line, weaving three slalom moves together effortlessly so you can’t tell where one move began and another ended, a hockey score after three players passed beautifully between themselves and the puck slid in like the puck in an air hockey game. What about the simple stroking done around a rink, a spiral that almost seems to have airtime.  The joy of a pace line of social skaters, laughing, smiling and simply skating well?

What will help us move potential new students from thinking about the pain and moving into the pleasure? I think the posters are a good start. Suggesting that pain occurs without a lesson, that with a lesson you will actually learn how to skate instead of just learning how to fall.

Another suggestion is that each of us get out there and skate in places where more people can see us, on trails, in parks, in very visible venues, even if all you do is drive through. In NYC you have Central Park, but you will need to go to locations you have not before. You will need to show off, strut your stuff. I skate at the public sessions and it’s embarrassing, but I just do all my dance stuff. I get asked if I am a professional, and I laugh and say no, but that I’m a teacher. I often wear my instructor shirt. Although I feel like others will think I am egotistical, I really believe that sharing skating with others, the grace of it no matter what discipline, is more important than my perception.

The pain is falling, the pleasure is the grace. Show the grace, teach them how not to fall and get them over the belief that skating is bad. It’s not, it’s like Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Posted by: trish alexander | November 26, 2010


I am thankful for:

My faith

My family and friends who are both honest and loving thus insuring I can fix what is wrong, learn to be better and strive for my best

My abilities, those things I do well

My mistakes which allow me to be humble and to see the challenges in others

Being entrusted with Skate IA so that I could contribute to the skating community, the larger skating community

Knowing who I am, including the down side. It’s good to know who you are because then you can work with it

Knowing immediately when I’ve made a mistake.  At 50 I am quicker to acknowledge it and apologize. I really like that. Someday soon I won’t make the mistake….

Having everything I need and most of the time knowing it. Which sometimes requires understanding the difference between need and want.

The clarity that it is about spending time in the company of others, like skating at a public rink session and not knowing anyone, that matters. It’s the company we keep.

We need more skaters to skate with, what can you do?

Posted by: trish alexander | October 8, 2010

Fear & Joy

Sooner or later, no matter what you are doing fear will do it’s best to stop you. I call it the wall of water like those of a waterfall. You can almost see through it but not quite. If you can push through it you will see that there is nothing on the other side except a place to sit and watch the water cascade.

Whether it’s a skating move, a public speech or taking a test, fear will meet you and you will need to decide what to do.

What would you do if you could not fail?” R. Schuller

I learned that what brings me joy in life is pushing my barriers, trying things that scare me and looking at those things in life I have not been doing well and trying to improve them.  I feel happier than at any other time in my life and I believe it is for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I am up against my fears in a number of areas.

Do one thing every day that scares you?” E. Roosevelt

Regularly spins will make my heart beat faster and I’ll get anxious and wondering if I can just walk away from it. Since my self esteem will take a nose dive if I stop and the opposite will happen if I try it, no matter the result, I’ll will tried it.

If you are up against fear in your skating then maybe think about these ideas:

  • Start by doing/returning to the  basics. For spins it might be just trying to turn 90 degrees. It might be just practicing to keep your head up and arms steady and only going 90 degrees. For stopping fully it might be just working on proper form for “Boom” and “Scissor”
  • Practice it on the carpet on skates, or in shoes.  Jeremy LaCivita has been working for months on a rear wheel one skate glide and whenever we are off the rink he is standing on just the heel of his shoe, practicing. BTW, Jeremy has achieved his one-foot-heel-glide.
  • Tell people you are going to do it, or that you are practicing it. Nothing like a ‘promise’ to others to make you internalize that it will happen.
  • Visualize it. If you watch ice skaters practicing jumps, you will notice they ‘walk’ themselves through it in their skates, on the ice, from the take-off through to the end.
  • Talk to your instructors. Ask them for feedback, ask them if they think you can do it. Let them lend you faith. So often as instructors we can see that someone can easily accomplish the move, but THEY think they cannot do it.
  • Set a goal. If it’s a glide, put out cones on the ground, in a line, about 6 inches apart and just try to get your glide just for six inches, then for 12 inches, etc.
  • Trust yourself. If you are reading this email then you have taken classes from Skate Journeys and as such, you know what you are doing, you have the basics, the good posture and so many tools at your disposal. Trust yourself, acknowledge the fear and know that we believe in you. And so should you. Just do it, simply do it. Anything after the word ‘just’ or ‘simply’  is difficult and we know it.
  • We all want each other to be successful. We are a non-competitive school and you won’t find anyone in your class that doesn’t want you to succeed. When you succeed it’s like we all succeed.

When you are ready we are all right there with you. And remember to go weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee because it allows you to not think about the fear but to feel the fun. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee  just say it now, you can’t help but smile.  Joy is found just beyond the wall of water. You’ll love your life when you push your boundaries. And you know, We are all right there with you.



Posted by: trish alexander | September 14, 2010

It all comes down to the Duck Walk

If you want to skate well, learn the duck walk.  Even if you are an advanced skater. If you don’t want to learn it, don’t.  It’s just that it’s all that matters in skating and here is why:

Its what the racers do off the line in both indoor and outdoor skating. It’s what the ice skaters do around the rink in the Olympics. It’s the first time you learn how to balance on one foot.  It’s the only way to learn how to do the basic stride I, II and Skaters’ Stride. It is so versatile that when you reverse the pattern from a ‘duck’ pattern to a ‘pizza slice,’ you can learn to skate backwards.

It’s the basis for striding: keeping your feet at a 45 degree angle; bringing your feet together after each push. Do it right and you are on your way to becoming a speed skater. You see it is the essence of all further moves: keeping your feet together, power push from the heel wheels, knees moving throughout the move, balancing on one leg than the other, proper form of head up, shoulders back, ‘intentional arms’ and abs engaged. It has it all until you get to rotation that is. But you can’t learn to turn until you can learn to walk.

For teachers it’s easy to move on, too quickly. Don’t. If the student can’t duck walk they can’t stop and they can’t turn. Keep them duck walking but make it fun, stepping over stuff, following the pattern you have chalked on the ground, allowing them to quack or change it to a penguin walk and have them sing something from Happy Feet.

Whether it’s for you or the student learn to duck walk slow and deliberate, then pick up the pace with elegance, knees bending constantly throughout the movement until you can do it perfectly.

Learn to walk before you run. Everything comes down to the duck walk. I’ll tell even more about it later. For now, consider the possibilities.

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