Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Today's Anatomy Lesson

I love this diagram. It shows major skating muscles (for hockey, but basic figure skating isn't that different).

Muscles shown above which were cut and reattached during my surgery are the Rectus Femoris (used for hip flexion) and Sartorius (used for hip flexion, abduction and rotation). Other quadriceps were moved aside when the hip capsule was opened. Iliopsoas was not cut, but is shortened due to inactivity. Adductor also stopped working when I was on crutches and had to be reactivated in physical therapy. Overall weakness and inflexibility are the result of these disturbances.

In the days and weeks following surgery, it was odd to have little control over basic movements. For example, during the first week or so I could not move my operated leg forward while standing as in taking a step. The muscles that provide that basic functionality were not working at all. Despite focusing all of my mental energy on moving my foot forward from the hip, I could not. I used my toes to "walk" my leg forward an inch or so in order to take a "step."

Similarly, while lying on my back, it was impossible to lift my operated leg at all. Try as I might, it wouldn't move. Similarly, while sitting down with my legs stretched in front of me, it was impossible to move my leg out to the side or back in toward the center. It was very disconcerting to have absolutely no use of these muscles! Of course, through physical therapy and lots of targeted exercises I did regain this functionality over time.

Knowing that the two muscles cut are both used for hip flexion, it's clear why this is still an issue.

I recently wrote to an orthopedic surgeon who is also a skater and who recently had arthroscopic hip surgery. After I described my surgery and its aftermath, she asked me if I was "in the business" because I "speak the lingo." I am not in the healthcare field, but I have certainly learned more than I ever wanted to know about my own body!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Progress comes in small packages ...

...which, over time, add up.

A back loop - no turnout required!

If I look at my progress on the ice day-to-day, I don't always see gains and sometimes I see setbacks. That's normal in skating, PAOs or no PAOs. I had a really dismal MIF lesson early in the month, but since then have been steadily progressing. I attribute this to a lot of balance work off the ice, more time on the ice, and general healing; healing won't be complete for another year so I have to keep that in mind.

If I look back one month, two months, and six months, progress is undeniable. I am not where I want to be, but I am doing more than I was a month ago, three months ago, six months ago. Since that's the way it is, I have to be happy with it, and not regret what I can't do.

Now that my muscles are stronger, I can skate longer and more frequently and I am not as sore for as long after I am done. I've religiously stretched my very tight psoas muscle and it has helped my posture and allowed me to get my hips under the rest of me so not only am I more centered, I look somewhat better.

Now that some of my balance issues are finally resolving, and my muscle memory sometimes works, it's usually a question of what my hips can do consistently. With every step I take on the ice, I concentrate on keeping my hips aligned, turning them out when necessary, using my nearby muscles (glutes, hip flexors, back muscles) appropriately, tightening my core, and balancing with my arms and free leg.

My mental concentration is enormous, especially when there is a sequence of moves required to accomplish a task on ice and the sequence is heavy on hip useage or changes directions through my core. I hsve broken down some moves into their smaller components for learning, and putting the pieces together is usually not easy or intuitive.

For example, one sequence I am working on consists of two back crossovers, step forward to FI edge, and immediately do two FI to BI mohawks, ending backward to repeat the sequence. The parts vary in difficulty for me (crossovers = easy; transition and step forward = very difficult; first mohawk = difficult; second mohawk = next to impossible). Each element within the sequence is also broken down into parts (xover to step forward = extend free leg under, change arms, change head, tighten core, move free leg, crank on hip to open up as much as it can, step while checking, strong check with arms and core afterward ... and on to the mohawk with its own set of parts). I couldn't do this at all 6 weeks ago. 4 weeks ago I could do it at a crawl with lots of scratching and cheating ("cheating" here means I did a flattish back counter before stepping forward). 2 weeks ago I could do it with a bit of flow but still lots of scratching and cheating. Yesterday I could do 3 patterns on each side, counter-clockwise better than clockwise (right hip is looser than left), still scratchy but the steps are more recognizeable.

Mental concentration allows me to do many things technically, but they aren't automatic enough for me to add any art, or dancing, into the equation yet. I often hear music I want to interpret, but I don't have the automatic vocabulary to do so any more. It's hard to string together different steps and turns that require different balance points and hip motions at this point, so doing some of the difficult dances (and a few of the easier ones) is still not possible.

On the other hand, I can do SOME of the difficult dances, sort of. Yesterday I worked on the Cha Cha Congelado solo and was able to get through a pattern of it, but not at speed or on tempo. I can do every piece of the dance, but can't put it into a cohesive unit yet, or dance it. While frustrating, I measure where I am by looking back at a time a few months ago when I couldn't even do the baby Cha Cha without major assistance. No complaints!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Frozen Cha Cha

My Friday moves-in-the-field lesson with Coach R was a disaster. It was just a frustrating day and I was depressed and whining. There is so much to re-learn that it's hard to focus, but I have to get it together.

By contrast, today was my first lesson with a male dance coach. Even though I am skating at about a bronze level, I need a goal to keep me interested and push myself. So we worked on the Cha Cha Congelado, an international dance that I should have tested before surgery but I was too busy stressing out about surgery to get my act together.

The dance itself isn't really that hard, although it has a lot of steps and some tricky partnering and timing. I know the timing well so that won't be an issue; doing two patterns at test level will be. There are no steps that my hips can't do so I think it's very possible to get it together. Maybe not to pass the test, but to skate it. We worked mainly on the promenade lobe into the re-start, and then walked through the rest. The back-to-back mohawk is a bit challenging for me (just not confident in the hips working as they should) and we will spend an entire lesson on it.

I have been working on balance almost every day and it is making a big difference in my abilities on the ice. I may not be skating any better but I am more confident when it doesn't feel as if I am about to fall over with every step. I was confident enough to try to skate with a partner today other than a coach or Tim. I skated a couple of dances with Doug (Swing and Ten-Fox) and he said that I am skating at about a Bronze level as a partner. That's "on average" - some things are better and some worse. But it means I can probably partner most of the dances through bronze at BAID(and by then, I hope, pre-silver and perhaps one silver, the American).

Oh yeah, and the Cha Cha Congelado.