...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!