Friday, September 7, 2012

Product Review: Trekking Poles


After whining about my inability to hike without next-day hip soreness, I decided to invest in a pair of trekking poles.   I purchased a pair of REI Traverse Shocklight Women's Trekking Poles for $79.95; a week later they went on sale and the very nice lady at REI was happy to credit $20 to my account, which was a nice bonus.

I've been walking around in my "urban nature park" neighborhood for the past week or so using the poles and have found that I am not sore and can walk farther than without them.  I was skeptical because I really didn't think that poles would take enough weight off my hips and transfer it to my upper body, but they seem to do so enough to make walking more pleasant, whereas before it was something I tried to avoid.  They also help with balance -- I slipped on some gravel while going down a hill -- without the poles I would have landed on my butt but with them it was a non-event.

I recommend these for anyone post PAO or with knee problems or compromised balance.  They are very lightweight and collapse for traveling.  I will definitely take them with me on my upcoming trip to Spain.

Link to REI's Website

Squats! Lunges! Jumps! ... and other restrictions

I recently replied to a PAO candidate about "restrictions," saying I don't have any.  Of course I was told not to do lunges ... but I do them in my yoga class and on the ice, as well as lunge-like moves like hydroblades.  I do squats daily to keep my quads strong (this is fairly new, but I needed to do it and it hasn't hurt my hips -- it has helped my knees).  I do an occasional jump on the ice, and I run now and then to get from point A to point B. 

I do all of these things within reasonable tolerances and with an eye toward any hip pain that might ensue.  So far it doesn't, and I'm careful because I do want to protect my PAO investment.  I don't feel like I have any restrictions because in daily life I don't think about movements I can't do, and I don't specifically limit myself.  My flexibility isn't what it was but that's a limitation, not a restriction.

Stay tuned for my adventures with trekking poles in a future post.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Three Years and a Day

Yesterday was the actual three-year 'versary and I have to say that not much has changed since I wrote about my Two Year Hippiversary

I could end with that, but that would be so unlike me.  Not to disappoint, I'll elaborate.  When I was considering PAO I wanted to know everything I could expect including what it might be like in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, whatever.  For those who are similarly inclined, here's what it's like for me at 3.  Every person follows their own path and each recovery is different so this is just one data point.

First, to answer Amanda's question about jumping.  I was told by my OS "no running, no jumping, no squats, no lunges, no stairmaster" for the rest of my life.  I occasionally run here or there, not as exercise but to chase something, and I have done the occasional on-ice single jump, but I don't make a point of doing any of those things.  I like to jump off rocks and such for photo opportunities because it's fun but that's just now and then.   I am old enough and had enough hip damage that preserving my PAOs comes with more restrictions than a younger person would have.  If I chose to do those things regularly I'd just need hip replacements faster and I'm not in any hurry!

Here are my updates:

~Scars are so light that I can't even see them without putting on my glasses.
~I never take pain medication for my hips.
~I almost never limp.  Last time I did was after walking 3 miles on pavement.
~Extended walking and hiking are not still not my friends.  I've bitched about this before but it is what it is, and other hippies have said the same.  That's not to say that I won't hike but I do think twice about it since I know I'll pay for it with stiffness and soreness -- sometimes for days.  I think trekking poles would help as well as working up to long hikes (instead of just going out and hiking after sitting on my butt for a month).
~Flexibility has not improved but I haven't really focused on it -- yes, I need to.
~I am getting pretty flabby and need to get into the gym but that has nothing to do with PAOs and everything to do with laziness
~I can wear heels - not every day, but when I need to - no problems.
~Extended standing, sitting for long periods, walking on hard surfaces, carrying heavy loads - depending on duration and other factors I may pay for these with soreness the next day, but I just take care to avoid when I can and mitigate when I can't.
~I go about my business without thinking about my hips at all most days.
~I never have problems getting through airport security even though I still have 13 screws in my pelvis. 
~My screws were countersunk so they don't bother me and don't need to be removed.
~I still have a large chunk of heterotrophic bone at the front of my left hip joint.  It creates some interesting ROM challenges but not enough for me to think about having it removed.

That's all folks!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Almost Three

I get nostalgic around this time of year and then realize that it's almost time for my hippiversary. These milestones are positive for me because I see how far I've come and can share that with other hip chicks out there in hip land.

I'll give a full three-year update on my actual 'versary; bottom line is that I'm doing very well. Not much will be new from my two-year report in the hip department. Any progress after two years is very incremental, as expected.

Good news for me, there continues to be progress in my skating if not my hip, so for my skating peeps I can say that during my two years back on the ice post-hip surgery I have been able to make up about two-thirds of my prior skill level. This doesn't count freestyle since I'm not allowed to jump, but I'm talking dance and moves.

I've had some epiphanies that made it easier. Two key points that I've learned about skating -- things I used to do naturally as a kid the first time I learned to skate and then just incorporated before my surgery, which I had to re-learn in my adult brain and body after coming back -- have allowed me to describe to myself what it is I am supposed to be doing to stay upright.

These key points are (1) using my blade on the ice to initiate and check rotation, and (2) using my upper body correctly so I don't have to overuse my lower body. I have had to come up with ways to describe these to myself to make them happen since I didn't have the muscle memory to do them automatically. I focused on key point #1 first and then added key point #2 as my edgework became more automatic. Many thanks to my coaches John (who I only get to work with occasionally but who gave me the first "aha moment" that made #1 possible) and Ruth (who has worked with me tirelessly on both #1 and #2 and provided so many aha moments over the past two years). Lots of repetition helped me refine them and put them back into my body's vocabulary.

In some ways I am now a better skater than I was, technically, because I am now aware of what I'm doing -- I am trained vs. being on auto-pilot. I can intentionally make these things happen vs. relying on muscle memory to kick in when it should. However, I no longer have the muscle strength, stamina and coordination to execute consistently. I no longer have the flexibility and posture to make it look beautiful and effortless. My posture will always be terrible because of where my hips sit in their sockets. I am armed with the knowledge of "how" even if I can't always "do" and that can be frustrating.

Goal for the coming year is to stretch more and see if I can impact that flexibility that has become a barrier to progress. It will be a long, slow painful process and I may not see results but I know it can't hurt.

I know all of the hippies have stopped reading at this point ... not sure if the skaters are still with me either. My next post will avoid skating and focus on describing what three years post PAO for an "older" PAO patient is like.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

On the edge

I don't really like this photo of me from last night, but I am happy with the depth of edge and body lean going in to the Blues Choctaw:

I still don't have good enough muscle control to make the actual weight transfer happen seamlessly. My left thigh muscles still fatigue too quickly as I go into the turn. I feel I am still building control and strength from after the surgeries.

And this was fun - presenting the awards to the Championship Adult Ice Dancers at the Pacific Coast Adult Sectional Championships where I was chief referee:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Travels With Skates

Puddles in Chicago

I shlepped my skates through 4 airports on my week-long business trip -- Portland, OR; Chicago; Portland, ME; and Philadelphia -- with high hopes of skating in all of those places. An unfortunate heat wave in Chicago reduced the outdoor rinks to puddles (as seen in the photo above on the right). Had I been in town just a week earlier I would have been able to skate there.

In Maine, the indoor rink had just closed the week before as well. Philadelphia, my last hope, was open for business.

I skated the adult session at the venerable Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society, the oldest skating club in America. The ice was my favorite kind, gray, on sand, and there was a mirror at the end of the rink which was great fun. The ice was uncrowded. Unfortunately I didn't get to skate much because the locals wanted to chat me up, but when I did get to skate I had the ice to myself. There are no barriers at PSCHS, so it's a bit disconcerting to do certain steps near the edge of the rink. I didn't step off the ice onto the mats but came close on a TR twizzle!

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Spirals Drop in for a Visit

Since surgery, I've been lamenting my lack of flexibility. One thing I really miss is my spirals. I used to have nice spiral positions, for an adult. No, dammit, I had nice spiral positions period. Not great when compared to, say, Nicole Bobek or Sasha Cohen, but they were nice for a reasonably flexible skater.

I've been working on my spiral position off the ice and since the surgery could only get my leg to "almost hip level." There is really nothing uglier than "almost hip level," and of course "hip level" is the minimum requirement for a spiral to be counted as a spiral. (Even hip level is not the most beautiful position, let's be honest.) I looked like a constipated goat.

I haven't done much stretching lately but nevertheless today I went to my weekly yoga class, which I missed last week, and without any warmup at all attempted a spiral position in the studio. (I was all alone with a mirror before class started ... what would YOU have done?) And, progress! I looked like a constipated goat with one hoof just millimeters above hip level. The other leg was the same.

I also had a great yoga class in which many things were better than usual. So perhaps I have had a spurt of post-official-two-year-PAO-healing-period healing that has improved my flexibility a bit. Or perhaps this was just an anomaly and tomorrow it will all be but a memory. Stay tuned.

Not a spiral ...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hip in the desert

I felt great about our hike at Joshua Tree, where I scuttled up, down and around the boulders for a couple of easy miles with no hip pain.

At the end of the day, I was feeling ... well, fabulous.

The next day I dropped in at the Desert Ice Castle. It's a new facility and geared for public sessions and elite training. I skated the crowded public session. The rink ambiance is zero to none (no windows, just a metal shell really with few amenities). The temperature was warm and the ice was a bit melty but after all, this is the desert. I am happy that there is now something fun for me to do during our annual vacation when the rest of the fam is playing golf.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blast from the past

Skating on the canal in Ottawa in 2000. It was about -5 degrees Fahrenheit that day!

Friday, February 17, 2012


The Argentine Twizzle appears to be here to stay. I did several succesfully today and they seem to be pretty consistent and I can almost do them at speed in the dance. In honor of my accomplishment, I treated myself to a few pieces of my favorite candy, thankfully fat-free which I know does not mean calorie-free, that I keep in my desk drawer for just such occasions.

My rhumba choctaws were also much improved since Monday's lesson with Coach John in the Bay Area. He is the best coach ever, period.

Now back to my candy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Off-Ice Edge Trainer

I've had a few comments on the Off-Ice Edge training device. I'd like to provide some information. First, a caveat ...I have no connection to this company other than owning and using their product. I do feel that this training device helps simulate some of the core training taught by figures/patch in years past. While actually skating figures would accomplish the same thing better and faster, most skaters don't have access to regular and frequent patch ice and instruction.

I wrote the following about my experience with the OIE for the Oregon Skating Council.

When my husband presented me with an OIE unit for my birthday I was skeptical, and didn’t “find the time” to try it out. It sat in my basement gathering dust.

Meanwhile I was struggling to rehab and re-learn how to skate after surgery. On the ice I no longer had the muscle strength or fine motor coordination to hold decent edges. I was frustrated and considered quitting skating.

Finally, I hauled out the OIE unit and DVD and decided to give it a try. I put on my skates, climbed on the OIE, and watched myself “skate” in the mirror.

I am a visual learner and had no idea what I looked like on the ice. It was kind of gruesome the first time I looked at my posture and alignment in the mirror. I could clearly see where I was out of alignment and what was causing me to have problems on the ice. I was able to experiment with different ways to make the corrections in my body and instantly see what happened in the mirror. I could feel the edge happening on the OIE platform. I got on the ice the next day and although I was still weak and uncoordinated, I could actually hold a true forward outside edge for the first time since my surgery.

I started using the platform a couple of times a week. Within a month, my coach (who I didn’t tell about my off-ice activities) noticed much improvement. I wasn’t spending more time on the ice but the time I did spend was much more productive since I was training off the ice and using visual reinforcement of correct alignment which translated to muscle memory on the ice. Off the ice I was training my core, hips and pelvis (the parts that were damaged by my surgery) to work correctly so that they responded more automatically on the ice.

I still have a long way to go, but I will continue to use the off ice trainer to speed my improvement. I see the changes in the mirror and I feel them on the ice. I am bringing this to OSC because if it can help an out of shape grandmother to regain some function, it can certainly help take our young athletes to the next level.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Did I or didn't I?

I know that all of my loyal readers, that is to say, both of you, have been anxiously waiting to find out whether today was a repeat of "twizzle" or back to "fizzle." Happily I twizzled today (about half of my 20 attempts were good). I could almost call this a "trend." I would like to think this means I'm on the road to permanent twizzlehood.

I've been trying to con my husband into meeting me at the mall for "lunch," which means I could also sweet talk him into doing some videotaping since there is coincidentally a rink at the mall. I'd like to document the twizzle before it disappears again. So far he's seen right through my ploy and he keeps turning me down, claiming that he is on a diet or busy or some other excuse that I'm just not buying. Look for video here as soon as he does something that really pisses me off and needs to somehow apologize.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's back ...

My on again, off again relationship with the Argentine twizzle continues. I am obsessed with the damn thing and not in a good way. I tell myself each session that I am going to try a few and then move on to other things, but I sometimes spend the entire hour mentally and physically flogging myself with it as it continues to coyly elude me.

Today's lesson broke the destructive cycle as Coach R, genius that she is, realized that I am starting the lobe with my arms already in counter position. When she switched it so that I started the lobe normally and went into counter position at the twizzle point, I twizzled. Magic. I still touched my toe down ever so briefly on about 90% of them but the 10% I did well felt very much like they did back in the day. Almost like a real skater.

And let's be sure to laugh at my experience with the fishing pole harness today. This genius idea was all mine, not Coach R's. I thought if she put me on the harness and I didn't have any fear of falling and smashing my pelvis and having to explain this to my surgeon, Dr. Mayo, my muscle memory might just kick in. She was game to try, so out I went strapped in to the harness to work on my quad, ... uh, ... twizzles. I am sure those watching were expecting something far more exciting, like a move that actually leaves the ice, to merit so much protective gear. I am sure it was very disapointing for the mall audience when they realized they weren't going to see Michelle Kwan today. No, the fishing pole lasted about 5 minutes until we figured out it wasn't tricking me mentally into thinking anything other than OMG, my hair is going to get caught in this thing, which caused me to duck my head every time I came out of the twizzle.

Interestingly, I can do the Arge twizzle consistently well on my right foot (always the stronger side now as that was the hip operated most successfully). If only the dance were done clockwise, but no. Then it would be the Enitnegra Tango and what with the Cha Cha Congelado and the Finnstep, we don't need any more silly dance names.

We then moved on to the tough step on the Westminster Waltz (no, not the one you think, I rock at that one). The step I struggle with is the step from RFI to LFI. Sounds easy, no? No. But easier after today's lesson.

Stay tuned to see if the twizzle sticks around for tomorrow's practice or whether it's a no show again.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Deliberate practice ... is not inherently enjoyable

“The important thing is not just practice but deliberate practice, a constant sense of self-evaluation, of focusing on one’s weaknesses, rather than simply fooling around and playing to one’s strengths. Studies show that practice aimed at remedying weaknesses is a better predictor of expertise than raw number of hours; playing for fun and repeating what you already know is not necessarily the same as efficiently reaching a new level. Most of the practice that most people do, most of the time, be it in the pursuit of learning the guitar or improving their golf game, yields almost no effect.”

Read more:

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Fizzle = Failed Twizzle.

It was a short-lived victory. After my carefree day of Arge twizzle excitement two weeks ago (at least 20 of them! with speed! with music! in the dance!) I have not been able to do a single one since. For one great dance session I felt like I was back in my old body again; now the crappy "improved" one has returned.

Of course this is incredibly frustrating but I am pretty sure it will come back some day ... It's as if I have been given a tantalizing glimpse of the possible. Did two weeks ago actually happen, or was that just in my head?

I never thought about the turn before surgery, just did it. I am pretty sure I'm over-thinking it now, trying to figure out what I used to do to make it work. I have also tried to just not think at all and let the muscles remember, but so far that's not working either.

So, focusing on the positive ... I did some off-ice axels which made me incredibly sore. I am not supposed to jump but I did, and I was able to do full one-and-a-half rotation and land them on one foot. That was fun. The Blues choctaw has become pretty consistent but takes too long (about 3 beats instead of 2, talk about messed up timing). The Rhumba choctaw is really consistent.

Choctaws require more hip action than a counter/twizzle a la arge, so I am at a loss to explain any of this. It's like a sick joke, only not very funny. I can only attribute the twizzle failure to muscles that were damaged and still not firing correctly vs. lack of hip turnout.

As my husband said about the inconsistency and frustration, "welcome to golf." Another expensive and infuriating pastime ... and one which I have no interest in pursuing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I have not been doing much blogging lately, but after skating today I am compelled to memorialize today's events. Fellow ice dancers will likely appreciate this post more than fellow hippies.

Today was a breakthrough day. First: I did 2 patterns of the Paso solo on time, including the restart both times. The restart mohawk is incredibly difficult on my hips. I've fought to get the cross rolls on time and on the right part of the blade so they roll. I was pretty close today.

Second: I was able to do the Argentine twizzle for the first time since my surgery. I just did it out of nowhere after struggling with it for months. Then I put it in the dance at about half speed and did it again. And again, and again. Hoping it is not a fluke and it's here to stay. (Note that it's hard because it's really a counter, not a twizzle ... twizzles are mostly easy for me.)

Third: I was able to do the Quickstep choctaw for the first time since my surgery. Same principle as the Argentine twizzle really, and it's because I finally have the muscle control to get over a solid FO edge going into both of them.

Last week I had a breakthrough on my rockers (I'm doing the Junior Moves rocker patterns so it's all of my rockers, but in particular the FO which are the most difficult for the same reason the twizzle and choctaw were -- not being able to hold a solid FO edge).

I attribute my breakthrough to a couple of things: (1) My OIE Platform, (2) Pilates twice weekly (3) Yoga once per week and (4) seeing some videos of myself skating circa 2001 which kicked me in the butt because I really want to skate like that again.

Who cares why I'm improving -- off-ice training, self-pity, whatever it takes! Just glad that I am still moving forward.