[Edit: The new title is much more appealing, but would have been better if the text strikethrough feature was enabled for post titles.]
And yeah, so, instead of pondering deep philosophical questions of aesthetics this time, I just wanted to share some things that have been helping me train sitting tricks, which I've been lustily attacking since Battle Belgium as part of my ironic "I want to be able to do everything for 20 cones" mission I have been on. It's an ironic mission because of my last post, but I'm just going to ahead and not worry about that and go with the flow. If I'm fixated on training tricks for 20 cones, I might as well, right?
Well what I've been doing is training a different trick at the beginning of each session for 20 cones. Sometimes it goes well, other days it does not. If I'm not in the mood for disciplined trick practice, I only take ten minutes or so and pound out a trick as well as I can, before moving on to more interesting matters. If I am in the mood for this kind of work, an hour or more can slip by, which generally leads to a certain level of progress and / or frustration, depending on the day. However, in lieu of getting too frustrated, I will sometimes switch to a different trick in a different family in order to keep my slalom session productive and fun. Of course, before I do this, I force myself to stop and address WHY the trick isn't going well in the first place, and I can usually pinpoint an answer, even if I can't seem to make improvements at that moment.
The discipline comes from not giving up after the trick begins to fail, fighting to save the trick, and making it through the entire cone line, no matter how many cones are knocked in the process. Once we start trashing the cone lines, the overwhelming urge is to skate out of the cones and fix them, I know, but there is a mental satisfaction that comes from NOT doing this, so I recommend it for all your slaloms. I may not have a 20 cone perfect footgun in the 80's yet, but I make it all the way to the end of the line, dammit, and feel all the better for it.
In our Tuesday night lessons, that is actually a rule we have in place: Don't fix your cones until you made it through all 20 cones. It's something Naomi has always advocated, and it's a good rule. Stopping to pick up cones interrupts your learning process, so don't do it, okay?
Anyway, about the sitting tricks. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're a major trick family, and I've been learning to love them even when they don't love me back. Now I'm working on kazachok, which involves more than the average footgun, because it's jumping from one footgun to the other, without letting the heel of the air leg touch the ground. You will probably see a lot of people with their heels touching the ground in their kazachoks, but any Russian will tell you that it doesn't count if the heels touch. Personally, I'm not particularly opinionated on the matter, but I'm aiming high and not letting my heels touch.
Ok, so on to the good fun trainy bits. Or the quadricep torture, depending on how you look at it:
- Train your footgun so it is really good. 20 cones good.
- Train your other leg footgun so it is of the same depth and quality as your "good" leg, but it doesn't have to be perfect for 20 cones. Practicing in cones is better because it makes you stronger, but a nice off-cones footgun will be fine, for your "bad" leg.
- Repeat the first two steps, but backwards.
- Off skates training: Wearing sneakers, and preferably on grass (it's easier on the knees), begin by sinking down into a footgun on your "bad" leg, not using hands. Extend your hands in front of you to help keep balance and not fall back onto your butt. While still squatted, retract the air leg so you are squatting on two feet. Extend your other leg in the same manner. Stay down the whole time. Do this ten times every day and you'll see improvement in a week.
- Off skates, next step: Begin jumping from one leg to the other. Start small with just three jumps; from your bad leg, to your good leg, and back to your bad leg. Then try it again, starting from your good leg, to your bad leg, and then back to your good leg. If you find yourself coming off balance in this exercise, steady yourself by touching the ground with a hand or two, and try to push your weight forward if you feel like you are falling back. Do everything in your power not to fall out of the exercise, to get yourself back onto two feet, and to stand back up. Why? Because when you are skating, you will want to do the same. It might be murder on your quads, but that's kind of the point.
- On skates again, practice forwards as well as backwards, in order to create learning synergies. To clarify, you will learn faster by working on both forwards and backwards at the same time, as opposed to saving backwards for when you've already mastered forwards.
Note that these exercises do not have to be mastered in order; rather, you will probably find yourself working on all of them. That's why I opted for the bulleted list as opposed to numbering it.
General tip: Make sure you extend your legs out until they are as straight as possible. It looks so much nicer when the extended leg is perfectly straight. Not to mention it's a lot harder to do while keeping your heel off the ground, but the result will be worth it.
Another general tip: Stretching is your friend. I attend a yoga class once a week so I know I am going to get deep stretching at least one day in the week, but take care that you incorporate an intelligent stretching routine into your training. I rarely do deep stretches before slalom because it leaves the muscles temporarily weak. By deep stretching, I mean spending 30-60 seconds in a stretch, right at the point where you have to direct your thoughts away from the uncomfortableness of it but not at the point of causing actual pain. I try to save that for after slalom or for an off-day. However I do stretch lightly nearly every day. I'm not going to go into a long tangent about stretching at this moment, but keep in mind that it will help you with this whole sitting tricks thing, as well as in general.
Last general tip: Don't cheat and come up off your heels. That will not help you. I don't even know if this is a tendency for anyone, but I just know for a fact that it is a lot easier to do a footgun squat in high heels than it is in sneakers. Great, now this means I will have to try kazachok the next time I'm in heels...
Once you've made it this far with your footguns and jumping on your feet, you should be able to do a few jumps reliably well on skates. And if you can't yet manage to sink into footguns off-skates, at whim, you might want to take a look at this post where I talked about getting into a footgunny frame of mind. And when you can do some jumps on-skates, don't stop training the off-skates jumps, because you will need to develop explosive power in order to be able to jump from one side of the cone line to the other. The best kazachoks (in my humble opinion) are not mere footguns jumping from one foot to the other with a short slalom pump in between, but footguns jumping across the line continuously, not straight up and down but actually from side to side, which requires a lot of strength and explosive power. Gotta love that explosive power.
Yeah, I want to get me some of that.
Well, if you try these things out, I'll be training right along with you, so good luck to all of us. I know it's a lot of training, but it's exactly the kind of project that will keep me occupied in the coming weeks and months. Once I get further along I might be able to contribute more info on the subject, but for now, I still have work to do on those pesky footguns.
Thanks for reading, and happy skating!