Personal best


I have a confession. After my power skating course was over, even though my ankles and ego were scorched and trying to scab over, I didn’t take time to recover. No, I went a different direction – I hit the ice the very next day, making it five days in a row on skates. This was a personal best by far but not a record my bleeding ankles were prepared to celebrate, I can assure you.

This was a drop-in stick-and-puck session for parents and younger kids at our local mega-plex leisure centre. I took my own two kids, aged five and eight, who aren’t big skaters or hockey players. They also don’t take kindly to coaching, which left me free to pursue my own pursuits.

While my young progeny floundered on their butts and other fathers and offspring noodled around while paying no attention to their edges or weight distribution, I practiced the various one-footed exercises I’d learned.

As I performed my slow, semi-graceful passes across the ice, none of the other dads stared or acted outwardly jealous but I know they were sneaking peeks and I know what they were thinking: “Wow, that guy’s edge control and weight distribution are well above average.”

Just a few days later I was invited to suit up for my old hockey team, which plays in a summer league. I jumped at the chance, eager to put my new skating abilities to use in a game setting. But, as usual, results were mixed. Some of my striding was more powerful than usual and some of my turns were quicker but I was inconsistent in these executions because these new mechanics weren’t yet committed to muscle memory. Under duress, I naturally reverted to old, inefficient habits such as not bending my knees fully and not fully extending my legs.

Shortly after that, the kids and I did another stick-and-puck session. This time I cranked up the pace on my semi-graceful exercises. And this time none of the other dads had to pretend they weren’t envious. I was less than impressive, as my mechanics quickly broke down under the duress created by additional speed.

I kept at it, closely scrutinizing the movement of all my parts. What I deduced was surprising and upsetting.

For every single manoeuvre, the weak link was my left leg. Close inspection revealed that the sucker has all the propulsive power of a mozzarella cheese string and it returns to base position in lazy loops rather than direct, forceful movements. At high speed, my right leg does all the work while my left one does only the bare minimum required to maintain the appearance that it’s doing its share. This means that, for all these years, I’ve been galumping around like a moldy old mariner on a peg leg.

No wonder I’ve been struggling to keep up. These young guys I play against are not only quicker and stronger, but they’re no doubt more accomplished at these fundamental mechanics.

All this raises the question, what now?

On the one hand, my skating mechanics are so brutal that they represent tremendous potential for improvement. Perhaps I could achieve greater overall gains by dialing back my pursuit of iron-clad leg muscles and divert some energy toward improving my technique.

On the other hand, the amount of time that would be required to truly address my fundamental skating flaws makes the whole endeavour seem impossible. It’s almost enough to drive me toward other leisure pursuits, such as macrame, cowboy poetry or blues harmonica, to name but a few examples.