Gasp. “What is THAT?” Coach A sounds horrified.

“Oh, just a bruise,” I say.

“But from WHAT?”

It takes me a second to get past the confusion of not understanding her confusion. “From falling,” I say, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Coach A is staring at my right elbow — usually covered in long sleeves — and I show her the matching three-inch green bruise on the other arm. They’re practically a fixture on my body at this point, and they almost don’t even hurt anymore. Either that, or I’m numbing myself to the pain.

I’m pretty used to falling at this point, even though I can’t lie, falling sucks and falling HURTS. It never stops being either of those things, I think — you just learn to take it in stride. And if you’re smart, protect yourself in those high-probability injury spots. For me the knees are key, which is why I always use those gel Skating Safe pads. I don’t fall on them A LOT, but it’s often enough to keep me using them at every practice.

But with the competition coming up, I’ve been trying to get used to skating in tights and a skirt, bare-armed without gloves, rather than the usual pants and long sleeves. The first time I skated a run-through without gloves felt so strange that I knew I’d have to “practice” that. Of all things, I don’t want the mere fact of being bare-armed to distract me.

left knee, right elbow On the downside, that means I’ve been falling a lot more onto my knees, and now I have terrible bruises all over. Thank goodness the tights will mask them, because they are really unsightly. I wondered if I’d gotten too used to skating with pads that I got used to falling on my knees on instinct, and now that’s a bad habit for when I’m not wearing them. But conversely, I remember when I started first wearing kneepads I would twist my body to avoid falling on my knees before remembering that it was okay to, and then ended up with bruised hips instead. YOU JUST CAN’T WIN.

Clearly the answer is to stop falling. Right?

Wait, what do you mean it doesn’t work that way?

In other news, I’m thinking I’ll have to take it easy this week after all, even though I compete this weekend. I haven’t been overtraining — I’m logging my usual amount of ice time — but maybe I’m stressing or maybe I’m pushing my body out of nerves because I’ve been struggling in practice and am feeling small aches and twinges. Nothing big, but I definitely don’t want to injure myself before I even get to compete. The program is about as good as it’s going to get, and this week is just about polishing it up and building confidence, which should be possible with shorter and maybe fewer practices.

And I’ll need that extra time to bling out the skating dress, anyway. So… much… sparkly…