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I’m pretty good about practicing on my own, keeping myself working at skills when I’m without instruction. That’s partly because coaching lessons are expensive, and I feel like it’s a waste of money and the coach’s time if I don’t practice a good amount in between lessons — sometimes my body just needs to do something a bunch of times before learning it, and there’s no need for a coach to be present for all those times. So I like to learn a thing and then spend lots of time on my own figuring it out and honing it. That’s why I’ve enjoyed taking a few months to ease into my new situation and continue to skate without feeling rushed to start up the skating machine again — lessons, testing, competitions and all that can sweep you up into a whole frenzy of activity.

That said, I’ve realized it’s also bad to go too long in between instruction, and it only took one lesson to remind me of that. I had a trial lesson with a coach who came recommended by a couple other skaters, and it went really well. She had to first assess my skills so a good portion of the lesson was going through some moves and skills, but she did get in some instruction — nothing too major since it was a trial lesson, but several little tweaks. It’s amazing much a little change can improve something, and that renewed my excitement to get back to skating in earnest. (I’d never quit and have gone at least once a week all this time, but my priorities were elsewhere.)

I’ve been working on the same skills for a while now (probably for the past year) — I didn’t feel like I was stuck or not improving, but I was at that place where progress was measured by incremental improvements, rather than learning whole new skills. I have all my singles, with caveats: my waltz is awkward and small, my salchow swings too much, my toe loop is very toe waltzy, my free foot doesn’t cross in the air on my flip, and my lutz is very inconsistent and often wrong-edged. On the spin front: my scratch travels, my backspin is too far on my outside edge and makes me feel tilted, my sit can be lower, and my camel entry often gets so off-balance I fall out of it after 1-2 revolutions.

In the trial lesson, the coach made small suggestions on those skills, and almost immediately, everything got better. I was amazed, because it wasn’t like my previous coach was bad (she’s great, in fact) or that I learned everything all wrong, but going for a long while without a critical eye probably allowed mistakes to go unchecked. Also, it’s really easy to know what’s wrong, but what I think is the correction is often not. Like my swingy salchow — I know it swings so I make an effort to really check the 3-turn, but the coach saw that the problem was before the 3-turn and had me hold my free leg a different way, which then helped the check. And the toe waltz problem that frustrated me so much wasn’t fixed by focusing on the picking foot (as I always focused on) but by focusing on the foot in front, drawing it back and around the picked-in skate. Little things like that.

So it was a good lesson and a good reminder that it’s better to keep a watchful eye on skills before they get too out of hand! It’s always easier to learn technique right than to fix bad technique, and with something as demanding and exact as skating, I don’t want to waste efforts by letting things slide. Mostly I’m psyched to be back in the swing of things.