15+ years off skates. Guess what happened when I laced them back on…

So…winter’s here again in my part of the world which normally, for me, meansmedium_10844052273 three+ months of hibernation, cozied up inside, snuggled under a blanket, hot chocolate in hand (with marshmallows, of course!), enjoying the snow and cold through my living room window. Cold outside? Is it? I hadn’t noticed.

Not this year.

This year I plan to embrace winter and enjoy its offerings.

And I’ve convinced a few friends to do so too. Mwa ha ha!

Here is our list of potential activities.

  1. outdoor ice skating
  2. snowshoeing
  3. cross-country skiing
  4. hiking
  5. camping (apparently we’d been sampling the hot toddies)

We’re not the youngest of bucks either.  50+ is our demographic.

What’s the saying? You’re only as old as feel? (Kinda depends on the body part you’re talking about.)

Here’s my tally so far:

  • Walk at least an hour/day
    20141202_110052

    That’s me, hiking by a waterfall.

    (I admit to missing a few days, but on others I’ve walked up to 3 hours) When did I begin? Mid October – and still doing it!

  • Hiking on trails
    I bought some Nordic Walking Sticks especially for this purpose.
    # of outings: 6
    When did I begin? Mid-October – and still doing it.

And then I added skating…

When I was a kid, I used to skate a LOT. (You can read more about that here.)

And then I became a parent…

stooping over holding up your toddler while balancing on extremely thin blades yourself is not easy on the back! (This was pre-‘learn-to-skate-with-handy-dandy-bars-the-kid-pushes-around-the-rink-themselves‘ days.)

Did I mention the toddler did NOT, under any circumstances – even bribery! – want to learn to skate and hence rag-dolled her body the entire time while wailing from the extreme torture she was being asked to endure? (Result: Added parental back strain from lifting and holding up the weight of said floppy potato sack while stooping over and balancing on extremely thin blades.)

Guess what? Staying inside with hot chocolate, warm and cozy under a blanket won out. (Ok, we did go tobogganing from time to time but skating dropped off the repertoire for a number of years, never really making a come-back with the exception of only a few semi-successful attempts when peer-pressure was added to the mix.)

Hence, I lost practice too. (That kid is now 22.) And life and age has made me wary of hurting my back. Plus years of less-than-consistant exercise hasn’t helped.

But hey! That’s life. If you don’t move it, you lose it.

So this year, I’m moving it.

Today I got my skates sharpened. That was the easy part.

It was public skating time at the rink. Should I go? By myself? Nah, I should wait and go with my friends. But there aren’t many people..why not? ..oh, all right. So I went.

Holy cow those blades are thin! How did I ever stand on them?

Just trying to walk across the rubberized floor was hard. My ankles were wobbling. My knees felt weak.

I felt like a giraffe lumbering along, a giant body on thin legs, knobby knees feelingmedium_7928938732 like they were going to collapse under me with me every step, ankles bending from side to side and all culminating down upon those frickin’ extremely thin blades!

Who invented this sport?! What’s wrong with sliding about in your boots?

Ok. I can do this.

I let an eager kid and his dad go ahead of me through the gates.

Let the gazelles go ahead. The giraffe can wait.

I was glad to see there were no hyenas on the ice — you know who I mean, those ‘tween boys who like to prey on the weak and work in packs chasing each other around the rink, circling and taunting and coming ever-so-close, trying to make you fall so they can laugh and point.

Luckily the plains were calm today.

There was one other giraffe on the ice – any hyenas would prey on him first for he, as it turned out, was weaker than I.

I won’t go into every detail but suffice it to say the start was definitely slow and shaky. Tightening my laces helped a bit with the ankle wobble. And where the h*ll are those learn-to-skate-handy-dandy-bars-the-kids-push-around-the-rink-themselves things?! I want one!

I gradually gained confidence with each stride. The more I focussed on the fear of falling, the fear of hurting my back, the more difficultly I had.

I let go of the fear and breathed into the action. Looking ahead, I took it one push at a time – ‘If I can walk, I can skate’, I told myself. ‘Glide, glide, glide.’ I was doing it!

And then I made the mistake of trying to perfect my techniqueWAY too soon for that nonsense.

I stepped, then… wobble, wobble, twist, bend, wobble – first right, then left, then around, then back, then forth – my arms outstretched waving non-synchronized giant circles in the air. I can’t even imagine what sort of face I was making. I only know that my eyes couldn’t have gotten any bigger. I was trying so fiercely not to fall!

And I didn’t!! I stayed erect! Shaken and stirred but with composure regained, I hoped no-one saw the graceful ballet. The rink guard skated by and looked politely over, a slight smirk on her teenage face as she adeptly slid past. I laughed imagining the site she had just taken in from behind.

Crisis averted, I returned to the basics gaining confidence, calm and speed — yes, I did feel a breeze on my face, even if ever so slight.

Shins aching from the strangulation I had inflicted desperate to brace my ankles and make my skate boots one with my feet and from the lack of flex denied by those blades, I decided to call it a day while I was ahead.

Total ice time: 15 minutes, approximately. Not bad – one minute for every year absent.

I’m definitely going to have to build up to this.

So what did I learn by lacing up my skates after 15+ years?

  • We all start as giraffes when we try something new. 
    We lumber and run awkwardly. We wish we ran like gazelles and are fearful of the hyenas who want to trip us up and laugh at us but we’re giraffes, at the moment, so until we learn to be something else, we have to master being a giraffe, and that takes time. 
  • When we focus on the fear, we can barely move.
    The weaker ice-giraffe clutched to the boards and pushed himself half way around the rink by his hands too afraid to take the first step. When he did finally let go, he didn’t fall. He just took his time and did what he was comfortable doing.
  •  Don’t be afraid to perfect your technique.
    Be brave enough to push past your comfort zone. If you’re not ready, then that’s ok. Congratulate yourself for trying and continue where you just were. But you will have to try again so figure out what you need to do to get there. For me, more hours at this level to build my strength and confidence.
  • Don’t be afraid to look foolish.
    We learn the most from our mistakes and failures. Would you rather have tried and failed than not tried at all? And besides, how many people are actually watching you anyway? For me, just one (that I’m aware of – excuse me while I check YouTube) and who cares anyway? Everyone starts as a giraffe on skates. Most of the time, WE’RE the only ones that care if we fall. And so what? Get back up!
  • Give yourself your best chance at success.
    Stay calm, let go of fear, dress for the weather, and sharpen your skates first, then confidently step out on the ice. You can always take a rest on the bench to catch your breath, but don’t give up.
  • Master your challenges.
    Skates blades are really really thin! (I think mine actually shrank.) Gain the balance you need to keep you from falling over. Practice, practice, practice.

Embrace your giraffe-ness, especially when you begin something new.

Personally, if I am destined to stay a giraffe, then that’s ok with me. Did you know:

  • medium_1197126812Each giraffe step is far greater than any other animal.
  • They can run faster than many horses.
  • Lions rarely bother them since one swift kick in the head and it’s ‘Mary Queen of Scot’s’ for the lion.
  • Giraffes are the symbol for intuition and flexibility.

That sounds pretty good to me. I’ll try to be the best darn giraffe that I can and if I’m destined to become something else, then I’ll strive to be the best of that too. 

For now, I am a proud Ice-Giraffe!

Ever felt like a giraffe on skates in your business or personal life? I’d love to hear about it. Share it below. 

Thanks to: The Weekly Bull for the skating photo
My hiking partner that day, my sister Sue, for the pic of me
Michelle Bender for the giraffe running photo
Jude for the baby giraffe photo
Interesting giraffe facts: 

http://listverse.com/2013/10/12/12-fascinating-facts-about-giraffes/
http://www.onekind.org/be_inspired/animals_a_z/giraffe/
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4 responses to “15+ years off skates. Guess what happened when I laced them back on…

  1. Good stuff! Glad it ended well but (continue to) be careful!