Why Yoga is Good For Skaters

Yoga is a practise used widely for its relaxation and health benefits. It focuses on breathing, strength and flexibility and there are a whole host of advantages people claim to have achieved through the practise.

Some of the positions you hold during yoga require a little (or a lot) of balance, so this improved over time and practise. As any skater would know, balance is very important (but also improves the more you practise skating). I used to take yoga classes twice a week at university with my friend (whenever I could), and have recently started doing daily yoga. So this post is dedicated to yoga: the videos I use for solo yoga, as well as suggestions for poses that improve balance!

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Here is my yoga mat! I will talk about the videos I use below

Whilst at university, it was easy to do yoga – just turn up to the class, pay the £2 and have a nice hour of stretching/mild workout/ relaxation. However, since I’ve graduated its even easier- with the many many YouTube videos available, made by kind instructors! My favourite YouTube channel to use is Yoga With Adriene as she has a whole range of videos for beginners, to more advanced stuff. The series I’m following on her channel at the moment is 30 Days of Yoga. So far it seems to be slowly building up in difficulty, but of course there are variations on all positions for all skill levels. Adriene’s voice is calming, yet encouraging, and she offers small tips throughout her videos (and there is a general air of fun vibes around her videos).

So now for the positions! I like to hold these for as long as possible during the practises and concentrate on keeping movements to a minimum (though a bit of wobble is ok). On all positions, a simple challenge is to close your eyes. You’ll be surprised how much this affects your balance!

Tree Pose:

Place your hands together over your head, and balance on your one leg, with the other foot resting on the side of your shin or thigh. (Previous instructors have said to not rest the foot on the knee as it strains the joint). A general rule for most poses are to keep the shoulders relaxed, elongate the neck and try to keep your hips/ shoulders/ crown of head aligned.

High Lunge:

Start with the Runners Lunge (start from a plank, and step your one foot up to under your chest, have hands either side of your foot. Have a soft bend in the extended leg.) From here, lift your torso and push crown of head upwards to elongate the neck, keeping the bend in the extended leg soft. Raise your arms above your head with palms facing inwards.

Chair Pose:

Stand with feet together (or wider apart for a better support), bend your knees and lift your arms above your head, palms facing inwards. Bend as low as you can as if about to sit down on a chair, trying to keep your back fairly straight and hold this position. Have relaxed shoulders to elongate your neck.

I’m sure if you look around the internet there are other poses you can do to improve balance, but for a beginner these are my favourite! I think they have helped my balance a lot! Yoga also improves flexibility, which I think has improved my slalom ability – and I generally leave a session feeling refreshed and clear minded. Why not give it a go?

PCB Nail Art

It’s been raining the past few days so I haven’t had a chance to skate – so instead I decided to paint my nails.

Rather than your standard block of colour, I like to opt for nail art designs when I have extra time on my hands! My boyfriend is an electronic engineer so I was inspired to paint them in a PCB (printed circuit board) design. He uses them all the time so I was familiar with them, but did a quick Google search for guidance images anyway.

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These are the nail polish colours I used. I also used acrylic paints (red and blue).

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So to start, paint your nails fully using the dark green colour (left most polish in the first picture). Use a base coat too if you want to protect your nails from staining.

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Next, I used these thin nail art brushes to paint the design!

Once the dark green base has dried (representing the solder mask), I used the lighter green (picture 2nd from left in first photo) and drew some circuit lines with a fine nail art brush. I added dots of gold polish to represent soldering points and used the black polish to draw chips and QFN packages with silver lines representing pins. The blue and red acrylic paints were used to paint a resistor. (Obviously, you could paint anything you fancy putting on really!) Here are the finished nails:

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They are a bit messy around the sides, but nail polish remover can clean that right up! Don’t forget to add a clear topcoat to the finished design to lock in the pattern, especially important if you have used acrylic paints (it will just wash off with water!)

So there we have it, not a skating related post but a cool design and was still an enjoyable pastime waiting for the rain to ease up (and to look even cooler skating in the future 😉 )

Slalom Introduction

I often join my skater friends at Nottingham Jubilee campus to practise our slalom skills (it’s a really fun part of skating!). During term time, BladeSoc also hold Slalom sessions in the Portland Atrium on Sundays 8pm-10pm. The floor is really smooth in this room so it’s ideal!

So far, the list of slalom tricks I can do comfortably (though not fully perfect like the slalom videos you can find on YouTube!), is fairly small- though I am slowly improving with practise and moving onto different tricks as more skills are gained! I think it’s worth mentioning here (before I get into it) what slalom actually is: it’s basically skating around and between a line of cones but doing skating “tricks” to do so, with the cones varying in distances apart. Normally in competitions, there are 3 lines of cones set at 50cm/ 80cm/ 120cm distances apart. You also get scored in competition for: the complexity of the trick; the fluidity of the trick/ transitions between tricks; and the range of trick “families” performed during the run. So, its important to know how to do a lot of tricks well! I will talk through the tricks I know how to do and try to explain each one!

Fish

Fish Diagram

This is one of the first basic slalom tricks that you can learn. You approach with your feet together, bend your knees and twist your body so that your feet move to go around the outside of the cone. You then twist your body the opposite way to cross between that cone and the upcoming cone and repeat this movement down the line. When you are doing this trick properly, you get momentum from the “bobbing” action of twisting and bending your knees over and over. It’s all about them hips ! (and powerful legs pushing out) For this trick, it’s important to keep your feet parallel to each other.

Snake

Snake Diagram

This trick requires your feet to be inline with each other, with one foot infront of the other. I think the easiest way to do this trick is to lead direction with your front foot and sit with your weight more on your back foot. You use both your inside and outside edges of your skate to gain the momentum- again hip movement and slight ‘bop’ movement are important here (but once you get the feel of it, its a lot easier!). (I have also marked the diagram with red feet colours where the carve of your feet into the ground is important to maintain momentum! Blue is where the feet should be in a relatively straight line.)

Forward Cross

Forward Cross

This is probably the first trick that I managed to do well out of these first 3 fundamental tricks! The main idea I think of with this trick is that its an extended “lemon”. You approach the cones with feet together, open to a V position and “lemon” around the first cone, but then extend the lemon to produce a second lemon around the second cone (but with your left foot (red on diagram) on the right, and your right foot (blue on diagram) on the left). It’s important to have a slight offset of your feet during the “cross” movement so that they don’t collide, so pushing your feet into a slight scissor during the end of the “lemon” helps!

Basket Weave

Basket Weave

This trick is a step up of the forward cross, where your leading foot around each cone alternates to the other foot for every cone (instead of staying the same for the whole run of Forward Cross). Once again on the diagram here, the right foot is blue and the left foot is red. To achieve the Basket Weave trick, its easiest to practise Forward Cross runs with each foot being the leading foot. Make sure you are comfortable with each foot being a leading foot, and this Basket Weave trick should be a breeze! For transitioning between feet, I like to think about it as forcing the scissor to between each cone and push the new leading foot forwards and then eventually, the transition is normally quite smooth!

Now lets move onto the tricks that I’m working on! I can do them off cones, but not yet able to comfortably complete a full run around cones:

Heel-Toe

HeelToe

This has the same diagram as the Snake trick, however is done with your back foot balancing on the single ‘toe’ wheel and the front foot balancing on the single ‘heel’ wheel of each skate (indicated by the black dot). Getting into the heel-toe position whilst skating was quite easy which came as a surprise to me, however its the control of the direction which is the tricky part. The main tip I would give to get into the heel-toe position whilst skating in a straight line would be to just go for it. It isn’t as scary as it looks and once you do it and its easier to find the centre of balance again for further tries. I am still trying to master controlling the direction I want to move in whilst in this position, and then manoeuvring this position around cones proves a further challenge! Another tip for guiding direction would be to keep your thighs tightly together and strong, to avoid your legs spreading too wide (and you ending up in the splits position!) So once control is achieved with more practise, an update post will surely be made!

One Foot Slalom

One Foot

This is quite a challenging trick to do but it is a foundation for many other tricks that can be done later down the line. It is best to practise this trick with both feet so you are competent and a well balanced all rounded slalom skater. To start, practise skating for as long as possible on one foot in a straight line (this will improve much needed balance (and is also the start tip for t-stop braking!)). Once you are comfortable with doing this, the key part of this trick is using both the inside and outside edges of your skate. My very experienced slalom skater friend suggested to use more of the outside edge with this trick, and to have weight distributed more over the heel (to stop the toe dragging). Once again, carving into the ground with force is key to keep momentum and making sure you don’t roll to a stop! You also use your suspended leg as a kind of pendulum to shift your weight more towards one side than the other respective to which direction you are going, which helps with balance too! I will also post an updated post about the one foot skating trick once more practise has been done!

So there we have the slalom skating tricks I can currently do/ am currently practising! I hope that this list gets longer as I continue to learn more tricks, and will keep this blog updated with progress!

Skating Down Steps (fail) + Tips

So after the burst of skating confidence during the jumping skating session (my last post!), my friend and I decided it would be a great idea to try to skate down some steps. We had seen it done by a lot of the advanced skaters at BladeSoc sessions and we had watched a few YouTube video tutorials, so why not? Here’s the video of my second attempt (failed both times):

I posted this video to my Facebook page too, to see what other fellow skaters thought about it. The feedback received was great and here are the main points the experienced skaters suggested:

  • Do more lemons (to strengthen leg muscles so they are able to hold the position on the landing rather than collapsing)
  • Do it backwards (it’s easier apparently, as you are leaning over your toes to give you more balance)
  • A little more speed required (skating stairs can’t be done slowly!)

Since then I have been practising lemons whenever I can to strengthen my leg muscles. With a normal lemon, you bend your knees on the push-out of legs and straighten legs with the pull-in of legs- however it was also recommended for extra strength building to do both parts of the lemon with straight legs. You definitely feel the burn doing it this way, so I recommend this technique too!

So this is my quick start post about skating down steps, and I will be sure to do a future update post when I am able to skate down the 2 steps (and any more that I can brave)!

Jumping on skates! (onto grass)

I was first introduced to jumping on skates two or three sessions after I first joined BladeSoc. For an hour or so of the 3 hour session, we had a jump stick which was a light wood cane which could be moved up and down the floor stands. At this time, I was too afraid to jump on skates and instead of jumping over the cane, spent the session jumping small hops stood still, and then progressed to moving at low speed. I then had a cane on the floor and tried to work up the confidence to jump over it at floor level, but never found the confidence back then. So after that session, I have been pretty scared to jump on skates and only jumped (hopped) on rare occasions.

HOWEVER! I recently visited Nottingham from my home town (Dudley) for a few weeks and one day out skating with a friend decided to practise jumping again. Compared to the first few sessions of BladeSoc, I think I have improved drastically and am now pretty confident with basic jumping up and down/ with little speed. The only thing is, I don’t think I can jump that high off the ground- so that skating session was dedicated to trying to jump high and then eventually jump up over a curb.

So a few minutes spend jumping around a car park later, I was confident enough to try jumping curb height (onto some grass). Even though this doesn’t seem like a big thing, it’s a good stepping stone to where I want to be (being able to jump over the jump stick at a BladeSoc session at a good height!).

I think I’ll mention here a tip about jumping too: be sure to keep your knees bent, and always land with your feet in a scissor position in order to be more stable. (There are obviously other techniques for jumping, like tucking your legs to the side for maximum height on higher jumps, but I’m not at that level yet! But those two points mentioned are the main ones you need to remember if you are going to attempt jumping- it’s not as scary once you do it a few times! Oh, and be sure to wear pads when first starting out).

Here is the video I recoded of jumping up onto the grass (unfortunately in really bad quality, sorry!):

Looking back at the video, I thought that was pretty high! The amazing thing is, I am pretty sure I could jump higher if I went for it, and over a longer distance. So the next step in the jumping progress, is to jump up onto a paved curb, over speed bumps, over drains, and anything else in the urban world that I can work towards jumping over (before testing all this progress on the BladeSoc Jump Stick!). I will definitely post another post of jumping progress when it comes to it!

Skating around UoN Jubilee Campus

So, often when I go skating around Jubilee campus, I end up doing a lap or two for a warm up for roller games after a break at BladeSoc, between practising slalom, or just for fun! I downloaded a new app today called Runkeeper to test its distance, speed and GPS route storing and to document the laps around Jubilee (short and long).

Long route both
Here are the screen captures taken from the app Runkeeper for the long route.  On the left, it shows the route on the map, as well as the duration, distance and average speed. On the right is the speed and elevation graphs for the duration of the route.
Short route both
Here are the short routes taken from the app Runkeeper. As you can see, the app is a bit glitchy and doesn’t accurately map the route, but it’s close enough.

So from the app, you can see that the short route is around 1 mile long, with the longer route being (shockingly longer) ~1.3 miles. Towards the end of each route, the road surface gets quite uneven and annoying to skate on, but the majority of the route beforehand is really smooth and relatively flat. To get a better feel of the route for anyone who wants to skate it, I’m going to post photos below with text commentary and route lines! Follow the red line for the “long route” and the green line for the “short route”.

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Start the the top of the hill just outside of the carpark near to the YANG Fujia Building. Roll down the hill and start skating towards the tennis courts!
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This is the first divergence of the two routes! For the green route, take a right before the path leading to the tennis courts and follow the road around. Now this is a road with parking spaces, so watch out for vehicles moving/ parking. For the red route, take the second right onto the footpath leading past the tennis courts. Follow the path around to the right (don’t exit the campus!) and continue to follow the path with grass on either side. As this is a footpath, be careful of pedestrians.
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The routes now merge together again! Watch out for the metal bollard and take the path to the right.
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From here, the route is pretty smooth. Continue along the front of this conference centre building. Be careful of pedestrians exiting the building doors and be prepared to slow down as there is a sharp left next up!
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Here is the sharp left mentioned before! Continue following the path straight on (it will be straight on for a while now).
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Follow the path straight on. Once again, this is a pedestrian path so watch out for those walking!
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The floor tiles in the middle of this photo are a bit uneven and wobbly, so watch your footing here.
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Skating straight on along the building frontages. Watching out for the concrete bollard!
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Follow the path veering left. Watch out for happy couples/ pedestrians! (Even though the route lines say otherwise!)
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Another divergence of the route! For the red route, follow the path alongside Melton Hall and turn right at the top of the slight incline. Follow this path around (it’s a bit uneven here from now on) and turn right again when you reach the road again and follow the road down to the roundabout. For the green route, follow the path veering right and at the top of the slight incline at the roundabout, turn right and skate on.
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Here is the view at the roundabout. Watch out for vehicles entering the campus and of course give way at the roundabout (or wait on the footpath until the cars have gone). Follow the road straight on once past the roundabout.
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View from the roundabout. Continue straight! The road surface is quite rough here so watch your footing. There are also speed bumps along the road, so you can either skate around them or roll over them (bend your knees and scissor a lot and you should be fine).
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Here you could continue straight, though the routes say to turn left and then turning right again as the road surface is nicer this way. This is normally a bus stopping place, so watch out for buses that may be there, and remember to check up and down the road before exiting and continuing.
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Continue straight! If the road is too rocky, skating on the pavement is much smoother!
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And we are back to the starting point! Laps finished!

I hope those pictures help with demonstrating the lap routes. Here are the aerial map views of both routes (“long” red and “short” green) for those who prefer a circuit view, with the green and red filled circle representing the starting point:

Jubilee map long Jubilee map short

Of course there are shorter routes you could do from looking at the above maps, so feel free to experiment!

Making a Skate Bag

For Christmas 2014, I decided to make my boyfriend a skate bag using his favourite rucksack used for lectures. His current bag was an ideal size to hold all of his lecture folders, notes, laptop, with room to spare! The only problem he had was that when skating to university lectures, there was no where secure to store his skates throughout the day, so they often hung precariously from the shoulder strap adjuster connection webbing.

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The finished product! Continue reading for information on how I achieved this!

So to start this project, I purchased a new Jeep rucksack with large pouch and laptop storage capacities, 4 dual adjustable rucksack replacement buckles, and a few metres of synthetic webbing. I then positioned his skates onto the back front in the ideal positions and measured out the correct length of webbing to fix the skates to that position. To test, I used safety pins (to make sure the webbing can hold the weight of the skates) and marked the correct position with dress makers chalk.

Next, I hand sewed the buckles to each end of the webbing, making sure to sew the end over onto itself to secure the buckle (and make sure it wouldn’t fall off!). I also sewed one end of the buckle into the webbing so one side was secure and not length adjustable (but leaving its paired side adjustable). After this came the sewing on of the straps onto the marked areas – though I tested the security of the buckles by using safety pins once again and by tightening the buckles around the skates. I marked the webbing with the chalk for easy sewing onto the bag later. After a quick shake around for a final test, the marked middle of the straps were sewn onto the marked areas on the bag.

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Skates secure with the straps on the bag!

And that’s it! The straps were secured and a final test with the skates once more ensured the stitching was of strong quality. It took longer than it took to type out, but a lot of patience was needed with the fiddly bag/webbing attachment!

Here is a picture of him modelling his new bag:

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Nice and secure skates!

For future developments, I would have made the straps storable in one of the zip pockets, or have introduced a new zip pocket for this purpose. My original plan was to make the bag from scratch (instead of buying the Jeep bag itself; design a bag with the same kind of features). However, this proved too ambitious for a first attempt, but now that I know it was a success, I’d like to move onto making the whole thing myself! (Keep tuned for a potential future blog post if that gets done!) Finally, I would like to include a waterproof cover (for those pesky English rainy days).