Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Week 42: Level Up!

This technically isn't Week 42, it's from Week 41, as my Level 1 training is now on a Saturday. However, I didn't have training the Saturday just gone as we were hosting a Sur5al, sooooo I thought I would write about Week 41's extra training as Week 42! Then we'll be back on track this week with Week 43. Phew!

So, you may have heard, that I managed to pass my Level 1 Sign Offs! Woohoo! This means that I can now train every Monday and Saturday. As Monday's are just a recap of Level 1 skills, I will write about Saturday's now which are Level 2 skills and you can just assume that I'm now pro at all the Level 1 skills...ahem.
I must admit that I was absolutely terrified about Saturday. I was excited, sure, but I had no idea what to expect and was assuming that I would end up being bumped back to Level 1 as they realised they'd made a terrible mistake. The other thing that was worrying me was the floor. Our Level 2 training is held at a different venue and I had heard that the floor was lush, but I was worried that because I wasn't used to it, I would probably fall over...a lot...and make a fool out of myself...a lot.

As we were missing a session the week after, it was decided that this week would be Week 0. A good week to introduce some of us new Level 2s and to give us an idea of the kind of skills we would be learning. I kitted up and was met by lots of friendly faces who told me they were glad to see me there. It made me feel better, but I was still pretty terrified. I skated on to the track and instantly noticed the difference in the floor. Our old one was bumpy and bitty and broken and wonky and sticky and dusty, but this one was smooth and slippy and soft and clean and just a dream to skate on, to be honest. I tried a few crossovers and picked up some speed but found that coasting round corners was a little tricky as my right foot would slip out from underneath me. A fellow newbie, who had already been on this floor before, asked me if I had tried a plough stop yet. "No?" I responded, "You should" she said, "It's great!" I was still just getting used to the floor but we then started the warm up. The first few drills were fine, squats on the whistle, a few knee taps, nothing too bad. Then it was "Stops on the whistle!" Oh god, I thought, this is where I fail to stop and they realise that I am rubbish and it was all a fluke... "T-stops!" Not too bad. The floor was a lot more slippy so I found I had to use all 4 wheels rather than the front 2 and had to use more pressure, but I soon got used to it. "Plough stops!" Oh no...this is it... I got into a plough shape and felt friction on my wheels, this beautiful sensation that I had never experienced on the old floor (maybe because it was too sticky?) Oh my! What a wonderful plough stop! Maybe I am meant to be here, after all? The novelty of good plough stops never actually wore off and I thoroughly enjoyed them during the warm up. I also found that I use my right leg more. Who knew?!
We then stretched and were told that some of the old Level 2s had some more of their sign offs to do, so us newbies were put at the end of the hall to learn some basic skills. I was quite pleased about this as there was only a small group of us with three Level 3s helped us with the coaching. We were given a little speech about Level 2 and how the skills are going to get harder, etc. and then our first skill was knee taps. That seemed okay, until we were told that a knee tap involved putting your knee down and getting up without losing momentum...fair enough, I can do that with my right knee, not so much my left...and that we would have to be able to get up without using our hands. Not just on the floor which is common sense, but not even on our leg...say what now?! This seemed an impossible feat. Looks like I'll have to do more squats!

Next we were shown laterals. This is when you have to turn sharply from one side of the track to the other. For sign offs, I think you have to be able to do three turns on a bend and four on the straight? So you obviously have to be able to turn quite sharply. At first it seemed odd to me, but then we were told that you have to lead and almost pull with the leg on the side your turning. I.e. If you're turning right, you lead with your right leg. You almost get this kind of lunging effect, which is odd to begin with. It kind of feels like you're going to fall over because you're feet are going sideways, so you're more narrow. Apparently, I took to it really well, however you're constantly told not to look at your feet, so I had no idea if I was doing it right!

The next skill was very exciting - backwards skating! I had tried it once or twice before. The first time I went nowhere. The second time I manage to do half a track but it hurt so much! This time still wasn't that successful, but after a few tips (not leaning too far forward, remember to look behind you, try and keep more weight on your toes) I managed to do couple of laps, although it really ached! It's a completely different set of muscles and it's like learning to skate all over again!

Next was weaving and we all know how much I love weaving... We had five cones laid out and were told that we had to be able to get round 10 cones in six seconds so, in theory, five cones should take us three seconds. I lined up and thought Here we go... However, I made it through them with a fair bit of speed. And I did it again, and again, and I actually started enjoying it! Woah! I had become a born again weaver!

After having lots of fun weaving, we were asked if we wanted to move onto the next skill - stepping. Ergh, we all moaned. I guess we should just get it out of the way. I think we all changed our minds though, when it turns out Level 2 stepping is a hell of a lot more fun than Level 1 stepping! First, was quick step. This is were you're almost jogging on the spot but are able to move from side to side. That was a little scary, I must admit. But then we were taught galloping! This is where you you kind of hop along...like a horse. That's the only way I can describe it! I swear, I thought it would be terrifying, but I actually loved it. I could have done it all day. Gallop, gallop, gallop! However, my fun was soon squashed by grapevine stepping. This is where you cross one leg over, then step to the side, then cross one leg behind, then step make to the side, etc. I found crossing my leg behind a lot easier than crossing it over the front, but it was just getting used to the weight distribution and the fact that your feet were in the wrong place.

After a fair bit of stepping, we had some time left so we had a go at transitions. These have always looked hard and scary. It's when you're skating forwards, pick up a foot, place it behind you and then turn and start skating backwards, and visa versa. So I practised a few stationary, some with one of my feet against the wall so it wouldn't roll, etc. And then I decided to try it rolling. Very slowly. I looked behind me, picked up my foot, put my foot down....stood on my back wheels and fell over. Nice one! I then tried skating with one leg behind and looking behind me so I would get used to that. That wasn't too bad, so I tried it again and almost fell over, but put my hands down and really jarred my shoulders. Damn. So then I was told to try it the other way. to go from backwards to forward. This was a lot easier. Your body naturally wants to go back to forward skating and you're already looking the right way, and I managed one very very slowly. I've come to the conclusion that if I really work on my backwards skating, they will become easier. This is because my body isn't used to backwards skating so there is no automatic muscle memory to kick in when I turn from forwards to backwards. However, I know what it feels like to skate forwards, so it's easier for me to go from backwards to forwards. Does that make sense?
 After a bit more of skating and practising the skills we just learnt, we were invited to join in with the old Level 2s for some more stepping. This time we had to do it from one side of the hall to the other and, by the end, I was knackered! I cooled down and thought about how awesome this practice had been. I loved the fact that I was learning new skills and that even if I was rubbish at them, hat was okay because I had never done them before. Rather than the frustration of knowing how to do a skill but just not getting it, this was a new refreshing start and I was so excited for the rest of Level 2!
(This week, my wife also passed her minimum skills, which means she'll be coming to Level 2 with me! Woohoo!)

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