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Scared of standing up straight when skating?

Discussion in 'Moves In The Field' started by Bunny_Hop, Sep 21, 2010.

  1. Bunny_Hop

    Bunny_Hop New Member

    After some pontification, I've concluded the reason I don't stand up straight when I skate is that I'm afraid of falling back onto my head.

    Initially when I started skating, I was really scared of falling backward. As a kid I had an off-ice injury where I tripped over a mat and fell right onto my tailbone (probably fractured but the doctor didn't want to do x-rays; it was very painful anyway). Other than that I had no other experience of falling backward in my life at all.

    Inevitably I eventually did fall backward in skating and realised that not all backward falls are right onto your tailbone, and in fact are generally less painful than forward falls onto the knees.

    However, I've seen a few bad falls with people falling back and hitting their heads, including once when I was on a public session and a kid had to be taken to hospital as this happened and he couldn't walk afterwards.

    So now I have this fear of hitting my head on the ice (and also the barrier; I hate skating near it unless I'm holding it). When I fall I tend to crumple forward and land on my backside. But I'm convinced that if I stand up straight, I'll tense up in a fall, my shoulders and hips will lock and I'll fall backward onto my head. Like, if I'm not already leaning forward, I don't think I'd automatically do so in a fall.

    I'm not sure what to do about this. Is the scenario I've described likely? I mean, obviously there must be some way to fall from an upright position without whacking your head, or all skaters would go around with permanent concussions. But whenever I stand up straight, I feel like I'm going to a) fall backward and b) tense up and land on my head.

    Thanks for any help!
    deltask8er and (deleted member) like this.
  2. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

    How hunched forward are you though? If you skate with knee bend and your back is leaning forward from your hips slightly with your arms out, you should be fine. What kind of skating are you doing? Just gliding forward, or are you doing crossovers and going backward at all?
  3. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    How long have you been skating? Are you skating with a coach, or on your own?
  4. Bunny_Hop

    Bunny_Hop New Member

    I'm apparently quite round shouldered (my wrists also seem to flop). It's not so much an issue of leaning forward per se, more than I have a phobia of having any tension in my upper body, in case it causes me to stiffen up like a board when I fall back. I'm doing forward and backward crossovers, and back one foot glides. I tend to lean forward worse when going backward, because I feel more like I'm going to fall backward.

    I did Basic group lessons for about six months, then they were off for two months so I skated on my own about 3 hours/week in late December-February this year. During that time I progressed slightly, particularly with one foot glides, and when lessons started up again I went into the level doing crossovers (one higher than my previous level). I started having private lessons 30 min once a fortnight in June, which has now changed to 15 minutes/week.

    The coach is the one telling me to stand up straight and not be round shouldered. But as I said, I'm really frightened of doing that because of the people I've seen falling onto their heads. I think I've been unlucky in seeing a number of nasty head-falls, which have freaked me out.

    Also, my prevalence of falling seems relatively low, although I'm comparing myself to people jumping, who tend to fall a lot. When I started skating I'd fall once every 30 minutes or so, probably about 4:1 forward:backward falls. Now I fall maybe once in every 6 hours of skating (excluding deliberate falls). I don't tend to have a particular phobia of it excluding the head thing. It's odd that I have time to do this while falling, but when I start falling I tend to feel relieved as I lean forward, because I know you're "supposed" to fall as it indicates you're not being wimpy, and also because I realise I'm not falling on my head (this time).

    Although do tend to avoid skating in a way that invites falls, I don't fight hard against falling. I tend to lean forward like a dip, and fall either forward or back from that position. Is that a normal thing to do? I mean obviously sometimes I don't crouch at all because I fall so fast, but is moving into a crouch position the right response to a fall, or is lowering myself closer to the ice increasing my fear of "real" falls?

    Thanks! :)
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  5. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    Bending your ankles and knees help lower your centre of gravity. But you can still keep your weight slightly forward and get your shoulders back. Think of it as opening your chest rather than leaning back. Or sticking your chest out.

    Maybe you also need to think of it in terms of keeping your head over your feet. After all your head is quite a weight and if you are hunching then your head will be forward. If you put your shoulders back and make sure your head is lined up over your feet, that may be a better strategy for dealing with it. It really does work and will help your skating.

    I do know all this stuff because my coach has nagged me about it for many years.

    I have fallen on my head and got four stitches. But I did that doing backward chasses and caught the back of my blade. It taught me to point my toe!
  6. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

    Well, ... it sounds like the thing you're most suffering from is just not relaxing. There's no way to "make" you skate with better position or without fear from the internet. But I think if you're tense all the time, you're not really going to be skating freely, and when you do fall, you have more of a chance of freaking out and making it worse, or falling with a tense body, which isn't good. I can't tell you to "just relax", but that's my best advice. Try to work on letting go of your tenseness in baby steps. It sounds cheesy, but a lot of it is confidence.

    You might also try skating with a helmet and/or gel pads around the areas you're worried about - anything to slowly stop making you worry about those parts. Then your skating will gain confidence, and perhaps you might be able to skate without them.
  7. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    You've been skating for less than a year, and are starting as an adult. IMO, where you are right now re: the hunching over is actually pretty normal for your stage of skating, as is the fear re: standing up straight when you skate. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be working on those things - you should - but know that what your feeling is normal, and that may make it a bit less overwhelming to deal with. You're already on the right track - keep working with a coach.

    Kids at your level of skating do skate with a helmet. I don't see adults do that as often, but if your fear of falling over is interfering with your ability to skate, and if you feel it would help, then skate with a helmet. In fact, there are a couple of protective headbands on the market, which don't look so much like protective gear as they do like sportswear, and yet can still give you a measure of protection - and perhaps therefore confidence. Examples here:

  8. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    That's actually quite hard to do, because your skates are rockered in such a way that you will naturally balance closer to the balls of your feet.
  9. tangerine_dream

    tangerine_dream New Member

    You could fall forward and break all your teeth or cut half your tongue off by biting through it or break your chin or *insert something awful here*

    Skating is dangerous and honestly you could hurt yourself badly enough to be paralyzed no matter *what* direction you fall in. The point is: that rarely happens, and you have as much of a chance of getting hit by a car and getting paralyzed that way.

    Fear is the main block to progressing as either a child or adult. I've fallen backwards on my tailbone quite a few times in my life, and I'm just fine. I've also fallen backwards and hit my head very hard on the ice, and have also been fine. The worst spills I've taken were forward, in spiral position, where I fell on my ribs and knee. That is the worst fall of all....can't even describe the pain to my ribs on the size my knee got to, I couldn't even bend it for 2 weeks.

    Bottom line is that if you've chosen figure skating as a sport then try to stop obsessing about a particular fall. No matter how far forward you lean, if you're gonna fall backwards, you will. That might actually be the only way you get over your fear so if I were you I'd probably be trying to fall backwards to get it over with.

    Most falls don't hurt. Some falls hurt but don't permanently injure you. The rest are few and far between and could just as well happen off the ice.
  10. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure I would recommend this. What I would suggest to the OP is to concentrate on bending your knees (I know, easier said than done :)), but that will give you more stability and control and make out-of-control falls less likely. If you feel yourself falling, just bend your knees and sit down - better to fall on your rear than a....um...less-padded area. ;) When I've had bad falls (forward and backward), it's been when I've tried to fight the fall and wind up flailing around and hitting the ice hard.

    Once, during a test, I got off-balance during a LFI 3-turn (and of course, this was right in front of the judges). I was going to do everything in my power to avoid putting my foot down (automatic failure) and I certainly didn't want to fall, so I just bent my knee a bit more and that steadied me - and no flailing, b/c I had to look like I was perfectly in control, lol. And it was like a lightbulb went off in my head that I realized what my coach had been telling me was right, lol. Unfortunately, most adult skaters have an instinctive reaction to tense up and that can increase the risk of getting hurt (and unfortunately, I know this all too well from recent experience).
  11. frbskate63

    frbskate63 New Member

    Other than one or two freak accidents on lifts, I don't think I've ever seen a fall where the head was the first thing to hit the ice. Usually, if a skater goes over backwards, they hit the ice with their back or shoulders first. But if there's not much tension in the neck, the weight of the head then takes it onto the ice with quite a lot of force, and that's when serious head injuries can occur.

    I've landed on my back several times, but I seem to have an instinct to brace my neck, because I have never (touch wood) hit my head. If you do go down backwards, bracing your neck makes the chance of hitting your head badly enough to cause an injury very low.
  12. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    In about 18 years of skating as an adult (not counting the few years I did as a kid), I've hit my head maybe 3-5 times in total. Never from falling backward and always just from not using my neck to keep it from dropping the last couple inches when I was already lying on the ice. And never hard enough to cause a serious injury.

    Wear head protection if it makes you feel more confident.

    And I second the advice to bend your knees. Practice skating in straight lines with your upper body upright or only the tiniest bit forward but your knees well bent, as if you're sitting upright in a chair. Then try to apply the same principle to crossovers or other moves on a circle.
  13. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    Agree. People fall all the time and most don't get hurt.

    However I do wear my bruises with pride.
  14. Doubletoe

    Doubletoe Well-Known Member

    The most important thing is to keep your weight balanced on the balls of your feet, since that will give you stability and keep you from falling backwards. You don't want your weight as far forward as the toepicks (especially if you're skating forwards!), but you do want your weight on the front half of your foot, just like when you're walking in shoes with slightly high heels.

    Here's how to do that safely:
    1) For stability and control, you need to bend your knees and ankles deeply. "Ankle bend" is important because it will give you knee bend while keeping your weight forward, like squatting rather than sitting back on a chair.
    2) Arch your back and push your chest out so that your chest is over your knees, which are over your toes. Imagine yourself as a puffed up rooster (but with deeply bent knees and ankles), LOL!
    3) Keep your shoulders and arms still and level for balance.

    What your coach is probably trying to get you to do by saying "stand up straight" is to arch your back.
  15. Sierra

    Sierra New Member

    Bending your knees and ankles is good, it will increase the likelihood of simply sitting on your butt and not falling onto your back or shoulders. Always bend your knees if you feel off balance.

    I have never seen anybody hit their head and I have never hit my head, though my back and shoulders have crashed into the ice before. It is usually momentum that will cause your shoulders to hit, but momentum also causes sliding which lessens the impact of fall. If your knees and ankles are bent, with chest pushing slightly forward and back arched, it is nearly impossible to fall straight back like a board. Picture it in your head- the position I just described, then have the pictured skater fall backwards. Their butt/hip will hit first because of the bent knees, and if their back hits they aren't very likely to hit their head too unless they let their neck whip back. Try to tuck your chin in backwards falls. In fact, practice going backwards, then bend your knees until you sit on the ice, while practicing standing upright then tucking your chin when you sit. This will help you get over the mental head thing.

    A good safety measure without having to buy anything is to make a ponytail or bun on the back of your head, right above your nape and between your ears. This will help cushion your skull if you whack the back of your head. It won't help if you don't have much hair, though.
  16. Bunny_Hop

    Bunny_Hop New Member

    Thanks for all the advice everyone! The other day I was skating and my coach was away, so without anything specific to practise* I remembered Xanboni's advice about extension and holding the end of movements, so I decided to focus on that along with pulling my shoulders back. It made me feel like my skating looked nice, anyway.

    *I'm technically supposed to be doing my program, but this session had a lot of higher level skaters doing their programs, and I always seem to get in their way (I can't get right of way as I'm not high enough level to have my own music).
  17. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    One idea is to pick some music that matches the tempo of your music-less program, and to use that music only on such practice ice, so that you can get right of way.
  18. Bunny_Hop

    Bunny_Hop New Member

    I'm not sure if I'm allowed to do that. :) Is that usually allowed?

    Yesterday while I was skating, someone was playing this playlist of songs, and coincidentally most of them are songs I really like/enjoy skating to! There weren't too many people around, so I could practise my program, pretending they were my music. :D

    Anyway, while standing up straight I have discovered that I tend to feel when I'm leaning too far backward, so I can correct it, put the other foot down (it tends to happen on forward one foot glides), or lean forward so I don't hit my head. Hopefully this will continue so I stop freaking out.

    Thanks for all the help!
  19. tangerine_dream

    tangerine_dream New Member

    Most issues of leaning too far back can be corrected by simply bending your knees more. :) It will force you to put your weight where it belongs over the skates.
  20. Morgail

    Morgail New Member

    I'll second this recommendation. I know a couple of ladies who started as adults & fear hitting their heads who wear the halo headband (or something similar). It looks just like something you'd wear to keep your ears warm & doesn't look helmet-y at all.
    And like others have said...falling on your head is very rare. It's happened to me maybe twice in the past four years. My super thick ponytail provided a cushion both times.