On 8th September 1997, I broke my first ever pair of ice skates. I hadn’t used them in a couple of years and hadn’t stored them with any kind of care and attention because I was an unappreciative asshole as a teenager. As I was doing a lap of Guildford Spectrum’s ice, the ankle padding gave way in one of them. It was my 18th birthday and thankfully nearly the end of the session. Luckily I could still skate very well and no trauma ensued.
The next time I was on the ice was in March of 2012. I had just been laid off at work and decided to take myself to Dubai Mall and try out their ice. I had a blissful time (which you can read about here) but despite saying I would be back in the following days, I never was. Knowing me, I was too lazy to leave the Marina and travel all the way to the mall.
Fast forward nearly 5 years and I have a really good excuse to go back. The Boy had bought me ice skates for Christmas!! I nearly cried when I opened them. Ok, maybe I actually did. It was the most thoughtful gift he could have given me. Naturally I had to put them on right away…
The next day however was time for me to hit the ice. I was terrified. I actually felt a little sick about getting back on. The only thing that spurred me on was knowing how happy it makes me. I wanted that feeling back.
What I didn’t factor in is my age and my vastly increased weight! Also, in the last 5yrs I have had a couple of major back spasms – the latest of which I am still having physio on. I also know how much damage you can do during a fall. I still can hear my knee surgeon warning me off skating ever again. I was 14 for the first surgery and 15 for the second, so naturally I didn’t listen to them. I was never going to fall. I was too good. Don’t you just love the arrogance of youth!? (Also, I never did fall as an fyi!!)
20+ years later, I am probably the same age as that surgeon was then so I am listening more… although not completely obviously. Also, I would like to say at this point that I have just had the all clear from my physio to start trying exercise again. I’m not sure that she meant ice skating but there wasn’t a list of approved or non-approved activity so I figure I’m safe.
(As an aside, if you need an absolutely awesome physiotherapist, I highly recommend Nikki Prichard at Dubai Mall Mediclinic. She may only be tiny but that girl has strength and mad skills for fixing you up!)
With my skates laced properly – an ability that you apparently never lose, I hit the ice. Thankfully with my blades and not my face courtesy of the lovely barrier around the whole of the rink, and people looking faintly terrified of this +6ft tall, 3ft wide blob approaching them with all the skills of Bambi.
Frustrating didn’t even cut it. I was so mad at myself for my lack of, well, everything.
It took me an absolute age to find my centre balance. I was moving forward mostly because I was using the barrier to pull myself. I kept catching my toe pick in the ice, and nearly convinced myself that the skates must be faulty.
On top of that, the skates felt like torture on my feet. When I put them on they fit like a glove, and then when I stood up, my weight pushed down on them and I remembered just how supportive they are built to be. I had forgotten that it takes quite a while to break them in and until then, it will feel like you have a tennis ball underneath your arch.
I wanted to come off. I was so disappointed. I hated myself for having gotten so fat and unfit, and for having lost all my skills. Ice skating is the one thing I hold in my mind as about the only activity I was ever any good at. Not that I could jump or spin, but I cut a mean figure skating in circles gossiping.
I limped my way to the bit just before the gate where The Boy was standing and watching and said I was giving up. I wanted to cry. He said that I had to do one more lap and then I could. I didn’t have the heart to argue though as he had just given me this wonderful gift. So I did another lap.
Then he pushed me to keep going. Just one more. One more try. Just let go of the barrier a little bit. Then one more loop without holding on.
You know what? I did it! I started to feel like me again. It was hard and I still couldn’t do it properly, but I completed 2 laps of the ice without holding on!
I then got off because the increased age and weight come hand in hand with decreased fitness and stamina… I was absolutely exhausted. Elated, but exhausted.
I didn’t feel my teenage self resurface and I didn’t experience the pure joy I used to, but I did it and I eventually enjoyed it.
I did however experience something new. Determination.
I was determined to come again and get it right. I wanted to do more. I wanted to feel that freedom. I wanted that joy. I wanted to leave my brain behind with the blade covers and forget the world. I wanted to just skate.
I went back the next morning and tried again. To my surprise I only had to have the barrier close for the first half of the first straight. After that, I was free. I was nervous and I was scared still, but I was doing it.
For 20 mins. Then my legs started to shake and I started to stumble. I need to build up to a full session! Also, I should probably say that I walked to the mall both days as I am trying to get my 10,000 steps in with my new fitbit, so was tired before I even got on the ice!
So there you have it. I skated twice in my stunning new boots. I am incredibly blessed that The Boy listens so much and thinks about gifts so much. We are both of the opinion that gifts don’t need to be expensive as long as they are well thought out. Ok, so this was probably an expensive gift too, but it was incredibly well thought. It wasn’t about giving me a hobby back, or giving me something to do to get fit. It was about trying to help me rediscover something that I loved and that I lost years ago.
It was about trying to help me rediscover my happy place.