11 December 2014

Ice Skating: How Do I Know When to Quit?

When I decided to go ice skating last week, I knew I was going to fall down. The only questions were ‘How long will it take’ and ‘How badly will I get hurt?’

I never was a very accomplished skater. I never played hockey. I couldn’t master skating backwards. But when our kids were little, I used to go skating with them a few times every winter. Eventually they grew up and I stopped skating. When we moved to our current house – 18 years ago – I put my skates out on a table for our garage sale. I marked them $1. No one bought them. When we moved, a box with my skates and a few other unsold items went into our garage. IMG_0032

Last week my wife and I took care of two of our grandchildren while their parents took a well-deserved vacation. We went down to the park one day and discovered that the ice rink had been flooded. The kids loved ‘boot skating’ on the ice.

So the next day, I went into the garage and dug out my skates, laced them up and brought them along to the park. The first day went pretty well. The kids were impressed that I could glide around the rink pretty smoothly. They didn’t notice my tentative movements or my frequent wobbling when I nearly toppled.

I enjoyed it. I remembered how ice skating was pretty good exercise. I’d work up enough body heat to have to unzip my winter coat and sometimes take off my mittens. I can use the exercise. But I was concerned about falling.

The next day, when we went to the park again, I brought the skates again. And that’s the day I fell down.

I’m not a big fan of Garrison Keillor. But I remembered an essay he wrote in 2009 about his brother. He died at age 72 when he fell down while ice skating and cracked his head. Other than dying, I wondered if I’d break a bone. I think I’m still pretty resilient. But I am 63. How do you know if your bones are getting brittle until you break one?

The falling down part felt like slow motion. I started to wobble as I was making a turn. I remember thinking, “I don’t think I’m going to regain my balance this time.” And then the next thing I knew I was on the ice. I don’t think I swore. A guy walking his dog on the nearby path asked if I was OK. I said ‘yes’ even though I wasn’t at all sure.

I landed on my left hip and caught myself with my left arm. My hip hurt. I could feel right away that it was bruised. My elbow also hurt. At the time I didn’t even notice that I jammed my wrist as I tried to catch my fall. Now, several days later, my hip is still tender but getting better. My elbow is just fine. But my wrist still feels sore and is sensitive to pressure. Maybe I should have gotten an x-ray. I didn’t, mainly because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of a broken bone. (Ah yes. Dr. Denial is my primary physician.)

As I think about it, I wonder if I should have fallen differently. Would it have been better if I’d fallen flat on my tush? I don’t think so; I think that would have hurt more and increased the chance that I’d fall backward and hit my head. I wonder if there’s a class to teach older people how to fall?

I’m not going to quit skating. My grandchildren are getting to an age when they’re likely to strap on skates pretty soon. I think it will be fun to glide around the ice with them and help them master the skill. I hope they’ll be better than me.

For myself, I found a workout app for my iPad. I’m going to focus on exercises to increase balance and flexibility. But the question still remains: How will I know when I should quit? I don’t know. Just not yet.

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