As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I don’t know if the word “can’t” is the best choice for that phrase. I’d lean toward “it’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks,” or “old dogs may resist learning new tricks.”
I’m neither old, nor a dog, but I have trouble learning new tricks. I subscribe to the idea that skills not practiced will atrophy and one of the skills I’ve let atrophy is rollerblading. As a child, in-line Rollerblades felt like an extension of my leg; the activity was so freeing and a great way to pass an afternoon.
Eventually, though, and without realizing it, I took off Rollerblades and never put them back on. That’s not due to any particular reason, it’s just a hobby that was abandoned by middle school. I was under the impression after moving to Alaska that stepping into ice skates would be easy. Imagine my surprise when that wasn’t the case.
I’d ordered a pair of white figure skates on Amazon after watching a YouTube video on how to measure your feet for skate sizes. The skates ended up being too small. The few times I took them out, I felt wobbly and unable to get my bearings. It felt like I had no control, and the fear of falling compounded the difficulty.
I took another yearlong hiatus, the new skates tucked away in a storage unit.
At the start of this winter, though, I decided to try again. I would do it right, this time, and put in the work to learn how to skate. I’d been watching a lot of videos on Instagram of people ice skating on lakes in Alaska — the ones filmed with drones over crystal clear alpine lakes — and thought, “I want to do that.”
After a brief stint on used skates with cracked bindings — which a local store refused to sharpen citing safety risks — I caved and bought a pair of K2 figure skates from Beemuns Variety. So far, they’ve been great. The boot is built like a downhill ski boot and is very warm and stable. With a lot of help from plastic skating trainers, I can now skate independently and do some wide spins.
My go-to spot has been the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility, which is open 24/7 and publicly available when not reserved by a group. I pass it on the way to work and, depending on how many other cars I see parked in the lot, decide whether to pop in. (That habit was broken briefly in the last couple of weeks after vandalism prompted the city to close the facility when it was not rented.)
I am not graceful on the ice, and the path to support-free skating hasn’t been smooth. I’m recalling skating last month on Arc Lake, during which a patch of uneven ice sent me sprawled out and staring at the sky. Even more embarrassing was how long it took to get up.
The point, though, is to get back up despite the embarrassment. You don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it, and a sure way to lose a skill is to let it atrophy.
With every successful skate, I get a little bit closer to realizing my vision of pristine alpine lake skating. As far as tricks go, figure skating is certainly a new one for this old dog, but I’m determined to learn it anyway.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.