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Figure skating life lessons: sprained ankles and risk-taking

Roughly two months ago, I sprained my ankle while figure skating–trying to land an axel, to be exact. Instead of landing on the flat of my blade (or slipping off my heel, which I am NOT supposed to do), I landed toepick first. Which means all of my body weight came crashing down on that one point, causing my ankle and related tendons and ligaments to twist and pull as I came crashing downwards. The aftermath? At first my ankle didn’t hurt–but the accident took my breath away as I imagined what else could have gone wrong. While I walked out of that ice rink without a limp, over the next couple of hours, however, my ankle began to swell up and I spent the next couple of days hobbling around.

Against the advice of my family and friends, I took only three days off of the ice. When I came back, I resumed slowly, practicing mostly moves in the field and spins on my good leg. Instead of skating 5 days a week at 110% effort, I skated 3, with about 80% effort. Even though I knew it was risky, I also knew I needed to maintain what I had been working so hard to accomplish.

Not being able to skate the way I normally do–which includes jumping with my usual “reckless abandon,” was heartbreaking. There were actually several days when I left the ice fighting back tears because I couldn’t do my usual flips and lutzes. It hurt some days when I tried wimpy waltz jumps–and when I finally did ease back into my usual jumps, I had to cut my practices short as soon as I sense my landings were off for fear of re-injury.

Now, I’m pretty much back to normal. My physical therapist has confirmed that my ankle is healing normally, and I’ve even started running again. The butterflies in my stomach that would creep up as I set up for a single loop jump (where even a slightly forward landing could mean disaster) have disappeared.

Even though I was probably playing with fire a bit those mornings I skated with slight soreness, I’m glad I didn’t take any time off. I’ve somehow progressed even more since I got injured, and while I still haven’t landed any axels, I will most likely soon.

Skating has taught me a lot of things–discipline, how to get up early in the morning (6 am ice time, which means landing lutzes when you’re half-asleep), but mostly, to take risks and never give up. I think these life lessons have translated over to my career in some ways–though getting up early for work is still not my forte, risk-taking is. Sometimes, you just have to follow what you think will have the best outcome, even if it’s not the most popular decision. Because sometimes, you might surprise yourself.

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