Sunday, February 10, 2013

Triangle of Balance

When our children are small, we parents sign up for many sports and activities to give them a chance to sample various skills until they find things they enjoy and want to continue. We took our son to gymnastics, skiing, swimming, t-ball, tennis, and so forth. Of the many lessons in which we participated when my son was young, one of the most useful turned out to be ice skating. 

We had no grandiose goals and did not want to achieve high levels of performance on the ice. We never planned to become performers or even learn to do spins or any of the showy moves we see on television. Our son was six and it seemed like a good idea for him to learn some sense of balance on slippery surfaces. We also rented skates and tried to survive without any broken bones.

We had an instructor who taught about a dozen adults and children in class and he took us through some basics. Of course, staying on our feet was the most important thing. We knew how to snow ski, but the point of balance on skiis is different from ice skates. We were absolute beginners and needed to be able to stay vertical on ice. He explained how we were to put out our arms, somewhat forward about 45 degrees, with the palms open and down while imagining the palms of our open hands gliding over the ice. Those open hands would form two points of a triangle and our bodies would form the third point of an imaginary horizontal triangle which we would proceed to glide over the ice. 

We were instructed to keep in mind that our weight was to be centered on the skate, somewhat under the ball of our foot, but not too far forward because the toe pick would catch and flip us on to the ice. Of course, weight too far back would result in the skates slipping forward and we would fall backward. We were to concentrate on moving our triangle over the ice and not think so much about balancing. The body would take care of balancing itself if we thought more about the horizontal triangle.

Amazingly, it worked as we pushed off while imagining that horizontal triangle that we had to keep level as we glided over the ice first on one foot, then the other. We would glide from one side of the rink to the other even if it was a bit shaky. We got stronger and more confident so that we could begin to circle the rink with the other skaters. Before the half dozen classes ended, I could even skate backwards. We didn't learn any spins or jumps, we just wanted to avoid falling while we moved over the ice.

He would point to various skaters on the ice around us and point out what they were doing right or wrong. When he saw someone with their hands at their sides, or even behind them, he would declare very strongly, "Too casual." When I watch ice skaters on TV today, I can still hear him saying "too casual" if their arms aren't out and away from their bodies. When I see their hands and arms out to the sides in a balanced position, I remember his triangle of balance concept.

We worked very hard to learn just a few concepts, but other things came along and we didn't continue it as a family recreational activity which I regret. However, I'm a little too old to risk my bones again. The idea of a triangle of balance has stuck with me all those years and anytime I cross an icy parking lot during the winter, I remember to put out my arms, form my triangle of balance to walk across icy patches on sidewalks, slippery floors or any place where I don't want to lose my balance and fall.


  1. What a useful idea that is! I really like it and will have to practice it when walking on slick surfaces. Thanks for sharing this great tip! Right now it's icy outside with a very thick freezing fog. Maybe I'll bundle up and go try it right this minute! :-)

  2. Good tutoring for you and your son! I never was taught at all and therefore fell frequently on the ice. There's an Ice Palace less than a mile from our house with a huge rink. I hosted a birthday party for my kids back in the day. Lots of fun.

  3. I appreciate seeing the beauty and gracefulness of figure skaters. I never learned to skate properly even though we had a couple small lakes near our house and all the kids went in the winter for sledding and ice skating. I'll leave those activities to the thinner and less clumsy folks. lol And even though I'm not even 50, I don't trust my bones these days either. T.V. is where I'll enjoy that sport.

  4. I tried. I really tried to learn to skate, but just couldn't do it. The kids managed to pick it up quite nicely. I also tried skiing. That lasted one time and I gave up. The kids are doing that quite nicely too. Sigh... And now my 6 year old granddaughter is skiing. Sheesh!