The 2020-2021 skating season has been one for the books: the cancellation of the 2020 World Championships in Montreal last March, a global lockdown taking many skaters off the ice for months, competing virtually with skaters from across the country, and most recently the announcement that the 2021 National Championships would not be taking place.
I, like so many other athletes, found myself at home and off the ice for the first time EVER! The first lockdown was hard! Nothing was open and there were so many questions:
- “When can we get back on the ice?”
- “Am I going to forget how to land my jumps?”
- “Will we have to skate with masks on?”
- “When can we see our friends?
No one had the answers, but were told to stay positive, engaged, and most importantly, healthy!
I took my (forced) time off as a way to explore what my life would look like after my competitive skating career. This was definitely not something I was prepared for in that moment, but well worth it! I was able to try new training methods, explore educational/career options, and have some fun with new hobbies.
I wanted to use this opportunity to share a few of these things with all of you!
NEW WAYS TO TRAIN:
With the arenas closed, we all had to get creative to stay active; I bought a new skipping rope, found some dumbbells, and brought out the old roller blades.
- Outdoor skipping was a great way to keep jumping and get my heart rate up!
- Strength training has always been a part of my off-ice routine, but without gyms, it was hard to stay motivated in this department! Learning how to use smaller weights was definitely a challenge, but it allowed me to focus on more upper body strength, which is often forgot about for ladies.
- Roller blading was the closet thing to skating I got to experience for two months. It made me feel like I was gliding again! It also helped to have friends in the city to scoot around with (while 2-meters apart) when the weather was nice.
The pandemic also led us into the era of Zoom! The skating community was filled with new virtual off-ice classes to keep athletes engaged. I had two classes that I regularly attended:
- A stretch class led by my coach Danielle Rose with some of my younger training mates. I thought it was really important to stay engaged with our little community, and also improve on an area I often forget about in my own training: flexibility.
- A dance class with Skate Global ran by Elladj Baldé and Michelle Dawley. I have always loved to dance, but never had the time in my schedule to take classes. This was a perfect opportunity to rediscover my love for dance and practice my performing skills. (Fun Fact: I was a competitive dancer before I was a competitive skater!)
EDUCATION AND CAREER OPPORTUNITIES:
During the first lockdown, I was able to really focus on my schooling. In January 2020, I re-enrolled in classes at York University, and switched my major from science to psychology. I dove head-first into my studies, became a full-time student by the spring semester (something I had not done since before high school, in 2006) and got my first university A+.
I also explored possible avenues for a career after skating. I know that I wanted to be involved in skating for as long as possible, but the question was: how to combine my love for sport, with my love of working with people? I decided that I wanted to continue studying, pursue a Graduate degree and become a Sports Psychologist. Having clarity about my life after skating has me excited for the future.
TRY NEW THINGS!
I had the opportunity to explore my hobbies outside of skating. All of my activities as an athlete seemed to revolve around my sport. I considered going to the gym, practicing yoga and traveling (for competition) to be my hobbies. Now with this new time off, I was able to really try new things!
- Right off the bat, I decided I was going to learn a new language: Spanish. After just traveling to Nicaragua one month before the pandemic, I realized the importance of speaking the native language before traveling to a new country. I scheduled in 30 minutes a day to work on my Spanish, through an app called Duolingo.
- I food, but never really took the initiative to learn how to make it myself! I spent most of my day in the kitchen during the lockdown. I love to cook and try new things! I hopped on the banana bread baking bandwagon and made a new loaf almost every week! My go-to meals are tacos, red Thai curry, and Mom’s homemade meatloaf recipe.
- A newfound hobby of mine is woodworking. It started out as chopping wood for campfires, then deciding we needed a place to store the wood (so we built a woodshed), later making Muskoka chairs for that campfire, and now making live-edge hardwood epoxy river tables. I love working through the process to transform something raw into something beautiful!
I missed skating, like I was missing a part of me! Skating is a huge part of my life, but the pandemic allowed me to clearly see, it is only A PART of my life. There are other aspects to my life and other qualities that make me, me! I am more than just Michelle Long, the figure skater. Allowing me time away from skating has given me a greater appreciation for the time I have on the ice and not to take it for granted. It has allowed to me to explore other areas of my life, that will help enhance me as a skater, as an athlete, and as a person! I am so happy for the skating community that we are allowed to slowly return to the ice again and I hope that each one of you reading this may be inspired to try something new and reignite that love for skating!
Until next time,
(The figure skater, student, cook, dancer, woodworker, your skater in residence, and so much more!)