Do you ever get “the fear” when trying something new?

Here is this weeks’ Q&A all the way from Brazil.

Q: When I am learning some new skill (intermediate/advanced), like a transition, a jump, or a powerslide for example, my body just freaks out when I am practicing. Even when I know all the theory, the basics, the right weight distribution, etc…but in the moment of the execution my body has a moment of hesitation, and the body gets paralyzed.

After that, I normally spend days or weeks practicing the skill at really low speeds, then others skaters come and say: “Marcelo, you are too slow! you have to take risks or you will never get the next level!.” Damn I hate it. Is this normal??? How can I speed up the learning process?

A: This is a GREAT question Marcelo because I’m sure EVERYONE has felt this at some time or another when learning a new skill (especially the more difficult ones like Transitions, Jumps and Powerslides as you say).

First of all, YES this is normal. Completely normal and I call that moment “The Eeek” which is my way of describing the fear that your body feels because your body KNOWS that you cannot do the skill well yet.
Learning anything on skates is a process that involves your mind AND your body. Your mind has decided to learn x and tells the body, “we are going to do this”. But then at the exact moment when you go to do it the body says “No way Mate” and the hesitation, the Eeek moment is your body’s way of protecting you from this crazy thing you are doing (putting wheels on your feet). So that’s why it happens and you are right to have identified it as your body’s fear.

As you say, your mind knows the theory, has watched the demos and explanations and has all the “info” about it, but to the body it’s still a completely new and terrifying thing you are asking it to do (and your body knows that if it goes wrong, it can hurt). The Eeek moment is your body trying to sabotage your mind’s plan and preserve itself intact. We should actually thank our bodies for this self-protection mechanism it has.

Whats’ the solution? You intuitively already found it Marcelo. Reducing speed will reduce the body’s fear of the move and yes this will mean you have to do it very, very slowly at first. The body learns way slower than the mind and you will need to successfully do the new move at very slow speeds many, many times (I say 50 times) until the body thinks “This is ok”. Then and only then, increase your speed very slightly. This is where most people go wrong. They increase their speed by too much and then the Eeek moment returns. Try to increase your speed by such a small amount, your body hasn’t noticed (and do 50 more at that speed). And so on…….

A good thing to know is that if you ever have an Eeek moment then you simply know you have to SLOW DOWN.
Learn to be content with Slow Velocity + Perfect Form rather than
Faster Speeds + Sloppy/Imperfect Form.
Which do you think is more potentially painful and dangerous?

Learn to gently and kindly IGNORE your friends when they tease you about being slow. Tell them. “I’m practicing perfect form so that later I will always have perfect form even at high speeds”.
High speed NEVER creates better technique in the learning phase. In fact this is so true and so badly understood that I think I spend 80% of my lesson time encouraging my students to skate SLOWER and BETTER. When the move is perfect then slowly increase the speeds, but very slowly.

How can this process be speeded up? Not in velocity that’s for sure? I think the most efficient way to do it is to say to yourself “OK I’m going to do 25 transitions super slow” and start counting one after the other. The body ONLY learns through repetition (whether its skating or learning an instrument or whatever) so give it those repetitions in one intense HIT rather than doing 3 and then stopping for a chat and then another 2 an hour later. Focus your attention and your time on doing those reps one after the other. This is the only way that correct “muscles memory” works and when you do a good one, feel happy about it (regardless of the speed).

Practice does NOT make Perfect.
Practice makes PERMANENT

So forget speed. Make it Perfect and slow. Then the speed will come in time and you will be so secure and safe and happy feeling and the move will look effortless and cool.

I hope this helps everyone who has ever had the “Eeek” to understand why it’s there and how to eradicate it from your practice.

Good Luck!