How does this happen every time? I marvelled as I put away a balance ball and a Pilates mat and reached out for a glass of water on the table.

The customary aches and pain of post-hockey practice, which made me feel like a car wreck victim, vanished from my body like magic and I felt absolutely wonderful.

Before going back to play ice hockey again, I was exercising diligently and believing I was reasonably in a good shape. However, my smugness was slapped down to the ground quite spectacularly after the very first team practice. What had I been doing during those hockey-free months?! All those hours I spent riding an exercise bike and sweating with dumbbells and a balance ball seemed to mean so little, I felt utterly crushed.

It could have been far worse if I went back to the sport cold turkey, I convinced myself while nursing (& cursing!) my very sore and tired upper thighs.

Skating requires a very unique muscle group which is almost impossible to tone up with conventional gym equipments. Obviously, the sojourn from hockey did weaken the strength around my groin area and I was reminded of it.

One thing which really sucks when it comes to one’s ageing is the slowness of recovery process. I am doing everything I can think of in order to recover, yet I seem to be left with aches and fatigues days after the practice. Will my body get used to the new regime eventually?

However, there is a brief moment of comfort in my otherwise ache-ridden days. I feel pain-free and easy right after I have finished my daily exercise routine which consists of a series of dynamic stretching and core-works with a balance ball. While I am sweating and feeling loose, my optimism about the ache-free future returns.

Unfortunately, the aches will return while I am chained to a desk and forced to look at the screen of my iMac. Ugh, I hate feeling like being the tin man in the Wizard of Oz!

I am definitely not a fitness fanatic but I am addicted to the pain-free moment which arrives after the exercise. ‘Take it easy’, Hubbie says as he glances at me slaving on a Pilates mat. Well, it’s easier said than done…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bird cage or fish tank?

You know what, I went to a training last Monday. I thought I left ice hockey behind twenty months ago but I was wrong.

I found myself, sitting on a bench in the changing room at Streatham Ice Arena and wondering how did this happen?…

I was so happy to be reunited with the teammates and the sport!

My blog was linked to my Facebook and the people who read the last entry through it left me loads of messages, telling me the door to the team and ice hockey was always open for me and it was very touching.

Ice hockey is like a tropical disease. Once you are bitten by this amazing sport, the fever never leaves you alone, EVER.

Why did I walk away from this joy, I asked myself when I was catching my breath after a drill.

Having thought that, leaving the sport and the team two seasons ago and coming back again was the right decision. After the time-off, what I am left with is a simple desire to skate and to touch a puck. My mind is clear and my expectation is realistic. I have nothing to prove and nobody to impress. I just want to enjoy myself.

My Tuesday morning ritual is back…

Leave my kits alone, Bay-Bay…

After the Monday night’s practice, it had always been customary to dry the equipments at home before re-packing them in a kit bag. The reason was because the damp kits would develop an unsavoury odour if they were left in a bag without being aired properly.

I still remember how badly one of the male hockey players smelt during an open practice session at the old Streatham ice rink. Basically, his equipments were falling apart, literally disintegrating, because he wasn’t looking after them properly. I imagine that he stuffed his wet kits with sweat and everything else in his bag as soon as the practice was over and forgot about it until the next session. I wish if he knew how antisocial his smell was! During the practice, we all stood in a queue, waiting our turn to participate in the drills and I happened to stand behind him. Oh god, how pungent he was. The smell hit me like a blast and it made me dizzy. It was like my face being surrounded by ten sweaty armpits! It was just too revolting to stand and I had to scarper all the way down to the end of the queue, as far as possible from him…

Please know that my kits will always be as fresh as a daisy because they have been maintained properly and they will be cared for as long as I play the sport.

There is a new addition to my kits though…

I have changed my full face protection from a polycarbonate shield to a titanium cage. I always preferred an unobstructed view given by the polycarbonate one. However, it had some drawbacks, such as fogging up and sound blocking. Until I discovered a brilliant anti-fogging fluid for a motorcycle visor, my shield steamed up badly towards the end of a practice and it drove me crazy. And also, I had to shout louder through the shield because the Perspex muffled my voice.

After last Monday’s training, I was awaken during the early morning by a fit of coughs. My throat was very dry and a bit sore due to too much shouting during the session. By swapping the shield to a birdcage one, it may spare my vocal cord, I thought.

Another benefit of wearing the lighter cage is how it can reduce the load on my neck. A typical stainless steel wire cage weighs 329g while my RE-AKT titanium cage by Bauer weighs 165g. Since the previous polycarbonate one weighs 256g, my head will be 91g lighter by changing the shield to the cage. 91g doesn’t sound a lot but a hockey player looks down often and the load on a neck changes dramatically by the angles of the head. For example, the weight of my head, my helmet plus a polycarbonate shield is 4,606g (4kg + 350g + 256g). While standing straight and looking ahead, my neck is loaded with only 4,606g. However, if my head is angled 45° looking down, the load to my neck will increase to a whopping 25.3kg! If I can reduce 5kg from the load my neck has to carry by shaving 91g off from my head, I will do it. It is a no-brainer.

I hope I will not be bothered too much by the grids in front of me during the next training. I am sure I will get used to it soon (I hope!)…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Love of my life

Yesterday was St Valentine’s Day and Hubbie and I exchanged cards like we always did. After he left for work, I turned on TV and saw a women’s ice hockey match on the screen.

I used to look forward to every winter Olympic game, especially ice hockey games because I played the sport as a hobby. However this Olympic Game in Pyeongchang, I am not so sure. The reason for my hesitation is not because this game is riddled with too much of the political nuances but because of the heartache I feel every time I watch an ice hockey match. In some way, I could say that ice hockey was love of my life. It wasn’t just a mere hobby but the sport was my obsession.

Of course, my Hubbie is always the most important love of my life and because of his blessing and support, I could enjoy this beautiful sport for a long time.

What a fun, what a joy it was…

Two seasons ago, I decided to give up the sport and it was not easy. Even though I knew I was becoming too old for this amazing but also demanding game, the reality was hard to swollow.

Despite the doubts crept into my head every time I found myself not being able to keep up during training – ‘Am I too old for this?’ ‘Will I bust my knee if I go on too hard?’ ‘Will the coach give me less ice time because I look tired?’, I wanted to carry on as long as possible. It is true that the sport did help prolonging my “youth”. I enjoyed being a part of the team and my teammates’ friendship and encouragement was another reason why I wanted to hang on to the sport. A youthful atmosphere of the changing room helped me to fool myself that I was younger than what I really was, and it was addictive.

The thing I still regret about my behaviour towards the end of my player career was how jealous I was to some of my teammates. Without fully understanding what I was becoming of, I complained to the coach incessantly about my place in the game and the team. I must have been such a pain in the butt.

It is a cruel blow but the decision time arrives eventually to anyone who plays competitive team sports. If you can no longer keep up with the play and your teammates physically, the time is up. It really doesn’t matter how much you love the sport because the writing is on the wall.

Since that June, my hockey sticks have been shut away in a cupboard for good but I do miss ice hockey and thinking about it still gives me a tight chest. It feels like if I am mourning for a lost love. Remembering how great I felt sprinting down the ice and chasing a puck. It was a pure joy!

Now, I ponder if I will ever find another love like ice hockey. Is there any activity which can ignite my passion like the game could? I am really not sure…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Homing instinct

After taking a gulp of cider at my local pub, the Eagle, I uttered with a sigh, ‘This was what I needed the most!’ The time was around 9pm and I had just arrived back home from a very long weekend. 

My past two days were spent in Sheffield, a city in South Yorkshire, participating in a sporting event. Driving between two cities with a distance of over 320 miles (515km) did not go so smoothly as this particular weekend being a bank holiday weekend. The journey was riddled with long bottle necks and sections of much slower speed-limit which did wear me out a little, especially on my way back to London. Even though the landscape spread in front of me on M11 during I was passing through Cambridgeshire was idyllic and even picturesque, I was overjoyed when I spotted the Shard in the distance with another high-rises of Docklands. Yipee! I am coming home!!

The tournament was exciting and we came home with medals…

Despite our fridge being well stocked up by Hubbie during my absence, I fancied a glass of cider and a burger so asked Hubbie if we could eat out at a local pub.

My chicken burger and chips…

My homing instinct becomes intensified when I think of these two very important men of my life…

I missed you two very much even though I was away only for a night…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

P.S. This was taken after the match!

A Car Wreck Today…

I don’t know what has happened to my blog format. Font size went crazy and I have no idea how to fix it! I looked into WP’s setting page but there wasn’t any trouble-shooting for my problem (or I missed it because it wasn’t obvious?). Anyway, I will keep on looking for it when I don’t feel like a car wreck. 

In fact, I am living with perpetual muscle fatigue recently. Last night was a team practice (ice hockey!) and I am feeling the effect (or damage) of it right now, especially on my legs. It has become cruelly apparent that it is not possible to reciprocate the fitness level I enjoyed when I was in my teens & 20s no matter how hard I train. I can push myself but how I recover from it is another matter. However, I am still holding on to the towel, not throwing it in. Because I just can’t give up loving hockey! 

Happiness is…

a crowded changing room shared with my beautiful teammates…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

P.S. The font seems to be normal now! The previous post was written in a different memo app and it was cut & pasted into WP app. This action must have messed up the format. Anyway, I am glad the problem is solved!😄

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