Fire away!

One morning, I was playing with a puck at home and thinking about hockey. While I gazed at the disk and the blade, I was wondering about one thing which had been bothering me for a long long time. My shooting skill, or lack of it. I really need to improve it, but seriously, how can I do it? I live in Central London and have no garden nor driveway in which I can set up a shooting range.

I did discuss my dilemma with one of our team coaches a few years ago. His suggestion was to find a place, somewhere like a car park or a quiet back alley, to set up an old mattress against a wall and to shoot a puck at it. Underneath our flat, there was an underground car park, so how about there?

No chance. The car park was full of my neighbours’ cars and they wouldn’t like an old mattress propped up at any wall anytime. And they would definitely object a puck pinging around their cars.

A few years had passed with no action. Then, I had a light-bulb moment last week.

I was looking at my Eileen Gray daybed which was placed in front of the wall panelling. Why don’t I flip the mattress of the daybed and shoot a puck at it? The distance from where I was going to shoot was about 5m and it seemed perfect. So I upturned the mattress and lined the top of it with cushions.

So, this is my indoor shooting range. What do you think Bay-Bay?

Why are my toys being lined up? Bay-Bay, they are my targets!

Oh no!

As soon as I started to practice, she retreated to a bedroom, disliking loud noises.

What the hell is going on?!

I was not going to tell about it to Hubbie but some shots went above cushions and dented the wall (>.<)

Anyway, the improvised shooting range worked a treat and I was happily firing away until my arms became sore. Why didn’t I think of the daybed then? The solution was dangling under my nose!

Anyway, let’s hope all the effort will pay off in future and I can be a one mean shooter. If I shoot a puck two hundred times a day everyday, will I be able to catch up with the lost time?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Age of discovery

This morning, I woke up with no pain and it was startling.

As I confessed in my previous entry, I had been living with pains and aches ever since I started playing hockey again and especially the peak of the discomfort was in the morning, like every part of my body was stiff and seized up like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz. And this extreme discomfort continued until I finished my morning exercise routine.

However this morning, despite the fact that I attended a hockey practice eight hours ago, I awoke feeling well rested and serene. While my body was cradled in a warm plump winter duvet, I was stretching my limbs and feeling blissful like that koala in the Cushelle ad chilling out on a fluffy cloud.

So what brought this change?

It has been almost one month since I introduced a series of therapeutic stretching into my morning workout and it was a revelation.

The stretching is constructed with three separate workouts – for upper body, core and lower body – and it takes 45 minutes to complete. As the length of time to finish it suggests, the programme is very thorough and educational.

‘So that was the cause of the pain?’

I have a dodgy right hip joint and it has been the cause of my misery every time I skate. I can’t remember exactly since when the problem started but I have been living with this annoying pain for more than fifteen years. I visited a physio and spent a small fortune to solve it but it was never cured. It is a mystery, the physio sighed and advised me to rest the area.

Then, I took a time-off from skating for more than 18 months and during the period, I was leading almost pain-free life. Occasionally, I felt a slight niggle when I rode an exercise bike hard but I didn’t make nothing of it.

However, the familiar old pain returned as soon as I started to skate again a month ago, exactly the same way and on the same spot.

I was shocked but also realised that the pain was not caused by a simple injury because if it was, the pain should have gone by now.

So what am I doing wrong? Why does my hip joint scream with a complaint every time I extend it?

I asked one of my teammates who was also a goalie if she experienced a similar problem. She suggested I may have been overstraining the hip joint while striding because my muscles around the buttock and the back of the thigh weren’t working properly. It was a “light-bulb turned on’ kind of moment for me.

It was very true that I had a very tight hip. Also the left side of my core / torso wasn’t as strong nor supple as the right side. So my body was out of balance?

The stretching programme has taught me a lot about myself which I was not aware all my life. There were so many muscles and joints on my body under the radar!

Recently, I am in the process of re-educating myself how to move each part of my body more “mindfully”. For example, making myself aware about turning my rib cage instead of my pelvis and my neck when I am twisting my upper body. Or reminding myself not to lean too forward when I walk so I will not compress my dodgy hip joint too much. There are more than a few adjustments I have introduced to my daily life.

It will be wonderful if the change in my workout regime eventually puts an end to my dodgy hip joint saga and allows me to enjoy hockey more. At the end of the day, I just want to be healthy and strong so I can age positively.

BTW, I am visiting Paris today!

My day trip has just started but already I nearly have had a disaster!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Magic!

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

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