AST Skater Spotlight Series – Meet Rebecca

Our Adults Skate Too Skater Spotlight Series is a bi-weekly blog where you get to know your fellow adult skaters from all over the world! For our next edition, you will get to meet Rebecca! She’s a spin-loving small business owner who hit the ice in 2018 after she finally felt some relief from numerous health issues. Read more about how figure skating has impacted her life for the better and her advice to other adult skaters!

What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do for a living?

Rebecca Bush (aka @agirlandherfigureskates).

Tampa, FL, but lived in New York City most of my adult life. 

I wear a couple of hats. I have been a Book Publicist for almost 20 years and I currently represent authors in the Functional/Integrative Medicine space. Two years ago, I launched my health coaching business, Savvy Health Coach and in my practice, I coach clients one-on-one toward their health goals. Most of my clientele are dealing with some sort of undiagnosed chronic autoimmune illness. I am also a writer and do a variety of freelance writing and editing gigs.

What’s your story? How did you get into figure skating?

On some level, I thought about figure skating on and off for much of my life. My childhood best friend was a figure skater and I hung out at the rink often, but skating lessons weren’t in my family’s budget. When I was in high school, I was a competitive cheerleader and with no cheer team in college, I joined the diving team to fulfill my need to be upside down. After college, I mostly ran, did kickboxing and yoga to stay in shape. 

My desire to take action on my skating dream was in response to some hard times. 2012, I developed a series of 80+ symptoms and my doctors at the time had a hard time diagnosing me. Toward the latter part of 2013, I had these symptoms became debilitating and I slept on average, 18-20 hours per day. I went from specialist to specialist, had countless surprise procedures and surgeries and closed down my business as I could no longer function. In 2013, laying in bed late at night after a day of relentless symptoms, I turned to my husband and said, “When I’m well again, I’m going to be more active than I’ve ever been as often as I can. I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail.” 

My husband and I decided that the best use of my energy was to research my way out of my illness. In late 2014, I received my diagnosis: Celiac with Neuro Autoimmunity of the Cerebellum, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Pernicious Anemia. Over time with a lot of hard work, I have been lucky enough to have considerable recovery. In 2017, I was able to take on a full workload after 4 years out of the workforce. 

Once I regained my health, I didn’t hike the Appalachian Trail nor do I plan to, but figure skating is my Appalachian Trail. In 2015, on a visit to Tampa, my husband and I went ice skating and I wasn’t half bad and I was SO happy to be skating. In 2017, on a visit to Chicago, that joy was there again and I started googling to see if adults took skating lessons (and you know the answer to that!). I talked to my doctor who strongly encouraged me to give it a try and I started going to public sessions for exercise and then took my first LTS lesson on January 5, 2018. 

I was instantly addicted and went to every LTS I could and by March I was in private lessons at Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, FL. I set a lofty goal to compete for the first time that June and I competed Delta (ISI) at my first competition. I am currently a Freestyle 2 skater in ISI and have passed Pre-Bronze MIF and Free Skate in USFSA. I plan to test Freestyle 3 this month, Freestyle 4 next month and Bronze MIF and Free Skate late winter or early spring. I’m hoping to start working on my axel in 2020! 

What does your skating schedule look like?

I always shoot for 5 days per week, but some days I only get 2-3, depending on my work schedule. I skate 1-2 hours a day and average 6-8 hours a week. Those 8-hour weeks, I see major progress!

What has been the most rewarding or exciting moment in your skating career?

Besides overcoming my spinning and testing falls and phobias, my most thrilling moment was my last competition, this Fall at my home rink. I did 5 programs, managed my nerves well, did not fall the whole weekend, I stayed present in what I was doing. I truly had fun and I enjoyed the privilege of competing in figure skating. When I got off the ice, I was confident, I didn’t assume it was the worst performance ever. My jumps weren’t the biggest I’d ever done, but they were the biggest they had been in competition. The same goes for my spins, maybe not the fastest, prettiest or most revolutions, but they were my personal best in competition. Most importantly, I was grateful to be healthy.

What was the most difficult moment of your skating career and how did you overcome it?

In July 2018, my husband and I bought a new house. That fall, 50+ of my most severe symptoms (asthma, muscle cramping, and weakness, brain fog, balance, and coordination) started to come back. It took us a while to figure it out, but due to construction defects, our house developed a severe toxic mold issue. We were forced to move out of our home in April of this year and I had to drive an hour and a half each way to make it to my lesson. 

I skated regardless – I was not going to lose more than we already had, but it was a struggle. My coach would tell me to do one thing, and I swear, my brain was telling my muscles to do it – and I thought I was doing what she said! During that time, I fell a lot, had trouble getting up early for lessons. Furthermore, my body wasn’t healing. The smallest tweak would become an injury. 

Vertigo made it impossible to spin and I was falling A LOT and, at the time, I had no idea what was causing vertigo. I finally got my one-foot spin and was ready to test Freestyle 2 with my coach. We went to do the test and I fell…BADLY. I tried again and fell again. We continued to try – I had 5 very hard falls in that one lesson (on top of being mortified). I shelved testing and did not pass Freestyle 2 till June. 

Since moving out of our house, I have progressed much faster in my skating and have had a skating re-birth!

What’s your favorite element to practice?

If you asked me six months ago, I would’ve said jumps without hesitation. As I mentioned, spins were a major challenge. Now, spins are my go-to. I find that the precise nature of the skill needed to spin helps me in other elements of my skating and my overall improvement. I also love the sheer variety of spins and combinations available to practice. I feel like spins can really last – you can get lost in the element, whereas a jump is over so quickly! I still practice my jumps but I find when they are on they are on and require less effort to correct when they’re off. For now, spins are my current love <3 

What’s your favorite off-ice exercise to practice?

Just like I love spinning, I love the spinner. I am currently working on my backspin so it’s been super helpful. I also love stretching potential spiral and spinning positions. I try to increase my flexibility and confidence before trying it on the ice. I have found when I do yoga frequently, my skating improves (and vice versa). 

I have also been injured twice and PT has saved me. I am religious about my PT exercises, even when I am not in active injury. I much prefer pain-free skating 🙂 

How has skating impacted your life?

Healing from chronic illness is a journey that involves addressing physical, emotional, spiritual and energetic balance in one’s life. To do that, it is important to shed survival mechanisms that no longer serve us in a healthy life. One important shift is to focus once again focus on what your body CAN do versus what it cannot, or what’s wrong with it. Skating gave me the gift of that new perception – and it’s the greatest gift it has given me.

Even though this questionnaire is filled with deeply personal insights about my illness, I try to keep the ice a sick-free zone. One of the things that helped me heal was that to stay vertical, I couldn’t think of anything except skating when I was on the ice. That was rather freeing for me – another gift. When symptoms overcome life, to have moments of play and community are priceless. When I met new skaters, I didn’t lead in about being sick, I kept to myself until people knew me better. In this new life, I didn’t want to be defined as the sick girl.

The bonus is that movement, exercise, balance, strength, endurance, music, grace creative expression, laughter, and play are all essential on the road to recovery – figure skating brought all of that back into my life, and therefore, this very special sport I credit for much of my health today.

What’s the best advice your coach has given you?

“Do it Again.” 

She also regularly tells me not to make faces. Judges don’t see every little thing – so if I make a mistake, I don’t need to broadcast it on my face! There’s a chance they missed it!

What’s your advice for other adult skaters out there?

Journal regularly, especially after competitions and performances. I have found skating perfectly reflects my personality and the current state of my life. How I skate a given program or what hurdles come up for me are usually reflective of what’s going on in my life. I feel that my growth as a person influences my skating and it works in reverse; my growth as a skater influences improvement (and struggles!) in other areas of my life. 

Journaling has helped keep my love of skating alive. Like most skaters, I struggle with nerves during competitions. In my third competition, during my programs, I kept mentally picturing when it was all over: the dinner reward, the wine, the relief of comfortable clothes and my skates off my feet. And this kept coming up as a way to escape from my nerves. 

And then I realized – that is the exact opposite of why I wanted to skate and compete! My dream was to skate [and to look pretty 😉 ], but more importantly, to feel the ice, be in the element I’m skating, and feel confident and graceful. Seeing in writing how I was mentally “escaping” from my programs helped me to realize, it’s an active choice to enjoy and be present in every moment of my skating – whether it’s in competition or not. It’s about my joy for skating – not what anyone else thinks of my skating. And now my competition photos and journal notes exude that joy – because I skate to be present, true to my original dream.

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