Injured skater heads to the gym - and the bench press

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Local,Kaitlin Schluter

When Jennifer Lyon tore the cartilage in her knee skating about three years ago, she took up another activity to keep in shape -- bench pressing.

"I've been pressing up to 105 to 110 pounds," said Lyon, an ice dancer with the Washington Figure Skating Club. "I don't know why I enjoy it. I think it's the challenge of trying to add another plate on the bar."

The 49-year old Ashburn resident can be found pressing three times a week at the Dynamic Sports Performance facility. Lyon said the facility essentially created a post-physical therapy program for her to deal with her injury.

When not at the gym, Lyon serves as recording secretary on the skating club's board of governors. She also judges adult and youth skaters two to three weekends a month.

Lyon concedes her schedule is a challenge. She balances a full-time job at TASC as a defense contractor in between rinks. But like bench pressing, Lyon tackles challenges with enthusiasm. In fact, it was one of her favorite parts of competing in ice dancing.

"My coach would look at the events and say, 'Try harder dances because I think you're capable,' " she said. "The accomplishment was the challenge of learning and having the confidence to go out there and say, 'Hey, let's do this.' "

Lyon started ice dancing a year after college, before she was shipped to Germany for four years in the military. She served as a major in the Air Force, finding some time to skate at a rink about 30 miles away.

She started competing six years ago but has been with the Washington Figure Skating Club since the 1980s. Before her injury, she competed mainly in professional-amateur competitions. Three months after surgery, Lyon attempted to dance again in a competition but withdrew during warm-ups because of the pain.

"It was very mentally frustrating," she said. "At the time, the mind and the body were not on the same wavelength."

Lyon said a "chicken factor" is common for adult skaters when it comes to injuries. People are afraid to get hurt if it means missing work. But some adult skaters continue to aggressively compete despite age. One 70-year-old man skates in nine events in competition, typically more than a younger skater.

"I always tease him that he's my hero, someone to look up to," she said.

Lyon is the only one in her family to pick up ice dancing. Her brother skis, but her sister avoids the cold "unless it's ice cubes in a drink," she said. Her mother is a professional piano teacher who surrounded Lyon with music while she was growing up. Lyon attributes her interest in ice dancing, which incorporates music and refined skating skills, to that background.

"If I start skating again, I'll go back to the ice dancing," she said.

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