A Gentleman and an Ice Dancer

Bill Todaro, 68, skates with his former partner Margaret Bakke, of Cleveland, Ohio, at the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in 2014. HO

Bill Todaro, 68, skates with his former partner Margaret Bakke, of Cleveland, Ohio, at the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in 2014. HO

Here’s a wonderful article about American adult figure skater Bill Todaro.  A classic case of AOFSS (Adult Onset Figure Skating Syndrome) if ever there was one :)

According to the article, Bill got a somewhat late but but rather interesting start to his ice skating career.

He has participated and medalled at several US Adult Figure Skating Nationals in ice dance.

He also trains like an elite athlete with a full program of off-ice  training activities.

…and according to the article he is that rarest of rare birds: a male competitive ice dancer who is currently searching for a new partner!!

Bill Todaro, you are heretofore declared  Adult Figure Skater of the Month for September!

By the way, I’m always open to receiving nominations for adult figure skater of the month, don’t be shy!  Nominate yourself!  Adult figure skaters are a dedicated and hard-working crew son let’s celebrate our accomplishments.   And please, please,  please…   don’t be thinking that you have to accomplish great skating feats to nominate yourself or others.   Mastering a three turn on your bad foot is a call to celebrate just as much as landing your first triple is!

*photo credit: Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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Putting the Figures Back In Figure Skating

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If you are ancient adult figure skater  like I am, much of your youth was most likely spent using one of these.

Back in the day, for every hour that I spent practicing ice dance or free skating, I would have spent two hours on figures.

I’ve read many laments on how figure skating has suffered and the coming apocalypse since compulsory figures were removed from competition and these concerns are certainly valid but I must confess:

Holy Incessant Circles Batman!!!!! I never, ever, ever want to do figures ever again.

However,  for the aficionados out there and you know who you are, today marks the start of the World Figure Championship and Figure Festival at Lake Placid.

“The Figure Festival commences on Tuesday morning, August 25, 2015 and concludes on Thursday evening, August 27, 2015. The Figure Festival is a fun-filled interactive workshop that creates a supportive learning environment for all ages and abilities to learn the Figure Eights. Opportunities abound in this Figure Festival with workshops throughout the day, on & off the ice, covering all aspects of Edges, Turns, Circle Eights, Loops, Serpentines, Paragraph Figures, Figure Tests and ISI Figure Competitions. The Figure Festival is open for enrollment to all levels and fans of the skating community throughout the World. Coaches in all skating disciplines are welcome to bring and teach their students during the Figure Festival. Gliding across the pristine black ice and leaving one’s blade tracings behind will be just the beginning of this amazing experience! Then in the days to follow be inspired when observing the beautiful Figure patterns skated at the inaugural 2015 World Figure Championship on black ice.”

I was working on my 7th figure test when figures were discontinued and have no desire to go back to working on them.  I much prefer to work on stroking exercises since they reflect how basic turns and edges are done at higher speeds.

But to those who will be participating, I salute you!

A special shout out to the pride of Ottawa, world champion adult ice skater Jan Calnan who will be participating as well as the pride of Pierrefonds,  former Canadian champion, Charlene Wong.

Did you ever own the item in the photo?  I still have mine stashed away at the back of my hall closet, do you still have yours?

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Intergenerational Axels

Scott Tolle you are the  adult figure skating Yoda to my Luke Skywalker!

This just made my day!

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Old Ice Skater Muscles

Get BackI’ve decided to take a 6 week break from ice skating to deal with a nagging injury that of late, has been coming more than it’s been going. I am also working with an athletic trainer on a weekly basis and make my daily rehab exercises a priority. Since the summer is so short here, I’ve also tried to include daily walks, swims or bike rides. The good news is that the pain level has diminished but I’m not going to return to the ice until I can walk for more than half an hour pain free and at a reasonably fast pace.

In the past, my off-ice training/rehabilitation would have included running but due to the injury I can’t run due to pain. Turns out running may not be as effective as it was in my younger days anyhow according to this article on high intensity training for seniors, and by seniors they mean anyone over 40!!

“High intensity training has become extremely popular among fitness enthusiasts in the past few years, with an increased interest in performing challenging workouts to enhance fitness and reap the benefits of short intense exercise. Traditionally this type of training was reserved for athletes to enhance sports performance, but now it has become a common method of fitness training. The benefits of this type of training are well documented in research. This short intense workout style can increase aerobic capacity faster then steady-state training, and increase fat utilization for energy causing a bigger changes in body composition, just to name a few benefits. This has lead to questions about whether older adults can experience the same benefits in a safe way.”

Since my athletic trainer Wendy is a proponent of this philosophy, workouts are intense. I train with two mid-life ladies, one is and avid runner and the other is a hockey player. We all have different injuries and rehab needs but the common denominator is that we are all nearly dead after our sessions. Wendy has the ability to zero in on wonky muscles that are not doing their job and it’s a given that at the room will be filled with effort-filled groans as we flop about trying to persuade striking muscles to go back to work.

Being an adult figure skater I’m used to intense bursts of anaerobic energy for 3minutes, it still doesn’t make Wendy’s regime any easier, it’s like a never ending series of run-throughs!

On the other hand, here’s an added benefit I never thought of:

“Higher intensity exercises not only do wonders for the muscular system it stimulates hormone production. Research indicates seniors that performed power-training workouts with more explosive movement such as throwing a medicine ball or kettle bell swings had an increased production of the hormones testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factors, which all lead to a muscle growth and more youthful appearance.”

This is week four, hopefully if I keep improving at this rate I can start back on the ice at the end of August.

Posted in adult figure skater, figure skating injury, Ice skating | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Oh Boo Hoo, Cry Me a River

sad cat Click to read article.

Really?

As we say in my corner of the world,  bunch of bébé-la-las!!! (cry-babies).

Raise your hand all you ice skaters out there who have a hard time feeling sorry for these guys!!!

Hands up all you figure skaters who skate on early morning ice that is seldom  properly maintained or  resurfaced after the beer-league game that ended after midnight the previous night!

Hands up all you ice skaters who have been asked to find another rink to practice at because the holes from are jumps upset and frighten the hockey players.   (True story…happened in my neck of the woods  a few years ago).

Hands up all figure skaters who have ever caught their edge in a rut or hole going into a jump or spin.    Bet you managed to complete your element and bet you it wasn’t half bad either.

Guess when you are paid a ba-jillion dollars a year it’s OK to be an ice diva…

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How to Think Like an Ice Skating Coach, Part Two

Peppermint PattyAs promised, here is the second part of the interview on preparing for a figure skating competition with Michelle Leigh. The same strategies are also effective for ice skating test situations.
Have a Plan and be Flexible Too

“Athletes who have a planned pre-competition routine may be more confident, because of the perceived control. But, it’s also important for them to be flexible in where and how they execute their pre-competition routine. A well prepared athlete can carry out her pre-competition routine anywhere. Even practicing doing a warm-up in a different location in her home rink can help the skater to train for this. A lack of adaptability isn’t a problem until suddenly an athlete begins to feel uncomfortable. “Sometimes we spend so much time on skill development that we forget about stress management in a new environment,” says Leigh. There’s room for this kind of training at the developmental level; you don’t have to wait until the elite stages to start thinking about it.

“Don’t Become More of Yourself

“Coaches get nervous too, and that’s normal. As the person the athlete looks to in their moments of vulnerability, a coach needs to be just as focused as the athlete. Not becoming more of yourself means that if you’re usually loud, don’t get louder; if you micromanage, keep it in check. Be conscious of the behaviours that will be magnified and manage them. “If you’re going to be the ‘rock’ you can’t be distracted and you need to look and feel like you’re in control.”

Great advice and I can honestly say that these elements are the basis for my competition warm-ups. As an adult skater, I very rarely have my coach present. So, I have to be able to enter into my competition mind-set pretty much as soon as I walk into the building. Like many things in life, having routines and rituals can be calming and comforting when you are experiencing stressful situations. The other essential element is the actual physical warm-up: both on and off the ice. Again, you need to experiment with particular exercises and routines that work for you.

I also recommend the Coaching Association of Canada’s website, as there is a wealth of information on all aspects of coaching. They have some great information that we can use as athletes, but many of us are coaches as well. If you coach your kid’s baseball team, or have an interest in participating at this level in any sport, this is the website for you!

Do you and your coach have any special pre-test or completion routines that are helpful? Share them with us!

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How to Think Like an Ice Skating Coach

LoveURcoachAs an NCCP certified figure skating coach, I receive regular emails from the Coaching Association of Canada. Here are some excerpts from a recent interview with Canadian figure skating coach Michelle Leigh on pre-competition preparation. As adult ice skaters there may be times when we are competing without our coach so it’s good to know how to think like a coach.

Less is More

“Inexperienced coaches have a tendency to share everything – every nugget of knowledge, every tried-and-tested solution. It’s way too much. Experience teaches you to make sure you keep to the key points and reveals the importance of trying to get an athlete used to being out of their comfort zone.” Great coaches share the right information at the right time. Keeping your coaching plan and feedback simple, particularly in preparation for competition, is important.

Minimize Distractions

“This is common for athletes at all levels; the distractions are just different at various stages of the game. Less experienced athletes will worry about judges and how cold the rink is, while the elite must manage extensive travel, responsibilities to sponsors and the media, and the pressure of representing their country. The key is to give them the tools to take control, stay focused, and be confident. Keywords and cues are a great tool to bring back focus: “Elvis (Stojko) taught me that and he used to look at his left hand as his cue coming into his first jump and had a key word for every component of his routine,” explains Leigh. She often has athletes share their competition plans and has a conversation with them to maintain focus. “Treat every athlete as they need to be treated – there is no one blueprint. Everyone is different and you need to tailor the approach.”

Find a Quiet Space

“The designated warm-up area isn’t always the best. Find an area you can use for the duration of the event to meet with the athlete, discuss the program, and rehearse. A safe, comfortable, and preferably familiar space will help with 1-on-1 conversations and keep the athlete’s attention on preparation. The space should be close enough to the competition area so that the athlete knows what’s going on, but removed enough to keep them focused on their preparation. A good space helps athletes open up to coaches. Difficult conversations are sometimes the most important ones over the course of an event and a good space contributes to a positive outcome.

Next week, I’ll post the remainder of the article, plus some personal reflections.

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News Clip: Canada’s Fiercest Adult Pairs Figure Skating Competitors

Canada has always been known for the depth and strength of it’s pairs ice skaters: Duhamel and Radford, Brasseur and Eisler, Underhill and Martini, but this clip introduces a little-known Canadian adult figure skating pair. Unlike the first three pairs these two have had to fight an up-hill battle to rise to the top, most noticeably lack of talent and absolutely no idea what they are doing on the ice.   You have to love their optimism and determination though :)

I can totally relate!

PS No actual figure skaters were used in the making of this clip and last I heard the Russian judge bore the team no ill will.

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Adult Ice Skating Basics: Correctly Lacing Figure Skates

Oh, the things I find on the internet in the name of website research!

Here’s a nifty little video explaining how to tie figure skates. I had plans to do a video on this topic, but never got around to making it.

You might think, “I don`t need anyone to tell me how to lace my skates; I`ve been doing that for years.” You may be surprised to hear that I`ve seen a lot of questions and comments about this. Lacing up figure skates seems so basic, but the cardinal rule is a bit like Goldilocks finding her optimal porridge temperature: the skate should be laced neither too tight nor too loose, but just right.

You also might not be aware that there are minor variations in lace-tightening technique specific to different brands of figure skate. Below are some videos for specific brands and models.

Jackson Elite
Edea
Reidel

I only have personal experience with Jackson, Edea, Risport and GAM so I can’t comment on other brands. I never had any issues with Jackson but like many people with Edeas, I do find that they tend to loosen up after about 45 minutes of skating, but not all the time. This was also more of a problem when they were new. I’ve had them almost a year now, and every now and again, I’ll have to re-tie the skate on my landing foot.

One thing that remains consistent is my need to re-lace my skates before I get on the ice. I always lace up my skates, walk around a bit and then re-lace them or they don’t feel right. If I don’t do the second re-lace, I find they are too loose after 5-10 minutes of skating. The other thing I do without fail is always put my right skate on first. There is absolutely no scientific, kinesiologic or physiologic reason for this, it`s just me being a creature of habit and having it feeling just wrong and weird if I don’t do it.

How do you lace up your skates? Do you have any figure skate lacing rituals?

Posted in Adult Figure Skating Competitions | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Physics for Adult Figure Skaters

Even if you are not a science geek/geekette, as an adult figure skater, you know intuitively there is nothing like sliding around on frozen H20 to teach you the basics of Newton`s first and second laws.

This short video explains the physics of ice skating from two perspectives: the need for balance and stability, and projectile motion.

The centre of gravity (mass) in the human body is in the middle of the lower abdomen. Needless to say, while figure skating, the muscles and ligaments in this area are in constant use no matter what you are doing. Everything from the simplest of turns to maintaining a solid position while spinning, both on the ice and in the air, demands stability and strength here. No wonder hip and groin injuries are so common in figure skating. Effects of repetitive movements and consequent muscle imbalances that can ensue all take their toll. Working in a cold environment doesn’t help either.

Even as adults, if you are going to train seriously, you should consider Pilates, ballet, or yoga to build strength and maintain flexibility in this area. We don’t heal like the youngsters do. And yes, even the youngsters are prone to injuries to this area.

I`ve been battling a torn psoas muscle  for over five years now and truly believe that I never would have sustained the injury if I had continued to take ballet classes. It is easy to gradually lose muscle tone in this area without noticing, until something gives out. Recently, I’ve also come to appreciate the role and necessity of upper body strength in figure skating.

Ice dance and pairs skaters will appreciate the effects of projectile motion and how it affects lifts and throws, but singles ice skaters also know that your horizontal ground speed does affect the height of your jumps.

Adult ice skaters will appreciate the nice slow-motion single flip that Evan Lysacek does at the 2:46 mark of the video.

And if all else fails, just remember to:

Keep Calm
And
Keep your centre of mass over your feet!

Posted in adult figure skater, Ballet for Figure Skaters, figure skating, Ice skating | Tagged | 2 Comments