Devoted ice skaters need to cross-train; this is true for any level or age. Ice skaters are no different from serious athletes in any sport; we repeat the same movements over and over, often for hours at a time on a regular basis. This is hard on the body at any age. I train with teens in a Sport-Study Programme and they often complain about the same aches and pains that I do!
Unlike the teens though, we adult figure skaters may have older injuries that can be compounded by the intensity of our figure skating training. Plus, we also need longer recovery times between intense training sessions and, unfortunately, take longer to heal from injury.
As part of the research for my upcoming book, Skating in the Arena of Life: 7 Strategies for Midlife Women to Find Solid Ground and Achieve Their Goals, (LINK) I decided to try out an “Essentrics™ Aging Backwards” class.
Essentrics™ technique was created by Miranda Esmonde-White. American readers may have seen her TV show “Classical Stretch” on the PBS network. . To quote her website:
“The ESSENTRICS™ technique is based on the concept of eccentric muscle contractions, which strengthen the muscles in the lengthened position. This type of muscle activation increases tension on the muscles as they lengthen, creating a long, lean and toned physique, helping to relieve aches and pains and to prevent injuries. The simultaneous strengthening and stretching in ESSENTRICS™ results in a strong, vibrant, youthful and pain-free body.”
As well as benefiting mere mortals, numerous elite athletes have also benefited from Essentrics™, notably figure skaters Megan Duhamel and Amelie Lacoste, as well as the Montreal Canadians Hockey team.
So what was the “Aging Backwards” class like? According to the website, it is “aimed at regaining your mobility while slowly building strength and re-awakening the power of your 620 muscles…. It is designed for those who have atrophy-related stiffness, frozen shoulder, chronic aches and pains, or who are beginning to exercise after a long sedentary period….” Chronic aches and pains? Yep, that’s me!
We started with a very gentle but thorough warm-up, followed by some very gentle stretches done first at the barre and then on the mat. As an adult figure skater, I really appreciated working barefoot and the time we spent working on the feet. One of the down sides of skating is having your feet and ankles relatively immobile for long periods of time.
I never broke a sweat, but I felt comfortable, warm and energized. In a perfect world, I would do this class right before my on-ice training! It was also good to focus on stretching and mobilizing the joints that don`t get a whole lot of use in skating (feet and upper body), as well as taking the time to mobilize all of my joints through their entire range of motion.
There are Essentrics™ trained teachers all over the world, so you have no excuses to not give it a try. Check out their website and be sure to share how you cross-train for figure skating on this website!