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In the spring of 2014 I reviewed my training program after my season ended prematurely. Lesson learned: don’t be in a hurry when you are booking airfares online. However in the true spirit of the glass being half full I was able to use the extra time to focus on intensive athletic therapy to coax a torn left psoas muscle back to health and review my on and off ice training.
Based on input from my athletic trainer and my ice skating coach I added twice weekly on ice group sessions dedicated to improving my edges, turns and over all endurance as well as weekly floor–barre ballet classes.
The goals of the on-ice sessions are to build strength and endurance as well as mastering edges and turns. Many of the exercises are similar to Canadian Skating Skills and American Moves in the Field exercises. Generally content, focus and difficulty of each session can change according to a number of factors such as whether we require continued practice on elements done in a previous session, what our coach feels needs to be improved. Some days we just get really nitpicky about making sure the turns are deep and clean, speed isn’t important.
In some sessions we focus on endurance but that doesn’t mean we can get away with sloppy technique, scraped and cheated turns or toe pushing. Generally there is some endurance component to each session but depending on such factors on how whiny we are getting and whether or not someone though to bring coffee for coach, the length of time of this component can be increased or reduced accordingly.
Some examples of combinations we do:
- All edges, forward and backwards
- Continuous Choctaws
- Continuous rockers and counters on one foot
- Twizzles with multiple rotations and in both directions (with speed!)
- Swizzles, or as we call them in Canada: bubbles, with jumps as we bring our feet together
- Double three turns from inside and outside edges.
- Russian Stroking in both clockwise and counter clockwise directions.
- Nice, deep juicy cross-cuts foreword and backwards in both directions.
These sessions have done wonders to build up not only my endurance but also my confidence and skill in turns and edges. It is entirely possible to do these exercises on your own but I find having a coach supervise makes me work much harder and ensures correct execution of each element. The group setting also keeps the cost down as well.
All the exercises can be adapted to the skill of the skaters so they are a great way for adult figure skaters to improve. How do you improve your endurance and basic skating skills? Which off-ice activities help the most? Share your hints and experiences with us!
Here’s a blast from the past from the days before video and internet, a documentary on Canadian figure skater, Donald Jackson. His ice skating resume includes winning the Canadian Senior Men’s title four times, the 1962 world figure skating title and a 1960 Winter Olympic bronze medal.
He was also the first competitive figure skater to complete a triple lutz.
After he retired from amateur competition he toured with the Ice Follies, for the very young amongst us, this was Disney on Ice before there was Disney on Ice. From there he continued on as a coach in Ottawa, Canada and co-founded the Jackson Ice Skate Company.
He is also a huge supporter of adult figure skaters and has accompanied the Canadian Adult Figure Skating Team to the ISU International Adult Figure Skating Competition that is held every year in Oberstdorf, Germany.
How many differences can you spot between the technique of over fifty years ago and today’s jumping and skating techniques? For example, he does not cross his feet when rotating jumps, and of course the spins and connecting footwork are much simpler. Costume-wise this was in the “pre-bling” era and the men pretty much wore identical outfits.
Did you catch that huge, glorious back outside edge going into the triple lutz…no chance of a flutz ever happening here! The upright change foot spin and the delayed single axels are never seen in competition at any level now and you have to love the judges seated out on the ice.
Who’s your favorite figure skater from times gone by?
This past weekend, I participated in my first adult ice skating competition since last January; some readers may recall that my plans to attend the Canadian Adult Figure Skating National Competition in March were scuttled by booking the wrong departure date for my air transportation. That was the bad news.
The good news is that thanks to a combination of rethinking my whole training regimen and continued healing of a nagging hip injury; I’ve since gained a lot of confidence in my skating. One of the biggest changes was the addition of twice weekly group ice skating skills/endurance sessions more about this in the upcoming weeks. Another big epiphany came with the realization that I needed to do many, many, many run-throughs of my programs to build endurance and the confidence that I would be able to perform well no matter what my emotional state was at the time.
This last one was tough. When I was completely honest with myself I had to admit that I was, in a strange kind of way and for want of a better word, “intimidated” by my skating programs. Based on discussions I’ve had with elite figure skaters, I’m not the only one. One young lady confided that she dreaded doing her program, especially when it was new and she did not yet have the confidence that repetition gives. Olympic Champion Patrick Chan in a recent article said that one thing he was looking forward to on his sabbatical year was just enjoying his practices and having a break from the stress of daily program run-throughs.
Although I was the only one on my category (adult masters) I had access to a full panel of figure skating judges, and technical specialists. As you can see on my results sheet, I had one of my best skates ever! 16.95 is a personal best mark and this is the first time I have ever had all my elements actually count! All the deductions were minor and I have plenty of time to correct them. Another sweet bonus was landing my first axel attempt on the warm up as well as getting both of them in the program!
The biggest challenge of the night however was skating my new interpretive skating program less than half an hour after the free style program. In fact my warm-up for the interpretive was just 20 minutes after my free style!
Considering that the choreography of my new program was only completed 3 weeks ago and I’ve only completely skated the program 5 times, I managed to get through it without forgetting anything and without passing out. The only thing I didn’t do was change clothes between events, thought it might have been a better use of my limited time to, oh I don’t know, perhaps try to remember the steps to my interpretive program??!!
Considering how awful I felt I’m pleased to say I got a pretty good result so I can’t complain, pretty good for an old lady of 53 I think!
As always, it was a pleasure catching up on the news from other adult skaters as well as chatting with the teenagers and their parents.
What competitions are you planning on doing this season? Do you feel ready to compete? Are you a newbie or a veteran competitor, be sure and share your stories with us!
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I was tidying up my ice skating music files when I came across this timely article, direct from the Washington Post:
“Gracie Gold is the new face of American figure skating, winning her first national championships in January and placing fourth in her first Olympics. When it came time to come up with her new programs, her coach made one request.
Absolutely no “Carmen.” Ever.
Selections from Bizet’s opera is to skating what “Mack the Knife” had been to the crooners – practically everyone has a version. Once seen as theatrical, “Carmen” now feels like a standby in a sport that’s run out of ideas. But a new rule for this year’s figure skating season, which started in earnest last weekend, has come up with new idea.”
(****note: you have to scroll down quite a bit to get to the actual article)
Full disclosure here: I have never, ever skated to Carmen, ever! I did skate to Swan Lake when I was 10 but that is the closest I have ever got to anything on the “Oh Not That Again!” list.
In fact I’m rather proud of the fact that I have always skated to non-traditional but interesting music. I’ve used tango music… but no Piazolla, Celtic music, film music…but not Romeo and Juliet, 20th century American music as well as Canadian jazz, folk and classical musicians.
Next week is the competitive debut of my new interpretive skating program, it’s based loosely on Pirates of the Caribbean. Love the music, hopefully I’ll be able to get through the program without sustaining cardiac arrest. I’ll post a video later in the season when I’m happy with my skate.
What do you think…is there music that tends to be over used by adult ice skaters? What are you currently skating to?
Several years ago I took a course in internet marketing and and one of the assignments was setting up a YouTube channel and filming/posting marketing videos. We also had to set up a Twitter account and monitor that as well. I had some video clips that I had filmed for my level 1 NCCP coaching certification so I posted these as well. The clips were of me coaching some beginner and intermediate level adult figure skaters. I posted them and basically completely forgot about them.
Well, didn’t these things start to take on a life of their own, OK nothing viral (maybe if it were cats on ice?) but people were commenting and asking questions. So I filmed a few more videos that covered very basic skills for adult beginner figure skaters and got more comments and requests for more videos.
It seems that many of my fans are just starting their ice skating journey or would like to know how to begin. I’m happy to help people get started with basic skills but I only want to do basic stuff. If anyone wants to try more advanced skills they really should be working with a coach primarily for safety reasons. Also what works for me may not necessarily work for you, figure skating coaches get the big bucks to assess what your particular problems are and then help you to find the solution that works for you.
If you’ve got non-skating friends who would like to try figure skating definitely pass this onto them, the content in this video is what I teach to my adult beginners in the first class.
Be sure and share your comments.
….and let me know if you have requests for a video on a specific skill!
We’ve been discussing endurance pertaining to figure skating for the past couple of weeks. Last week, I shared some ways you can improve your endurance for your program off-ice. This week will be about on-ice muscular endurance training.
Remember to always start with a little light activity, such as stroking. Depending on such factors as arena temperature, time of day or even just how old, creaky and stiff you are at that point, you may need to do anywhere between 5-15 minutes of stroking and other warm-up activities before and after your endurance work to warm up and cool down your muscles. If time on the ice is limited, it might be a good idea to arrive a little earlier and do some warm-up activities off-ice. Brisk walking or a gentle run are good ways of warming up the muscles . You should still do an on-ice warm-up but it just won’t take as long.
After you feel sufficiently warmed up, you can progress to jumps and spins. I like to warm up with waltz jumps and back spins, since they are the basis of most of the other elements in figure skating.
On-Ice muscular endurance training:
Here are some suggestions; this is not an exhaustive (pun intended) list. Each figure skating coach has his or her own specific ideas, based on experience and training. These are just some of the things that work for me.
I try to do both my programs every time I get on the ice. Good time management has come to be an absolute essential for me, since I have both a free style and an artistic program as well. I need to make sure I practice jumps, spins and stroking exercises. My goal is really to be able to do my programs more than once in a session. I have an adult training buddy who does her masters competitive program at least 4-5 times per session with incredible results. She also does off-ice work with a personal trainer, which also helps. For the time being, my goal will be to do each program at least once full out and then a second time with only singles. For the truly masochistic (or determined) souls amongst us, back-to-back full out run-throughs are very effective. My coach often gets me to do elements when my legs are tired; for example, my footwork sequence, which is my very last element in my program. When I do it in isolation, it is actually very easy; less so after two and a half minutes!
I think, therefore I am – going to do it!
Mental preparation is also important. It’s always tempting not to do a run-through, purely because you feel so horrible when doing it. I know some times I really have to psych myself up to attempt the program. I have to remind myself that mileage is key: the more times I do it, the more comfortable I will be with it.
Perseverance is key: if you keep pushing through to the end every time, that lovely feeling of impending death will lessen over time. You will go from saying to yourself, “When it this going to be over?” to, “Hey, it’s nearly over!!”
And remember to practice doing it all with a smile on your face!
It is at this point that I am ethically and morally bound to advise anyone who has never done any type of intense endurance work to please check with their appropriate medical professional before embarking on such activity. Most coaches have CPR training, but they all really, really, really hope they never have to use it!
So, who’s ready to bite the bullet and work on improving their muscular endurance? Remember adult nationals are in six months!
Last week, I explained a type of endurance that is crucial to a skater’s performance: muscular endurance. This allows a figure skater to be able to continue at a moderate to intense level of activity for 2, 3, or 4 minutes, interspersed by several bouts of explosive movements, such as jumps, spins, or lifts.
You may wish to consider adding some sort of off-ice training regimen to your regular weekly exercise schedule. This week, I’ll share some ways you can improve your endurance for your program. Continue reading