In every sport, athletes use physical conditioning to support their performance. Fitness training allows athletes to focus on specific muscle groups, in turn boosting athletic ability in one’s sport. In figure skating, there are endless options for cross training from dance practices, to weight lifting, to yoga, to martial arts, and beyond. And with so many differing views it can be tricky to find the best workout combination to suit your specific needs.
Finding the right blend of training for your particular desires as an athlete means first knowing exactly what you want to physically achieve. You want to be aware of your personal strengths and dedicate part of your workout to them in the interest of utilizing those strengths most effectively. You also need to decide which areas that will need the most work in order for you to attain your athletic goals.
Watch videos of your own performances and take note of what you love about your own skating and what you would like to improve on. As for myself, if I were coaching my younger self as an athlete, I would advise 18 year old me to capitalized on my artistry and on my spin and jump positions by taking more ballet classes. And I would also want to focus more on plyometrics training to increase the height in my jumps.
There is no one-right way to train. There is a multitude of right ways. Each individual will need to focus on different things at different times. Explore and be open to new things and new ways of training that you might come across. As a young athlete our main off-ice training was using gym equipment. I knew nothing about Pilates until I heard talk that it was Sasha Cohen’s preferred method of training in the early 2000’s. Before long, it seemed like everyone was doing Pilates. Exploring new workouts can show you muscles you never knew you had! It also increases your body awareness. When you’re in tune with your body, you can create your own training and fitness regime.
Having a personal trainer is most often the preferred way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workouts, however, I’m not totally sure it is the only method of attaining your optimal performance level. Don’t get me wrong; I realize that personal trainers are qualified and skilled professionals. It is certain that a personal trainer can help you push past your pre-determined limitations as well as create strategic workouts for specific muscle groups, and more. What I want to suggest, is not to be afraid to venture out on your own at times and discover different methods that might be exactly what you’re looking for and that you might not have otherwise considered.
There are so many different kinds of fitness classes that offer drop in sessions in many communities. In cities like Toronto, there are studios such as Barreworks, which offers conditioning classes often using a ballet barre in conjunction with resistance bands, and/or medicine balls. I have also tried Energy Fitbox, where you get to punch and kick your own ‘body opponent bag’ (B.O.B) building fantastic endurance training. There is also Spynga, a yoga and cycling studio offering a range of endurance and strength building classes. And that’s only the beginning, there are so many varieties of fitness classes to explore, you could never get bored.
If budgeting is a concern, there are also tons of videos online or fitness apps you can download. I recently started using two mobile apps called StarFit and StarFit Yoga. They allow you to rate the degree of difficulty for every exercise (too easy, just right, or brutal) to personalize your workout and keep you progressing further. The cost for the premium version is a fragment of the price of a trainer. Although you could technically do almost all the moves in your home, I would recommend doing it at a gym or on a patch of grass somewhere that has a softer surface to protect your joints.
Really, the main ingredient for peak fitness is self-motivation, which is only difficult if you’re training without a purpose or goal. When you have a goal (i.e. “to enhance the press-up into my jumps for more height”, or “to increase my stamina so that my jumps at the end of the program aren’t so hard”, or even “to feel stronger”) your goal becomes the motivation and the momentum behind your workout.
Last but certainly not least, one of the most important factors in every sport is proper stretching after every workout. Giving attention to flexibility will not only help skaters achieve a superb spiral like the Michelle Kwan’s or a beautiful Biellmann spin, it also allows the body to open up more and tune in to the detail of refined lines and positions. Not to mention, the fact that correct stretching helps prevent injuries (quite an important factor for every athlete). In an article titled Flexibility Expert Shares Important Tips, (1) Stacey Nemour defines flexibility as having “the full range of motion in ones sport without pain or strain.” That statement is so key! Too often I meet young athletes that don’t pay enough attention to stretching, not realizing how much it can enhance their practice.
For me, finding the right workout system for my current goals comes down to curiosity – being interested in how I can push myself further and allowing enough space for possibility. I believe curiosity generates growth and success. So whether you have a fitness routine or not, keep exploring and keep pushing, you might just discover a new way to propel yourself closer to your athletic goals.
If you’re looking for some workout tunes here’s my current “Move Me” (workout) playlist:
1. Ballet Shoes and Bobbypins, http://balletshoesandbobbypins.com/