Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Pre Season Prep- Eight

December 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Pick My Brain







Today I got schooled in why off-ice training is so important. I had always known that it was a good thing to do, it helped with coordination and reinforcing what one has learned on the ice. I did it as a part of my training, but I really didn’t fully see the benefits of it until I taught it to someone else.

The improvement my student made in one hour of off-ice training far surpassed any work than we had done on the ice the past few weeks. When you’re off-ice you suddenly become more aware of your body. So many factors go into skating- the ice itself, your speed, timing, but off the ice you only have one thing to concentrate on- yourself.

There are many off-ice activities you can do to create more body awareness, strength, and flexibility. Probably one of the best off-ice activities you can do is ballet. Skating moves actually came from ballet way back in the day, so why not go back to the roots of particular moves in order to perfect them? Ballet increases flexibility for starters. It also helps skater elongate their limbs and be able to move their bodies elegantly. Ballet tones muscles better than any other activity, in my opinion. By doing simple bar exercises, you can strengthen your leg muscles without bulking them, leaving you with a long and lean body. Ballet also increases core and back strength, both a necessity for figure skating. Ballet is also used to help skaters find balance. I could go on and on about the benefits of ballet, but the bottom line is ballet is essential to figure skating because of the muscles it works. For more information on the benefits of ballet check out these books by Annette T. Thomas- Ballet for Figure Skaters and Alignment and Classical Movement for Figure Skaters.

Pilates is another great off-ice training possibility. Like ballet, Pilates strengthens the muscles without bulking them. There are several different techniques within Pilates. The most basic option is the Pilates Mat series, which focuses on core and inner thigh strength. Local gyms usually offer Pilates mat classes, but once you know the series it can be used as a warm-up in the rink or done at home. If Pilates really seems to click for you, you might try using the Pilates reformer. This machine works under the same principle as the Mat series but is adjustable to your physical fitness level.

Along the same line, yoga is a wonderful way to increase flexibility and clear a stressful day of training from your mind. Yoga can be like meditation in a way- if you focus on your breathing and flowing through the poses. Yoga also helps to increase balance. Some of the poses require you to balance on one leg or your forearms. Warrior Three, for example, is quite similar to a spiral in skating. Only the leg is not raised quite as high.

Strength training with weights is important as well. It’s important not to start lifting weights too early and make sure that a young skater is supervised when they first start lifting. Lifting improperly can cause serious damage later. I find that using lighter weights and more repetitions increases strength.

Lastly, cardio is a necessary part of training. Good endurance is essential to being able to complete a nice and clean program. Doing run-throughs of your program is not always enough to build up endurance. Besides, you have to be somewhat in shape in order to start training the program. It’s not advised to start doing run-throughs of your program cold turkey, without some endurance training beforehand. Different types of cardio include running, swimming, the elliptical, or biking.

Off-ice conditioning should be tailored to each individual athlete. Injuries and special circumstances need to be taken into consideration. For example, a skater that has bad knees may need to swim for cardio instead of run in order to avoid pounding on the knees.

Of course it’s always important to run through your jumps or footwork of ice. You can really go through each position in slow motion to make sure you are doing it correctly and feel exactly where your body is. THIS MANY HOURS OF OFF-ICE EQUALS THIS MANY HOURS OF ON ICE

Off-ice work is not limited to the body. The mind also needs to be trained in order to help the body perform at its best when it needs to. Visualization and guided imagery can also be done off the ice, but that topic is for another day.

I can’t speak enough about the importance of off-ice training. The US Olympic team feels the same way. A portion of their website is dedicated to USOC sports performance. Here’s what they have to say about strength and conditioning:

“The benefits from properly prescribed strength & conditioning include increased performance and decreased injury potential, increased skill acquisition, balance, coordination, quickness, physical fitness, confidence, self esteem, quicker recovery times, and mental toughness.”

by: Nicolette House

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