Which Off Ice activities help Ice Skaters?
Great skaters have strong bodies and high levels of cardiovascular fitness. While there are some generic off ice training classes that are sensible for all aspiring skaters to take, each discipline of Figure Skating has a cluster of body training or cross-training that can be beneficial. Aside from the standard body conditioning of cardio and resistance, there is a world of engaging and challenging workouts to be enjoyed….yes, enjoyed! Combine them wisely and you’ll have a comprehensive physical preparation for your sport.
Lets start with the standard set for all disciplines.
- Dance (Ballet/Contemporary/Modern/Jazz/HipHop/Commercial); While classic movement vocabulary of ballet and contemporary dance are favoured in general for competitive skating and should be a first choice, there are some excellent examples of skaters branching out and testing new territory. Versatile movement styles distinguish outstanding performers from the crowd, so once you’ve got your basics – branch out!
- Martial Arts; for those who are particularly averse to dance, there is a discipline, rhythm, fluidity and strength of body carriage that comes with training in Martial Arts that can be an excellent alternative to Ballet. Martial Arts also require flexibility, directional and spatial awareness. The only cautionary note is that Martial Arts tend to extend to dorsi-flexed feet and toes (we skaters know that as flexed), so some mindfulness would be needed to prevent a transfer of that habit to the ice. Be sure to research whether a class is non-contact, semi or full contact before diving in!
- Pick at least one of the above! The principles of directional movement, limb control, fluidity and flexibility are common to all of the above and essential for Ice Skaters.
- Matt based Pilates/Yoga; This is an excellent foundation, favoured for developing long lean limbs, core stability and balance in the musculature. Pilates and Yoga stretches exercise both sides equally and with control in staged progression to build results over time. Be patient and be focussed when practicing and you’ll reap the benefits.
- HIIT training; Competitive skating routines, as a sport event, are relatively short but are physically intense. A skater will often reach their maximum heart rate within the first 40 seconds of their routine and remain close to or at their maximum heart rate for the duration of their programme. HIIT training mirrors this as exercise bouts raise the heart rate to or close to maximum with short rest intervals that prevent full recovery before commencing the next bout of intense exercise.
- Suspension training (aka TRX); To benefit from training with this piece of equipment it’s essential to be introduced to correct technique by a qualified Personal Trainer or Physical Therapist. The suspension straps allow for fluid movements while targeting different areas of the body depending on the prescribed exercise, but almost always challenging the body core. As the equipment uses body weight and gravity it is safe to introduce into adolescents training programmes depending on their physical maturity and the exercises selected.
- Gyrotonics or Reformer/Cadillac Pilates; While each of these is a different equipment based movement training regime, all of them add an extra dimension of challenge to participants through a wider range of movement planes. Gyrotonics is founded on fluid spiralling and rotating movements which open up joints and range of motion in dance-like series’. Pilates reformer and Cadillac also introduce wider movement dimensions including being suspended and climbing type movements. If you are searching for improved range of movement and control throughout that range for Spirals, Spins, Lifts, Poses, body core movement and port de bras (arm carriage), these are great workouts to choose.
More than 1 Body! – Ice Dance, Pairs and Synchro disciplines of Figure Skating all have the extra movement vocabulary of lifts and balances involving 2 (or more) bodies moving together. These factors place more demand on upper body, core strength and additional challenges for the legs. Here are a few fun means of cross-training and enhancing experience levels of moving, supporting and balancing for these multi-athlete ice skating disciplines.
- Pole – Great for Ice Dancers and Pairs Skaters to make you appreciate your partner. The Pole acts as a completely passive partner, making the upper body, core and legs work HARD as you use your limbs to climb, coil, twist, thread, swing, spin and stretch. It’s vertical gymnastics. What’s not to love? Aerial hoop and Silks are also a good challenge. Enjoy this performance that has excellent linking choreography too
- Contact Improvisation – This is fascinating to watch when done well. So, below is some inspiration for you in the aptly named “Graceful Chaos”. It looks like disorganised and random movements, and they are but the participants are using their shared centre of gravity and fine tuned attention to one another to create continuous unified motion. Find a class and learn this cool skill and you’ll never be short of ideas for lifts.
- Acro-Yoga – Paired or even in small groups. Balances use the body weight of both participants to provide a work-out and a building of trust through learned series’ of movement. Again, it’s just so cool to be inspired by people who are awesome and expert, so here is a feast for the eyes. Don’t try this at home….get some lessons!
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