This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

sit ups pull ups

Any skater who is serious enough to retain a coach to train for competitions quickly recognizes the importance of off-ice training.  Besides ballet, USFSA also recommends strength training; see their general guidelines for strength training here.

Boring as heck, three strength exercises are essential to getting to the next level: sit ups, pull ups, and shoulder presses. Sit ups provide the strength to keep a straight core and properly aligned spine while you spin. Shoulder presses allow you to maintain control over your arm movements.

Everyone though seems to overlook pull ups. The back muscles strengthened by pull ups do more for your posture than any other muscle group.

Once you move up to elite you likely need a more serious and educated personal trainer.  See  for example this article by Charles Poliquin of how he has trained world-class Canadian skaters.

Some basic strength training at the rink or at the gym is infinitely helpful to your competitive skating, but once you get committed at a national level be sure to kick your off-ice training up to the next level.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

- jump practice

I spent a couple hours on Sunday at the Toyota Sports Center freestyles past the Airport, and either by reputation (or because Culver Ice is now closed or both) it was a bit too busy, really. It seems they run "open" freestyles where  anyone can show up with any skill level, so some national caliber juniors were practicing triples along with novices trying to hold a steady spiral. The city power cut off around 9:00 with 10 seconds of total blackout until the emergency lights came on -- talk about a scary situation during a freestyle! Rink designers please pay heed: this makes an excellent argument for a couple of small skylights or high transom windows (as long as they don't let the sunlight shine directly on the ice).

Anyhow while watching the more adept skaters practice their elements I was drawn to the difficulty and disconnect between an Axel during freestyle and actually jumping one during your program. The etiology of the issue is down to your horizontal vector -- the speed you travel across the ice when you launch and when you land your jump. At a busy freestyle you avoid other skaters, look for an open place to jump, and vary your stroking speed constantly. During a program you have the entire ice to yourself, are stroking and keeping time to the music, and trying to get full rink coverage by maintaining an elegant velocity. And hence the rub: if you practice your jumps at a slow horizontal velocity during your freestyles, then you are going to herkily jerkily slow down your program when it comes time to launch. Or if you keep your rhythm and speed to launch faster than you've practiced then you will yaw during your spin and additionally land and check with a pressure on your edges to which you are unaccustomed.

I guess what I am asking, dear readers, is shouldn't you always practice your jumps with the same smooth stroking lead-in and velocity as you are expecting for when you are jumping them in your program?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

- freestyle

When you are a young kid starting to skate you begin with classes at your local rink. Then once you've got your balance and a slow scratch spin (and decide that you'd like to try something more serious) you get the idea that perhaps you can get a coach. Then after you've had some coaching at public sessions for around a year, and you've got a couple spins and a simple jump or two, your coach will want you to attend some freestyles.

Away from the classroom setting, the freestyle is where you really get your eyes opened to what skating is all about. Most freestyles have a few up to around a dozen skaters. Here you get to pay detailed attention to how the other skaters "carry themselves" and present their showmanship.

Once you reach the stage of skating freestyles regularly, it's an excellent idea to attend freestyle sessions at nearby rinks (other than your own home rink) even if you go it alone without your coach. Rinks vary so much in the culture and style of their skaters that you will gain a broader sense of methods and embellishments by traveling around and observing.

Yes it can be a little intimidating to walk into a new rink to spend an hour on the ice with gals you've never seen before. But at heart they aren't that much different from you; be assured that the sisterhood of skaters have way more in common amongst themselves than differences. Go, introduce yourself, relax, make new friends, and expand your horizons. The benefits are well worth the wee bit of initial embarrassment.