Skating in my opinion is one of the most beautiful and difficult sports that exist; not only are you gliding gracefully across the ice but you are also doing it while balancing on a tiny 4.8mm blade!
As you move up the levels you will notice a demanding increase in the skills that you are required to master. Whether it’s jumps, spins or spirals, footwork or turns; these can all take a toll on your body if it simply isn’t strong enough to handle these pressures. Of course the more you skate the stronger you will become, however you need to be aware that the body takes time to adapt and strengthen so it won’t happen overnight.
Skating requires you to move all parts of your body. Have you ever come off the ice thinking “wow I didn’t know I had a muscle there?” This feeling is most evident when you are doing full body transitions and experimenting with different spin positions. You will most certainly feel how much your body has to work during these manoeuvres and the level of effort required in some positions can feel unobtainable unless practiced regularly or worked on off-ice.
I believe that skaters of all levels should be doing some form of off-ice. Even if you are a beginner a good place to start is to do exercises that will help with your core strength, leg strength and also improve your flexibility. This will help you improve faster on the ice and master some of the more difficult elements.
Once you start jumping and getting into double jumps, practicing rotation off the ice is very important. You want to make sure you are practicing with good techniques to ensure that you are getting the feeling of what it would be like on the ice. Most rinks offer some form of off-ice jump class. If yours doesn’t it may be worthwhile to ask your coach if they can give you a lesson on off-ice jumps so you know how to practice safely and effectively.
As adult skaters we can sometimes feel disheartened by our flexibility. Don’t let this stop you working to improve your flexibility though. It may take slightly longer to improve, however it won’t just help with your skating it will also be great for your overall health while keeping your joints healthy. As the sport gets more difficult we are expected to get into all kind of awkward moves and positions whilst spinning or during transitions, therefore if there is a move you particularly want to master you should be practicing it off the ice. Yoga can be a great way to improve your flexibility and your strength. This is the reason why I always recommend yoga for ice skaters.
One of the biggest reasons why you should do your off-ice and improve your flexibility is because injuries suck! If we can do something to help prevent us getting injured we should certainly be making the effort. Of course not all injuries are preventable as it is ice (and as my mum says – “its slippy”) however if you don’t have good core strength skating over a long period of time can result in injuries such as a back problems. It is definitely worth investing your time in getting stronger off-ice as it will give you more time on the ice.
Remember skating (especially Figure Skating) requires you to land repeatedly with high impact g-forces on just one leg. Over time you are going to end up with an imbalance in the body which can cause problems. What you do off the ice will help you address that so it doesn’t become a problem in later life. One of the best ways to do this is to practice unilateral exercises. This means one legged squats, lunges, one legged glute bridges and many more! These are great for helping to strengthen that slightly weaker side.
How much off-ice you do depends on your skill level, your goals and lifestyle and what realistically you can hope to achieve. Don’t worry if you don’t have time to make it to the gym or fit in hours per week – you don’t need to. Scheduling a couple of 10-30 minute sessions per week at home can make a huge difference.
Do you do any off-ice? What are your favourite exercises and how do they help your skating?
Zoë Rose Fitness