Monday, July 20, 2009

The Impact of Figures in Skating

Prior to the nineties, figure-skating competitions included a segment known as compulsory figures, in which the skater traced a set pattern on the ice, or the figure eight. Competitors had to skate the figures using a prescribed part of the blade, which included change of edge, steps and turns that were performed at specific points on the skating surface. Compulsory figures trained skaters to be faster, more quick-feet, and allowed them the ability to flow on the ice as well.

School of figures was the very foundation of skating. Figure Skating was named for the art form which involved creating intricate patterns on the ice with the edges of the blades. As a result, compulsory figures became a must for training and competitions. Compulsory figures were based on the figure eight and its variations. Skaters traced identical patterns on the ice three times and were judged on their ability to replicate the exact figures in the same place. They made circles on the ice with one foot, then retrace those circles with the other foot. The circles are the actual figures from which the term figure skating is stemmed.

The completed tracings left by the skater's blades were evaluated by judges. Judges would study and grade the patterns. Points were deducted if the skater skated outside of the line; or if there were additional tracings or wobbling. These intricate patterns into the ice, were designed to assure the judges that the skaters had mastered the fundamentals of their sport.

Skaters spend hours skating patches- Patch practice sessions were usually one-hour in length. Most skaters usually practiced at least two hours of patch time per day. These patches of ice were completely clean pieces of ice with not a mark or skid on them. The skater’s objective was to trace perfect circles on these clean pieces of ice

Figures allow them to learn edge control, good posture, and balance. Ideally, edges were supposed to be clean without scratches, undesired changes of an edge, or without evidence of no edge tracing. Now figures are no longer part of elite competition. With these changes, the emphasis in the free skate shifted to an increase in athleticism or a jumping contest.

Up until 1990, compulsory figures were part of the singles figure skating competition. Skaters had to execute figures which were then measured by judges. According to the review of literature, the judges sometimes used the school figures as a means of marking up or marking down skaters. The figures were also used by some judges as a basis for down grading newer skaters. Typically, a skater in his/her first appearance at an international competition would not expect high marks in the school figures, even if he or she might have felt that they had skated solid figures.

Even after the school figures were reduced from sixty percent to thirty percent of the overall score, with the new short program weighing twenty percent and the long program fifty percent by the 1980s, skaters who built a vast lead in figures had a strong chance of winning the competition. Figures still had a great impact on the final outcome.

The omission of compulsory has also taken a toll on the sport; compulsory figures are needed to teach skaters basic skills. Abolishing the compulsories has resulted skating into jumping contests and in turn may cause more injuries. Skating is about control, centering and balance. Those are the things school of figures brought. Now that we don't have school of figures, skaters are turning to ice dance instructors to teach them what they need to maintain speed and flow on the ice.

Compulsory is different from free skating. It is very difficult and has kept many skaters from the top of the podium. Many competitors feel that compulsories have no place in modern skating; they think it to be tedious, and boring to watch. Denise Bielman, like many skaters, did not like to practice figures. She preferred the free skate which gave her the freedom to bounce spin and dance to the music.

Now that figures are a thing of the past, skaters are flocking to dance instructors to teach them what they need to do to maintain speed, and flow on the ice. The omission of figures has impacted the art in the sport as well. Figures gave skaters the foundation they needed to balance, control, and command the ice. A skater cannot be an artist if those skills are lacked. This quality of skating is paramount to the art of skating. In the end, the sport will remain a jumping contest among prepubescent teens. The compulsories give students the quality of edges, technique, and control they need.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sasha Cohen: The Pressure to Win.

Sasha is an avid skater, a talented artist; she has modeled in major magazines, walked the red carpet, and has skated in many countries. As the two-time and reigning World Silver Medalist, the 2006 U.S. National Champion, Grand Prix Final Champion, and 2-Time Olympic Team Member (2002 and 2006), Sasha is a sure podium contender for the 2010 Olympic Games. Sasha has experience.

Alexandra Pauline Cohen was named after her mother's favorite ballerina. She was born on October 26, 1984. Sasha's mother is of Ukrainian background and she is a former ballerina. Because of her Russian heritage, Sasha can converse in Russian. She has translated competitor Viktoria Volchkova's interview responses from Russian to English at the 2001 Trophée Lalique competition (Cup Of Paris).

Sasha began skating around the age of seven. Prior to starting figure skating, she used to be a gymnast and had progressed to level five. Apparently, her mom was relieved when she made the switch to figure skating. She enjoys reading. One or her favorite places to be, is the public library. After years of hard work and training, Sasha is renowned. She has become one of the skaters in the world today. She won her first silver medal at the 2000 U.S. Nationals. Sasha missed the 2001 Nationals because of a serious back injury which required her to take time off from training. At the 2002 U.S. Nationals, she earned her second silver medal and a spot on the 2002 Olympic Team.

Her gymnastic background has made her resilient when it comes to sustaining those spills on the ice. She has a great deal of experience. I am going on a limb to say that Sasha Cohen knows the why, the where and the how when it comes to her skating. She knows her body. Things may not always be "perfect," however Sasha should know how to compete by now.

She is a different person from the inexperienced youngster who was introduced to us in 2000. She can handle skating. She may just need to reinvent herself. We should never think of inconsistency, or spills, by the mere mention of Sasha's name. She has nothing to learn as this point. Sasha needs to be more confident when it comes to the technical aspects of her skating. She has always verbalized (like most skaters) that she is having fun on the ice; when in reality, she does (they do) not believe in those words. Those are rehearsed thoughts for the media and viewers' sake. Deep down, most skaters don't believe they are having "fun" Those skaters are preoccupied with the ultimate goal.

Vying for top spot is well and good; however, it should not be the main focus. Like Sara Hughes, Sasha (or any other skaters) should be getting on that ice with the objective that she has nothing to lose. She really should believe that she is actually there to have fun. Skating well is the ultimate prize. The medal will be the bonus. She should approach both programs ( short and free) as if a flawless skate is her driving force; the prize she wants to obtain.

She has an exciting season ahead of her.

At this point, Sasha ( Flatt included) should be beyond feeling the pressure to win. Let the other skaters from other countries succumb to pressure or be pressured. Let them be the ones with that "something to lose" preoccupying their mind and their programs. Our skaters (we) live in a free society, it won't be the end of the world if they don't bring home the gold.

Sasha will be prepared. She just has to skate the way she does at practice. Her quest should be to skate well. According to Sasha, skating is her own commitment, her hard work and that no one is pushing her to do it. And, that is how she should approach the upcoming season. She is skating on her own terms.

As far as I am concerned, Sasha would benefit if she were to practice in a vacuum; without the interference, the scolding and the criticisms of the media. She does not need to be reminded of her flaws or her inconsistencies. She does not need to be asked if gold will be her color, or whom she she feels she has to beat; nor does she need to be compared to other skaters ( "I must think I am living in Utopia"). This type of attention can be nerve-racking. All of the skaters are good in their own way. They are a gifted bunch. Sasha needn't be perfect; nor does she need to skate perfectly. Sasha needs to be Sasha. She needs to skate and be there for Sasha.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that she is (Flatt, Meissner, Zhang, Nagasu,Hughes as well as the other skaters are ) injury free. Sasha can be unstoppable. She must first have to free her herself of the burden of having to be perfect. Her artistry, flawless connections, fluid extensions and techniques will be the determining factor. She has nothing to lose.

Her artistry, the way she interprets the music, the way she relates to the audience, her spiral and straight-line step sequence will set her apart; in turn, she will earn high marks with the judges. She is ready. She has the ability to skate two solid performances. She does not have to be perfect.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Take The Quad Out!

While the most exciting portions of figure skating routine (for some) are the jumps, these high-flying athletic moves are the ultimate feats of a skater’s ability. Jumps, in figure skating, come in two varieties, rotational and positional. Positional jumps are short jumps that display an artistic position in the air. The primary objective of rotational jumps is to rotate while airborne. In these jumps, the skater appears to spin in the air. Skaters’ routines are measured partly on rotational jumps. For a quad, skaters have to achieve maximum rotation. While skaters need to develop as much rotational energy as possible, it is important that they obtain the best possible rotational position during the airborne portion of a performance as well.

Dick Button landed the first triple in 1952. Kurt Browning of Canada landed the first quad in 1982. Today, the quad jumps have become required elements in the men’s program. Quad toe loops seem to be the most frequently attempted quad jumps. While many skaters credit Jozef Sabovchik of Slovakia with landing the first quad jump, in 1984, at the Winter Olympics. The first official quad was performed by Kurt Browning at the 1988 world championships. Suddenly the quad is the rage. How far will we go with those risky jumps? Do we want five six rotations in the air? Are we looking for as many revolutions until we run out of numerical prefixes? What is the limit of jumping possibilities? Is a quintuple toe loop or a quadruple Axel in our future?

The jump is called a quadruple toe loop, and it is performed by gliding backward on the right skate, planting the left toe pick, lifting off with an outside edge of the right skate, spinning four times and landing on the same outside edge of the right skate. Art, science, agility and strength have all been used in describing skaters. However, it takes a high degree of difficulty to achieve the quad. The key is to get the optimal combination of height and rotation. There are four key events for the quad. Toe-pick: the instant the toe pick is planted onto the ice; Take off: the last contact with the ice; Height: the top of the flight phase; Landing: the immediate contact with the ice. Obviously, the quad alone will not win a title; it's the total package, the artistry, the spins and the footwork. Obviously the focused should be on elements other than just the jumps.

A mistake in the quad costs dear while skaters can gain points on easier jumps. Doing a quad comes down to risk vs. reward in a judging system that puts emphasis on energy-sapping footwork and stiffly penalizes faulty jumps. The quadruple toe loop, is worth 9.8 points. The quad can come at a price. If you do it, you're a star. But if there is anything wrong with it -for instance, a fall, or it's under rotated, or too weak to do a combination after it, it's downgraded. There are very few skaters who can make a mistake on the quad and still land it. A negative grade of execution can cost up to three points. A triple Axel is worth 8.2 points. When it is done well, it can earn up to three bonus points. So why risk falling on a quad when you're more likely to land a clean triple Axel anyhow?

Rotational energy is the fuel that skaters work with, and they have to have energy to work with. The quad is an important jump. It's fun. It's interesting. It's beautiful when it's done right. While the quad is big news, I wonder if it will be some time before figure skaters are doing quintuple jumps. If you can do a quad well, by all means do it. But skating should never be about the jumps. It should be poetry on ice! No quad. While I agree that quad jumpers should be given more points, because of the tremendous risks involved, but I would rather be very pleased with the attention given to creativity and to the art we are so used to when it comes to skating.

The quad jump is a spectacular move. It is a neat and exciting. With the techniques and equipment currently used now, I think the athletes are pushing the envelope. I don't see a quint any time soon or a quad Axel. I do see the other more difficult quads --Lutz's and flips however-- being done soon as well as more consistent and higher quality jumps. To add a revolution may take a while (or maybe not) and potentially some new technique, training or equipment modifications to the sport. I imagine that with different technologies in boots, blades, along with different training techniques, strength-training, and perhaps costumes, it might be possible for skaters to land bigger jumps.

There are limits to what the human body can do and I wonder how close we are to them in the sport of figure skating. I long for the good ole 6.0 system. Weir has complained of the new system, saying such things as, “It gives you points for being able to chew on your shoes,“ Concerns for artistic expression has become secondary with the preoccupation of racking up points. Technical ability does not only pertain to jumps, but it includes spins, footwork, and a general flexibility. I just love to watch figure skating, and to witness the numerous feats of athleticism, skill, courage, endurance and passion.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Go for it Sasha: Cohen 2010

Figure skating is one of the most difficult and demanding sport in the world. However, skaters have been landing triple jumps since before World War II. Great figure skating, does not mean one must dig their toe pick into the ice and rotate or revolve as much as they possibly can. I mourn the passing of the glorious spiral. No more do we see the absolutely fluid spirals; courtesy of Michelle Kwan, complete with the most radiant smile that has us totally convinced that she was absolutely loving every minute spent on ice. I don't care how high you can leap or rotate; one fact remains, no youngsters have seized the moment since Kwan. Those who could fill the void of fluid, entertaining and artistic skating are gone. Sasha can restore pride in the United States team.

It is refreshing to find skaters like Sasha Cohen who can inject life experience into their choreography. I love to watch Sasha. Her presence on the ice is one of pristine and incredible beauty. The leg extension, the spiral, the elasticity, the fluidity she displays as she glides across the ice are just marvelous.

It is such a pleasure to watch Sasha skates, and I am very glad she wants to come back, and she has as much chance as any of the skaters to get the crown. Under the Code of Points scoring system, Cohen often scored more points in the free skate than other ladies scored during the entire competition. She skates with grace and elegance. Her presentation and connecting moves are just outstanding, including her gorgeous Charlotte. She just has to have two good clean skates. While Yu Na Kim may appear invincible, don’t get me wrong, I find her to be one of the best skaters yet; however, all of the expectations may rattle her, or anyone for that matter. As a result, she may have a not so stellar skate, and “we” may in turn be surprise yet again. Someone unknown, from out of no where may come and snatch the spotlight. It has happened in our own backyard. Remember Mirai Nagasu? when all of the attention were on Zhang and Meissner, and Nagasu took the crown. She became the “future of figure skating.” Then again Yu Na never disappoints. She is the best skater in the world right now, maybe the best ever. She has jumps, flexibility, artistry, flair, fluidity and most important: consistency. If she skates her best which we know she will, there is no doubt that the crown will be hers.

This season Asada has attempted two triple Axels, in her Long Program and let’s not disregard the judges’ imposition on those skaters. Skaters are being penalized for incomplete rotations, or wrong edges entry. Sasha, may just finally have that stellar competition that she’s been missing from her amateur career days. She has a very hard road ahead of her however. I've always felt that Miss Cohen is one of the greatest talents to ever glide on the ice; but she lacks consistency and the focus, a huge hindrance in any sport, even more in figure skating.

The problem with Sasha is her lack of consistency in her jumps; as a result, it may lower her base value to a point where winning can almost be impossible. Sasha has it all: grace, elegance, and she knows how to interpret her music. Her focus should be on securing her jumps. She'll have to work hard on clean entries and clean landing of her jumps. Her incredible flexibility, artistry and flair will take care of the rest. She will be unbeatable then.

I have always been a huge fan of Sasha's and am very excited to see her come back. She will bring a lot of excitement to skating nationally and internationally. If only there were three spots available, it would be a marvel to see Meissner, Cohen, and Flatt in action. There is a distinctive charm to their skating. Those three have what audiences enjoy.

Sasha had not been very consistent with her jumps during the height of her competitive career. Strong spirals and great flexibility are great assets; however, they are not enough. The International Figure Skating Union (ISU) Technical Panels regularly awards Level 4 designation to many ladies' spiral sequences at any given high level competition such as Worlds for instance. The value of Spin Sequence, even at Level 4 is only worth 2.9, the difference will come down to the Grade of Execution (GOE) which may be minimal. Flexibility may earn some extra points for Sasha, but mental toughness is what will lead to the gold medal. In the Ladies’ event, the difference between victory and crushed dreams is often how one handles the pressure of this Olympic main event. Sasha cannot let nerves get the best of her. Her spins and spirals might be high levels. However, the jumps have to be clean.

The women's long program at the Olympic Games may be the hardest moment to deal with. Sasha is a great skater, but she has not been a clean skater. She had either a clean short program and a bad long program or a bad short program and a good long program. Before she considers returning to competitive figure skating, Sasha would need concentrate on two clean programs. Sasha has good spins and great flexibility however she is limited (as far as landing the jumps)when compared against a Triple Axel or a consistent and very well executed Triple Flip-Triple Toe combos that her competitors will be doing. Her Charlotte is an absolutely gorgeous move. Our team would be solid with Cohen Meissner, and/or Flatt, or perhaps Wagner and/or Hacker on the scene.

Sasha is the most artistic skater in the world today. She brings a quality to skating that most skaters sought after. Cohen would bring considerable experience to the United States team. She has unparalleled spins, spirals and lovely positions. Cohen is a mesmerizing skater who charms crowds. She has shown that she can make up her athletic shortcomings with wowing artistry; Cohen knows very well what is expected of her — and what she expects of herself.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Off-Ice Training For The New Skater

A lot of skating may build and tone your muscles, however it will be a slow and difficult process if you don't do off ice training. Ballet, Pilates, Yoga and strength training are crucial when it comes to off ice training, this is what truly makes a difference in figure skating. Just like figure skating, you’d be amazed to find out how much muscle is involved when it comes to Ballet, Pilates and Yoga.

This is a standard workout if you are new to figure skating and would like to improve. You will definitely see a big difference if it is practiced:

1. Jump rope for thirty second intervals, with a fifteen-second rest in between them three times.

2. Put your body in a bridge position, with your arms straight, and hold it for thirty seconds. Rest and then do it again, at least three times.

3. Lay flat on your stomach with your arms out in front of you as if you are Superman. Lift up your hands and feet as high as you can and get them as far away from your body as possible. Hold this for ten seconds, then go down for ten seconds. Do at least ten reps. While you are doing them, your stomach should be touching the ground.

4. Squats. Stand straight with your feet under your hips, try standing in front of a mirror in order to make sure you keep proper posture. Put your arms to the side, and when you go down put them in front of you. Don't go down too low, go just pass a right (90 degrees) angle and make sure you don't stick your butt out, just sit with your body straight up. Sit and stand back up ten times. Do as many reps as you can or least three times. As you built strength, you can add additional reps. As they become easier, start adding weights.

5. Stretches. Make sure you stretch before and after any workout.

This routine will help your skating immensely.

Strengthen Your Core And Leg Muscles For Fun Skating

The reason core strength and leg strength are important for any sport, specifically skating, is because most movements and balance depend on your leg muscles and your core strength. If your core and your leg muscles are weak, it becomes extremely difficult to achieve any skating skills. Good balance not only keeps you steady on your feet, but it helps make your movements powerful. Having a strong core and good leg strength mean better performance in different sports.

En route to a strong body, keep in mind that the body needs fuel. Your nutrition, as well as your training, is equally as important. Make sure you have the right amount of protein necessary for optimal training. Keep your fat intake low. Under no circumstances should you give up your carbs. You need complex carbohydrates. It is what fuel you while you are working out. Eat whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.

The core is the center of your body's strength, your "powerhouse" and the foundation for all of your movements. Your legs’ muscles are equally as important in maintaining your balance. They are those muscles that lift your leg to the side, your toes, and they keep you moving forward. It is important to keep those muscle groups strong. The primary abductor that lifts the leg to the side is the gluteus medius; this muscle is of extreme importance to skaters. As you strengthen your core and your leg muscles, balance can be improved. The muscles that comprise the core, pelvis and hips, must be strong in order to work efficiently.

To develop core strength you need to work the muscles of the core. This requires you to do a lot more than your traditional crunches. You can perform moves such as: the Plank exercises which requires that you lay face down on a mat resting on the forearms, with palms flat on the floor. As you push off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on the elbows. Make sure you keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels. Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominal muscles to prevent your rear from sticking up in the air. Hold the position for at lest for 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat for 3-5 reps.The plank exercise is a great way to build endurance in both the abs and the back. It helps to stabilize the muscles as well. For the bridge exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back in a neutral position, not arched and not pressed into the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles as you raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold for three deep breaths. Another good exercise for the core is the Russian twist. This is done by sitting on the ground and place your feet under a stable surface. With your knees bent, slightly lean back while keeping your torso straight. With one hand on the other, and arms straight, move your arms from one side to another. Do not pause in the middle. Make sure you breathe properly; do not hold your breath. You can perform this exercise with a weight for a more intense exercise.The Supperman exercise is good to help strengthen your lower back, and it is good helpful way to enhance your balance. While keeping one arm and one leg on the floor, lengthen the opposite arm and leg to a full extension. Contract the muscles in the lower back and buttocks. The great benefit of having good core strength is the fact that you don't have to worry about issues dealing with your back or hip muscles which can lead to other injuries. The possibilities of you missing ice time will be minimized. Core strength can be improved by working on the center of your body. The core exercises help. You strengthen your core muscles. Any exercise that uses the trunk of your body without support helps.

The lower body contains some of your biggest muscles groups which are capable of bearing significant weight. Having good balance means having strong leg muscles as well. The most important muscles in the lower body for good balance are your hips and quadriceps. Exercises for these muscles include Hip Abduction. To strengthen the front of your legs you can do leg press exercises, straight leg raises and Knee extensions.

Hip Abduction: This exercise strengthens the muscles of the outer, upper leg. This exercise is for inner thighs. This is done in a standing posture. Do it with keeping the hip straight and moving the thigh inwards toward the midline of the body. This exercise works the largest hip muscle and inner thigh.

Leg press: Use your abdominal muscles to raise your feet in an arc to a position directly above your head. Repeat until the desired number of repetitions is complete. This is a useful exercise for the quads but it also works the hamstrings and glutes.

Straight leg raises: Contract the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax and rest for three seconds.

Knee extensions: Sit in a chair, with your back resting against the back of the chair. If your feet are flat on the floor in this position, you should place a rolled-up towel under your knees to lift them up. Only the balls of your feet and your toes should be resting on the floor. Rest your hands on your thighs or on the sides of the chair. Take three seconds to extend your right leg in front of you, parallel to the floor, until your knee is straight.

With your right leg in this position, flex your foot so that your toes are pointing toward your head; hold your foot in this position for at least three seconds. Take five seconds to lower your right leg back to the starting position, so that the ball of your foot rests on the floor again. Repeat with left leg. Alternate legs, until you have done the exercise 10 to 15 times with each leg.

Squat is the best exercise, for leg strength. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly out, holding dumbbells or a barbell behind your neck and across your shoulders. Keeping your head up, back straight and feet in full contact with the floor, bend at the hips and move your butt backward until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Don't allow your knees to extend in front of your toes. As you Maintain that posture, bring your hips forward as you return to a standing position.

Lunge: Holding dumbbells on your shoulders, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your head up and back straight, bring one leg forward and bend at the knee until your front leg forms a 90-degree angle and the knee of your back leg almost touches the floor. Return to the upright position and alternate legs. Again, keep proper form and don't allow the front knee to pass in front of the toes. Try to maintain a long stride for better results.

Deadlift focuses on the whole posterior chain. Feet should be placed at armpit width with toes slightly out. Shins will be placed next to the bar. The majority of the body weight should begin on the balls of the feet with a transfer to the heels through lockout. The hands should grasp the bar with an over / under grip with the arms outside the knees. The legs should be bent to approximately 60 degrees from vertical with the hips lower than the shoulders. Your head should be looking forward in a neutral position. The chest should be forward, not down. Shoulders should be squeezed tightly back and positioned directly over the bar. Do not round the shoulders, as more force will then be applied to the back. Stand behind the bar, so that it is over the balls of your feet. Keep your feet shoulder width apart, pointing forwards or slightly outwards. Squat down and grasp the bar, hands slightly greater than shoulder width apart. Thighs should be approximately parallel to the ground, back straight, and eyes looking forward. Keeping the back rigid and arms straight, lift the bar using the legs, keeping the bar as close to the body as possible.

Balance exercises help you maintain strong core and leg muscles and prevent falls. The leg consists of multiple parts. The Quadriceps are the muscle group in the front of your thigh above the knee which is used to extend the knee, the hamstrings are a group of muscles in the back of your thigh, they do the opposite and flex or retract your knee. The calves are the group of muscles that are located on the lower leg in the back opposite side of the shin. They are used to extend your ankle or raise your heel if you are standing. All the leg muscles work together to create speed and movement. They work in conjunction with each other, for power, acceleration and speed. Every muscle is important. Do not just train one muscle group, train them all. Strong leg muscles, especially in the quadriceps, hamstring area, and calves, are essential in figure skating. Much of your power comes from your legs, and staying balance requires strong leg muscles as well.

If you want to increase your core and leg strength for better balance, your quads, hamstrings and abdominal are the muscles to concentrate on. Exercises such as the Russian Twist and sit-ups and crunches are good."The Plank" help[s strength the core; try to hold it for around 30 seconds at a time and increase as you get stronger. Things like leg raises also help. Keep in mind, maintaining a diet rich in protein and low in fat is important in any workout routine to enhance muscle growth and development, or you will get absolutely nowhere. Concentrate on overall fitness and maintaining a healthy regime.

Nothing beats healthy eating. Eat a combination of lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Spread your meals. Your metabolism is a machine continuously at work. It needs fuel. Eat smaller meals every few hours throughout the day to accelerate fat loss and to maintain stable energy levels. For best results, eat six smaller meals a day. Eat your protein, lean chicken, fish, egg-whites and beans. Consume as much fruits and vegetables. Drink at least three quarts of water per day. SODA is your worst enemy, diet or not. As you do your reps, concentrate on total body strength with emphasis on core and leg strength.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Okay To Be Nervous

Nerves are a great thing! It's good to be nervous prior to a performance. It shows that you care. Once you're on the ice however, the nerves will melt away. Take deep breaths to calm yourself down. Many of the elite skaters, for instance Sasha Cohen and others, take deep breaths prior to their program. Breathing is important

Don’t allow your nerves to take over your performance. You can often tell when someone is nervous if they are making small useless movements such as tapping their fingers, feet, fidgeting, shifting around in their seat, or larger things such as pacing. Restlessness in general is a very big sign. I’ve seen many skaters, while waiting for their turn backstage, exhibit this behavior. You need to focus on you, not your opponent.

One of the internal signs of being nervous is: increased heart-rate, sweating, headache or other body aches. Shortness of breath, nausea, loss of appetite, or in some extreme cases panic attack may occur. When you have a schedule test or competition, the most important thing is to relax.

Being nervous is not a bad thing. It is your mind telling you that you care about the action you are undertaking; your performance is important. You feel a huge sense of responsibility to give your audience the best possible performance you can possibly give. Allow this energy to work for you, not against you. Those little butterflies in your stomach are your friends.

It’s okay to have butterflies. You don’t want to become complaisant, or take your performance for granted. However, it is very important that you stay confident relax and in control. Remember, fun is the name of the game in skating. Go out there and enjoy yourself; have fun! If you recall the 2002 winter games, Kwan had appeared to be the sure winner, apparently, nerves got in the way of the prize. However, Sarah had allowed herself to have fun, hence, had won the prize.

A great way that I have learned to stay confident is to have run-through of my program as many time as I can. Let your program become an extension of you. Practice... Practice... Try listening to your music over and over, and imagine each element corresponding to each beat . Another thing that might help is by not focusing on any outside “noise”. While the audience appreciation may be helpful, it can be detrimental as well. Feel to express yourself, be in the moment. Don’t be intimidated by the crowd. The audience is there to watch you. The audience is your friend. Just remember the judges are doing their job. Their objective is not to judge you; they are only judging your performance. Use their criticisms constructively.

I would recommend focusing on your performance as opposed to the score. Concentrating on the mechanics or over thinking too much can create unwanted anxiety. Don’t focus on mistakes. Just do your program. Once an error is committed, you cannot erase it; just focus on your next element. The elite skaters don't spend all of their time focusing on mistake, they move on and make sure the rest of their performance is their best. Try some deep breathing and thinking of this as just performing with your coach. Go about it the same way you do during practice. Give it your all!

This being said, allow yourself the freedom to enjoy the moment, the skating, something you love and enjoy doing. Don’t worry about the mechanics. Block negative thoughts from your mind, allow yourself to be your best and don’t worry about the competing, against anyone. The only person to concur is yourself. Keep in mind your opponents are just as nervous , if not more. Focus on “you”.

Try the following:

1. Don't eat too heavily.
2. Don't drink caffeine or sugar, just as it will tense you up, and give you more jitters. Get a good night sleep the night prior to your performance.
3. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water, not sport drinks.
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