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.

The Axel: The Most Difficult Jump

The Axel is a jump in figure skating, named after the Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen (1855-1938) who was the first to perform this feat in 1882. A single Axel consists of 1 and a half rotations in the air. For a jump with counterclockwise rotation, it has a takeoff from the left forward outside edge and a landing on the right back outside edge; this can be reversed for a clockwise jump. The Axel can also be done as a double jump with two and a half rotations, or as a triple with three and a half rotations. While quad jumps are popular among some of the male skaters, Miki Ando is the only female skater who has landed a quad jump during practice.

In order to perform an Axel, the skater typically approaches the jump on a right back outside edge in a strongly held check position before stepping onto a left forward outside edge. The skater vaults over the toe pick of the left skate and springs up into the jump with the right leg. Then the skater brings the left leg through to cross in front of the right in what is known as a back spin position, to bring the center of rotation around the right side of the body; this is often described as a weight shift in the air. When the skater makes a mistake in the timing of the jump such that the blade does not grip or slips completely off the edge, this often result in a fall.

The Axel is considered one of the hardest jumps because it requires tremendous strength and the ability to rotate quickly. Computerized studies of skaters performing double and triple Axels have shown that skaters typically do not achieve quite as much height on the triple Axel as they do on the double. This may seem counterintuitive, since a higher jump ought to give a skater more time to complete the rotation in the air. Often, while executing the triple Axel, the skater does not take such a big "step up" in order to pull in to the rotation position as quickly

People are built differently. Different sized skaters would need different approach velocities to complete three axial revolutions. It has to do with the radius of one’s widest part; the stomach area. The governing equation here is the angular acceleration, which is proportional to the inverse of the radius of revolution.
Set the stage. Make sure that your pre-stage is correct. The pre-stage is where you do an angular slide, and then do the preparation spins just before you do that Axel jump.

Make sure you feel that edge as you prepare for the jump. If you don't feel your edge, you won't feel as confident on landing on the correct edge and the whole jump will suffer. You may even fall. It is afterall an edge jump. You need to control the speed of the spin, accelerate on the preparation spins moderately, and accelerate the spins very fully as soon as you takeoff to do the three revolutions, and then, with strong control, decelerate the spin speed on your landing so you don't "overrotate" , or make a two-footed landing.

Canadian skater Vern Taylor was the first to land a triple Axel in competition at the 1978 World Figure Skating Championships. It has since become a standard jump for male competitors as well. The first women to land the jump in competition were Midori Ito (1989 World Figure Skating Championship) and Tonya Harding (1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships). Yukari Nakano landed a triple Axel at Skate America in October 2002. Kimmie Meissner landed a triple Axel at the 2005 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and Mao Asada became the first female skater to land two triple Axels in the same program at the 2005 Japanese Championships.

American pair skaters Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, Jr. became the first pair to perform a throw triple Axel in competition at the 2006 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and then they executed the jump at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Keep in mind, the most important part of the jump is having exactly the right entry. The right entry has a slight hook and no skid.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Forward And Backward Glides

The biggest mistake new skaters make on the back outside edges is in trying to get in that extra push they think is necessary before lifting the free foot. It is a very bad habit. Do some lemons or stroking to get up speed, then put your feet together, bend your knees, shift your weight to one foot and lift the free leg off the ice. The foot will come up along with the knee. Do not try to stroke or to swizzle.

Gliding backwards and lifting one foot is generally done with the toes pointed in and the heels turned out. Your body weight must be balanced forward over the ball of the foot as you skate backwards. You must maintain your balance. If you lean too far back, you may fall as a result, and if you lean too far forward, you won’t move. Don’t lean on your ankles. Leaning your ankles will diminish your leg power. Remember to bend your knees, especially when they are at the farthest spread of the lemon. You're using the inside edge of your blade to generate power.
Forward gliding requires that you lift off the free foot off the ice while the weight shifts over on the other foot. You must press against the ice and push with the entire blade while your weight transfers to the other foot as the body glides forward on one foot.

The way you shift your weight is to move your hips and your center of gravity from your left leg to your right and back again. Moving your hips is really helpful in getting started going backwards and then as you pick up speed, you don't need to do it as much.

Trust your blades! You may feel as if you are going to fall off them. If your blades are not blunt, you won't. Sit back slightly as if you are going to do a backward cross over, and let the momentum of your free leg pull you round. The bigger push you get from the center point the easier it is. Try to obtain some speed. The faster you go, the easier the element.

When you push inwards, it's more of a feeling of pulling your legs in together. If you do it right, you will feel that you are using the muscles in your inner thighs. Backward glides start when the inside edge of each foot is pressed pushing the feet back and out to the side until they are parallel and a tad more than shoulder width apart. As the knee straighten, it begins to pull the feet back side by side.

Do not lean on your heels. That is not helpful. Try to balance your weight when you are executing the move. Some leg exercises will help if you lack leg strength. A stronger core and a strong lower body are essential in maintaining good balance.

Use this as a guide:

1) Put your weight on your left foot and extend your right leg out slightly. Keep your knees and ankles bent to carry your weight.

2) With your right leg sweep it back in an arc ) shaped like this.

3) This should start you moving backwards.

4) Immediately switch your weight over to your right leg and use your left leg to make a backwards arcing sweep. Have your chin above the skating knee, so your weight is centered.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Skating Injuries: The Ever Inevitable Concern

Figure skating accidents, while infrequent, are among the most memorable. Figure Skating can be potentially dangerous, just like anything else. Injuries can happen to the feet, ankles, heels, knees, shins, quads, back, hips, groin area, shoulders, arms, wrists, and head, basically anywhere. Common injuries include bruises, cuts, sprains, strains, muscle tears, tendinitis, joint injuries, sometimes fractures or even a concussion.

Some ways to prevent injuries are as follows:

*Warm up - jog in place and then do stretches. It'd be better if you did that daily instead of just when you go skating.
*Stay warm.
*Don't wear tight clothing that can restrict your movement or loose clothing that can get caught on the blades.
*Make sure you have good equipment, skates that fit and that contains good padding. Make sure the laces aren't dangling on the ice. It can make you trip.
*Learn how to fall.
*Follow rink rules. The rules are there for your safety.
*Don't try "tricks" that are way beyond your level, or dangerous.
*Don't skate when you're sick too tired.

Figure skating accidents, while infrequent, are among the most memorable.It is hard to actually count how many ice skating injuries that have occurred. However, there have been some serious ones that are worth mentioning. To name a few, some of the most serious injuries I can think of would be the one involving one of the pair skating team Tatiana Totmianina and her skating partner Maxim Marinin. In November 2004, during the free skate of Skate America in Pittsburgh, Marinin lost his balance while attempting a difficult lasso lift and Tatiana slammed to the ice head first. She had suffered a concussion, and spent the night in a local hospital. Totmianina recovered from her injuries rapidly and was able to return to the ice within days. She often stated that she has no memory of the incident and this made it easy for her to return to the ice. Marinin, however, had to start seeing a sport psychologist to overcome his fears. According to them, Marinin's fears were so great that it was nearly impossible for them to continue skating.

Another one was during the ‘06 Olympics when Dan Zhang had sustained a fall during their free skate. She was very brave but obviously in pain. She and her partner were able to finish their routine en route to claiming the silver medal.

Jessica Dube underwent surgery to repair a laceration on her left cheek and nose after being hit by partner Bryce Davison's skate in the free skate competition at Four Continents during the 07/08 season. They were doing a rotation of a side-by-side camel, where one leg is parallel to the ice as they spin. You can hurt any part of your body during practice.

While some injuries are unavoidable, there are some injuries that can be prevented. You might experience fewer injuries if you do off-ice training. Your trainer can help you work up a stretching routine to keep your muscles limber. Warm up off the ice each and every time before you get on the ice and afterwards. Eat a healthy diet that promotes stronger bones and muscles. Be sure you get enough rest, being tired on the ice can cause lack of focus and may cause you to slip and fall as a result. With skating, falling is just inevitable, make sure you learn to fall in the safest way possible.

Do get over the fear of falling, or your progress may be impeded. Sometimes trying too hard to prevent injuries can actually cause injury because your body gets too tense. Relax when you skate. In most cases, you fall and then you get right back up again. Check with your doctor. Make sure you are ready to skate again. Go ahead and step out onto the ice. Take it slowly. It’s ok to be nervous - that's normal. Just stroke around the ice - there is no need to do more, at least not in that initial first session. You may feel a bit tense and nervous if you are new to skating however. The feeling will go away as you get reacquainted with the ice. Skate with your coach. Having a coach there with you on the ice gives you additional confidence.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What is pilates?

is made up of great exercises that consist of stretching, and tightening up and toning the core muscles, or your "powerhouse" . With a healthy regime, and adding cardio exercise, you can lose weight; however, The focus of pilates is to strengthen your core.

Pilates benefits people of all ages, regardless of aptitudes and fitness levels. While Pilates help strengthen your core, it helps to condition the overall body with low-impact approach. As in anything you do in life, it requires patience and practice, but results will follow.

With time and dedication, Pilates practice can:

Improve strength, flexibility and balance.

Tone and build long, lean muscles without bulk.

Challenge deep abdominal muscles to support the core.

Engage the mind and enhance body awareness.

Condition efficient patterns of movement making the body less prone to injury.

Reduce stress, relieve tension, boost energy through deep stretching.

Restore postural alignment.

Create a stronger core.

Increase joint range of motion.

Improve circulation.

Heighten neuromuscular coordination.

Offer relief from back pain and joint stress.

Enhance mobility, agility and stamina.

Compliment sports training and develop functional fitness for daily life activity.

Improve the way your body looks and feels overall.

Pilates is not intense , it is a great exercise to complete in recovery mode or of you have injuries. It is not an ideal exercise for weight loss due to the fact that you don't burn as many calories however, it is great for increasing stamina and endurance and does promote healthy mind healthy body! Pilates is great if used with cardio abd a healthy diet, especially if weight loss is your main goal

Develop Superior Balance

Any type of skating for instance, figure, roller, hockey, or speed skating has one thing in common. That is balance. There are several ways to improve your balance. Work on strengthening your core daily. Everything starts and ends there. Use the BOSU ball and whatever else you can find to make your core as strong as can be. You'll find that your balance will be a lot better.

With simple exercises such as crunches, would help target your abs. You can target your core, by doing the plank or the bridge exercise. This is done by supporting your body on your arms with a low center of gravity for as long as your body can sustain, it will help build your abdominal muscles. The most important aspect of balance is to have a strong core.

Work to develop superior balance by doing the following:

1) Improve your core strength. The absolute best way to improve your core strength is Pilates. You can generally find Pilates classes at your local gym, or through electronic methods in the privacy of your home, at any time, whenever you want; or you can higher a private coach. Another way you can improve core strength, is to do lots of crunches. As many as you can do in a day. Make sure to also work opposing muscles groups as to not aggravate your back in the process.

2) Ankles’ response to stimuli Another way is to improve your ankle's response to stimuli. In bare/sock feet, stand on one foot. At first, keep your foot raised beside your leg and your arms out. Feel your ankle adjusting to your balance. Try to hold this position for at least three minutes or more if you can. Then, put your arms down. You can also move your raised foot either in front or behind you. For the toughest exercise of this sort, close your eyes; the idea is to allow your body to adjust to minute changes in your balance which strengthens the ankle. Walking one foot in front of the other on a straight line, or using a balance ball as you sit on the floor with one leg on the floor and the other leg stretched out on top of a ball as you contract your abdominal muscles will improve your balance as well. Learning to balance will not be a quick fix. It will take time, dedication, and patience. You may also consider yoga and/or a personal trainers.

Yoga and ballet, will not only improve your balance, it helps to improve your posture as well as help with you to become graceful. For a competitive skater, adding daily stretching for about one to 1and a half hours really helps, consistency is the key. Don't stretch too vigorously at first.

Try the following exercises to improve your balance as well as flexibility

Touch your toes while standing.

Reach for your toes while sitting,
Straddle stretch: legs are split sideways, and you stretch for each leg one at a time,

Work out using the treadmill, do sit ups, push ups, jumping jacks, jump rope regularly.

When you first learn to figure skate, it is hard but as you get more balanced it gets easier.Most skaters have a 'strong' and a 'weak' side to their skating. It takes practice and hard work to balance, make each side equally strong by continuously practice on both sides. Be sure to keep your knees bent and your arms at waist height and out from your body for balance. Many times new skaters bend one knee deeply but stiffen the other leg. Use good posture, arch your back, and extend the free leg behind you after you push.

Start by doing lots and lots of releves to build up your leg muscles. With stronger leg/calf muscles, come stronger ankles as this is where most of your strength and balance will come. Remember to practice balance on each foot. Do not neglect or favor one side. When you go on your toes, focus your weight to your big toes, lean forward about an inch until you feel balanced, find a spot on the wall to stare at, and keep your abdominal muscles as tight as you can.

Stretching: It is important to stretch your quads and hip flexor; stand up straight, bend your legs parallel to your butt, hold quad stretch and lean slightly forward. For your hamstrings sit on the ground with your legs straight, and try to touch your toes.

Leg abductors: Lay on an edge of the bed, couch, etc., with your butt facing the edge, shift top leg back slightly and have someone steady your hips and gently push down on your top leg. The area around your knee should feel the stretch in your hip and outer leg.

Calf stretch: Tibialis anterior stretches (shin): Point your toe on the floor, and stretch forward.

Additional exercises you can try are: Squats, lunges; hold dumbbells out in T formation, forcing your legs to balance side-to-side, as well as forward. Dead lifts would also be very useful with weighted crunches, and oblique crunches on both sides of the abdominal, as well as roman chair, and leg lifts for lower abdominal.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Increase Your Flexibilty

Yoga can be a good way to increase your flexibility. If you want to increase flexibility, it will take time and patience. When you stretch, don’t bounce, get in your stretch and hold it for 10 to 15 seconds. Stretch when you wake up, bend down as far as possible touch your toes. If you feel tightness in your hamstrings, it's fine just don't over do it. Daily, work your way as far down as you can. Touch your toes with straight legs daily until you can get your palms flat on the floor, keep doing it otherwise the muscles will tighten again. A good stretch will hurt a little while it is happening! You will definitely increase your flexibility. It may take a while.

If you want to increase flexibility, it will take time and patience. The first thing to do is to look at yoga poses and adapt them to your routine. Start with stretching 5-10 minutes a day and build up to thirty minutes at least. Some really good stretches for the leg lift involve ballet stretches

Try these exercises, increasing them over a gradual amount of time- and keep up with it, if you don’t use it, you loose it.

Spread your legs a little less then shoulder width apart, keep your back as straight as possible, arms straight out above your head, then bring them to meet your toes, trying to not bend anything. if you cant reach, no worries. go as far as you can. but always push yourself a little. hold it there for 30 seconds, repeat. gradually up the amount of time you spend holding your toes until it doesn’t hurt at all and you could stand like that all day

Stand with a slight distance away from a wall. Look straight ahead, so your side is parallel to the wall. stick your leg closest to the wall straight out as much as possible so its resting against the wall, then try to lift it as high as possible, hold it there till you start feeling vibrations, build it up until your foot ends up above your head.

Sit down, legs straight out. Keep your back up straight, arms out, bring them to touch your toes again.

Sit with your rear-end firmly on the ground, spread legs as far apart as possible, then touch each toe separately as above.

For splits, stretch your legs before the splits and they will go farther. Hold each split for thirty seconds, and push yourself until you feel a slight strain. Once you have your splits, work on holding it longer until it becomes comfortable as you adjust to a more difficult pose. Once you have mastered the pose, try leaning forward a bit, or bending your back knee and pulling your foot up. This should increase your flexibility, and better your spirals.

Tuck in your pelvis, and keep your hips square.
Use your abdominal muscles and find a point of concentration.

If you want to become more flexible simply stretch as a daily exercise and over a period of time you’ll recognize that you can stretch to a further distance. When your more flexible you'll be able to avoid injuries . Being flexible increases you agility as to not being stiff. When you are flexible you can maintain good posture as well which can improve on your presence on the ice. Just stretch a lot and try different exercises to help:

There are several ways to improve your flexibility:

The ballet perspective to stretching:

When on releve, press the floor away from you and go all the way up on the ball of your foot. The weight should be on the first three toes. Turn out from your hips. Keep your shoulders down.

-Practice standing on releve
-Stand flat (non-releve) with one leg in passe (reverse legs)
-Stand in releve with one leg in passe (reverse legs)
-Stand flat (non-releve) with one leg in second (reverse legs)
-Stand in releve with one leg in second (reverse legs)
-Practice bringing one foot up from coupe to passe flat (non-releve) (reverse legs)
-Practice bringing one foot up from coupe to passe in releve (reverse legs)
-Do a plie, forced arch, releve combination, reverse

There are several types of stretches that you can practice, and it is important to know the types of stretches to perform:

Lie on the floor with you feet facing forward, flat on the ground, hip level apart, hands flat on the ground by your ears. Push up so your in a bridge position, hold for 10 counts.
Repeat with one arm on your stomach (right and left)
and with one leg up pointed towards the ceiling (right and left)
-Kneel down, hip length apart. Don't sit on your legs, keep your body up. Arms straight up over your head, shoulder length apart. Go back and try and touch your hands as close to the ground as possible.

Sit with your legs turned out, toes pointed. Reach right for 10 counts, then center for 10 counts, then left for 10 counts. Then repeat.
-Practice the splits daily, right, left, straddle. You can use a mat or a pillow to propped one leg to give you an extra deep stretch.

Flexibility helps better prepared the muscles as you practice you elements on the ice; and helps prevent injuries. That is why it is important to stretch before and after any workout. The goal is to stretch slow and long, not short and fast. Don’t bounce when you stretch. Stretching on a regular will improve flexibility. Increasing your flexibility will help you jump better, and higher.

There are different types of stretches that you can practice, and it is important to know the types of stretches in order to choose the right type of stretch to perform.
Passive – usually performed when an outside force (rubber-like, or another force) applies stretch to a relaxed joint. The stretch must be performed slowly in order to prevent injuries.

Static – can be performed alone and refers to when a muscle is slowly lengthened to maximum, held for 15-30 seconds and repeated three to five times. Slowly and gradually maximize the stretch as the tension in the muscle begins to relax.
Recommended type of stretching. According to the literature, permanent lengthening is achieved when static stretching is performed gradually, at lower force and for longer duration while the core body temperature is elevated.

Ballistic – bouncing a stretch. This is more likely to initiate the stretch reflex, which is a nerve response that tells the muscle to contract if it is stretched beyond its limit. This is the point where injuries may occur. You must be careful as to not go beyond your maximum limitations and aggravate the muscle.

Warm up before any type of workout.

Dynamic or Functional – the ability to use a range of joint movement for a particular movement within sport or physical activity. These movements are performed either slowly or rapidly. Dynamic or Functional stretching is considered a type of ballistic stretch and caution should be used when performing this type of stretch. A warm-up is recommended before stretching and then progress to static stretching before attempting any dynamic type of stretching.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Techniques-( contract/relax and contract/relax). For this type of stretching, it is important to know which muscle is being targeted. Put the targeted muscle on tension, then contract the targeted muscle during the stretch while relaxing the opposing muscle. The contraction does not have to be maximum, do what you can. Respect your limitations. Hold the contraction for a few seconds, move to the new point, and hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat the process. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching develops strength. Consult your coach in order to able to safely accomplish this type of stretching.

Breathing is important when flexing, breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest. Find a point of focus when doing any exercises, it will improve concentration. Practice will improve your flexibility, do at least half an hours every day, and after several repetitions you should already be doing much better- providing you change your routine as to not become stagnant with the same pattern.

If you want to increase flexibility, it will take time and patience. The first thing to do is look at yoga poses and adapt them. Start with stretching 5-10 minutes a day and build up to thirty minutes at least. Some really good stretches for the leg lift involve ballet stretches. Stretch daily, and go deep into your stretches, really work them. Everyday try to get lower and lower. Stretch responsibly. Respect your limitations. While it is okay to experience moderate discomfort when stretching, it should not be unbearable however.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Improve Your Balance To a Better Skate

Do you feel that the people at the skating rink seem to have a much better balance than you? You are a fairly good skater, but you seem to be having some difficulties at staying balanced on the ice. You wonder if it is the boot they are wearing that might create such firm grips into the ice, and you are hoping to find any skates that will keep you better balanced. While if your blades are not well sharpened, you may drift on the ice, but balance in general depends a lot on your center of gravity.

The more you skate the better your balance. In time you will develop strong abs. These muscles are formed by just simply standing on the ice. You might not be aware of it but by just standing on the ice you are using your abs. But I would also recommend that you do yoga and pilates as off ice training for balance. Now you can use the new revolutionized Wii fit balance board; it is awesome. It features four main areas: yoga, strength training, aerobic exercise, balance training. It is not a replacement for off-ice training, however, it can be helpful.

To improve balance you need to work on your leg muscles and your core muscles the most, well any kind of stretches and also balance boards may be helpful; or you can put your back flat to the wall and go into a sitting position and then you make sure your legs are at a 90-degree angle. A weak lower body is equal to little or no balance on the ice. You will need to work on your arms and upper body as well. Find a point of focus. Concentrate on something in front of you; if you look at your feet, you tend to fall easier. When you glide, do not push off your toe pick, try and push off from the side of your skate. You won’t make a scratching sound and it will prevent you from catching your toe pick on the ice and falling. When you glide, you want to bend a lot into your knees and push off the ice hard with your edges.

Try these quick simple tests to establish how balance you are:

Put each sock completely on your foot while standing solely on the other.
If you have to move your grounded foot around or hop around to keep your balance, your balance is probably not up to the basics of a reasonable figure skater. Most figure skaters don’t need to move from the spot while on one leg.

Also, another test is to close your eyes and stand absolutely steady for a half minute; have someone tell you whether you swayed at all or whether you were still able to keep perfect balance. This will be worth knowing if you are a figure skater.

Balance has to do with your center of gravity. The lower your center of gravity is, the easier it is to balance. The shorter you are, the closer you are to the ice. Do you ever marvel at how can fall while skating and get up as if nothing happened and resume skating? The reason most adults are insecure on the ice is usually due to their distance away from the ice, especially if they are very tall. In order to build up muscle strength, it takes exercises and a lot of muscle memory. Bending your knees is the most important thing you will learn as a skater. When you are skating forward, it can help to think of pushing your feet right down into the ice, through the balls of your feet. That way, your weight stays over the right part of the blade constantly and you should feel a little more stable. Remember to keep your knees bent.

Try some off-ice exercises.

When you are at home just practice standing on one leg and bending it.

1. Stand on one foot with your other foot held up but not touching your leg, arms outstretched to the side as you would in skating, head held up. When you can do that for 30 seconds on each leg, repeat it with your eyes closed. If you have no problem with that, buy a wobble board, a half foam roller, a BOSU board, anything that makes balance harder as you practice your way to better balance.

2. Do basic core exercises - crunches for instance. A strong core makes balance easier.

If you choose to use weights, keep it light three or 5lb. weights will be fine if you are new at it. It's better to do more reps (15 - 20) with less weight than fewer reps with more weight. Talk to your coach or someone at the rink who specializes in off-ice training for additional assistance.
Before you go on the ice, it is important that you warm up first just basic jogging on the spot, or jump rope, You must definitely stretch before and after skating to avoid injuries.

Practice the following the following on ice exercises:


Bend both your knees slightly when you skate - even if it's just gliding. Bending your knees will keep your feet/skates right under you. Keep your head up - don't look at the ice. Don't lean too much forward, in other words don't stick out your rear. Keep your arms out in front of you at 10:10 or 2:50 as on a clock, they are your balancing poles. The more you skate, the more balanced you'll get.


Think of your blades as knives. Now when you're moving, the movement is not like trying to cut the ice, it is more like you're trying to scrape with it. You need to bend your knees and push to the side and back, at a slight angle with your blades with your inside edges. That is what propelling you to move forward. Remember to keep your knees bent always. To go faster, bend deeper and create harder, longer pushes for good control. You might get out of control and go faster than you intended. The crucial part of stroking is the push, though. You should push on an inside edge. You don't want to be pushing on your toe-pick.

Slowing down:

If you're really going too fast and you don't know what to do, just glide on 2 feet until you start slowing down keep your knees bent for balance. If you can, skate next to the boards and run your hand along the rails to help slow you down. In any case, keep your knees slightly bent . . . the tendency is to stand up straight when you feel like you are about to fall. This will actually make you fall. Keep those arms in control as in the clock position. Try not to flap your arms when you're about to fall. Learning to stop would be most helpful at this point.

Use your knees and ankles to accelerate. While gliding, have both knees and ankles slightly bent. Turn one foot out to push with the side of your blade and extend that leg -- straighten the leg that you are pushing with. Then bring your feet back together in with the knees and ankles slightly bent again. Then repeat the whole process by pushing with the opposite leg. Remember to use your knees and ankles. You accelerate by bending and extending your joints.

For stopping you are going to again use those knees and ankles to bend, but this time you will apply pressure to your feet as well. Slowly press your heels out so that your toes start to point toward each other. Keep applying pressure to your feet by bending your knees and ankles. This will result in what is called a "snowplow stop" one of the basic stops.

When you accelerate, make sure you bend your knees, and push off your blade. You need to stay really low on your knees and push off on each stroke. Start off slow, as you try to go faster. Speed comes with balance. Balance comes from being comfortable in your skates. Just take it slowly, and you will start feeling more comfortable in no time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wii Balance

With Wii fit, you can play a video game and get a workout without it being a chore. I am passionate about figure skating. I workout on a regular basis. I've never been interested in playing a video game. But, once I got a taste of the Wii fit game; I was definitely impressed.

To improve balance you need to work on your leg muscles and your core muscles. Now you can use the new revolutionize Wii fit balance board; it is awesome. It features four main areas: yoga, strength training, aerobic exercise, balance training. It is not a replacement for off-ice training, however, it can be helpful.

The Wii fit is more than entertainment or a video game. I never would have thought that a video game, would be as beneficial as it is entertaining. This system, with motion-sensing controllers and play intended for a broad audience beyond hard-core gamers Wii Fit features four main areas: yoga, strength training, aerobic exercise, balance training. Wii Fit features a new accessory: a scalelike device you can stand on.

This is a great gaming system that might help improve your balance. It gets puts you right in the game. I love it! Once you see how fun it is you will become addicted as well. Boy, what an addiction, and one that is good for you and healthy as well. This is a great system for kids of all ages and adults! It is a revolutionized idea. Nintendo has found avoid and has filled it.

The youths of today don't even go outside to play anymore, they have become immersed in a world of video games! They live a sedentary life. They just want to sit around and play video games. Definitely the Wii fit is a phenomenal idea! Now I have this gut feeling that some people may assume that they don't need to pay for yoga sessions or any other fitness clubs. However the Wii fit is not a panacea, I still think some kind of additional fitness routine is required, unless you are the type who never did any type of activities, than the Wii fit is your answer.

I bought the Wii on launch day and so far, I am more than satisfied with it. The Nintendo Wii fit takes a different approach to gaming. Wii Fit is a good start for anyone embarking on a regular exercise program, but frankly, I'm finding some t of the routines are somewhat below the level I'm used to at least some, not all. For instance, I am a figure skater; I've been doing yoga, Pilates, aerobics and strength training regularly .

However, working out using the Wii Fit board is a totally unique experience, it provides instant feedback on your performance, as correcting your posture and charting your progress. It is as if having your private coach at your beckon call. It also offers a number of totally novel exercise games and routines to keep you interested and motivated.

Wii Fit is excellent for initiating a regular workout program, and for that purpose, I think it's well worth the money. Additional accessories may be required though. For instance the mat to keep the board secure on the floor, the rubber-like cover to protect the board from being scratched or getting dirty, and the battery charger for the balance board. I would encourage anyone who buys the Wii fit to obtain as extended warranty in case it becomes defected .

After playing for about an hour today, I was very sore. Even though I work out regularly, with the Wii fit, I still used muscles that were dormant. It is very user-friendly and walks you through all of the exercises. Another great feature, is that as you earn points, it allows the user to unlock different games as a reward. You have to work to do all the games and to unlock new ones. For example you can't unlock a balance game without working out with yoga. The Wii fit is highly recommended for figure skaters, or any athelete, the young and old alike, it is universal!

The Wii fit is a great start, and I sincerely hope Nintendo comes out with more advanced exercise games to use with the Wii Fit board--soon! More specialized game for specific interests; for instance, a figure skating version would be a great addition to the balance version of the Wii fit.

It is worth every penny. My Husband, my children and I have used the same day I bought it. We had so much fun. It measured our balance, BMI, and weight. We were able to set a fitness goal that meets our needs as well.

Get balanced!

Have fun!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Skaters Need Fuel: Don't Crash Your Diet

In figure skating Image is everything. Many skaters are extremely concerned about their weight because appearance on the ice is important in the sport. Having a small shape is important in figure skating, breasts and hips slow the spins, lower the jumps and disrupt the lean body lines. The message is clear and all skaters know that you must be thin to win.

Your healthy weight is based on your Body Mass Index (BMI). Doctors often use BMI to determine if a person is underweight, at a healthy weight or is overweight. If you are above the healthy weight range, see your doctor to work out a program to help you reach a healthy weight. If you fall below the healthy weight range, or are losing weight unintentionally, consult your health care provider to make sure you don’t have any health problems.

For anyone who skates, weight is usually something they have on their mind. They are usually concerned about the right “weight” to be. While the focus should be eating right, and exercise, skaters or any athlete should keep in mind that it really depends on “your” body type. Some people are naturally more muscular than others and they have an easier time gaining muscle. Others can work out a ton and still have hard time gaining muscles. So it just depends on your body frame. You really shouldn't worry about this however.

Sometimes, your weight may fluctuate, and no matter how much you work out, you seem to be gaining weight. The answer to this could be that you probably are gaining a lot of muscles. Keep in mind that it is not fat. It is muscle. Whatever your size may be don’t beat yourself up for it; even as you may THINK it is fat, it is muscle. Muscles weigh more than fat. As long as you're healthy then keep working out and don't worry about your weight.

You can eat whatever you like with moderation, provided you exercise regularly and follow simple healthy eating habits. Focus on protein and fats-the best type of fats like olive oil avocado nuts, etc. Make getting lots of vegetables a priority. You need a variety of food: Potatoes, carrots, peas and carrots broccoli, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, artichokes . . . Don’t take out any food group. As an athlete, you need carbohydrates, protein, and fats for energy, or you can forget about improving those skills on the ice.

For the adult skater, especially for women, choose items that don't make you want more and more food. For instance try to avoid refine foods. As for an older woman it is often harder to control weight. If you are over 30 and up starches and sugars are not your friends. It just makes you crave more as a result, you become less energetic and more likely to become obese and possibly diabetic as the fat stores in your mid-section.

If you're concerned about chubby areas, then you should definitely workout to tone those areas. However, keep in mind that working out in order to tone is very different from working out in order to lose weight. For example, if you already have a workout regimen intended to help you lose weight, here are a few alterations I would suggest that you tone your chubby areas with low weights, high rep. For instance, crunch for your abs, squats for your buns, lunges for your thighs and curls for your arms. Any serous skater has already implemented those routines as part of their off-ice training. You might gain a bit because muscle weighs more than fat; it is quite all right because then you'll be in the healthy weight range.

It is important that you stretch before, during, and after your workout. Stretching you muscles prevent pooling of bodily liquids and it also ensure that you don't develop "lumpy" muscles. The same way you stretch prior to getting on the ice, the same rule applies for any work out routine. People who don't stretch regularly find that they do not develop the smooth, attractive lean muscles they want.

Optimal weight is best achieved through the consumption of a low-fat, moderate-protein, high-complex-carbohydrate diet plus a good exercise and conditioning program. Skaters should eat and drink something, even a slice of toast and a small glass of juice is better than nothing, before taking to the ice to be certain that muscles are well fueled. The quick burst of muscular activity associated with the jumps required in figure skating is not possible without sufficient storage of fuel.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Most Overdone Figure Skating Music.

Choosing the right music is always a challenge for skaters and their coaches and choreographers. What suits one skater or pair or dance team may not suit another. It's a constant challenge figure skaters have -- picking music that fits their style, however also selecting something that the judges will like as well. Another challenge that exists in choosing a piece of music is that it fits the time constraints of a program and that technical elements can be performed to it. Figure skating music needs to incorporate quick beats, slow parts and some breathing time. The new judging system, with its intricate scoring, makes it even more difficult to fit skating to the music.

How often do you hear the first beats of music to a skating program and groan? Not "Carmen" again or, no more "Swan Lake. There should be a rule, that once a skater earns a title with a piece of music, that it shouldn't be played again for at least a couple of seasons. With that rule in place, we would not be subjected to hearing "Swan Lake" or "Carmen" or “Romeo and Juliet ever again; or at least for a while. New music can be exiting, but skaters, might find it to be a bit of a risk. It is understood if a skater doesn't want to take that risk, however skaters Should then go all out in their exhibitions and do something exciting.

There should be some middle ground between choosing an overdone piece of music and something totally unheard. I don't think skaters have to necessarily summarily dismiss music that has been used in the past, I just think they should think carefully before taking up something that's done over and over by multiple skaters unless they have a totally fresh idea for it.
Here is a list of music that should not be played anytime soon in a skating rink near you.
• "Carmen"
This is a classic skating piece because it naturally gets the crowd involved.
• "Bolero"
Kwan did a great number with that one. She is talented, it is expected.
• "Swan Lake"
It's been so overdone that Rudy Galindo performed both his short and long programs to this piece in 1996 Others have used it as well including: Baiul in 1994, Nancy Kerrigan, Shizuka Arakawa 2004, and Sasha Cohen even tried her hand with this one.
• "Romeo and Juliet"
Who hasn't tried this music? In the 2006 Olympics a commentator said that the difference between Sasha and other skaters is that they skate to Romeo and Juliet and Sasha becomes Juliet.
• "West Side Story"
Great music, however, absolutely everything, from "Maria" to "America," has been played one too many times.
• "Malaguena"
This is a great Spanish guitar piece, but should not be used unless the skater can truly keep up with the tempo and offer absolutely great footwork.
• "Nessun Dorma"
Again, beautiful music, from Puccini's "Turandot," but nonetheless, overdone by everyone from Sarah Hughes to Brian Boitano. It did not bode well with Meissner this season (2007/2008) This piece should be put to rest.
Some others:
The Feeling Begins
On the Waterfront
Swan Lake
Rachmaninov 2
Paint It Black
Moonlight Sonata
Zorba the Greek
Concerta for Coloratura.

And, there are pieces of music which have been overused at one time but are no longer overused--or used at all. The bell suite and love theme from Ice Castles was too popular in 1979-80, but might be a nostalgic piece now. There is also the option to use a lesser used bit of the score, as Kwan did with Carmen. The Rondo from the Moonlight Sonata isn't overused however. Look beyond the easily overused classics and the currently popular theme.

The Moonlight Sonata , Swanlake, and, any Tchaikovsky piece should take a back seat. Choose something different. The point is, people need to get original with their music. Debby Thomas of USA and Katarina Witt of Germany both skated to Carmen. They were known as the “Battle of the Carmen from the 1988 Winter Games. Carmen, swan lake, anything Beethoven, and Pirates of the Carribean are totally overused! The objective should be, to always look for more fun music. I think the judges would appreciate newly, exciting music.

There's some risk in choosing a classical piece of music. It will still have that edge of familiarity that will make the judges comfortable. But in choosing a classical piece that hasn't been used by numerous skaters before, you leave yourself more open to originality. There are pieces that aren't used as frequently in the skating world that would in no way be new to most of the judges.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Balancing Act

We All Fall Down

You are just beginning figure skating and are having trouble balancing on the ice during stroking both forward and backward. You are doing well with your crossovers; however as a result of your lack of balance, you feel as you may fall. And you are scared to dear life of falling. Balance is definitely the key word In skating. Stay focused.

Falling is a part of skating. If you don't fall, you're not trying. You have to get out of the fear of falling. It is not the end of the world. It is no big deal. If you don't fall, you're NOT trying hard enough! Just go for it and you'll get it eventually.

Don’t be afraid to fall; or be embarrassed for that matter. A figure skater falls, and you're going to fall. I haven’t met a single skater whose butt has not come in direct contact with the ice a few times myself included. I am an adult skater. All skaters fall. All skaters must fall in order to progress. Pilates and/or Yoga classes can be helpful in obtaining better balance. If you're afraid to fall, you're honestly not going to improve in a timely manner. Your fear will hinder your progress. Falling is one of the ways in which to improve muscle memory, and as you advanced t in skating, the more you fall. Crash pads can be one of the ways to go in order to absorb the impact of falling. It may add to your confidence on the ice.
Don't worry about falling! We all fall many times. When you are a figure skater, falling is something that is unavoidable. I have fallen many times. I wear knee pads and elbow pads. It helps a lot. If you're not falling, you're probably holding back, which won't allow you to improve on the jumps because you're stopping yourself holding yourself back. "Teach" yourself to fall. Tell yourself that it's okay to fall. It most likely won't hurt and it's the only way to push yourself forward.

Another important thing you must keep in mind is that most skaters have a 'strong' and a 'weak' side to their skating. It takes practice and hard work to balance them out and make each side equally strong. Sometimes, it's hard to practice your weak side during the public session. The traffic is too much, or you may have to abide to direction regulation or limited space on the ice. Try to find an uncrowded session to practice on in which you can concentrate on your skating skills! Making sure your skates are tied properly; and having sharped blades will help a lot.

When you practice elements on the circles, start and end with your weaker side so as to get twice as much practice on that side. It really does help! Skate on your strong side, and make mental notes about what you're doing. Then, step-by-step, repeat the action on your weaker side. Hold onto the wall if you have to, but really work hard to master the weaker side skills, especially the glides and pushes. Be sure to keep your knees bent and your arms at waist height and out from your body for balance. Use good posture, arch your back, and hold the free leg behind you after you push. Make sure that your arms are out, and that you have blades that are sharpened correctly. If your blades are blunt, you will travel across the ice. Remember to keep your arms are out nicely in order to be able to help stay balanced. Your skates need to be laced up correctly.

Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to fall . Everyone does. Kwan, Meissner, Cohen, Hughes (both), Weirs, Lysacek, . . . just to name a few, have had direct contact with the ice. I am not talking about their blades. You just have to stay positive and keep skating (or falling) as the elites skaters do.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

E. Hughes: The Unsung Hero

Emily Is True Class Act

I have just taken a look at the team envelope for the 2008/2009 season. While I was elated with the Kimmie’s team A assignment; even though she did not do well by “our” standard this season, however she did well enough to achieve Team A status. What really threw me on a tail spin was Emily’s assignment. Instead of her, Bebe Liang made the Team (A). While I understand the mechanics of the assignments, I feel some reparation could have bee made in this case.

Let me clarify that I am a fan of Bebe as well, and I think she is a great skater. Though I’ve yet to meet her, fellow skaters who have, have sung her praise. However, that is beside the point. It is obvious the reason that Emily did not make team A is due to the fact that she had not compete at Nationals nor worlds’, yada yada... however, she had a hip injury. Whatever happened to all of those loopholes skaters can use to circumvent those types of unforseen circumstances? Is this the dawn of an early retirement for Hughes?

As I perused the Team envelope, honestly, the only strong person standing there as far as I am concerned is Meissner. And NO! I am not looking at it through my “fan colored spectacles.” Nagasu must automatically make the team since she is the “champ”. Yes she is cute and all that, but there is no art to her skating. Meissner, on the other hand, despite her lack luster performance this season, had held her own, and had earned the spot. However when it comes to Liang and Hughes, it is quite a different story. Hughes should have been assigned if not to team A, at least to Team B assignment. And don’t get me started about Katrina Hacker, whom I thought had given a much more mature and more artistic performance than Zhang. I know Zhang reminds us a bit of Kwan. And, Kwan she is not. And, Zhang can grow on anyone, she is so cute and so sweet. Despite What they say about the new system being fair, the fact still remains, if your name is not well known, you can still be swept under the rug, and unless you make jumping and flopping around the ice your main focus you can kiss any title GOOD BYE! And this fact has led me to ponder “what will happen to those young girls’ hips by the time the reach the ripe age of 40.”

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I remember, the 2006, 2007, season I had felt that regardless of that “chance” performance that Alissa Czisny had pulled that year, (She is a beautiful skater, extremely artistic on the ice.) I had felt strongly that Liang should have been the one to have gone to the World Championship. This season 2007/2008 after watching a pleasant almost flawless Katrina Hacker at four continents, her performance had forced me to rewind my Tivo and watch her performance at Nationals, ( hers and part of Kimmie’s performance only, my heart was hurting too much for Kimmie, I could not have witnessed such debacle. It hurt too much) I had made the decision to skip Nationals this season. It just was not fun. Call me a sore loser if you must. I was hard-pressed to conclude that maybe our team should have been Meissner, Wagner, and Hacker. I am most definitely sure she would not have disappointed US.


Now the Team envelope with Hughes being benched in Team C, is not helping our team as much. Has this scoring system done away with skating? She is very artistic and has one of the best choreographed programs. She had a hip injury, I am sure might have been due from executing an element on the ice, probably a jump. The new judging system really sucks! This judging system has divorced the casual viewer from what's happening on the ice. Now it is alienating athletes who display flow, finesse, and an effortless movement in time to the music. Hughes may not be flopping like a bird all over the ice; however, she skates with style and clarity. It's astounding that figure skating still maintains its self-image as an art form in the face of so much flopping. This is the beginning of the end.

Unsung Hero

Since the Olympics have ended I haven't seen nor heard much of Emily. Apparently, she will always be in the shadows when other skaters are talked about. Emily, not only has to deal with talk about her sister; but Michelle, Sasha and Kimmie as well to name a few skaters.

Amy Hughes was being commemorated as a top mom recently: She was referred to as “Amy Hughes, the mother of Olympic skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes.” There was no mention of Emily. Emily, titles or not is a quite accomplished young lady. So, shame on the press for not acknowledging her. Even if Emily were to win a medal which does not seem likely, since she is more artistic than a jumper, she is unlikely to get the type of coverage the other skaters get and everyone will be assuming it was mere chance. And now she has been assigned to Team C, what are her chances.

Emily definitely deserves a better assignment than the one she’s got. She might not have the “softness” that so many people love these days, but it's refreshing to see someone who is still powerful, with beautiful stretch and spins. Emily has risen to challenges and has showed her true spirits. That young lady is a true class act.

Friday, May 9, 2008

New Boots Issues

Blisters From New Boots

You have just bought you new pair of figure skating boots and they are hurting a lot. Beside hurting a lot, one foot hurts more than the other. The first time you’ve used them, you’ve developed some major blisters. Five days later when you went back to the rink, apparently, it seems that more blisters are coming your way. You are wondering if this is normal. If this, is normal for breaking into new figure skates? And if so, how long does it take until the skates are broken into?

It takes about ten or so sessions for the skates to break in completely depending on the individual and the boots. It is totally normal. It happens to everyone. This time around though, I did not get blisters breaking in my boots, I have custom-made boots( Thank you Klingbeil). They are kinder to your feet. If you have to get stock boots, you can use a make up sponge around the part of the foot that feels uncomfortable. There are some popular brands that are adhesive, they cost a little more and are not reusable. The make up sponge creates the same effect. They are flat and round. Boys and girls can use them equally. We’re talking about comfort here. This not the time to worry about what your “macho, insecure pals” will think of you. Cut a small hole in the middle of the sponge and put and put it around the blister it helps.

Depending on the skates, It is VERY normal to get blisters when breaking in some new skates! Don't worry! If you're having problems around the ankle area, you can take your boots to a skate shop and ask them if they could "punch out" the ankles for you. They have a metal tool that they can use to squeeze and stretch the leather, creating additional room for your ankles. It'll take a little while before your skates feel comfortable. When you're starting with them, try not lacing them all the way up. If you're having problems with your ankle, leave the top eyelet unlaced until you feel more comfortable. Also try leaving the top hook undone until you feel more flexibility in your boots. Put on your skate guards and wear your skates around the house in order to help you with the break in process.

If the blisters are very uncomfortable, the best thing you could do, though it does not sound, is to stop skating for a week or so depending on how bad your blisters are. Wear flip flops as much as possible and put on some ointment to relax the blister. Also, if you can, go to a doctor because he or she may provide the best help and care possible for you to apply

Don’t worry! It is completely normal for you to be uncomfortable when adjusting to new boots. The most important thing is to take care of the problem. Put some ointment on your blister and wear flip flops as much as you can in order for the blisters to not get more irritated. Usually it will take a few sessions for your skates to break in. However, if you do not take care of your blisters, your feet will hurt additionally when you put your boots on and it might hinder you skating as you might have to take additional time off from skating in order for the blisters to heal.

Get better fitting skates

Each skater has a preference when it comes to boots. Personally, I find “custom” is the way to go. You are fitted for those boots. They are made for “you.” Yes! there is a breaking process. However, it is not as long nor is it as painful. Just make sure that your skates fit properly and you will be able to avoid such problems. Try getting your boots custom made if you can afford it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Skate Guards Vs: Soakers

You just got your new skates, and they come with blade covers. The covers are very slim plastic ones. You are wondering if it is okay to use those guards instead of the other lager skate guards.
And you are wondering if you should get soakers as well, because a blade cover is a blade cover right? You know you're supposed to have them, but it should be okay to just dry the whole blade then put those hard blade covers on.

Soakers Vs. Skate Guards

It is imperative to keep your skates, and especially the blades, as dry as possible. Every time you take your skates off, you should dry them thoroughly with a towel. Then put on a pair of terrycloth soakers. Soakers absorb any water you missed and keep the blades dry between uses.

Soakers are what you put on your blades after you skate to protect them from rusting . Skate guards are for walking around in the skates on and off the ice.

You certainly need soakers. They are definitely a necessity when it comes to caring for your skates. They help prevent rusting and make your blades last longer. Soakers are the best for skate care. Once you take your skates off, dry them very well with an absorbent cloth. DO NOT put your guards back on, wait until your blades adjust to room temperature and then dry them off again. Because the blades are made of metal, they stay cold for a long time. As the shock of warm air hits the blades, they heat up quickly causing the metal to condense or "sweat,” the soakers absorb the water trapped from the blades. By putting the guards on when they’re still cold, this may cause a harmful rust to form on the blades. Soakers eliminate the hassles of continuous drying. They are innovative.

Any guards should fine. Personally, I prefer the heavy duty kind; however, it’s highly likely that the floors at your rink are lined with a hard rubber coating so there really is no need for heavy-duty guards for walking around right now. It is a matter of preference.

NEVER put hard guards on your skates while they are not being used, they will rust. This will ruin your blades and forces you to get your skates sharpened more often than you need to. The more you sharpen your blades, they don’t last as long. Hard guards are for when you are not skating and you're walking around the rink, or a hard surface.

The plastic blade covers are OK when for walking around in the skates on and off the ice, but the soakers hold the water in them as they need time to dry out. The skate guards shouldn't be on the blades all of the time because the hard plastic covers will promote rusting even if you think your skates and covers are dry.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Your First Figure Skating Boots

You are a beginner but a very fast learner. You are not sure if you should buy figure skates at this time. However you feel you are progressing fairly quickly. You have made it to freestyle levels. Now the big question is should you stop renting and buy your own pair of figure skates.

If you enjoy figure skating, then you should own your skates no matter what level you are. This is because you progress much faster with your own boots and you'll probably enjoy skating even more. Rinks usually don't sharpen their skates as often as they should. It might cost more to begin with to have your own skates, but you won't have to keep paying for rentals, you'll have your own skates that won't smell like other people's feet and if you get the right model, they should last you through all of group lessons. The questions below may be of concerned to you:

1. What's the best kind of ice skate to get?
2. What size do I get?
3. Do I need a figure skating bag to carry my skates in? Or Is it okay to fling my skates over my shoulders when I go to the rink?
4. Do I need to get soakers ?
5. How long will it take me to break into them?
6. When do I know to sharpen them?
7. How do I care for my ice skate?


Usually for beginning skaters, I recommend an introductory pair of boots for beginners. The boots should be comfortable, and have all of the requirements of a beginning skate. Any brand would do. It is a matter of preference. They should provide enough support and come with some decent blades for what you're trying to do. Go to your nearest skate shop and tell them at what level you are skating and what you want to do. They can fit you and set you up with a skate for your level.


For sizing purposes, you should go to your nearest skate shop and get professionally fitted. Skates do not run true to shoe sizes. Some run large, some small, some are wide, some are narrow. It all depends on the brand. A trained professional should be able to help you get the appropriate size. You'd hate to get your new skates and have them not fit! If your feet are still growing, you can usually go up a half-size, or maybe a full size. More than that might make the experience a difficult one. Also, some shops sell used skates as well, which can be a great idea for skaters with growing feet! However, it is usually best to break into your own skates.


Break-in time depends on how much you skate. At first you will have trouble skating and won't be able to do everything that you thought you could. You will probably get some blisters. Persevere. Those are the “breaks” of having your own figure skates. Usually to facilitate this process, it is a good idea for skaters to wear their skates at home while watching TV with their skate-guards on. This allows the boot to form to your feet. Walk in them a little at home, bend at the ankle. When they're new, don't lace them up all the way to the top. Leave the top hook unlaced until you have them broken in a little until you feel comfortable in your boots. On the ice, do a lot of back crossovers, swizzles, (waltz jumps if you can) and bend at your ankles. If you're finding you have specific areas that are hurting, you can have those areas "punched " at the skate shop they have a metal tool that pushes areas of the boot out to relieve pressure areas. Sometimes, round makeup sponges work well to protect sore ankles and other areas that hurt in skates.


Get your blades sharpened before you use your skates for the first time. New blades do not come with good edges. How often you sharpened your skates depends on how much you skate. The general rule is whenever you find yourself drifting off the ice. You will notice it on the ice when you need to sharpen your blades. When they start to get blunt, you will feel yourself drift side ways on your blades across the ice. When this starts to happen, it means your blades are getting blunt because the edges are getting rounder. However each skater has their own preference. To check if your blades are dull, drag a fingernail lightly over one of the edges. If it scrapes off some of your nail, they're probably okay if there is no scraping, they need to be sharpened. Your coach should also be able to let you know, or the shop where you sharpen your skates should be able to tell you as well. For every time you sharpen your blades, you are taking off a piece of your blades. Sometimes your skates may not need sharpening the person at your shop knows just what to do to hold you ‘till your next sharpening


I would recommend getting a pair of soakers to protect your blades. They're great for when you're not using your skates. They help keep your blades from getting rusty. Be sure that you do not store your skates with the hard skates-guards on. This can cause your blades to rust . . . quickly! Only use the skate-guards for walking off ice to protect your blades from getting ruined. When you're done skating, wipe your blades and boots down with a towel and put on your soakers. Once you get home, it is always a good idea to take your skates out of your skate bag, take your soakers off and let your skates dry out. This prevents rusting on your blades, and allows the moisture to evaporate. I'd suggest getting some sort of bag, backpack or a skate bag something to carry your skates in. Skaters seem to end up with a lot of junk to carry around: CD's, towels, gloves, leg-warmers, guards, extra tights, facial tissue, first aid kit and much more.


A. always wipe your blades thoroughly so they don’t rust.
B. if your doing a lot of drags and stuff, you should think about wearing over the boot stockings or skate covers so you don’t ruin the leather of your boot as it scrapes off.
C. wear guards when your not on the ice so your blades don’t get blunt.

There is a big difference between owning your own boots and renting. They will probably feel like night and day when compared to rental skates. You will have the ankle support and a better blade that you will need for beginning spins and jumps.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Blades And Slippers

Many figure skating moves and techniques are based on ballet. Skaters who have a background in ballet should be able to transfer the positions and principles from ballet to skating. It is precisely this closeness to dance, and especially to ballet, that sets ice skating apart from any other sport. Although ballet and skating are similar, you have to think of them as two different worlds. There are many moves in skating that are similar to ballet, but you will have to break some ballet rules to get it right in skating.

The skater needs a strong core body to connect the upper and lower body for controlled powerful movements. He must be able to keep his shoulders over his hips throughout jumps, spins, footwork and edges. He must also be able to check his shoulders against his hips. Thus it is to the skater’s benefit to become aware of the feeling of twisting in the middle of the torso, and also the feeling of staying square.

Figure skating and ballet require balance, strength in the legs, and ankle strength. They both use the same muscles, so ballet really helps figure skaters. Flexibility, balance, body alignment/posture, extension, and strength are just another reason to incorporate ballet to your figure skating. Many of the poses in skating are found in ballet, for instance arabesque, leaps, Rond de Jambe, PliƩ, etc. Ballet teaches the skater how to move the pelvis without losing balance or disconnecting the center in footwork sequences, including pirouette turns, jumps and leaps across the floor.

The entire foundation of ballet is poise and posture gained through core strength, making it the best way to learn how to present oneself and become graceful and elegant on the ice. Ballet helps with beauty and grace. Ballet dancers have a natural elegance in the way they carry themselves. The way their legs, back, arms, hands, feet, shoulders, and neck are aligned, always seems to have that flair grace. They have great posture.

Figure skating is ballet on ice. It can be one of the off ice training you implement to your skating for form and balance. Ballet uses body, mind and expression and while on the ice you have to express yourself as well. With ballet, you have a broader sense of how to perform, and to interpret and express your music as you tell your story or convey your emotion through the connecting steps of the program. This is what make the difference between a program that is all jumps with a lot of crossovers or stroking between the jumps, and a program that is interesting, artistic and pleasant to watch. Just as a dancer sweeps you away with her grace and flow and hides her/his sweat with a flourish, a skater will prepare you for a delicate show of athleticism and artistry, and gentle arabesques, and they’ll soar and spin in toe loops and flips and triple-Axel jumps.

The following is a brief summary of common terms and positions with which skaters should be familiar.

Rond de Jambe – A rotary movement of the leg.
It can be done in a number of ways, such as on the
floor with knee straight, or in air with a circular
rotation of the knee from bent to straight.

PliĆ© – A bending of the knees with hips, legs, and
feet turned outward.

Arabesque – A position in which the dancer
stands on one leg with the other leg extended in a
straight line to the rear. The position of the arms
and the height of the raised leg may vary.
There are certain set positions in ballet for the
arms and particularly for the feet which give the
ballet dancer a particularly pleasing aspect as well
as providing a starting point for particular moves
and interchanges.
Skaters who have a background in ballet
should be able to transfer the positions and
principles from ballet to skating.

Foot Positions
There are five basic ballet foot positions that
are common to all teaching methods.
The feet point either in opposing directions either
in a straight line, or offset with one foot in front of
the other.

Built Core Strength With Pilates

Pilates uses the mind to control the muscles.The program focuses on the core postural muscles which help keep the body balanced and which are essential to providing support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and aim to strengthen the deep torso muscles. Pilates improves your mental and physical well-being, increases flexibility, and strengthens core muscles. People who do pilates regularly feel they have better posture, are less prone to injury, and experience better overall health. If you want to work your body to the core, try Pilates

There are two forms of Pilates. They are: Mat-based and Equipment-based. Mat-based Pilates is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide the resistance. The objective is to condition the deeper, supporting muscles of the body to improve posture, balance and coordination. Equipment-based Pilates – uses specific equipment such as the “Reformer,” which looks like a rowing machine that you push and pull along the floor. These classes can be easier for beginners because the machines support you when you do the movements.

There is a lot more to Pilates than just exercise. You have to have correct breathing, which is very important. Pilates helps develop your core strength, little bit complicated. You then have to learn to isolate certain muscle groups, for instance pelvic floor and the abdominal muscle. It took me a couple of months and two private sessions a week to learn how to do most of it correctly. Once you can stabilize the hips, back and abdomen only then can you move into the 'exercises'. However once you learn the correct techniques, it always comes back to you. It remains with you. It is like skating, or riding a bike. If you do not learn all this then the actual exercises will be all for nothing. You want quality, not quantity. And it can be dangerous as well, and you can do yourself more harm than good.

I started Pilates and yoga for balance, flexibility, and core strength to help me with figure skating. I do have to say the overall result is great; including health-wise. You don’t need to spend “mega” bucks on equipments for Pilates; I do recommend the mat and the ball. The ball gets deflated for easy storage. There is plenty of information available for anyone interested, but I do advise investing in an introductory class, for proper guidance and proper form. Those are of extreme importance. It is a worthwhile investment. Once the theory is grasped, the rest is really up to you. Not much equipment is required. You actually have to use your own body weight to build muscle mass.

Pilates is designed to combine your breathing rhythm with your body movements. It relies on a variety of special body movements which strengthen, and tone the various muscle groups of the body. It is a series of controlled movements engaging your body and mind, promoting physical harmony and balance for people of all ages and physical conditions. Don’t expect to see immediate results. It will take a few weeks before you’ll see changes in your body. Combine your sessions with some heart-pumping activities and Pilates can help you achieve total body fitness – endurance, flexibility, strength, and balance. Proper breathing is important as well as posture. It is very important to do Pilates using the proper form, because if you do it wrong, it will be self defeating.
Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind

Site search Web search