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.
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