When I started skating again, I didn't "train;" I skated a few times a week, and took a couple of classes. It wasn't until I decided to do USFS tests that I really started thinking about it as "training."
So what exactly is "training" and how does it differ from simple improvement? How does it affect goals, and how does it affect that broken-down, over-scheduled, overweight body that you seem to have suddenly been saddled with?
Training vs. recreational skating
For adults, really, all skating is recreational. Like other hobbies, you can invest a nearly professional level of commitment to it, or you can do it for fun or as a social activity.
The biggest difference between a skater in training and one there just for fun is that the people in training usually have a goal, and it's often time-specific, like a test, show solo, or competition.
I like to define training as
a specific schedule of directed, dedicated activities designed to lead to a time- and/or skill-specific goal. It includes skill development, conditioning and strength training, and happens on a regular schedule, at least some of the time under the direction of a professional.If you're just skating to keep up with the class levels, and to do your rink's shows, you're probably not training. Even if you're skating every day, you're probably more recreational than training if it doesn't much matter to you when you land that jump or learn that dance, as long as you land it/learn it eventually.
A lot of adults (a lot of skaters in general) slide into a training mode without really thinking about it. Suddenly you realize you're taking 3 lessons, running and stretching before skating, and checking your pulse rate after your warm up, which has now become a serious effort to make you breathe hard.
Why train. Why not just skate?
For adults who are seriously trying to improve their skills, whether it's landing difficult jumps, or dancing with a partner, training mode is a better option, even if you're only skating a couple of times a week. If you think of yourself as training, you're not only helping your skating, and your health, you're helping your brain to take this frankly dangerous activity seriously. I see a lot of adults who won't follow a coach's technical advice because it's hard to fix technique, and they think that what they're doing is fine, it's not like they're in training, right? So they keep making dangerous mistakes, because they think it doesn't matter.
Training while working
As any adult knows who has tried to have a job, a life, skating, and 8 hours of sleep a night, something's gotta give. For me, it was the job (haha). It was after I left my downtown executive position to teach and run my consulting business that I finally found time to train properly. Other adults sacrifice the 8 hours--I see a lot of serious adult skaters on really early morning ice. I'm talking the 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. sessions. When I worked downtown, I gave up lunch in the winters so I could go skate at the nearest outdoor rink, a 10 minute bus ride from my office.
Starting when you retire
This solves the time problem, but brings serious health concerns. Women who start skating hard after menopause should get a bone density scan. If it's problematic, I wouldn't say stop skating, but I would say stop jumping. And don't skip the conditioning and strength training components. For older adults in serious athletic pursuits this is extremely important. Find an off-ice trainer who understands the issues of older adults, and has some familiarity with the specific conditioning and strength needs of skating (for instance focusing on core has opposed to extremity strength).
While you should understand your limitations (asthma, osteoporosis, certain medications like blood thinners and other medical issues do need to be shared with a medical professional), any reasonably healthy person can skate with no more risk than if they decided to start jogging. I actually started skating again because of back problems--my doctor gave me the choice of PT, surgery, or exercise. I told I had been a skater, and she loved it, because skating improves core strength, where my issues were. Sure enough, combined with the PT, this fixed my back issues. It helps a lot that I had a doctor who didn't immediately freak out at the idea of skating (some of them do).
Training will definitely help with any weight issues you have, but you don't have to avoid skating just because you're overweight.
Isolation and confirmation
These two things are the biggest issues with being an adult skater. Find a program that honors adults, with sympathetic coaches and understanding of adult issues. This is easy in an urbanized area, where you have several rink choices. You might end up somewhere farther than you would like, but trust me it will be worth it.
A lot of "good" coaches don't understand the slower trajectory, fear issues and schedule difficulties that plague adult skaters. I have also heard coaches, and I'm talking about coaches who accept adults as students, poking fun at, not only other adults, but at their own adult students. You'll know a program is good for adults if they have a lot of adults, a couple of coaches who focus on adults, and (the gold standard) dedicated "no one under 20" adult practice ice.
If you're in an area without choices, work to make your own coterie. Introduce yourself to other adults. Whenever you see an adult skater, ask them where they skate/train and who their coach is. Set up after-ice kaffeeklatches.
Skating as an adult is incredibly rewarding. I love the dropped jaws when people find out I didn't skate seriously until I was almost 40. Some of my best friends I met through skating.
How do you define training? How do you fit it into a grown-up schedule?