Nov 19, 2012

Organizing practice time

Everyone should follow the same basic plan to warming up: ten to fifteen minutes off-ice to bring your heart rate up and raise your core temp before you step on the ice (this is why they call it a warm up). Before skating you want just a light stretch. Don't over stretch cold muscles.

Once you're on the ice have an on-ice warm up pattern. This can be something your coach gives you, or your own plan. It can be as simple as stroking around for 2 or 4 laps, or it can be a combination of forward and backward skating and turning patterns. A great warm up pattern is the power moves from the last Moves test you passed (unless you haven't taken a Moves test. In which case, use the Pre-Bronze/ PrePreliminary test as a warm up). Don't worry too much about skating quality on the warm up.

A specific warm period is important for health and safety reasons, and to get your head in the game, as it were. You want to see who is on the ice, and if you're an adult, exactly what creaks and groans you're dealing with today.

Once this is complete, you're on to the actual "practice." So, how do you organize the actual practice?

A lot of coaches insist that their students carry little notebooks around. These contain teaching tips, suggestions on what needs work, and sometimes very specific practice plans. I mostly observe these being used as an excuse to hang around on the boards.

Move through the moves
This is my own method. I do my warm up, and then skate through all the Adult moves starting with Pre-Bronze and finshing with those skills at Adult Silver that I can actually do. For someone like me, who isn't trying to acquire new skills, this is a great way to fill practice time without clock watching, while making sure that you cover a range of skills and keep moving. I don't jump, but you could also use this method with freeskating skills...

Easy to hard other words easy to hard. From simple stroking through Senior power moves. Waltz jump through your highest jump. Scratch spin to combination spin. Et cetera.

Hard to easy
I encourage my students, on the other hand, to start with the hard stuff. For one thing, this gets it out of the way, so you're not spending the whole practice worrying about screwing up the axel again. You screwed it up early on, now you can move on. Also, if you do the hard skills while you're still fresh, you're less likely to do them poorly, not to mention being less susceptible to injury.  The other advantage of starting with the hard stuff is that it allows you to finish your practice session on an upnote, with skills that you're good at.

5 laps stroking. 5 crossover circles. 10 of each jump. Etc. This is also a good method for clock watchers, or for people who are bad at organizing their practices, like little kids. This sort of thing is also conducive to the notebook. Make a list, and check it off as you complete each item.

This one is for competitors and adults. Work out a practice that keeps your heart rate in the cardio range for a specified period (generally 20 minutes, and usually defined as 60 to 70% of MHR or maximum heart rate for an adult doing exercise, and 70 to 85% for a competitor). Here's a calculator). This basically means a strong warm up period and then continual movement to keep it there.

If you're a competitor, then you need to work run-throughs of your programs into some, though not necessarily all of your practices. Where in the sesseion the run-throughsgo, and the nature of those run-throughs, depends where you are in the competitive season. I'll talk about run-throughs in another post.

How do you (or your skater) organize your practice time?


  1. Hi Xan! So glad to see you posting so much now I've just gone back to skating! :)

    I usually do five of everything on my practice list (for crossovers, that means five circles each direction) that I can already do, mostly stuff for the next Basic test. I keep my copy of the skating curriculum on the boards to check I don't forget anything. Then I work on things that I'm still learning, stuff from higher levels that my coach is starting me on, or things I've randomly learnt in class (eg. salchows) or special classes (eg. cross-behinds from ice dance). At the very end of the session I sometimes explore combining different moves (eg. 3 turns and crossovers).

    I try to intersperse laps of stroking periodically, especially to break up bits where I'm always standing on the same spot (eg. turns from still). However, on crowded practice sessions I tend to need to move around a bit to find clear ice anyway, so there's not such a need to do it consciously.

  2. I'm on again, off again with my skating and am very, very basic, but generally on ice I stroke around the rink a few times, do big swizzles, rolling crossovers, weak power pulls. Then I work on crossovers both directions forward and back on circles, then work on turns, mohawks, all the things I'm most likely to fall over on. I then stroke more, do lunges, try spirals, and if I feel like I'm having a good day, turns while moving on the circle, spins, and basic jumps.

    My daughter strokes, power pulls forward and back, then runs through the footwork sections in both her programs. She then runs through all her jumps alone and then in combo. Then spins. Then program. Then works on perfecting skills or new skills.

    As a side note, my daughter had to get out of the mindset of needing a 45-60 minute practice to get in her groove before a competition. Sometimes all kids get for practice ice is a 15-20 minute session, so having a 20-minute practice routing in place prepping for competition was useful. Also, developing a 5-minute warm-up practice was helpful for during competition.

  3. I have a planned approach for practice (weak side first, keep moving, don't stop, be aware of other skaters). The problem is that some of the Moves patterns pretty much require you to camp out (waltz 8, FO/FI 8, and the back edges). No amount of planning or intention can overcome the fact that there are some patterns that just block people from the space you're working on. So those patterns don't get the attention they need. So frustrating.

    1. The "camping out" aspect of some of the moves is why I specify that for warm-up purposes you really have to stick to the power moves, which tend to use the perimeter of the rink. The edge quality and quickness moves are not appropriate for a warm up period.

  4. My pre-pre skater tries to warm-up (running, jumping jacks, hop-hop-landing position, two-foot rotational jumps) off-ice whenever she has time before her on-ice session. Unfortunately, very often she can barely get to her skating session after school and has no time at all for off-ice warm-up. I think this is wrong, but I really don't know what to do about it... She can't just skate at a later time because freestyle sessions end soon after school and there is hockey later. On the ice, she starts with a couple of laps of stroking and then a few circles of crossovers forward and back, each direction. She also likes to do slalom or swing rolls for warm-up. Then she does her current MIF test. Then goes through all of her jumps and spins, from easiest to hardest, usually just a couple of each. Which ones are first, jumps or spins, just depends on her mood. For spins, after going through all of them, she decides on a couple she would practice more that day. I don't think she is doing that for jumps - most of the jump work is done in lessons. It doesn't seem to help much to do jumps a lot on her own. But it definitely helps to practice spins as much as possible. Toward the end of her session she is doing "stretching" moves such as spirals. The last 15 minutes of every public session (but not freestyle session) is play time. She stretches for about 15 minutes immediately after skating.

    My Basic 5 skater doesn't do any warm up yet other than some stroking and crossovers. She knows she has to practice all elements she is learning in class, all elements she is working on in private lessons, and all elements she has in her program (naturally, all these overlap). This is a big list of elements for her to keep in her head, so she usually omits quite a few. But since she omits different ones every time, I am not concerned. On public sessions I can remind her what else to do. On freestyle she doesn't have much time on her own anyway because she only goes to freestyle when she has a lesson, so she is on her own for only 30 minutes. Just started stretching after skating (which probably takes only about 5 minutes).

    When they are working on their programs, then the time programs are done vary from day to day: sometimes in the beginning, sometimes later. It depends on whether they have a lesson, which freestyle session is less crowded, and just their mood. Right now they are practising a program together, so they do it whenever they can: both are on the ice and neither one is in a lesson.

    Maria, mom of 2 skaters

    1. Your jumper can still practice "jumps" by doing set ups, waltz jumps, and back spins. And yes, your Basic 5 doesn't really need the kind of warm up that a higher-level skater needs simply because the demand on the muscles or focus isn't high.

  5. We give up 10 minutes of ice time for off ice. Now that she has been injured the only thing that prevents pain is off ice first.

    We get to the rink directly after school gets out, she grabs her jump rope and jumps. By the time her skates are out and guards are on them with pads and boot covers and gloves at the ready she has jumped 100 jumps quickly. Then she does deeper stretches. Finally, she gets on skates and on the ice and gets her blood moving again while I pack up her bag.

    It pains me to pay for 10 minutes unused ice, but we know if she were to go out cold, she will be too sore to jump the next few days.

    It feels silly to put her stuff out for her when she is perfectly capable, but it does speed up the "skates on" process.

    Anyway after power stroking it's footwork, spins, jump exercises, jumps, artistic moves, problems, power stroking (again). ~meg

    1. It's one thing when mom is doing stuff for a reluctant or spoiled skater, and another when she's part of the team getting the skater to her optimum! It's also a great way to be involved without being intrusive.

      (Also-- did I miss news about the injury? So sorry! Hope she's okay now!)