Jan 22, 2015

The no-ice training regimen

How much ice is not enough ice?

If you're a long time reader, you know the formula- a minimum of one half-hour of ice for every half rotation you're working on, plus an hour plus a lesson or class per week.

So- FS1 (waltz jump and half flip)- 2 hours plus lesson; Novice (test track) axel and 4 doubles means 9½ rotations or 3½ hours plus lesson. This keeps you current (but doesn't allow that much room for new or upgraded skills).  If you're a competitive skater, just do what your coach says, mkay?

I know of skaters, though, who want to skate more, but can't. Maybe they don't have the time, or the money, or the transportation. Or the parental cooperation. They might be in a market with very limited ice (we don't have that problem in Chicago).

There are some logistical fixes: consolidate your lesson or class with your practice sessions. This of course needs the cooperation of the rink, to schedule these things back to back. Car pool. Arrange "skate and homework" buddies so your folks know you're not sacrificing school for skating (haha who am I kidding, of course you're sacrificing school for skating-- don't tell mom).

But you don't actually need ice to train for ice training. Or rather, there are things you can do at home that will make you a better skater. All the best skaters do it. Seriously. All the best skaters do it, because in fact, your skating will be better if you take it off the ice sometimes.

Plus, it's free.

Everyone's heard of off-ice training. This means workouts that help you with the strength, flexibility, and stamina that any athlete needs, but also skill-specific training for balance, jumping and artistry.

The best way to make sure you're getting the off-ice training you need is to have your coach give you some skill-specific workouts like jump drills, specific stretches (back and shoulder, arabesque, etc.) There are balance aids that help with landings, spirals and even turns. I learned patch-quality turns using these.

Jump drills are one of the best things you can work on off ice, and in fact, you should be working on them off-ice. Teaching your body what a jump–even a single–feels like in sneakers takes away some of the fear of your first try on the ice.  For single-axis jumps like the flip, which requires a lot of strength, this can mean the difference between a fall and a gliding check out. Especially when you're starting the axel, learn it off-ice first.

Jump drills are not only actually doing a specific jump. Plyometric exercises teach you spring and balance while also working on strengthening the muscles that skaters need.

For cardio, running or an aerobics video (youtube is your friend) is worth one of those half hours on the ice. Not only will it improve endurance, it will help you with focus. One of the things that kids especially struggle with is the sheer boredom of practice. Regularly running for 30 minutes will make skating practice feel like Disneyland, because there's pretty much nothing more boring than running.

If your main problem is lack of or distance from ice, as opposed to finances, you can also take classes that support the same skills. Jazz dance or hip hop (I like these better than ballet for figure skaters unless you can find an actual ballet-for-figure skaters class, but ballet is great as well), yoga, and karate are all great companion disciplines for figure skaters.

In other words, you don't have to skate to train.

What non-skating do you do to help your skating?


  1. We added gym time to my 12 year old son's weekly routine. For some reason he loves the elliptical machine. He can go on that thing for an hour. We also have a trampoline in the back yard for jumping.

    Because my kid has ADHD we just need to keep him moving. Since we can only afford so much ice, off ice helps a lot.

  2. Thanks for this! I'm surprised skaters can get by with much less ice time than I thought. We're lucky that we can usually get a good 2-4 hours p/w on ice for a fairly lowish cost. It's the lesson fees on top that are killing us!! I have a prelim skater not yet landing axel, double loop, and double sal - that's where he was up to working when we lost our income. I'm a bit confused whether to add half rotations for flip/lutz/toeL as well or instead? He's down to 2 x 30 min lessons pw so gather coach is backing off pushing the bigger jumps.