In the spirit of the Olympics and witnessing the drive and dedication of many of the top skaters, I thought I’d share a story with you.
As a young skater, I had a lot of talent and potential. I was one of those skaters with natural musicality, a love for performing, and the ability to stay competitive with the top skaters at my level. Peaking at the novice level at regionals, I could do a clean double axel and double-double combinations, which would enable a skater to reach sectionals in the early nineties. I worked with top international coaches with excellent technique. Then why did I have trouble making it out of the initial round at regionals, when I knew I could be as good as the top skaters?
The simple answer is, I was weak. I’m not just talking strength-wise, but mentally. I was never willing to push myself to the limits. Knowing what I know now, I look back on my training and realize that I could have put so much more into my skating to make me realize my potential. Here is why I considered myself weak:
1: I never trained my program properly. At the higher levels of skating, the need for stamina and endurance is at a premium. Skaters need to be training double run throughs and completing every element in their program. I look back at all of the times when I left out a jump because I just didn’t feel right, or someone was in my way (when in reality, they were 50 feet away and I just used their presence as an excuse not to jump). Coaches and parents, does this sound familiar? If a skater can’t run a full program with all of the elements in practice, how will he or she be able to do it when the pressure is on? When I competed, I had the false notion that I could pull off a clean program, when in reality, I had rarely done it in practice. Was I afraid to fail in practice, thinking that failure would carry over to competition? That I’ll never figure out.
2: I did not have the motivation to train my stamina. Yes, I’d occasionally get on the exercise bike or jump rope for ten minutes, but this training was very infrequent and had no structure. As a skater with a three minute + program, you need to push yourself to reach new limit points with stamina training, to go past the point or level that is difficult. The next time you reach that level, it will become easier. I was satisfied coasting at a comfortable level, never pushing myself to be better, and this carried over to my lack of skating endurance.
3. I did not have the proper off-ice training. This was not the fault of my coaches, as there were little to no resources at that time to refer to regarding off-ice training. Skaters in this day and age have several excellent resources available (including Sk8Strong!), and physical therapists and strength and conditioning specialists in this day and age have significantly more education in proper training methods. Hopefully every skater can have access to proper training programs to help them to achieve their potential and prevent injury. In was unfortunate that I had to put my own competitive career for several years due to a back injury that could have been prevented with the proper training. In this era, skaters will be able to prevent such injuries from occurring.
I am happy to say, at age thirty, I was able to skate the best program of my life at Eastern Sectionals in 2007, competing in Championship Masters. The only reason I was able to complete that skate is because of a coach who pushed me to want to be better. I did my double run throughs until my quads gave out, and I spent every weekend at my clinic (with my baby watching curiously in the pack-and-play) torturing my body with plyometrics and slideboard drills. In the end it was worth it, because I was as well-trained as I could be come competition time. The feeling at the end of that program was worth the countless hours I sacrificed to be at my best. Every skater needs to find that motivation and drive within themselves, and it will help them reach whatever their goals may be.