Injuries Are a Bump not a Road Closed

You have been training hard and you are at your peak! Your jumps are solid, spins are fast, and every movement you make feels natural.  And then BAM, an injury takes you out.  Unfortunately in life there are unpredictable injuries.  There are countless exercises and percautions that can be taken to avoid getting hurt, but that doesn’t always stop fate from intervening.  The injury might not even happen skating, but it can still effect or prevent you from performing in your sport.  The discouragement from the set back of an injury is often times the reason why skaters hang up their skates.donjoy-double-strap-ankle-wrap_3

There are hardships, set backs, and just plain bad luck in everyone lives.  It is incredibly discouraging when you’re skating is going so well to have it interrupted by an injury.  Whether it is an injury that takes you away for a week or a year it can take a toll on your mental health.  The injury is preventing you from doing what  you love and what identifies you.  I am a skater, but with an injury that keeps me off the ice what am I?

Some skaters find it easier to quit skating from due to an injury to protect themselves from the pain of trying to get back to the level they were performing at.  Some view it as “I wasted all of that time training just to get injured.” The successful skaters view it as “I spent all of that time training and I learned what to do and what not to do.  I can come back even stronger this time.”

Some skaters may encounter serious injuries that prevent them from doing everything they once were able to do, but that doesn’t mean they have to give up on skating forever.  If you are no longer able to do freestyle, you can still do ice dance, moves in the field, professional shows (you do not need to jump in all of the shows) or coach.  The possibilites in skating are endless.  Just because you have an injury doesn’t mean the road is closed.  You may just need to take a detour or create a new path to follow.

Every injury is just a bump in the road that is a learning experience.  An injury is not a reason to quit; it is an excuse.  Try not to let the injury be a failure, but instead make it your reason to be stronger.  You shouldn’t want someone or something to tell you when to quit something you are passionate about.  You are the only one who should decide if you are going to hang up your skates.  It may not be easy recovering from an injury, but if you love it there is always a way to have skating in your life.

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You Are the Only Judge

Better Than Yourself Figure Skating PrintIt kills me to see skaters so proud of themselves for how they skated and then be crushed when the results are posted.  They could have a great skate for themselves and be on cloud 9 until they see their name posted at the bottom of the list.  Competitions are a wonderful way to gain motivation to see how you can improve based on others, but in the end you should be your only judge.

You never know how much time, commitment, money and training anyone else in your group has put in.  All you know is what you have done and how far you have come.  If you haven’t trained as hard as you could have, you know you need to for next time.  If you have trained as hard as you could, then you should be happy knowing you gave it your all.  Many times skaters don’t realize how much the other skaters in their group train.  Instead of getting discouraged from your placement be encouraged by it to train harder and stronger for next time.

Skaters continuously are moving up in levels and it is always hard to compete the first time at a higher level.  It is often times a learning experience and you may not win right out of the gates.  Again, you need to remember that other skaters may have been in that level for a few years or have been working on the harder jumps for more years.  If it is your first time competing at a new level, learn from the other skaters and see what you could improve on.  Most importantly, remember how much you have improved instead of comparing yourself to others when you don’t know their history.

Below are a few great examples of reasons to stop comparing yourself to others written by Joshua Becker

  1. Comparisons are always unfair. We typically compare the worst we know of ourselves to the best we presume about others.
  2. You have nothing to gain, but much to lose. For example: your pride, your dignity, your drive, and your passion.
  3. There is no end to the possible number of comparisons. The habit can never be overcome by attaining success. There will also be something—or someone—else to focus on.
  4. Comparison puts focus on the wrong person. You can control one life—yours. But when we constantly compare ourselves to others, we waste precious energy focusing on other peoples’ lives rather than our own.
  5. Comparisons often result in resentment. Resentment towards others and towards ourselves.
  6. Comparisons deprive us of joy. They add no value, meaning, or fulfillment to our lives. They only distract from it.

More reasons found out http://www.becomingminimalist.com/compare-less/)

Everyone trains differently.  Everyone performs differently under pressure.  And everyone goes out and tries their best.  That is all you can do is go out and try your best.  Even if the placement is not what you had hoped for, just remember how you skated in the past.  If you have improved since the last time, you are a winner no matter what the paper results read.

Regionals Ready

Breathe Figure Skating Poster“Sometimes you just need to relax and know that everything is going to be okay”

Regionals is right around the corner and with that comes preparation.  More often than not, I see skaters around the rink training their programs like crazy a day or two before traveling to the big competition. Every time I see them doing a program run or drilling their jumps without doing exercises I scream inside “WHY!?”  Doing your program over and over breaking down every little step the week before Regionals is NOT going to help.  When in preparation for a big competition the only thing that can help the week of is to prepare yourself mentally.

In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, habits can take on average up to 2 months to form.  This means that if you haven’t been landing your jumps consistently or running through your program to fix certain habits for more than 2 months before you compete, running it 200 times the week of the competition will not help.  Running the program over and over may help your endurance, but it won’t keep you on your feet any better than sitting on the couch would.  Instead, try doing program runs to focus more on you’re breathing or the key words you use before the jumps.  The week of the competition should almost feel relaxed and at ease.  You want to slow everything down in you’re skating because once the adrenaline hits you will be in overdrive and rushing into everything.

Adrenaline not only makes us rush going into our jumps and spins but it also makes us do things we are not used to doing.  All of the sudden there are people watching and you feel like you have to perform.  Your smile and expression gets a little bigger and your presentation gets a little stronger.  That is all fine and dandy until you are about to set up into a jump or a spin.  How often do you go into your jumps with your head held high in the air and a huge grin on your face during practice?  If you do, all the power to you! For most people; however, they are intensely focused going into jumps and they are not smiling.  It is important to be aware of your presentation, facial expression and where your focuses points are during the program runs.  Most skaters hate to perform with facial expression during practice because they feel “stupid.”  Having great expression during practice not only looks better but it will prepare you much more for the competition.

Practicing breathing is another very important act that needs to be trained before Regionals.  The week before the competition is a great time to run the program with single jumps and primarily focus and practice where you are going to take breathes during the program.  We are all guilty of holding our breathes when we compete.  I never remember breathing during my earlier competitive days! Adding choreographed breathes into the program can make a world of a difference.  Those deep breathes not only help our endurance but it assists us in slowing down and relaxing.  Try taking a deep breathe and saying your key words before going into a jump.  This helps us take our time going into the jump and gives us the highly needed moment of focus prior to take off.

Months and years are spent training for your 1:30-4:30 minutes to prove it all.  With that one short chance, the stress can be high and shatter all of your hard work.  Too many times I see coaches or parents stressing the skater out the week of the competition.  Some parents think it is helpful to have tough love to motivate the skater and remind them how much money and time they put into the sport.  It may seem like a form of motivation, but it just adds more stress the skater.  The skater starts performing for other people instead of themselves.  Coaches also tend to get stressed because their skaters are representing them and they have also dedicated many hours to the skater.  Many coaches let their stress out by yelling at their students and pushing them intensely in their training the week before or week of the competition.  For parents and coaches, this is the time to sit back and be calm and supportive.  If the coach or the parent is stressed, the skater will probably get stressed which will then effect their performance.  I am sure you have all seen the skaters who are phenomenal in practice and then right before the competition the stress gets to them and they can’t land or do anything.  Those skaters are the perfect examples that skating is equally a mental sport as it is a physical sport.

Months prior to Regionals you want to be training your program both mentally and physically.  The week of the competition you especially want to be training your mind and your focus to be positive.  Running your program over and over, drilling all of your jumps, breaking down each step of the program will only put stress on you.  You know you are capable of performing your program or you would not be signed up to compete.  So breathe, relax.  You know you can do it, so go out and perform your program just like have you been in practice.

What Skating is to a Skater

Skating Gives Us Life Ina Bauer

 

Why do we skate? For that feeling of complete bliss as soon as you step onto the ice.  Being able to come to the rink after the worse day ever and let everything go.  It doesn’t matter whether you can land a triple toeloop or simply do a one foot glide, it is the love for skating that matters.  No matter how hard we train, who we train with, what competitions we place at or how many tests we pass,  it is the adoration for being on the ice that we can all relate too.

Skating is life because it gives us life.  It fills us with a sense of euphoria, accomplishment and inspiration.  Every skater can relate no matter what we have accomplished or whatever path we decide to take in skating.  We all have the same desire to be on the ice in our world where nothing else exists.  It is the boundless frozen canvas where dreams are etched and worries are swept away.  It is the home that travels to wherever ice exists.  It is our happiness and freedom right under our feet.  Skating is what we do, who we are and what gives us life.  It is our everything.

 

Only Skaters Can Understand

“Understanding is deeper than knowledge.  There are many people who know you, but there are very few who understand you”

How many friends do you have? How many of those friends are from skating?  How many of those “friends” understand how difficult skating is?  There is a separate world that only skaters can understand. It doesn’t seem to matter what country you live in, what language you speak, or how long it has been since you have seen each other. Skating friends are life long friends that understand you on a level most people can’t.

Figure Skating Friends Holding Hands SkatingUnfortunately skating has the reputation among other sports that it is not a sport.  Only someone who figure skates knows the true training that is needed in order to progress.  Others mock us for twirling about when in reality we know the determination, dedication and intense physical and mental training it takes in order to succeed.  I was the only figure skater in my entire high school and there was only one other skater who was in basic skills that lived in the whole city besides me.  I lived in a small city where football, baseball and basketball were the only sports.  Even the father of the basic skills skater (who also happened to be my chemistry teacher) didn’t believe figure skating was a sport.  I would have teachers (including my Chemistry teacher) who would not sign my permission slip to attend a competition purely because they didn’t believe it was a sport.  It makes my stomach curl just thinking about it that even grown adults can be so arrogant and disrespectful to a committed athlete.  Needless to say, based on the mindset of the people in my city and school, I didn’t have many friends that I could relate to.  As soon as I entered the ice rink; however, I was at home with my family.   The bond that was created was shatterproof.  We trained together, motivated each other and watched each other progress and grow.  We traveled together to competitions, cheered each other on and helped one another in any way we could.  We were family.

Traveling to competitions definitely created a stronger bond, but traveling on a touring skating show together created an affinity that only a show skater can understand.  Show skaters live together, work together and travel together for up to 9 months at a time.  Days off are usually spent together because the odds of you knowing or feeling comfortable going into a city to explore that you don’t speak the language or know anyone is pretty rare.  Only the people on tour can understand what you have gone through and what you have experienced.  They deal with the same people, same gross hotel rooms, same management, same work schedule and literally everything else.  Even the people on tour who were not close friends who I spent the majority of time with, I still feel very close to.  I am horrible at staying in touch with people, but anytime I talk with any of my friends from tour it feels like it was just yesterday we were on tour.  It is almost as if there is a mutual unspoken understanding that we are there for each other no matter what.  It doesn’t matter how much time is passed, how much you stay in touch, all that matters is that we are there if we need anything.  Tour friends are really like family members.

Friends Holding Hands Walking Away

Many of my touring skating friends and I knew that we couldn’t do shows forever.  We would talk about all of our big plans of what we do when we “retired” from the shows.  When speaking to my skating friends vs people I went to school with, the answers were like night and day.  My skating friends had big dreams of opening their own coffee shop, starting a skating training club, becoming an entrepreneur and so on.  My school friends on the other hand were going to college and getting any job they could find.  My skating friends from around the world share the same passion for success as I do.  We don’t want to be just ordinary.  We are all striving to become better and more successful.  I truly believe that my motivation and work ethic is derived from skating.  The yearning for success is in a skaters blood.  That is one more reason why skating friends are best friends.  They understand and want achievement just as much as you.

Skaters understand the time, training, dedication and work ethic that it takes to succeed not only in skating but in life.  Skating teaches many life lessons and valuable traits, but it also provides ever lasting bonds amongst each other.  The skating world is like an extended family.  We are always there for each other.  Skating friends understand each other and stay forever…beyond words, beyond distance and beyond time.

Saving Time Training

How many hours a week do you waste while training?  How many jumps or spins do you attempt without trying to change anything from the previous attempt?  Training isn’t always about how many hours you spend on the ice; it is about how effective you are while you are training.  You could train 30 or 40 hours on the ice but it might only have the same effect as someone skating 10 hours.   It wasn’t until I skated at a training camp in the Netherlands when I learned what a difference focus can make on your skating.
I was always a jumper and a go getter.  A coach could barely keep me standing still long enough to listen to what to change before I was on my way to try again.  That all changed at the skating camp when we spent 30 minutes gliding on two feet back and forth across the length of the ice trying to align our heads correctly on top of our bodies.  That was probably the first time I experienced focus in my skating, and from then on the focus became more narrowed and more clear.

Focus Figure Skating Spiral

There are so many distractions while skating such as other skaters whizzing past, music blaring, coaches yelling and so on that it takes an incredible amount of mental practice in order to concentrate while skating.    In order to specify your attention on certain areas of your body is as mentally tiring or maybe even more exhausting than skating is physically tiring.  Developing your mental toughness needs to be practiced just as much as any skating skill.  There are so many things that you can concentrate on while performing one element.  Start by focusing on 1 aspect of the element and when you feel confident your concentration is strong, you can add another thing to think about.  Yes, you can only think about one thing at a time if you are focusing, but you can set your thoughts in a sequence.  For example, during an axel you would be able to have a few different focuses.  The entry position, the take off, air position and the landing.  You can still be pinpointing your attention to specific details, but there will be more than one during one element.  Setting your concentration on multiple things during one element is very difficult if you are not used to focusing.  Start with one main focus and you can build on that foundation when you feel comfortable.
Concentrating and having body awareness can happen on a simple glide.  Every movement made on the ice can be dissected into different focuses.  When it comes to training, these are the details that need to be executed.  The concentration needs to be maintained throughout the skating session.  Someone could spend 30 or 40 hours  a week training with the mentality of “the lights are on but no one is home” and accomplish nothing or even create bad habits.  Another skater could train only 10 hours that week with great concentration on details that will build a strong foundation for their skating.  Ignoring the details and only going through the motions with no focus inadvertently will set skaters up for failure.
If you are going to train do it right.  Why waste endless hours of training to accomplish nothing?  Just because you are on the ice doesn’t mean you are practicing.  Just because you are practicing doesn’t mean you are succeeding.  It takes concentration on the details to achieve greater success.  If you implement focus into your skating, you will not only accomplish more in one skating session, but you also are bettering yourself for the future.

 

School + Skating = Sacrifice

“Most people who don’t want to sacrifice will find excuses. The people willing to make sacrifices find solutions.”

It pains me to say that summer has ended, and with that school begins.  9 1/2 more months will pass before we can experience endless hours spent at the rink and full days of training.   It may feel like school gets in the way of training, but balancing school and skating teaches a considerable amount to skaters that we might not even realize.  One of the main things it teaches us is sacrifice.

Fitting in a whole day of school, on ice training, off ice training, homework and social time is a lot for one day.  The skaters who want to make it work and who are committed to skating will find a way.  Cramming all of this into your schedule can be an overload, but that is how you can tell if a skater is committed or not.  The skaters who want to train will find a way to make it all work because they will sacrifice time, sleep, social activities or even sitting down to eat a meal.  Here is a list of things I have seen or experienced in order to keep training during the school year:

  • Wake up and skate before school starts (yes, it is very VERY early in the morning)
  • Skate during lunch hours and study halls
  • Eat breakfast/lunch/or dinner on the way to the rink
  • Change into skating clothes in the backseat on the way to the rink
  • Sleep in skating clothes the night before so the skater can sleep longer and is ready to the go to the rink in the morning
  • Do homework/study while stretching
  • Do homework/study on the way to the rink
  • Wake up earlier or stay up later to either finish homework or perform off ice workouts
  • Find extra ice on the weekends to train even if its public skate
  • Perform off ice training during lunch hours or study halls

I understand that there are a number of factors that may limit how much one skater can sacrifice.  Some people have a harder time studying or have a learning disability that may require more hours of studying.  There are also people that receive more homework and projects, and there are skaters taking harder classes such as AP courses.  Everyone has a different story and always an excuse, but there is always more that can be done even if it’s a simple task like stretching while studying.

Figure Skating and School Ice Skate in Book

Most people who don’t want to sacrifice will find excuses. The people willing to make sacrifices will find solutions.  My school didn’t offer off campus lunch, but after speaking to the school board and superintendent we came to an agreement that I was allowed to go skate during lunch hours and study halls.  I know this is not possible for everyone, but don’t write something off before trying.  You never know until you ask (or put up a fight) for something like that.  If there is no ice time available before school, find out if it is possible to purchase an hour or two.  If the ice time is too expensive, you might be able to find a group of skaters to split the cost with you.  Off ice training can be done during lunch hours or study halls if you are allowed to use the gym.  If you can’t use the gym, you can run, stretch and do off ice jumps during your lunch hour anywhere outside.  You may be sacrificing time with your friends, but you are benefiting you’re skating.

The parents are usually sacrificing the most by planning the schedule, chauffering back and forth from the rink, and organizing everything that needs to be done in order to keep you’re training running smoothly and making it possible so you can make sacrifice to your schedule.  The skaters are usually most affected (especially in high school) by the social activities, school dances, football games and other sporting outings.  These are all things that are not going to benefit you’re skating.  If you want to be the best, or better than you are now, you have to learn to make sacrifices.  Maybe you won’t be able to go to the whole football game, but you might be able to watch the second half after you finish skating.  There will always be another social gathering, so if you miss a few here and there it is not the end of the world.

I missed countless high school social activities.  I would arrive late to the homecoming dances and almost all other high school and middle school dance.  I would be changing in the back seat of the car and my mom would zip my dress when we pulled into the parking lot.  Through everything I sacrificed I don’t regret any of it.  99 % of my classmates didn’t understand skating or any kind of training.  Even my supposedly closest friends at school would tease me about skating and thought I was wasting my time with it.  Missing social events with “the cool people” who didn’t care or understand didn’t upset me at all.  I would rather be on the ice doing something I love and spending time with people at the rink that actually understood me than going to some social gathering with people who don’t care.  Not only did I benefit from training more, but the friends I made at the rink are life time friends.

The amount of sacrifice you make for you’re skating comes down to how much you want to accomplish and where you want to go with you’re skating.  Some skaters will sacrifice everything because skating is their life.  Others will make excuses instead of solutions because to them watching a football game is more important.  How committed are you? What are you willing to sacrifice?