Fat or Fit? Its How You Feel

Figure Skating Body Image

“This makes me look fat!” When you read this, who do you picture saying that? A 30 year old? A 20 year old? Maybe a teenager? Try a 9 year old!  A skater at our rink was trying on dresses during a test session this past Friday and she put on a gorgeous white lace long sleeved dress scattered with rhinestones and a soft chiffon skirt.  Her mom and I both agreed it was a must have dress.  She looked absolutely stunning like a little barbie doll in it.  The 9 year girl then said 3 words that left me stunned. “I look fat.”  Her mother was extremely upset and began to tell me how her daughter has gotten it in her head that she is fat and now refuses to eat. 9 YEARS OLD!

Figure skaters struggling with eating disorders is a whole other subject, but figure skaters no matter how old, need to understand body perception.  Your perception of how you look effects how you feel and your actions.  Someone who is comfortable in their own skin usually has better presentation.  They stand up straighter, chin is up, and are wearing a smile on their face.  Someone with low self confidence on the other hand will be more likely to be hunched over, looking down, and showing no emotion.  Figure skaters need to be proud of who they are and show it off to the world.  We spend hours upon hour training and too often how we perceive ourselves or our fear of how others perceive us inhibits us from performing to our fullest potential.  You are being judged on how you perform, not on what you weigh.  If you feel good about yourself you will skate with better performance.  So pull your shoulders back, stand tall, and own the ice because you are beautiful!

Sometimes we may not even realize that when we speak to others we bring attention to others body images.  I have heard and probably said myself, the really skinny skater or the heavier set skater when describing someone.  To someone who is struggling with their body image or self confidence they will immediately begin to wonder who they are more like.  For parents, coaches, and skaters it is important to be conscious when speaking to others to try to avoid comparing body images.  You never know who is struggling with how they feel, and they don’t need any more reminders for fuel to keep burning their fire.

It is very easy, too easy, to become self conscious of your body type in this sport.  Unlike team sports, every skater wears a different outfit.  Unlike team jerseys, these outfits are form fitting and show off any bump, lump, or roll.  It is only you on the ice being the center of attention in a tight dress.  We as skaters need to take pride in our image.  We get to put on fancy dresses and get all dolled up.  We should be strutting around showing it off instead of looking for a sweater to cover up.  Team sports compare themselves to other teams as a whole where figure skaters compare each other as individuals.  Often times skaters compare their bodies to their competitors.  Skaters need to remember to focus on the skating not the image.  Everyone has a different body type and is built differently.  You could try the craziest diets in the world but it won’t make your legs longer, it won’t make you grow a few inches, and it won’t change your body type.  You are you and not someone else for a reason.  Own your body and love who you are.

A skaters body is our tool for success, not an object to be posed in a magazine.  If you want to pose be a model instead of a figure skater.  Skaters have muscles for a reason, and having muscles does not mean you are fat.  Those muscles allow you to perform.  Perform with presentation and be proud of how you look.  Beauty doesn’t have a weight limit.

 

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Not-So Supporting Schools

Pink Figure Skate in Book Not Supporting SchoolsI want to start out by saying that this is not aimed towards all schools or teachers.  There are many wonderful teachers and schools who are doing amazing work in shaping the lives of tomorrows future.  This article is about the ignorant teachers and principals that let their personal opinions stand in the way of what is in the best interest for the students.  It’s sad to see some schools deny their students opportunities that can lead to wonderful opportunities and achievements in their futures.

We have heard it before, skating is not a sport.  No, it is not a school sanctioned sport, but that does mean it is not sport.  I strongly believe that although it is not a school sanctioned sport, students who figure skate should get the same rights as students who play sanctioned sports.  Students in volleyball, track, basketball, etc are allowed to leave school in order to attend meets and events.  Depending on the teachers and principals, figure skaters are not so lucky to have that privilege.  By not allowing students to leave for non school sanctioned sporting events, what is that teaching us about being different and going for your dreams?  It is like telling the students you have the option of being a scientist, mathematician, geographer or english teacher because that is all they teach at school.  Anything else is not allowed.  Students should have the option to be whatever they want to be and play whatever sports they want to play even if the school doesn’t offer that sport.

I have seen it in schools and experienced it myself (and fought tooth and nail to overturn the ruling) that skaters are not allowed to leave for competitions or extra training.  Some teachers and principals understand and allow it and I commend and appreciate those who do.  Those who deny it; however, I am disgusted by.  Teachers have a huge influence on a students life.  I distinctly remember, and always will, the two (yes only 2 from grade 1-12) that believed in me and supported my skating.  If a student is learning in your class and achieving good grades, why should they not be allowed to leave?  I understand not allowing the child to leave school if their grades are failing, but if their grades are high then what is the harm? Letting them attend their event not only allows them to do what they love, but it will also teach them about time management, balance, and independence.  If they are away and not in school, they still need to finish their homework and study on their own.  Balancing skating and school together is quite an accomplishment and they should be rewarded instead of punished for it.  Teacher or no teacher, anyone that denies a child a chance to better themselves should be ashamed.

I can guarantee that if a student makes it to the Olympics or if they get any name recognition in their sport all of a sudden their school is proud and supports them.  When it comes to actually putting in the time and training the athlete only gets flak and the school makes it difficult for them.  It is only when they are successful that certain schools want to share in their success.

If you are dealing with non supportive teachers or principals, do not let it affect you’re skating or hold you back from your dreams.  Voice your concerns and problems you are having.  Plan a meeting with the superintendent, attend school board meetings, have your coach speak with your principal or teachers.  Do anything and everything you can in order to address the situation.  You can also look into independent studies in school so you will not have to associate with any teacher that is giving you difficulty.  Just because a teacher is stubborn about their opinion doesn’t mean it should or can prevent you from furthering you’re skating.

Teachers and schools have a huge impact on a students life.  I am deeply bitter towards school and many of the teachers who taught me growing up.  How they acted and the things they said towards not believing in my skating, that it wasn’t a sport, I was wasting my time, etc was just plain wrong.  I am now coaching students who are facing the same challenges and to see them having to struggle through it is incredibly painful.  I had the mindset to prove everyone wrong, but there are many students out there who will not be that strong and will give up instead.  Teachers can either make or break an athletes future.  Don’t let your teacher hold you back from following your dreams.

 

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.

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.