How Does The Ironman Relate to Figure Skating?

September 11, 2007

This weekend I went out and watched the Ironman Wisconsin race here in Madison.  It’s incredibly impressive.  Athletes train for months to race in a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a full marathon run of 26.2 miles.  The top finishers take more than 8 hours to complete the race.  Many competitors never finish the race at all and there’s a 19 hour limit before they close the course.  It’s truly grueling.

I had to find out how someone trains for such an event. There are incredibly detailed guides available to help any reasonbly fit athlete complete the Ironman.  A typical program takes 20 weeks of preparation and breaks down the process into mental and physical training.  The detail of such programs can be truly astonishing, but it’s really the only way to get a human body to do something so intense.

But all this got me thinking, that figure skaters do not have any similar guides to training for a major event.  Sure, some coaches have figured out a great system that works for their skaters, but most coaches are in the dark about how to help a skater peak at the right moment.

What if skating coaches had a complete guide to preparing a skater for Regionals?  Would the number of great performances at Regionals increase?  Without a doubt!

Most skaters train their physical bodies by skating regularly.  Many even have training programs that taper off or increase in intensity as the main competition draws near.  But there seems to be very little focus in skating on training the complete athlete, including nutrition, rest, and mental preparation.  I would venture to guess that less than 10% of all competitive skaters have a mental training program, and less than 1% actually take it seriously.

Getting back to the Ironman, athletes prepare by regularly focusing on race preparation, physical training, physical health, mental health and efficiency.  Every aspect of training is laid out in a weekly and daily training program.

Do any figure skating coaches out there apply similar techniques?

To optimize their performace at a major event, figure skaters should focus on a clear, step by step process that includes the following:

  • Competition Prep – including knowing all the rules, being familiar with the venue, proper eating the days leading up to the event, and equipment care such as costumes and skates
  • Training – focusing on developing the fitness required to perform the programs, and repetition of the programs to minimize the mental stress of all motions
  • Physical health – including nutrition, weight, body composition, fatique, soreness, and injuries
  • Mental health – from confidence and motivation, to stress control
  • Efficiency – with the emphasis on flexibility, equipment setup, and proper form or good skating technique

Any true training program should take all of these factors into account.  I know of no program that addresses all of these issues for figure skaters.  Yet these issues are completely understood and publicly available for many other sports.  I suspect that figure skating training methods are only in their infancy and all of these issues will be addressed in the future.  As athletes continue to compete at higher and higher levels, they are constantly looking for an edge.  Someone will discover it in figure skating.  Then training for a major event will become a science!



One comment

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