Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Warming up to the idea...

While I can claim to be a long time racer of small sailing dinghies (started at age 11) and an off again/on again ice skater (started in my late 20s), I've never been a high level athlete in any individual or team sport.  So while I'm aware that such people routinely "warm up" before engaging in their various activities, the concept of exactly what's involved has always been hazy to me at best.  When I was younger, looking back at my experience racing boats, warming up seemed unnecessary.  Yes, the first few times back in the boats during the spring would leave me aching, but in a week or so I'd "sail" myself back into shape.  Looking back, I now appreciate that if I'd have had an off the water training program, I would have probably done better at regattas, particularly the ones with strong winds, which put a high premium of the ability to hike the boat flat at all times during those seemingly never ending legs to the weather mark.

When I returned to the ice as a rusty recreational skater I was more interested in recovering lost skills than worrying about my aging carcass.  I figured a low level skater didn't need much if any sort of warm up.  To a degree that approach worked OK.  The skills I was working on were low level.  My edges weren't deep.  Timing was unimportant.  Now that I'm a slightly higher level rec skater with an eye on competing, the light bulb is finally coming on.   I'm becoming more aware of my limitations.  Limitations in flexibility, limitations in strength, limitations in endurance.  Don't even talk to me about the increased length of time required to recover from an injury.  At my age injuries are best avoided.

These limitations are very obvious to both me and my coaches during the first 15 minutes or so of ice time.  Given that my lessons are only 30 minutes long I've become acutely aware of how wasteful it has become to step out on the ice "cold".  This little epiphany got me thinking a little beyond looking at the web site which I'd posted about earlier.  So I asked coach K. to make a few recommendations.  It turned out that many of the stretches she listed were the same or similar to the ones listed in the link above that I'd halfheartedly visited earlier.  In addition she told me to warm up my legs first by taking a short walk--advice that I'd also heard before but had ignored.  Who has the time?  I barely get from work to the lessons and sessions on time.  Clearly, to advance that excuse must be retired.  Coach K. also recommended side lunges.  I didn't know what those were but a quick visit to youtube provided an education:

 So I went for a walk, dusted off the Canadian stretches and did some side lunges.  On taking the ice I have to admit that I seemed to be able to skate smoother sooner that usual.  Wishful thinking?  I don't think so.  The first time I did a progressive using a deep knee bend, I was immediately reminded of the side lunges I'd done just a few minutes earlier.  I think this is the first time I've been able to directly connect a stretching exercise to a skating element.  The light bulb got a little brighter.

Coach K. also recommended that I go to Kat Arbour's Ice Dynamics web site and pick up a copy of her training manual.  To tell the truth, I have visited this web site in the past but have resisted buying the book or any of the paraphernalia by telling myself that all the stuff would just gather dust like most of the other self-improvement gear I've bought over the years--Solo Flex machines, Nordic Trac gizmos--great for hanging laundry after the novelty wears off.  But, since I asked her for advice I made myself look again.  Much to my shock I discovered that Kat is discontinuing the manual and instead will be offering individual training programs aimed at competitive skaters.  She still has a few copies left, so if you're like me and have been on the fence, it's now or never.  Coach K. sang praises about this manual to the heavens.  I've ordered my copy.  For your diarist there's nothing quite so motivating as the panicky notion of missing the boat...

Will this book succeed where others have failed and transform a stiff, inherently lazy old dilettante into a rubber band man on skates?  Only time will tell.  I'm hoping it will at least help me avoid hurting myself!  I also like to think that my desire to continue improving as a skater will provide the real motivation, with Kat's and Coach K's guidance helping me avoid my natural tendency of slacking off.  Having a clear goal rather than some vague notion of doing stretches because they're somehow "good" for me may by the trick I've needed all along.  Stay tuned.  Once I receive the manual and start exploring Kat's recommendations I'll give you an update. 


  1. Current exercise science wisdom: pre-workout stretching is out, active warm-ups are IN! Refer to olympic track athletes antics before their events: lots of hopping, jumping, skipping, and dynamic movements. Side lunges are great! Best to save the slow stretching for post-workout, or off days...

  2. Thanks. I've recently rec'd the same advice from others. Haven't rec'd my book from Kat Arbour yet. PM me at my home e-address so we can stay in touch.