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Elements of a Training Plan

Fitness training: Elements of a well-rounded training routine    
       All fitness training programs should balance the following fitness elements:
  • Aerobic Fitness - Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio or endurance activity, is the cornerstone of most fitness training programs.
  • Breathing Exercise - Breathing is a crucial factor that determines the amount of oxygen taken by your body breathing faster and inhaling a greater volume of air to maximize the amount of oxygen dissolved in your blood. Aerobic fitness helps to increase he efficiency of the heart, lungs and blood vessels that transport oxygen (via the blood circulation system) throughout the body. Aerobic exercise includes any physical activity that requires the use of large muscle groups and increases your heart rate. 
  • Muscular Fitness - Is another key component of a fitness training program. Strength training helps increase bone strength and muscular fitness while helping maintain muscle mass during a weight-loss program.
  • Stretching and Flexibility -  Flexibility is an important part of physical fitness. Some types of physical activity, such as dancing, require more flexibility than others. Stretching exercises are effective in increasing flexibility, and thereby can allow people to more easily do activities that require greater flexibility. Stretching improves the range of motion of joints and promotes better posture.
  • Core Exercises - The muscles in your abdomen, lower back and pelvis are known as your core muscles. They help to protect your back and connect upper and lower body movements. Core strength is a key element of a well-rounded fitness training program.  Core exercises help train your muscles to brace the spine and enable you to use your upper and lower body muscles more effectively.
  • Balance Exercises - Everyone should include exercises to maintain or improve their balance. This is espcially true for older adults because our ability to balance tends to decline as we age. Falls that don't have as much effect when we are youner tend to become a major injury with fractured bones. Try standing on one leg for increasing periods of time to improve your overall stability. Activities such as tai chi can promote balance, too.
  • Conditioning and Endurance -   Endurance training is quite a broad sweeping term. It's often used interchangeably with terms like "aerobic", "anaerobic", "strength" and "speed".  The type and amount of endurance training will change according to the specific demands of the sport, even some traditional strength and power based games demand a solid aerobic base. Athletes ingaged in endurance sports are the most affected by fatigue. Fatigue is a complex issue and is thought to consist of both physical and psychological factors. Several major causes of exhaustion have been identified. Research has shown that they can all be manipulated (some to a greater extent than others) with proper training.
  • Emotional Health - Emotional health can be defined as the state of emotional well-being wherein the mind is capable of staying away from negative thoughts and can focus on creative and constructive tasks. Fitness training also enhances the hand-eye coordination and improves the strength of reflexes. An ideal fitness-training program leads to the development of an aware and alert mind.
       It isn't necessary to fit arobic and muscular fitness, stretching, core exercise, and balance training into every fitness session; however, factoring them into your regular fitness routine cann't help but improve your health and physical fitness training.

      Acquiring figure skating skills has evolved considerably since the ISU dropped figures from the competitive structure, Figures were a low impact part of the sport and executing figures for 2-4 hours a day did not cause the damage to the knees and ankles which are resulting from the same time practicing jumps and spins.

      While there is not  emphasis by coaches of beginner to introduce skaters to a systematic training program whose emphasis is minimizing injuries while maximizing results; however, elite coaches do emphasize a systematic training program whose emphasis is minimizing injuries while maximizing results.

      Periodization - The division of training into stages or phases, each with a different and specific focus, to make the process more manageable for the athlete and parents to contemplate and explore alternative, less expensive off-ice training approaches to augment the more expensive on-ice training.

      There are several approaches to training figure skaters which use different terminology to accomplish the same goals. The following is one example of a multiphase training program:

Training Stages:
  • Training to Train  - To rush the training process only sets up the athlete for acquiring poor technique and/or overuse injuries.
  • Training to Compete -  Some athletes increase their practice schedule and intensity of your training when their body is not capable of handling the stress without major setbacks.
  • Training to Win - It is important for the athlete to know they have not reached the stage of training to win, but are still at the Train to Compete stage. It is highly desirable to work with coaches who make sure you learn and build on a solid foundation of good form, technique, and training plus training strategies that include the necessary recovery and periodization phases.
      Tudor Bompa is considered the ‘Father of Periodization’. During the 1940s the Russian scientists tried dividing the training year into different training periods. Previously, the conventional training concept widely used was to maintain the a constant stress of performing the same workouts week in and week out, all year long.

      In the early 1960s Bompa refined these ideas to describe periods of training that involved periods of rest  to let the body recover from strenuous exercise. This cycling of exercising resulted in an increase in total strength levels. His vision of periodization involves variables such as:
  • Frequency (how ‘often’ you train)
  • Duration (how ‘long’ you train at one session)
  • Volume (how ‘much’ you train in a given week or cycle) 
  • Intensity (how ‘hard’ you train at any practice session).
      Six phases are usually involved in developing an annual training plan. There are variables which change within each phase.  The following is an example of a typical plan:
Phase How long? Frequency Duration Intensity Volume
Phase 1 -
4-8 weeks High Short-Medium Very little Low
Phase 2 -
12-24 weeks High Medium- High Moderate Moderate to High
Phase 3 - Building 4-8 weeks Moderate-High High Heavy Moderate
Phase 4 - Peaking 3-5 weeks Moderate Short Heavy Low
Phase 5 - Peaking 1 week Moderate Short Heavy Low
    Phase 6 - 
   Relaxation -
Off Season
2-8 weeks

      Phase one is called Preparation or Prep. The period of time can range from three to six weeks long. It involves increasing aerobic activities at a low heart rate. It is designed to prepare the body for the rigors of an intense training program. This time can be well spent by working on drills. Practice sessions are shorter in duration and lower in intensity, but scheduled at frequent intervals. The volume for this cycle is low.

      Phase two or Base and can last anywhere from twelve to twenty four weeks. This phase is designed ramp up the aerobic fitness of the body to start key training sessions that mark the start of the official competitive training season. The Base Phase usually consists of three to four week ‘sections’ with up to six sections within this phase. The number of blocks you have in this phase is dependent on the level of individual training skills with an emphasis on the continued increase aerobic capacity while improving your skill levels.

     The intensity in this cycle remains low or non-existent, while the frequency may drop, and the duration of your longer workouts keeps extending itself. The volume in this cycle starts out low, but will eventually be the highest of the year as you get closer toward the end of your base phase. Once the Base Phase is completed and you get closer to your your first open competition, you are ready to proceed to next stage - the Build Phase.

      Phase three or Building increases in intensity while lowering the practice volume. The schedule may keep the same or drop off in duration during this phase to avoid over training. The key to this phase is ‘interval’ training. The intervals can be multiple practice performances of a free skating, free dance or pair program, compulsory dance, MITF element, etc. In this phase, the volume is consistent, the intensity high, and your duration for your long workouts should be at an all year high. This phase lasts about four to eight weeks and comes as you "peak" for a qualifying competition.

      Phase four or Peaking occurs immediately prior to a competition. It can be difficult to plan, schedule, and accomplish especially when a series of competitions are necessary to qualify for the final, season ending championship. It is especially hard if there are two (pairs and dance) or even more people (synchro or Theater on Ice) that must peak together if winning championship performance is to be achieved.

      Phase five or Competition is when the athlete has spent his or her entire season training to enter and hopefully to perform their very best.

      No athlete can maintain the peaking phase indefinitely. When the final competition ends, skaters should take time off to relax. For top world and Olympic skaters, contractual obligations may require them to perform in tours that require 6 to 8 weeks of shows which delay and short the "downtime" between the end of one competitive season and the start of training for the next season.

      Relaxation or Off Season is the final phase of the season's training program. The athlete may use the time to catch up with school work or take care of job related work that requires urgent attention. Some athletes may participate in fun activities (boating, fishing, golfing, etc.) with family and friends in their off season.

      Everyone wants to perform at their best. It may seem contradict conventional ideas about training, but cutting back allows our body to physically, mentally, and emotionally rest and restore itself. The volume of practice is reduced, but the intensity remains high of a brief duration. Different athletes will find this approach is a personal choice that suits them. This decision must be one that the athlete(s) totally support and embrace.

      Allowances in a training plan must factor into the equation when winter competitions involve travel in cold climates which can experience weather related delays. Travel problems can cause elevated stress levels. Another stressor is when travel crosses time zones. Training at one altitude and competing at another can also require acclimation to avoid a skating performance from being affected.

      After the last competition of the season, the athlete moves into the fifth phase - Relaxation, in which they take some time off from skating to recharge their physical body and power down their heightened mental and emotion state.

      The Transition Phase for some athletes is take a few days to a few weeks to physically and emotional recover. For school children it usually means completing makeup assignments and taking tests they missed while participating in competitions.

      Skaters, coaches, and parents need to start organizing your plans for the upcoming season. This starts by determining when and where the first competition of the next season will start. Dates varied depending if a Winter Olympics is held in which case all of the qualifying competitions are held earlier. 

      The second season using this regime is easier as everyone concerned has some experience and adjustments can be made in the contents and length of the various training phases.

Recommended Reading:

An Example of an Annual Training Plan

Constructing an Annual Plan

Low and No Test Training Plan

Short and Long Term Training Plan

Advanced Training Plans

A Periodized Plan for Novice, Junior, and Senior Skaters

Training In Women

Over Training Athletes


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Skating Training Programs
USFS Learn To Skate Program
Summer Basic Skating Workshops
High School Skating Programs
Collegiate Figure Skating Programs
Summer Figure Skating Programs
High School Team Figure Skating
Test and Free Skating Track
PDF  Principles of Jumping
Elements of a Training Plan
PDF  Theater On Ice Basic Skills

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