Figure Skating
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A Personal Training Plan

Become Knowledgeable about the Sports
Unless one of the parents has been a serious athlete when younger, the chances are they are not familiar with the amount of time, effort, and financial support that is involved. It is only natural for children to get very enthusiastic about a popular athlete in a Summer or Winter Olympic event(s) and announce they want to play/participate in the sport of their hero or heroine.

      Some parents even go so far as to investigate what the possibilities are of acquiring a scholarship if involved in "lessor or minor" sports as compared to major sports such as baseball, football, track and field, or basket ball.

      It is advisable for every child become acquainted in participating in a variety of individual and team sports. Unfortunately because of budgetary problems, very few elementary schools have physical education as a daily or even weekly class taught by an experienced elementary teacher with a major or minor in physical education.

     Despite the US Government recognizing the need for improving physical fitness in elementary through high school students, the crisis in obesity and early onset of type 2 diabetes continues to increase. The long term effect of longevity and health related problems will face retirees.

Importance of Outdoor Play Activities
       Far to many children seem to be addicted to "texting", playing computer games, and watching TV rather unorganized play activities with other kids. When both parents working, it is very difficult to have elementary school children proper supervised until an adult family member returns home from work.

      Some elementary school districts do have before and after school supervised programs. Some even provide low or no cost breakfasts funded under federal/state programs.

      Young parents who are lucky to have a family member, god parent, or close friend who can lend a hand with providing transportation and supervision can enroll their children in before and after school activities such as sport, ballet, music lessons, etc. by depending on their extended family members.

      Some local Park and Recreation Departments, YMCA, church, scouts, and other community youth groups may offer low cost recreational and sporting activities. In addition, there are nonprofit sporting associations, leagues, and clubs that offer sporting activities and organized competitive sporting events.

Background of the Sport of Figure Skating
      Figure skating is comprised of the following disciplines:
  • Free Skating
  • Pairs
  • Dance
  • Synchronized Teams
  • Theater On Ice
  • Artistic and Interpretive Skating
  • Showcase
      There are also competitions that are exclusively for specific age groups:
  • High School Skating Teams
  • Collegiate Skating Events
  • Adult Skating Events
Competitive Skating is Subdivided into Qualifying and Non qualifying Events
      Many individuals start by just testing and entering non qualifying events that are hosted by local USFS clubs. This phase of skating allows each individual to practice as much as time and financing allows. Some take this very serious and, with the help of their coach, establish a training plan.

      Skating allows each individual to take USFS tests when they feel confident they can meet the minimum standards by a majority of a panel of three qualified USFS judges. Entering any competition is a decision that the athlete must make without knowing what the abilities of others entered in the event. Some events may attract a large number of skaters, while others may result in just their entry.

      The panels of judges can range from three to five in lower event judged under the 6.0 system. The International Judging System (IJS) involves the use of Technical and a Judging Panels. Increasingly the hosting club of open competitions are using the IJS down to the Juvenile skating levels.

     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.

      There is not a much greater emphasis by coaches, of beginner to elite skaters, to introduce skaters to 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 traveling across 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:

Fitness Training Considerations
Kirkpatrick's Evaluating Training Programs
Skating Training Environment
Training Figure Skaters
Group Classes
Fitness Training
Personal Training Plan
Daily Training Plan
Seasonal Training
Training for Junior & Senior Athletes
Age Guidelines for Training
Developing a Plan for Training
Developing Skating Skills
Group Training Stages
Training Priorities
Strategies of Sports Training
Training Task Analysis
Value of Annual Planning
Competitive Training Strategies
Verbal and Nonverbal Communications
PDF  Core Body Training
PDF  Endurance Training Plan

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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