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To become a competitive figure skater takes years of dedication and its a very demanding sport. If you choose to become a professional figure skater, you should know this is a long process that requires sacrifices to be made. There will be times that you feel proud of yourself and you would enjoy practicing more and more, but there would also be times that you will have too many bad days, too many falls, and think it may be time to give up.
However, you should know that hardships and disappointments are bound to come and you shouldn’t leave these bad days to prevail. Don’t forget that dedication is the key to anything in life because if you want something so much, you should be able to work hard enough to achieve it.
Figure skating is not an artistic performance as some people believe. It is a sport that requires significant strength, balance, and flexibility. There are a lot of steps that you have to follow so as to succeed on and off the ice.
We discussed some major steps with Vaso Zartaloudi (Greece), mother of Athina Moshidou (born 2010), who began training aged 4 years old. Currently a Greek Champion in her category, she has a dedicated coach, Panagiotis Markouizos (Greek Figure Skating Champion). We thank Vaso and Athina for their insight.
Step 1: Become a competitive Figure Skater – On Ice Training
It is not enough just to go skating whenever you want to. It requires a considerable amount of training on the ice. Many figure skaters practice four or five days a week and the most competitive skaters practice every day for many hours.
Furthermore, you should choose between team or private lessons. Private lessons are the ideal option, however, private skating instruction is quite expensive, so its not possible for many skaters. At least one to two private lessons a week is necessary to progress.
Your on-ice training routine should include warm-up exercises, turns, steps, spins, spirals, and jumps. Even though you may think you have already learned some of the exercises, you should know that thousands of repetitions are needed to perfect them.
In order to stay safe and get the most out of your workout, you must always include a 20-25 minute pre-workout of ‘off-ice’ warm-up before you begin and then finish your training session with another 20-25 minutes of ‘off-ice’ warm down, which includes stretches.
Step 2: Become a competitive Figure Skater – Off Ice Training
If you would like to become a competitive figure skater, you must be physically and mentally strong to perform the competitive routines of this sport. It is mandatory to supplement your daily workout routine with off-ice training in ballet, dance, and conditioning.
A calendar will help you to organise your daily workout tasks. There are a lot of exercises that you have to practice but the frequency and the repetitiveness that is required will impact you, depending on your natural strength, balance, level, schedule, and goals.
Some of the physical attributes that should be improved during off-ice training are listed below:
Core strength and stability are prerequisites for maintaining balance and good positioning when rotating and jumping. Yoga, Pilates, and plank workouts can help you in this way.
Explosive Power is needed for skating faster, jumping higher and have stable landings. Box jumps, Burpees, Double Unders, and Jump Lunges are perfect power building exercises since they teach your body to create a large amount of force and power, not to mention that you can do them without specific equipment.
Balance is also a crucial element for a figure skater because most (if not all) movements in figure skating are done on one leg. Some people are blessed with natural balance, but the majority of us need improvement through exercises. Ballet training has been reported to positively influence balance ability.
Flexibility is a requirement for spirals, biellmanns, split jumps, and spread eagles to name a few. There are a variety of different types of stretches (dynamic, static active, and static passive) that you can incorporate into your daily exercise routine. As a general rule, dynamic stretches are used as part of the warm-up and static stretches are ideal after an exercise session when the body is fully warm.
Step 3: Skaters Healthy and Balanced Diet
To be a competitive figure skater, any athlete and coach will tell you that weight loss directly contributes to improving performance. Regardless of your age, you should follow a healthy and balanced diet. Good nutrition helps you feel more energetic and less tired. This will help prevent injury and illness, improves your strength, endurance and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
It is important to get the right amount of nutrients in your diet. Macronutrients, micronutrients and fluids are equally important. A good source of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats) are vegetables, fruits, dairy products, lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, olive and nuts. A good source of micronutrients (calcium, vitamin D, Iron) is broccoli, spinach cheese, milk, eggs, leafy green vegetables, fortified whole grains, and lean meat. Water is also very important because it prevents dehydration and helps your body maintain health temperature.
It‘s also important to know meal and fluid timing, especially before, during and after your practice or competition. Good pre-competition nutrition maximizes your ability to compete. Good pre-event meals should contain high carbohydrates, moderate amounts of fat and plenty of fluids. Experiment with different foods, drinks, and timing to find what works best for you.
Step 4: Figure Skaters Leisure Time
Remember your aim is to become a competitive figure skater, you should know that leisure time is limited or does not exist. You have to practice hard every day and you need also time to rest. On school days you must do your homework and on the other days like Christmas, Easter, summer, you have to train yourself harder. Even though you will find time to watch a movie, it is better to watch figure skating competitions in order to nail down new entrances, spinner’s movements, etc. There would be parties or excursions that you should not participate in because you may have competition the next day.
Even though you have or you intend to obtain all the physical prerequisites which are needed for figure skating, there are also some other factors which you have to take into consideration and you may sometimes not be able to influence.
Step 5: Become a competitive figure skater – Age
As with all sports, there seems to be a general idea that the earlier you start performing, the better you are and the more likely you will be to become professional at it. Sometimes however it’s not up to you if you start figure skating from an early age because your parents would choose the sport for you. Thanks to Athina’s parents, she started ice skating from the age of four, we believe that is the ideal age.
However, it sometimes depends on the maturity off the child. There are some toddlers who take to the ice and excel and there are others who do not respond well to another adult talking to them and telling them how to skate. It is also important for the child to understand meanings such as left, right, extend, and outside-inside edges.
Step 6: Body shape can effect Figure Skaters potential
We have already referred to the weight importance for a figure skater. However, weight is an element that you can influence with the appropriate diet routine. The height of your body is something that you cannot control. The ideal height for an adult female ice skater is 5’2”. As you see this sport favours shorter, lighter athletes with shorter limbs. This body type is ideal for overall body control and faster spins.
Even though you have tried too hard from an early age, you have followed a strict diet for several years and you have sacrificed too many things for your lovely sport, an unexpected height rise may keep you off this wonderful sport. Nowadays, there are medical methods and charts which allow you to have a point of view/estimate your height when you mature, so as not to spend unfairly time, money and effort in competitive figure skating.
Step 7: Parents
Sports parenting is a big responsibility. Parents should be there to cheer their children on, coach them, pick them up when they are down and make sure they are ready to go again the next day. One of their responsibilities is to provide the kids with the energy they need to succeed. During On and Off season they have to teach their children to eat healthily and continue the practice. They are the people who will have to find the appropriate coach or team for training. They will have to cover the cost of this sport, spend hours on the rink waiting for their child and investigate opportunities for sponsors, scholarships, and so on.
Step 8: Injuries
Despite popular belief, skating is a brutal sport and you constantly have cuts, blisters, and bruises to show off. Boot stiffness, poorly placed blades, and wrong blade sharpness are the most common causes of figure skating injuries at the first steps. Over the years, when your level becomes higher and you are forced to practice more and more, the overtraining and poor technique may lead to serious injuries. This means the loss of practice on the ice for several weeks and money for treatment.
Step 9: Continous Figure Skating Costs
Costs of figure skating depends on where you chose to skate, and how competitive you are planning to be. Competitive skating is a lot more financially taxing. You have to pay for your own ice time, lessons, off-ice classes. Which can include: ballet, yoga etc, skate boots, skate blade maintenance, injury prevention products, injury cost, physical therapy for post-injury rehab, competition and practice costumes, competition event registration and participation fees, choreography and coach fees.
Boot cost at an early age will be expensive until you are mature. Your foot size and figure skating level change through the months, you might have to change them at least twice per year. The cost for simple ice skates go from 60 euro and as you get higher and higher, the boots and ice blades differ from 160 euro (single jumps), double jumps 360 euro, and can even reach 2.000 euro. Even though sponsorships and scholarships may exist in your country it is really very difficult to obtain them, so you should seriously take into consideration all these expenses otherwise you may have to give up becoming a competitive figure skater someday.
In Greece, the permission to use the ice rink costs 100 euro per month. Private lessons cost 30 euro per hour, whilst off ice classes – which can include ballet, yoga, hip hop – cost approximately 65 euro per month. Due to the fact that there are few athletes who are interested in competitive ice skating, you will on average pay more. If you decide to participate in a competition, you will not only pay the event registration and participation fees + travel (tickets, hotel and full board for you and your coach) but also the lessons which your coach has to cancel in order to accompany you.
The state does not provide coaches with financial aid nor sponsorships for this sport. Furthermore, the lack of an all year round ice rink compels Ice Skaters in Greece to pay extra money for summer camps in other countries.
My advice for becoming great figure skater
Having read this article, you may think that it is too hard to become a great skater. However, if you really love this sport and dream to be a figure skater you should sacrifice a few things in order to achieve it. The more you succeed with your personal goals, the more you will aspire to do it. Below is Athina’s thoughts on her young life as a figure skater:
“I have been skating from the age of four. I started to figure skate for a hobby because I found it funny to glide on the ice. Day by day I loved it and now devote myself to figure skating. I come back from school and go for practice, watch videos on YouTube with exercises and tricks about figure skating. I ask my parents to record my practice in order to see myself later and recognise my mistakes.
I don’t care if there are other athletes better or worse than me. The only thing I care about is to become better and better by the year. Due to the fact that I spend many hours at the ice rink, I gain a lot of friends there and I feel these people are my second family. In summer holidays, I do exercises for ice skating, recalling the moments on ice and look forward to meeting my friends and coach again. I have got used to eating healthily and I never regret it. I dream to become a great ice skating trainer and I have to try hard in order to succeed. Day by day, step by step……….“
Skate Perfect thanks Mum Vaso and future champion daughter Athina, for their assistance with this article. If you wish to follow Athina throughout her training and competitions you can follow her here, on her Instagram account. For more information on Panagiotis Markouizos her coach, click here for Wikipedia.
You may want to read our article on why Figure Skaters, skate backwards more than forwards. This is another area skaters need to learn to power into jumps.