By: Gabriella DeBono
When you think of the American figure skater Sasha Cohen, what do you think of? Her programs to iconic pieces of music like “Dark Eyes” and “Swan Lake” stand out, but the skating community has recognized her spirals as the best of the best. Earning the maximum amount of G.O.E for her immaculate lines and positions in her skating days, Sasha Cohen set a new standard for figure skating when she brought her balletic flexibility into the sport.
Now, this kind of flexibility and strength obviously doesn’t happen overnight, or even over a few weeks. Improving your flexibility takes time and discipline– just like mastering anything in figure skating.
If one of your goals for the off-season is to improve your flexibility we’re here to help! It’s important to understand how to stretch before you slide into the splits. DO NOT over stretch right from the beginning. Pushing yourself to the point of pain is exactly how injuries happen. Here are a few basic points to remember about stretching:
1. Make sure you are warm
Get your heart pumping and blood flowing through your entire body! You should break a sweat before you start a stretching session. Warm muscles are less susceptible to strains, and you’ll be able to push yourself farther. Again, do not push yourself to the point of pain and when moving deeper into a stretch move slowly.
2. Start slow and use progressions
When you started skating, you didn’t try double jumps on the first day. You started with a two foot jump, progressed through your single rotation jumps, then eventually began attempting and landing double jumps. Stretching follows the same concept– you have to move through simple movements before you push your body into difficult positions. For example, if you are trying to improve your splits, you might start with a double leg hamstring stretch, then isolate each leg. With time, you will be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together and practice the full split movement.
3. Strengthen while you stretch
Although it’s important to focus on static stretching to increase range of motion and our muscles ability to lengthen, the movements you do on the ice that require flexibility also require strength and balance. Practicing spin positions off the ice on unstable surfaces and doing eccentric (strengthening muscles by lengthening them) exercises are both ways to train all three components at the same time.
A personalized flexibility plan will help you reach your goals faster! You can learn more about what flexibility training we offer here. Happy smart-stretching skaters!