March 2, 2013

Training Without A Figure Skating Coach

The idea from this post came from one of my Facebook "Likers", who is currently training on her own and asked for some tips on keeping up without a coach.

Now this, I must admit, is an area I have very little experience in. I've always taken lessons during my skating life, but I have been surrounded by many who didn't. So today I'm hoping to pull on those observations and make some savvy common-sense suggestions for getting on the ice coach-less!

Note that these tips also apply to skaters out-width their regular lesson time! If you want to read on how to stay focused and maximise your ice time when not in lessons, then read right on!

In our sport, a lot of the chat around athletes is who they are training with. There's no avoiding the fact that your coach has a huge influence (some would say the biggest) on your skating career, because they are at the reigns of it. However, just because coaches play hugely pivotal roles in skating careers doesn't mean that a skater can't get his or herself going on the ice, with or without a view to taking lessons later on, when the situation becomes more favourable (finances, distance, lack of time, or incapacity to commit for a bunch of reasons are all things that may stand in the way of starting up a regular skater-coach relationship).

So in the mean time, what should you do? Well, that's going to depend on your level, and your goals. Let's look at a few key things you should keep in mind, and that can help you to get most out of your solo training regimen.

Set Realistic Goals ♥ Whether you are skating for pure fun, to keep fit, or to compete, defining your goals early will help you to determine a plan on how to achieve them. Without an extra set of expert eyes to observe and understand your mistakes, you are going to face problems that coached skaters don't. However, this does not mean that you cannot progress and enjoy skating!

Decide on what you want to do this season, year, or just what you want to take away from your skating in the long run. Once you've set your sights on something, you can go about achieving it!

Be Disciplined
One of the great things about taking an hours lesson is that it keeps you away from the boards, your friends, your phone, your water bottle, or any and all other distractions keeping you from achieving your aforementioned goals.

So what's a gal (or guy!) to do when we've not got that mandatory time out from all those things that cause us to lose focus on our training? Well first off, maximise your environment! Make sure your personal belongings are far away enough from the rink-side that going to them would mean leaving the ice completely, and then some. Don't be afraid to tell your friends that you're in work mode, and are looking forward to catching up with them in the changing room. Lastly, make sure you feel great out on the ice. Dress in a manner which affords you maximum comfort and warmth, so that you don't have to keep stripping off or adding on layers, causing you to make trips to the barrier and your muscles to cool down between bouts of work.

If you have a timer on your watch, set it for intervals or 15, 30, 45, etc.. minutes, and allow yourself a break at those points in time. It might feel like forever at first, but as you learn to stay focused when your mind is wandering, by concentrating on the task at hand, you'll notice yourself setting your timer for longer intervals.

Work Together  ♥
I don't know about you, but over the years I've had a few "train together" sessions with my rink buddies. This is a great way to get feedback from another set of eyes (or three), and is super motivating and fun to do. Get together, and decide on a spin or jump to practice together. Each skater takes their turn executing the move, and is then critiqued.

A large amount of all the new spin positions / moves that popped in to my head over the years came from these types of training sessions. Creativity gets flowing when you feel secure and happy among friends, so let loose, and magic could happen!

Video Evidence
There's nothing like seeing what your doing, rather than feeling it, so have a friend or relative video tape your skating once in a while. You may think your arm is just where it needs to be, but video evidence can show up movements you never even knew you were making. Obviously there's a limit to the amount of helpful critique you can give yourself, seeing as you are learning as you go along, but the obvious things will stand out, so you've already helped yourself along a little!

Once In A While, Take A Lesson
OK so this might sound a bit silly, given the title of this post. However, if you are within a few hours of a rink with coach access, or can afford a lesson every month or two (adapt these situations to whatever reason you have for not taking lessons on a regular basis) then your skating may really benefit.

Think of it like your gym subscription. Although you may be signed up, you probably went to your gym induction free personal training session when you first signed up, and never took a personal training session since. That trainer may have given you some really good pointers for working those parts you felt were most important, and may in some way or another have influenced your gym workouts.

By taking a few rare lessons with a coach, they can not only point out your flaws, but also set you on the right path for the month(s) to come. Guidance, ideas, inspiration, and help are all part of a coach's job, and you can benefit from these qualities even in small doses.

Try Not To Solicit Advice From Non-Pros  ♥
Over the years of my skating forum trolling, I've seen a lot of skaters asking for advice on landing their axel, or whatever else they are trying to achieve. And the responses come in, thick and fast. But without seeing your skating, and understanding the placement of your body (especially hips and shoulders) it is virtually impossible to give any sort of concrete advice. Thus, forum advice can be a bit moot, unless you uploaded a video and ask for critique.

Moreover, such internet-based advice may even be harmful. If someone advises you based on advice they themselves received, it may be very ill adapted to your situation, and body. Don't take risks with your health and body by applying corrections which were made for someone else. We're all unique, that's what so lovely about skating (and life!).

Hopefully these tips will be useful to both skaters training alone and those who are looking for ways to maximise their non-coach time! If you're skating alone, and think I've missed something, then don't hesitate to get in touch! We'd love to hear from you!

Until next time, don't practice until you get it right, practice until you can't get it wrong
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