Power Skating: A Memo

October 21, 2008

To: My power skating students and the skaters of the world         Re: The benefits of power skating

It has come to my attention that you hate power skating class. Some of you told me this directly. At the beginning of class, you said in no uncertain terms, with an extremely whiney voice and slumped shoulders, “Awww, I hate power skating.”

Some of you used to do power skating but haven’t been back in a long time, thereby letting your absence do the talking. Maybe there was that one class where you tried really hard and then you woke up the next day screaming in pain, as if a boatload of sailors had extracted the muscles from your legs then used them for knot-tying practice. You didn’t realize that this was the “desired” result, in fact, essentially the whole point.

Others of you keep showing up to class but you let me know how much you hate power skating (and, by the transitive property, me) by that expression on your face, the one where you manage to throw daggers from your eyeballs with such uncanny precision that I now must come to class carrying a protective, metal shield. Soon, I’ll be trading in my down coat for a full suit of armor.   

Some of you have never tried power skating or even heard of it. If this is the case, you could probably be in a lot better shape, you could probably be far more powerful, you could probably skate your programs, your dances and your moves with lot more speed and ease. If you were to take up power skating, you might even be a better human being, in every possible, conceivable way.  Okay…maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

Power skating is like rigorous exercise class in skates, and specifically, it’s on-ice interval training. In other words: exertion, rest, exertion, rest, and so on, usually for about 30 minutes. The rest period isn’t time for you to lie down on the ice and whimper, as you may feel compelled to do, but to glide around at a lower intensity and prepare for the next exercise.  The exercises can vary from simple stroking to complex footwork steps, depending on level and experience.

If you have a good class, and you push yourself to do your absolute best, what you can expect is that your lungs will feel as if they have caught on fire and sweat will spray from your pores as if they are shower spouts. Your face will turn neon red and steam will rise off your body like smoke.

As a result of exhaustion, your skates may start to feel as heavy as cinder blocks, increasing the likelihood of tripping over your toepicks. Indeed, you might fall down, slide into your fellow power skaters, and knock into them like a set of equally-tired bowling pins. You might even slam your chin into the unforgiving ice. 

Sound miserable? Perhaps. But it’s like medicine: even though it might taste horrible going down, it will make you better.      

My brother and I developed our class several years ago with a series of fast footwork exercises, steps that work the entire body, including the torso and the arms, in addition to the legs and the ankles. These are mostly skated on circles, with either one, two, or three separate circles on the ice surface, depending on how many skaters have had the good sense to show up. We put the whole thing to music so we didn’t have to skate around with a stopwatch and a whistle. This way, we can focus all our energy on chasing skaters like crazy banshees, and, of course yelling frightening encouragements like, “Go, go, go!” “You can skate faster!” “Bend your knees!” and the surprisingly necessary, “Don’t forget to breathe!”

I have a friend who is a skating coach and a trained exercise physiologist. Having read lots of studies on the subject and put the theories to practice herself, she is a big believer in interval training. She says that this is a great way to build stamina for skaters. Interval training more closely mimics figure skating programs than continuous exercise because there are similar physiological changes happening in the body throughout a program, such as increases in fatigue and changes in heart rate, etc.   

My brother and I were first exposed to power skating by the late Pieter Kollen, a figure skating coach who also did power classes with hockey players. This was during summer skating camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The mornings after power skating classes, my brother and I would lie in our beds and repeat the phrase, “Oh my legs,” with exaggerated misery over and over again, until it became one pathetic word, “Ohmaleggs.”

The thing is, my brother was an enthusiastic student of power skating; he knew it was beneficial and seemed to enjoy the pain. He was always up in front, trying to out skate whoever was ahead of him. He pushed himself to his limits then redefined them. Every once in a while, I see a few determined skaters driving themselves similarly and loving it.  

Me? Well, like many of you, I hated power skating. I can admit this.

I chugged along, I tried, but also used up far too much energy throwing those dagger glares. So I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. But I also know that power skating helped me become a stronger, faster, more powerful athlete than I was previously. And I’ve witnessed it do the same for many others.  

So go ahead, I invite you to hate it exactly as much or even more than I did. But do it. Grit your teeth, scrunch up your face, glare at me angrily then bend your knees and SKATE. You’ll be glad you did.

Oh, and by the way, don’t even think about escaping over to the boards to take an extra long swig from your water bottle or to take off your jacket in a leisurely fashion, one zipper notch at a time. Nice try, though.

                                                      ***

You? Have you experienced or witnessed the splendors of power skating? Click on comment, below.  

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14 Responses to “Power Skating: A Memo”

  1. RWT Says:

    I’d like to see a coach out there will full armor and a shield, maybe on a horse too.

  2. miami Says:

    yes! although it can be brutal while you’re doing it, when you’re through you feel so accomplished (or when you quit before you’re supposed to, you feel the angry dagger-glares of your teammates, followed by feeling an extreme wave of guilt, because you know you could have pushed through). We do interval training here for team, and it helps sooo much with getting through our programs. Plus, I like to use it as an excuse to take the elevator to my fourth-floor class later in the day 😉

  3. Strats Says:

    Ohmaleggs….I hear you – I haven’t skated to that point, but long runs training for a marathon has a similar effect and I think I have slurred that out a few times.

  4. Jackie Says:

    I think you’ve described every thought that runs through my head while doing your class. Not to mention the burning sensation coming from my face and what feels like spikes in your lungs when you’re trying to breathe. I know you said our faces turn red, but I’m sure mine turns some shade of purple. I can imagine what Brad was like when you two were training, being he finds the need to make us feel terrible when he passes us during his class. Since you’ve started working with the Skyliners Junior team, our coach has seen a huge improvement and I can honestly say that I’m not out of breath after one run through-so thank you =] See you Friday!

  5. barbara Says:

    the difference between basketball suicides and power skating suicides: knowing how to stop!

  6. Ann-Marie Says:

    You have to admit there is a bit of a hazing effect having been through it yourself and then giving it back as a coach…”I had to do this and so do you!”
    Am I right?!

  7. rochelleonice Says:

    “My brother and I were first exposed to power skating by the late Pieter Kollen, a figure skating coach who also did power classes with hockey players. This was during summer skating camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The mornings after power skating classes, my brother and I would lie in our beds and repeat the phrase, “Oh my legs,” with exaggerated misery over and over again, until it became one pathetic word, “Ohmaleggs.””

    *AMEN*. Pieter Kollen, (RIP 2007), was my coach of several years and the director at I/WSA in Indianapolis since I began skating back in 2007. His classes were so grueling, that I conveniently signed scheduled myself shifts at work in the summer so I didn’t have to take them. I regret that attitude now, since it would have made a huge difference in my training. But, little has changed since those days of your power skating in CS, trust me. And, I make my private lesson students in freestyle 3+ take part. They actually start to enjoy it and forgive me for their “torture” at the end of summer when they realize the improvements they’ve made from it!

    -Rochelle

  8. LP skater Says:

    Power skating- good times……I remember taking those power stroking classes with Brad; strangely, I thought they were fun. As I got older, though, I started to feel the pain. Power skating is a necessary evil, and I accept it as such; my most memorable power skating experience is when I took Alex McGowans stroking class. I considered myself in pretty good shape, but the first time was really difficult. The second and third were a bit easier (because believe it or not, I DID go back). The best part? The 10 minute power stroke at the end. One word- OUCH!

  9. Eric Says:

    aaaaaahhhh, i will never forget those encouraging words you used to share with us. go faster, push, push, push. your lungs must hurt after skating with all of us too?!?!
    and ps…i think your brother still does it too (and loves it) if i recall from my last ps class this summer.
    miss you, eric.

  10. Omalungs Says:

    The program’s last minute always tells the tale. Are you in shape? I mean, really in shape? Did you practice your program? Twice? In a row? It is truly amazing how simple and how difficult it is to be a strong skater. Most will never get it.

  11. BA Says:

    I used to find power skating a bit annoying but challenging when I was a kid. But when I came back as an adult skating, I actually loved it. It was hard, but your muscles hurting means it’s working and you’re improving! Just remember, when you want to give up and lie down on the ice, you only have a few minutes left… you can do it!

  12. JoAnn Says:

    I well remember watching Brad do this. He was relentless, but my daughter learned so much. She has subsequently worked with the ice hockey team at the boys’ school where she works….the coach was thrilled to have a figure skater available.

    Tell Brad hi for us.

    JOANN (and Laura)

  13. Martina Says:

    I love seeing what (PSC)Power Skating Class brings out in my students. Usually it’s the real competitor, you can see it in their face. Gritting teeth, squinting eyes, ready to pass anybody close-by. But sometimes it’s just the kid learning the new steps that’s trying to hold it together in class and knows that being there will help them in the long run. Or the quiet kid just slugging along and medium speed who never takes the jacket off. Either way, whoever you are, whatever your level, if your coach says go, you better GO!!


  14. I have to admit I’m relatively new to skating. I tried my first power skating session recently. It was great.

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