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.