Top U.S. Family Ice Skating Rinks (Forbes Nov, 16 2018)

With the holidays approaching, I can not think of a better time to round up your family and friends and venture outdoors for a magical skating experience. Check out the Forbes’ recently published list of ‘The Country’s Most Magical Ice Rinks.’ If you’re traveling or expecting family or friends visiting for the holidays and you live near one of these rinks, then you should definitely make plans to enjoy some much needed bonding time with them while also getting a great workout.

As you may have guessed, one of the top destinations on the list is the iconic Rink at Rockefeller Center in NYC. It is THE place to be during the holiday season and what could be more fun than to skate in front of the famous Christmas tree, dubbed ‘a holiday beacon for New Yorkers and visitors alike’. Nothing can match the beautiful backdrop of the tree, the monumental sculpture of Prometheus, the surrounding spectacular Manhattan skyscrapers, and the thousands of gathered tourists looking down on you at the rink regardless of how well you skate. I still remember my parents taking me there when I first started learning to skate at 7 yrs old and it was such an incredible experience. I never knew that you can make advance admissions reservations for a VIP experience at a day and time of your choosing without having to wait hours on the long lines, https://therinkatrockcenter.com. I plan to go back again soon with my friends and will definitely choose this convenient option.

It’s not the holidays without skating, so go out and enjoy a classic tradition and make some magical memories!

What Is An Edge?

Learning how to use and control your edges is important in helping you become an efficient and confident skater- in fact, proper use of edges is paramount to being a great skater. You all hear me many times tell you to use your edge to push harder or to use your edge to skate a curve or make basic turns, ie. forward/backward, or more advanced turns, i.e.. three turns or mohawks. Let me take the time to explain what a skating edge is and its importance.

edge.JPG

A figure skate blade can be compared to as a thick sharp knife having two edges- inside and outside. The inside edge is the blade that’s inside (between) your legs and the outside edge is obviously, the blade on the outside. The groove on the bottom of the blade, which is called a hollow, creates these two sharp precise edges.

In figure skating, there are a total of eight edges. Each skate has two edges and can move in a forward and backward direction so that results in four edges. Since you have two feet, there is a total of eight possible edges (right/left forward inside/outside edge and right/left backward inside/outside edge).

When you skate on both edges (or on a flat of the blade), it helps you glide straight. However, you won’t be able to go far and push on a flat edge because it’s the dullest part of the blade. So, it is always good to skate on an edge and never be on both edges or on a flat. Unlike walking or running, skating using edges is a learned skill and it is important to know how to use the edges properly to skate. The edges are what cuts into the ice to give your skates a grip so you can push and move. Besides pushing, the other purpose of the edge is to help you glide on a curve. When your skates dig into the ice with your edge, you can make curves and/or turns. The deeper the edge, the sharper your curves and turns are. This is most important not only in figure skating but hockey as well.

  Here’s a good example of a deep left backward outside edge I was trying to execute while also achieving good knee action and change of lean and flow as I skated the Rocker Foxtrot.

Here’s a good example of a deep left backward outside edge I was trying to execute while also achieving good knee action and change of lean and flow as I skated the Rocker Foxtrot.

To learn how to get an edge, you must lean your ankle, knee, leg, boot, and blade inside/outside to form an angle to the ice while also maintaining your balance. To have balance, your upper body must not lean while only your lower body does. It will take much practice to learn this skill and you may fall a lot but once you master learning how to skate on an edge you will see how much faster and easier it is to move across the ice.

  Source: https://weekendwarriorshockey.com/how-sharp-should-my-skates-be-blade-hollow-demystified-2/

Source: https://weekendwarriorshockey.com/how-sharp-should-my-skates-be-blade-hollow-demystified-2/

Lastly, you’ll hear the words, radius of hollow and radius of blade, when one refers to a figure skate blade. I’m not going to spend too much time explaining these terms because it can get very technical; however, I will try to give an overview so you have at least a basic understanding of these terms.

  Radius of Hollow -   Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Skate-blade-radius-of-hollow-ROH-frontal-view-Units-for-the-25-50-and-75-is_fig2_249956702

Radius of Hollow -
Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Skate-blade-radius-of-hollow-ROH-frontal-view-Units-for-the-25-50-and-75-is_fig2_249956702

The length running between the two edges on a blade or the curve that’s carved into the bottom of the blade is the hollow. This shape is created by grinding the blade with a sharpening wheel.

The size of your blade hollow has a significant impact on how you skate. You can have a deep or shallow hollow depending if you want more or less edge. The depth of the hollow is determined by the radius. A smaller radius means a smaller circle which creates a deeper hollow, making the blades feel sharper and have more edge (or more bite). The two diagrams that I’ve attached best illustrate the radius of hollow.

A normal hollow is generally 1/2” to 1” (most beginners are 3/4” to 1”). My dance blades have a deep 3/8” hollow (most ice dancers have 7/16”- 3/8” hollow) because it’s critical for me to make sharp, clean, and deep edges and turns. The only drawback with a deep hollow is that you don’t get as much speed and so you have to work harder to get more glide. Contrary, my figure skate blades have 1/2” hollow which gives me less sharp feel and edge but allows for more glide and speed. It’s always an adjustment for me switching back and forth to these different skates but its what’s appropriate and required for these skating disciplines. Speed skaters’ blades are pretty flat or have almost no hollow because they need maximum glide.

A blade radius is the curvature of the blade from heel to toe or front to back (often referred to as the rocker) and determines the amount of the blade touching the ice. The flatter the blade curve will offer more speed and stability.

As your skating level changes, you may require a different radius of hollow so you’ll need to experiment and find the measure which works best for you

The Importance of Warming Up & Cooling Down

I’m glad to see so many of my students getting to class early and not having you or your parents frantically rush to change and improperly lace up your skates. For those of you who are early and just sitting and waiting around, let me advise you to use this extra time wisely and warm up your joints and muscles. Everyone knows that before any vigorous exercise that it’s important to stretch and warm up because it not only helps prevent injury and improve performance but also helps reduce muscle soreness after the workout. You want your heart pumping, blood flowing, and body temperature rising to prepare your body for strenuous activity. The reason for more blood flow and increased body temperature is so that more oxygen is released to help your working muscles which in turn means better performance. Even a five minute warm up is sufficient and better than nothing at all. So try to get to the rink earlier and start warming up.

I have to admit I use to skip warming up before I got on the ice as I thought it was a waste of time and never believed it to be important or beneficial. Whenever I was early for practice, my mom would always reprimand me to get off my phone and stop texting friends and instead warm up; however, I never listened. After my ankle injury this past spring, my physical therapist explained to me the importance of warming up and from that point on, I now make sure I do my warm up exercises before I get on the ice. I surely do not want to reinjure myself and be off the ice for several more months because then I would never hear the end of it from my parents and coaches!

So here are some warm up exercises that I now do and you should try. Make sure you pack good running shoes and have plenty of water.

1) Jog in place
2) Sideway stepping
3) Jumping jacks or jump rope (I would recommend keeping a jump rope in your skating bag)
4) Leg swings and kicks
5) Stretches - Rotate your head clockwise and counter clockwise; make big circles with your arms in both direction; ankle rolls in circular rotation; and touch your toes.

For more warm up activities, please see the US Figure Skating recommended exercises, http://www.usfsa.org/content/Exercises.pdf and http://www.usfsa.org/content/parentsarticles/health%20fitness_jan05.pdf

After skating, cooling down is equally important and should also be done to prevent potential injuries. After you take off your skates, you can do additional light activity such as walking and stretching to help with muscle soreness and recovery from a long and hard workout on the ice. I use foam rollers to massage and alleviate my tight, stiff, and painful muscles. Sometimes, I use small balls and roll gently on them to relieve muscle knots and tension in my feet. Lastly, I definitely recommend drinking lots of water to replenish all the sweat lost from practice.

Remember warming up & CoOLING DOWN should not be neglected!

Mind Over Matter

I’m still so elated and riding high after medaling at the National Solo Dance Finals from a couple of weeks ago. Reflecting on my experience and lessons learned, I wanted to bring attention to a major challenge that I faced at nationals and also faced by many athletes- sports performance anxiety. I know all of my students have experienced it in some degree, whether it’s taking a skating test or performing your program or even just doing a run through in front of everyone at the rink. I wanted to address this because I’m not sure how many of you realize the importance of mental preparation for a competition and how it can greatly impact one’s performance. I want to share my experiences and help you all to learn how to better handle and reduce competitive stress.

Competing successfully is most challenging because it not only requires endless hours of hard work and practice but also mental aptitude and toughness. Learning to manage performance anxiety is very complicated even for experienced and elite athletes. Staying focused and calm is the most critical factor in skating a clean program. I’ve been competing for over ten years now and I still get so nervous and panicky at every test and competition.

According to Dr. Alan Goldberg, an internationally recognized expert in the field of performance enhancement and a consultant for Competitive Advantage, he explains that ‘getting good and going as far as possible as a skater in practice is 95% physical and 5% mental. However, once you skate onto the ice..., the percentages flip flop. Skating to your potential is now 95% mental and 5% physical!’. I can attest to this because if you’ve worked hard at practice and put in the countless hours to master your skills then the muscle memory will help you perform. But in order to skate your best, it’s important to not worry and be intimated by others and have self-confidence.

At nationals, I had to keep reminding myself that my extensive training had well prepared me for this final day. I had to stop obsessing about the outcome and the possible of failure and instead, remain positive and visualize success. I constantly told myself this even though it was so difficult to stay calm especially knowing I was competing against such top talents. To de-stress, I try to employ the following below strategies and techniques and you have to experiment and figure out which strategy works best for you.

1) Be prepared. I avoid further stressful situations by making sure I arrive at my event an hour early before I compete. This way, I don’t have to rush and have plenty of time to prepare and run through my program.
2) Avoid distractions. My mom knows whenever I’m stress because I become irritable and moody and oftentimes I withdraw from conversation. She knows me well to leave me alone so I can concentrate on what I need to do and stay focus. The minutes leading up to competition before I go into the rink and warm-up, I like sitting alone and having my quiet time.
3) Listen to music. I first play my program music and visualize myself skating to my program and then I play it again when I do a run through off-ice during warm-up with my coach. Afterwards, I go back to the locker room and play pop or hip hop music to help quiet my mind and make me feel happy.
4) Talk to my coaches. During the time I’m standing behind the boards and getting ready to step on the ice to skate, my coaches try to lighten up things and tell each other jokes to help reduce my anxiety. Some of their jokes and comments are actually really funny that I get a good belly laugh.
5) I tell myself I can do this. I am prepared. I am good. I can win. These are the words I repeat to myself several times to help boost my confidence.

Being able to manage performance anxiety is also a predictor of how long you will be able to compete and enjoy the sport. You want to learn how to manage the stress before it potentially gets worse as you get older. I hope by discussing this issue will help you better manage competitive stress, develop mental toughness, and improve your performance. Hey, I hope my information can even help with any tasks that gives you anxiety, including major school exams, public speaking, performing in a show or recital,…

Happy Competing!