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!