Is figure skating the toughest Olympic sport?

'It’s like running a choreographed four-minute mile with a smile on your face'

January 22, 2014 by Johnie Gall - for

The top-notch physical fitness required to be an ice skater is part of the reason Kat Arbour founded Ice Dynamics, which offers full-year, off-ice training programs for competitive skaters. “Interval training is a huge part of the competitive process to help beat the lactic acid, and it takes months to get to that point,” she explains. Week by week the skaters ramp up the intensity of their workouts until they can manage exercise that will make your heart jump out of your chest for up to five minutes, mimicking the time it takes to finish a show piece.

A skater’s strength, power, aerobic/anaerobic conditioning, balance, and flexibility also have to be developed off ice to match the on-ice needs demanded by figure skating—skaters only refine their technique when they strap on their skates. “Last spring, most skaters were taking a break from pounding on the big jumps to work on choreography,” says Arbour of the skaters headed to the Olympics this year, explaining that the break is a much-needed dip in intensity that allows for some mental and physical rest and relaxation. “But by late spring and early summer, skaters are ramping up training gradually.”

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