The Warm Up

Why bother with a warm up?

Athletes knows the importance of a good warm up prior to practice or competition, yet it is the most often neglected aspect of training, either because they are not sure what to do or because there is enough time.

Skaters who chose to get on the ice without warming up will eventually warm up, but they are at a higher injury risk because the body is not prepared for skating. These skaters find that they skate better, feel better and breathe better on the second and third sessions of the day. By this time, they have fully warmed up and can expect their muscles and nervous systems to respond in a quick and efficient manner to the demands of the sport. However, this can be achieved on the first session if skaters warm up before getting on the ice! Precious ice time is better utilized on skill acquisition and refinement rather than doing a warm up.

An effective warm up takes about 10 minutes before practice and a little longer at competition.

  • The warm up gradually increases body temperature and athletes feel the need to peel off a layer of clothing as they start to perspire.
  • The warm up increases body awareness and control, since muscles are able to extend and contract more efficiently and effectively. This means better quickness, power, and jump height.
  • Warm muscles stretch more easily, decreasing the risk of on-ice injuries to pulled muscles and tendons.

If tight schedules get skaters to the rink the same minute that they should be on the ice, it can be a difficult decision to miss ten minutes of ice time to warm up.

The above-mentioned benefits hopefully demonstrate the gains of warming up. Ten minutes off the ice can help the effectiveness of the next 45 minutes on the ice.

When to warm up?

An effective warm up routine is a daily event before skating or off-ice training, or after a long break between sessions. Invest in a foam roller or massage ball and a jump rope for daily use during the warm up. By using minimal equipment, skaters can do the exact same warm up in different rinks and when away at competitions.

  • Start with soft tissue mobilization, such as rolling ley muscle groups on a small hardball or foam roller.
  • Next, mobility movements (dynamic warm up) move the body through the range of motion that will be needed on the ice. This is different from flexibility training because the positions are not held, rather the end positions are “touch and go” where the skater repeatedly attains a stretched position and immediately releases the stretch.
  • Next, the skater gets the heart rate up to 50-60% of max for about 5 minutes with light jogging, jump rope, or other rhythmic exercise with quick alternating movements at the hips, knees and ankles.
  • End the warm up with brief higher-intensity drills such as short sprints, skipping, jumping, and then skating specific skills, such as jumps walk throughs, landing drills, or off-ice jumps or lifts.

Plan to do the same warm up on a daily basis at the home rink and at competition. Competition is a time of adrenaline and excitement, and for most skaters their body simply does not feel the same as it does in practice. For example, the legs can feel either sluggish or over-excited.

By having a competition warm up that is nearly identical to the practice warm up, the skater knows how he or she will feel afterwards. It can be calming to have a set warm up when so many other variables are difficult to control while away at competition.

Exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB)

A good warm up can help some breathing problems. Exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) is nearly epidemic in figure skaters where approximately 30% of our athletes test positive.

The cold environment, the very high exercise intensity of program run-throughs and rink air quality contribute by cooling or drying out the air way passages in the lungs, or exposing them to allergens. In a susceptible person, any one of these factors can trigger and EIB episode.

If you suspect you have EIB, consult your physician. If you have medication for EIB, use it as prescribed by your physician.

A proper warm up can help reduce the severity of EIB during practice and competitions by dilating (opening) the bronchioles in the lungs prior to the high intensity exercise.

Breathing Tips:

  • Inhale in through the nose as much as possible when on the ice because this warms, humidifies and filters the air before it enters the lungs.
  • Exhale through the nose during low intensity exercise. When this becomes restricting, exhale through pursed lips, as if blowing out birthday candles.
  • Pursed lip exhalations maintains a slightly higher pressure in the lungs and allows for better oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange deep within the lungs with each breath.