So, what’s the best way to get fit for skating? How do we get strong for skating? What’s the best way to improve our fitness so we can get through 3 back to back routines without any complaints?

And ultimately, how do we become the best athletes we can be?

It’s simple. If you want to be fit for skating, then you need to skate. The more you skate, the more your body will adapt to skating. This is thespecificity principle. Our bodies respond very well to one type of training and adapt quickly. That’s why in general, a long distance runner can never be a sprinter and why a high jumper could never be a long distance runner. They train different different muscles and energy systems.

However, for whatever reason, it is not always possible to skate as much as we’d like to in order to get the fitness benefits from it. If your club has unlimited access to the rink and you can skate everyday, count yourself lucky. Maybe you don’t need any extra training (depending on how much you actually do when you’re skating). Unfortunately, I can only skate a handful of days a week. So how do I get fit for skating? (other than back to back routines which everyone should be doing leading up to big competitions)

I take advantage of what I’ve learnt about my body’s Energy Systems to help me train for skating, outside of skating.

Energy Systems

The above graph may seem a little intimidating but it’s simple. Each line represents a different ‘way’ of transferring stored energy (carbohydrates, fat, protein) into work. All the systems work at the same time but one is always the main energy provider depending on the duration of the training.

For the first few seconds of training, you use the ATP stored already in your muscles. Think of a sprint or lifting a weight. All you need to know about ATP is that it’s energy in its raw form. So the limited amount in our muscles, takes no time at all to be used up. ATP is replenished byphosphocreatine or the ATP-CP (blue line) system. Again, the limited amount of phosphocreatine is depleted after 10 seconds.

After 10 seconds, energy systems that are a bit slower in converting fats and carbohydrates into ATP, come into play. These conversions take place during the first 30 seconds of exercises as well but they’re not themain energy system at work until after 60 seconds of exercise.

The anaerobic or lactic acid system (green line) mainly converts carbohydrate (glycogen in muscles and glucose in blood) into ATP and requires no oxygen for this process. This is a relatively fast process so high intensity exercise can be kept up for a short period (up to 2-3 minutes). It is called the lactic acid system because lactic acid is a by product of this system. Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid is not useless. It can be converted and used in the aerobic system aspyruvate. The soreness in your muscles isn’t from lactic acid but rather from the acidity build up as carbon dioxide (and some lactic acid) is built up.

The aerobic or oxidative system (orange line) is much slower to convert stored energy to ATP, that’s why it takes so long to get started (about 5 minutes). It uses proportionately more fat than carbohydrate but both are still used. The intensity of exercise drops as well. Think of long distance runners, they can’t sprint for 10km straight, they must slow down at some point. You can’t keep using the anaerobic system forever.

So what does all this gibberish mean for skaters and why should you care?

Well, in skating, our longest routine is 4 minutes long. That would mean we’re just on the threshold of the aerobic system (that kicks in at 5 minutes). So during our routines (especially freedances and short programmes), we use the anaerobic system for energy. That means our main energy source is carbohydrates (but is not limited to just carbohydrates as all systems run alongside each other. some fats are still being used).

Next question is: how does knowing this give us an advantage? How can this knowledge be used to train efficiently and not waste our time?

Since we use the anaerobic system, this is the system we want to train or overload in order to improve our fitness and get through routines easier. Training is just a fancy way of saying we’re overloading the system so it adapts to that exercise and next time we do it, it’ll be easier.

Stay tuned for Part 2 if you want to find out how to train anaerobically in order to improve your skating fitness