How to Cool Down after a Skating Session

Extra cooling down can be done anywhere - Christina Chitwood at an Obserstdorf, Germany, train station.

Extra cooling down can be done anywhere – Christina Chitwood at a train station in Germany.

Cooling down is very important for competitive skaters. Just getting off the ice after an intense skating workout without any type of cool down can lead to stiffer muscles and joints. This stiffness can lead to injury. Also, stretching and cooling down can help reduce muscle pain and soreness the next day by relieving the tension built up by training.

A short cool down can be helpful for every skater, but the longer and harder you train the more important your cool down will be. I recommend a few cool-down laps at the end of a session or ending with easier elements such as footwork or spins to lower your heart rate. Once you get your skates off, spend 5 to 15 minutes stretching, holding each stretch at least 20 seconds.

Here are the most helpful stretches to do on both legs.

  • Put your leg up in front or to the slide on the skating boards and then reach for the foot for a hamstring stretch.
  • Hold your foot and then bend that leg behind your back for a quad stretch.
  • Bend the front leg and keep the back leg straight for a calf stretch.
  • Flex the front foot up to the board and lean forward for another calf stretch.
  • Split your legs halfway while standing, then bend one leg and lean your body toward the straight leg for a groin stretch.
  • Hold a lunge position for a hip-flexor stretch.
  • Straighten one arm and pull it across your body with the other arm for a shoulder stretch.
  • Bend one arm behind your head and pull it back with the other arm for another shoulder stretch as well as triceps stretch.
  • Bend one wrist back by pulling the fingers of that hand back with the other hand for a wrist stretch.
  • Also, head rolls, body rolls, ankle rolls, and arm- and shoulder rolls are helpful in cooling down.

If you feel comfortable sitting on the ground at the rink, here are a few more good stretches.

  • Reach for your toes with both legs straight while pointing your toes for a good hamstring stretch.
  • Do a straddle split and lean body to both sides and then forward for a hamstring and groin stretch.
  • Lie on your back and keep one leg straight on the ground and then bend the other leg over the top. Twist your body against the bent leg for a back stretch.
  • Turn your front leg out and bend on ground and turn the back leg in on ground. Then lean reach forward over the front leg for a hip-flexor stretch.

These stretches will help you feel more limber and will help improve your flexibility. You get far more from stretching when your muscles are already limber because they can expand farther than when your muscles are cold. Remember, even stretching 5 minutes every day after skating will make a difference in your flexibility.


May 27, 2010

How to Do an Off-Ice Warm-Up

When it’s time to warm up off-ice, most skaters tend to skip the warm-up completely or just do the bare minimum. This is dangerous. As with any sport, if you jump right in without any warm-up, you greatly increase your risk of pulling a muscle or having an even more severe injury. However, what you do for off-ice warm-up is based on your age and what type of skater you are. 

Off-Ice Warm-Up for Recreational Skaters

If you are a recreational (non-competitive) skater under 30 who is most interested in doing basic skating maneuvers and maybe a few spins and jumps, you should be okay just starting off slow skating around the rink. Since you get stiffer as you age, if you’re over 30 I would recommend doing 15 to 20 slow off-ice squats, 20 high-knee raises, 15 ankle raises, and 15 shoulder rolls in your sneakers before getting on the ice. While this is not mandatory, this very minimal warm-up will help get your legs, knees, and shoulders working so you are less stiff when you begin skating. 

Off-Ice Warm-Up for Competitive Skaters

For all competitive skaters, it’s always a good idea to do at least a minimal warm-up before you get on the ice. This helps avoid the initial stiffness when getting on the ice and gets your body warm before you do anything vigorous. I would recommend doing at least a minimum of jogging up and down the side of the rink. For a full warm-up, do the grapevine exercise next (cross your feet over back and forth quickly while moving sideways) halfway down the side of the rink and back. Then, do high-knee skips halfway down and back. After that, do 15 to 30 seconds of high-knee running in place. This should at least get your heart rate going and your joints loosened up. If you still don’t feel warm, you can double the length of these exercises or add additional warm-up exercises such as jumping rope and jumping jacks. 

Now that your heart rate is up,  I would do some dynamic stretching (stretching that incorporates movement), such as front kicks while moving forward, back kicks while holding onto the wall, heel raises, body rolls, and arm circles. These dynamic stretching exercises will help stretch out your muscles while warming them up in the process. While dynamic stretching is more beneficial for warm-up than static stretching (non-movement stretching), I always did some static stretches to help improve my flexibility. By using both static stretching and dynamic stretching for warm-up, I felt looser and avoided injuries.

Cooling Down

Also, keep in mind that cooling down is the best time to do static stretching because your muscles stretch easier when they are warm. Plus, streching during cool-down helps alleviate any soreness you may feel after your workout. I’ll talk more about cooling down in the next article.

Whatever you decide to do, try spending at least a few minutes warming up before skating. It really does help you avoid injury.

Photo Credit:

May 13, 2010

How to Get the Most out of a Skating Competition

Will Chitwood and Aaryn Smith with Coaches Dalilah Sappenfield and Tom Zakrajsek at the 2005 Baltic Cup JGP in Gdansk, Poland

Will Chitwood and Aaryn Smith with Coaches Dalilah Sappenfield and Tom Zakrajsek at the 2005 Baltic Cup JGP in Gdansk, Poland.

Last Friday on, I wrote a guest post called “How to Get the Most out of a Skating Competition.” My 3 top ideas for getting the most out of a skating competition can be applied to any level of competition and are helpful for both skaters and parents.

March 30, 2010