by Megan McDevitt
Synchronized skating is an aesthetic sport that requires each athlete to perform in a way that makes difficult moves look easy, which is why many people don’t understand the physical fitness required to perform at the national and international level in the sport. Now more than ever, strength, endurance, and performance are all required to succeed in synchronized skating. With the sport growing and becoming more competitive, in order for skaters to keep up with the demands of higher level programs, it is recommended, and for many teams required, that physical training is included alongside on ice training.
Training is good for any individual, not just synchronized skaters, to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Not only does training prevent disease and reduce risk of injury, it can also provide physical and mental health benefits including more energy, better quality of sleep and more mental focus. Maintaining a healthy weight and developing muscle can also make it easier to do everyday activities. Training as an athlete adds another layer of reasons why working out is important. Within the sport of synchronized skating individuals benefit from strength and endurance. Training can increase a skater’s ability to make it through a run-through, lift other skaters for vaults or lifts and hold required positions within elements.
Not every team has the time to spend on conditioning and strength training during regular practices. Some skaters need additional exercises to improve their individual weaknesses. Casey Ouellette, a synchronized skater herself and certified strength and condition coach, recognized these gaps and created a training program specifically tailored to meet the needs of synchronized skaters. Ouellette designed the training program, SynchroSTRONG, to help intermediate through senior level skaters improve their strength, endurance, and ability to perform their best.
Ouellette, who has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Exercise Science, used her education and personal experience as a senior level Team USA synchronized skater to develop the program. Ouellette emphasizes that “most plans are geared towards general fitness or getting a bikini body… even personal trainers don’t really understand exactly what synchronized skaters have to do. Like what the practices are like and what it takes to get through a program. This [program] is different because it was designed specifically for synchronized skaters by synchronized skaters.”
Skaters may be concerned that strength training will “bulk them up” and they will lose the flexibility required to do many elements because they have too much muscle. Ouellette explains how that is not necessarily true, “Increasing strength can actually help your flexibility as a skater! A lot of things we do, like spirals, require a lot of strength. Although we might be flexible off-ice, many people don’t have the best spiral because they don’t have the strength to hold their leg up at that height.”
Synchronized skating has been criticized for it’s lack of athleticism and some believe this is a contributing factor to why it’s not an Olympic sport yet. Even though within the synchro community we know the goal is to make maneuvers look effortless, the rest of the world views synchronized skating as less intense and demanding than other winter sports disciplines. “One of the biggest obstacles holding synchro back from the Olympics, in my opinion, is fitness. Although we are great athletes as synchronized skaters, a lot of us don’t train like it. And one thing that pretty much all athletes have in common- high school, collegiate, professional- is that they strength train. They lift weights and work hard in the gym. Synchro teams typically don’t have the resources to do this, but I think proper off-ice training will really elevate the sport and each individual athlete’s performance,” Ouellette said.
Improving individual skater’s strength, health, and flexibility will increase the capabilities of entire teams. Stronger, healthier teams will raise the bar by being able to perform at levels we haven’t reached yet, which will hopefully lead us one step closer to synchronized skating as an Olympic sport.
Get It Called is partnering with SynchroSTRONG to help the greater synchronized skating community reach the resources it needs to train with insight and knowledge to make progress in a safe and beneficial manner. Referrals from Get It Called will get a 10% discount for the SynchroSTRONG plan, and in return SynchroSTRONG will make a donation to Get It Called. If you or your team is interested in starting a program with SynchroSTRONG, you can sign up here and include “Get It Called” in the box for “Where did you hear about SynchroSTRONG” for your 10% discount: https://goo.gl/forms/pbmDsbUdlJDQAnmS2