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SKATE TIP OF THE WEEK
Inline secrets from the world's top skaters and coaches

This week's tip:

Stretching for Skaters

By Nadine Currie Jackson
 

Nadine demonstrates the high knee run

Nadine demonstrates the high knee run.
 

Forget all those things you learned as a kid about stretching before a workout. That traditional stretching routine could do you more harm than good.

A growing list of studies has found that static stretching — like touching your toes — before exertion actually hurts performance.

One study reported a 2.4 to 3.4 percent drop in power after static stretching. (“Acute Effects of Static and Ballistic Stretching on Measures of Strength and Power,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, September, 2008).

A 3-percent power loss might not be a big deal for a recreation skater. But for a racer, it could mean the difference between first and last place.

So does that mean that all stretching is out? No, even static stretching has its place. But it’s important to do the right kind of stretching at the right point in your workout.

Warm-up

Before you do any kind of stretching, warm up your muscles with some cardio. Cardio-vascular exercise, like jogging or easy skating, raises your heard rate and body temperature, and that loosens up the collagen in your muscles and connective tissues, making you more flexible.

Once you’ve done your cardio, it’s time for some dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is the kind that involves repeated, controlled movements that gently increase your range of motion.

Below are dynamic stretches for skaters and videos on how to do them.

Video 1:

  • quad stretch
  • hamstring kick
  • spiderman stretch
  • lateral high knee run

Video 2:

  • leg swings
  • lunge with hamstring stretch
  • butt kicks

Don’t get too wild with your dynamic stretches. Do them slowly and with control. The idea is to stretch your body without straining.

Gradually increase the range of motion for each stretch and focus on moving smoothly and with control. Stop immediately if there is any pain.

Watch the videos to learn how these stretches are done.

Typically, each stretch is done for 30 seconds and then repeated. The number of repetitions depends on how much time and energy you have.

A rec skater might spend five to ten minutes on dynamic stretching while an elite speed skater might go twice that long.

After you finish your dynamic stretches, you’re good to go — ready to start the main part of your workout or head to the starting line of your race.

Typically, your warm-up should take about 30 minutes.

Save the static stretches — the kind involving holding extended body positions — for your cool-down at the end of your workout. A good rule is to hold each stretch for 30 seconds but to always stop if there is pain.

If you feel a need to do some static stretching before your workout, do them early in your warmup routine to limit their deleterious effect.

If you think that your muscles are overly tight, make an appointment with a professional trained in manual therapy or myofascial release. They may be able to release those tight muscles and show you the right way to stretch.

(The Stretching institute warm-up page.)

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Debbie RiceNadine Currie Jackson is a skater, clinical massage therapist, researcher and educator at the college and university level. She is a former short-track speed skater and describes herself these days as "hopelessly obsessed" with inline speed skating. A resident of Fredericton, New Brunswick, she finished second in the open pro division of the 2010 National Roller Cup. She is a member of the k2/Asphalt Beach racing team.

 

 

Related reading:

Skate Tip of the Week Archive
Beginners Guide to Outdoor Racing
Beginners Guide to Inline Skating

 

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