There is a thing in physical exercise called “overtraining.” Basically, when you exercise hard, your body needs recovery time before the next big, heavy session. If you don’t give it adequate recovery time instead of improving, your performance starts to fall off. Thus, more is not always better.
I’d been noticing that with some of my own practices. Several days of skating and then I’d just find it harder to complete the target time on the ice I’d start reaching a point where I’m getting winded and, more importantly, my balance and coordination start to go “off”. I get clumsy, start stumbling and…well, I have to stop before I become a danger to self and others.
So, while ice time is king when it comes to making progress–the more time you can spend skating and practicing, the faster you make progress–there is a limit to that. If you don’t get adequate recovery time between sessions, progress falls off.
There are several things you can do to work around that. First and foremost, of course, is when things start falling off, take a day or two off. On the off days you can do a different kind of exercise, but as far as the normal exercise is concerned it needs to be “rest”.
There are things that are supposed to accelerate the recovery period somewhat. Back when I was serious about bicycling (training for competition, back when I was in my 20’s), sauna, hot baths, and massage were recommended. However, the amount one is able to cut recovery time with those is limited at best. The claim I saw in the sports magazines of the day was something like about a 2:1 advantage. That is, one hour of sauna or hot bath counts as 2 hours of recovery. So if your body needs 36 hours of “recovery time” before hitting those muscles that way again, an hour in the sauna reduces that to 35 hours.
As you can see, that’s not really all that helpful. Maybe at the very high end, where every little bit counts, but for most of us? If you like saunas or hot baths, then take them. But don’t expect to be able to exercise hard every day as a result.
When I spoke to my instructor about it, she acknowledged that it is an issue. You need to be aware and know when to take a break. She recommended keeping a training log with notes about what you worked on, and how it went to help recognize when you are having a fall off and when you need to take that break. And use the break time to do something else–off ice training that works things differently is beneficial here.
And so, I started one. The first entry was for yesterday, after the practice session and class. (They have classes back to back–first the younger kids and the lower “basic skills” levels, then the higher basic skills/free skate classes and the adults. And there’s a section of ice set off so that while one set of classes is running, those in the other set can practice.) Here is my first entry (slightly expanded because “verbal shorthand” that makes sense to me would be gibberish to someone else).
Training Log Sun June 6, 2021
Arrived late (misjudged drive time to the rink). Mostly just warmup. Worked hockey stop. They’re getting better. Hockey stop to the left is still weaker than to the right.
2 foot spins are up to about 4 turns when they go well, and most of the time they do. Still not entirely consistent. Trying to go from two-foot to one-foot I’m able to get 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn.
Forward crossovers. Tips from the coach–hold the extensions with both legs, leg straight with toe pointed. Practice holding the edges for a beat or two as an exercise.
Backward crossovers. I’m still “flicking” the back leg in the cross and bringing it back inside. Need to work on a longer, push with that leg. Tip: Hold the back leg out and glide on the inside edge of the front leg so I’m not in such a hurry to bring the back leg back inside.
Inside three-turn. I’m still getting my weight too far forward on the skating foot, causing the toe-picks to scrape. Need to remember to keep my eyes up. I have a tendency to look down which throws off my balance. Also have a tendency to lean out of curve as I make the turn, this gets me off a good edge leading to the skate skittering sideways. The coach had me doing a bit of reaching into the circle with my lead hand just before and as I was making the turn. That suggests a bit of “pre-rotation” of the upper body might help.
Backward stroking. I’d been doing that all wrong. I’d been doing it basically into a one-foot glide in a straight line. The instructor showed it instead as a push and glide onto an inside edge, so instead of a mostly straight line down the ice, it’s a series of graceful swooping curves. Definitely need to practice this more. (Note as I’m writing this up: this actually sounds a lot like backward inside edges on a line, which is a Free-skate 2 technique.)
That was my notes for Sunday’s class. In the meantime I’ve done further work on my two-foot spins:
And further work on spirals and lunges:
They’re a bit less clumsy than they were, but I’m still not getting the extension I really need to get. That’s a matter of stretching to build flexibility as much as anything else, which would make for some good off-ice exercises to do in the “off” days.