Speed skating is the fastest non-mechanical sport in the world, meaning the athletes themselves are providing all of the power for acceleration. During speed skating races, competitors commonly propel themselves to speeds of over 30 mph, as the United States Olympic Education Center notes. Due to these highs speeds and the high potential for injury, training for speed skating is incredibly important.
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The first, truly goal-oriented speed skate training session likely occurred sometime during 1763. That was the year of the very first organized speed skating race, which took place in the fens of eastern England, according to the Speed Skating Canada website. By 1889, athletes were training for the first international championship held in the Netherlands, which included 500, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000-meter races.
Winter is speed skating season and during this time athletes typically train on ice between four and five times each week, according to the community of Sudbury, Ontario’s resource website. In some cases, the only winter training athletes perform is skating, because off-ice weight lifting and other types of exercise can interfere with performance and prevent muscles for recovering.
During the off season, most speed skaters participate in a variety of different off-ice training programs and activities, all of which target different areas of development. For example, rollerblading, running, soccer and cycling are all training options for improving endurance, while stretching your gluteus muscles, or "glutes", and hamstrings can help increase lower body flexibility. To increase speed and power, speed skaters perform calisthenic exercises, like jumping jacks and lunges, plus resistance exercises, like leg presses and squats.
Short Track vs. Long Track
There are two mains styles of speed skating: long track, where athletes compete against the clock for the best times, and short track, where they compete to beat each other in terms of position. The other main difference between the two types is that while long track skaters cover most of their distances on straight-aways, short-track skaters are constantly making turns. For this reason, if you are training for long-track skating, endurance will be of key importance, while if training for short track, power will be more important, as you will constantly be speeding up and slowing down.
The food a speed skater eats provides the fuel for both racing and training. Carbohydrates in breads, pastas and other starchy foods are the most important nutrients that a speed skater can consume, according to the Sudbury website. The body breaks down carbohydrates and converts them to energy which athletes need for both on and off-ice training.
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