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Tour Skating Holidays and Claiming Your Own Private Skating Paradise

Ice skating frozen lake

Using a skating rink for training or fun is usually the only practical option, but it’s impossible to forget just how artificial the entire experience is. Loud, tinny music and having to dodge between dozens of people will sometimes make you wish that you could skate all by yourself – even outdoors.

Although not a possibility in milder latitudes, skating in nature is not as much of an eccentric hobby as you may think. Group tours and packages are available, including multi-day treks along rivers and streams. If you’re the adventurous type, you can also follow the DIY route and just go camping near a lake. Just make very sure that the ice is indeed strong enough to play on.

frozen lake

Getting Back to the Roots of Ice Skating

Long before anyone ever thought of hockey or figure skating, a few enterprising souls figured out that it’s much faster to go across a frozen lake than around it, and that frozen rivers or canals make great raceways and transport routes.

The earliest known ice skates – from Finland, and estimated to be 3 millennia old – were simply hollow bones that could be strapped to a bootsole lengthwise. These only had a limited ability to steer, so the skater would use poles to push forward and turn, somewhat like skiing. It took quite some time for sharpened blades made of metal to make skating easier and more fun, but even then the point was usually to get from point A to point B quickly and without working up too much of a sweat.

Keeping Safe

Getting hot and sweaty is good cardio, but if you don’t have a conveniently warm place to cool down afterwards, evaporation will quickly leave you shivering and can lead to hypothermia. Even if you’re staying at a lodge or cabin with a fireplace, it’s definitely a good idea to have a warm, dry change of clothing waiting for you when you get off the ice.

Should you desire to really get away from it all, it’s still essential to choose a spot where you can park a car nearby. Accidents do happen to even the most skilled skaters, and trying to hike back to civilization with a torn ligament or sprained ankle is not anyone’s idea of a good time.

Camping in the cold entails some risks all by itself. These can easily be managed if you know what you’re doing, but it’s definitely a bad idea to try it by yourself unless you’ve done it before. It’s always best to camp together for a number of reasons: you can share equipment and the work of preparing meals, keep each other entertained once the sun goes down and help out if something should go wrong.

frozen lake and mountains

What You’ll Need

Lake and river ice isn’t always quite as smooth, clean and homogeneous as the surface of a rink, so take a pair of sturdy touring or hockey skates even if you pack figure skates as well. Several spare sets of socks will come in handy too, as fabric doesn’t really dry out quickly when the temperature is below freezing.

A good set of winter camping gear will probably set you back almost as much as a more conventional holiday, but this isn’t something you should neglect. A sleeping bag intended for use in warmer climates will never be “almost good enough,” and without things like an insulated sleeping pad, you’re sure to have a terrible time.

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Getting Back Into Condition After a Serious Injury

skating injury

Figure skating is one of the most demanding sports when it comes to the strain it places on the ankles, knees, shins, hips and back. Serious head injuries aren’t unknown, and more than one skater has suffered deep gashes from another’s skates, and sadly the rule changes introduced in 2003 have only made figure skating more dangerous than before.

skating feet

Prevention Is Better than Cure

If you’re reading this, chances are you don’t want to hear “I told you so,” but this might also be a chance to learn from a recent mistake. In fact, one of the jobs of a good coach is to keep their students from attempting moves they’re not physically ready for. At the same time, a common characteristic of figure skaters who compete successfully is the willingness to push their own boundaries when practicing – sometimes this means taking a spill, which is usually more embarrassing than anything else, and sometimes it means tearing a tendon or worse.

An injury can delay your progress even more than slacking off in training can. For this reason if no other, it pays to be as careful as possible when introducing a new move or combination into your routine, including practicing it off-ice until the movements become a matter of muscle memory.

All the care in the world, however, won’t prevent the occasional injury from happening. When this occurs, it’s extremely important to take the steps that will get you back on the ice as soon as possible.

Watch Your Diet

All athletes should keep the demands they place on their body in mind when they eat. For most, this means getting adequate amounts of carbohydrates, protein and the micronutrients that enable optimum aerobic and muscular performance. Skaters, with the stress they place on their on bones, joints and connective tissue, have a few extra requirements. This is important in normal training, and doubly so when hurt.

green salad

Calcium

A bone fracture takes at least 6 weeks to heal, and much longer before that limb will be as resilient as before. It’s no secret that you have to take in calcium to build bone mass, but not everybody realizes that magnesium and vitamins D and K are needed for your body to actually make the calcium in your diet available. A good quality supplement may be advisable.

Green vegetables, tofu, unboned sardines and of course dairy are all good sources of calcium.

Bone Broth

Although taking a full day to prepare a mean isn’t for everyone, boiling bones to make a soup base has significant health benefits. In the first place, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and a whole bunch of useful minerals are all released into the broth, and importantly, in a form that the human body can easily absorb.

Anyone who’s recovering from a skeletal, tendon or joint injury will also benefit from its anti-inflammatory properties, and more significantly the amino acids, collagen and gelatin it contains. All proteins aren’t just for muscle: connective tissue also needs to be nourished to be restored.

Girl ice rink

Take Your Time in Off-Ice Recovery

However eager you may be to resume serious training, slow and steady progress is always best. Even when the injured part feels fine once more, it’s most likely still weaker than it was and will need time and gentle exercise to regain its former conditioning.

To avoid the risk of re-injury, it’s recommended to work out in ways that simulate skating but don’t offer quite the same level of strain. If one of your leg joints is banged up, whirling around a parking lot on an electric unicycle provides an experience similar to actually skating and allows you to keep the unconscious movements involved in balancing in practice. They’re also useful in daily life and look cool, so it’s worthwhile spending a few hundred bucks if you choose IPS or King Song as brands.

Practicing yoga is also an excellent way to ease your way back into the game. It trains almost exactly those things figure skaters need most: core and limb strength, balance and flexibility, yet is gentle enough not to further strain an injury.

It sucks to feel a sudden pain one day and suddenly be an invalid for several weeks, but that’s also part of figure skating. “Getting back on the horse” before you’re healed will only set you back further, so have some patience, do exercises that won’t aggravate your injury further, and you’ll be at 100% again before you realize.

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4 Simple Ways to Stay in Shape for Ice Skating During Off-Season

Figure skating seems to be something that its athletes are born with – natural grace, balance, artistic flair and technique come to mind – but only so much of these important traits that lead to the sport’s most successful athletes possess are down to being born with it. The rest simply involves a whole lot of practice, practice, and a lot more practice.

But you don’t have to be Tonya Harding or Kim Yuna to consistently be able to do what you want to do out on the rink – after all, many of us non-athletes skate for the fun of it. But to those of you who are budding enthusiasts, you should know that a lot of preparation goes into being ready anytime you step out there on the rink.

And that’s why we came up with 4 important ways for you to stay fit during off season so that you don’t miss a beat on your axels and turns out there, even if you’re not a professional – check them out.

1. Build And Improve Your Cardio Levels

Good cardiovascular fitness will always be a good thing to anybody practicing any sport. Building your cardio levels for skating will always be of important benefit, especially when you prepare for more explosive and high intensity workouts that will definitely and undoubtedly be the core of your workout plan as an athlete. Get your runs, jump ropes, biking, and resistance training in to build important upper body, lower body and core strength…you’ll thank us later when you do some of the exercises described in this article further.

That’s where high intensity exercise comes in – running in bursts, plyometrics, and other types of jumping.
Some examples: running, jumping rope, biking.

2. Do Compound Exercises

Endurance can be further enhanced by doing compound exercises – which are also forms of functional training. Try combining squat holds with explosive movements involving your legs and your quads to build good balance, improve muscle memory, and build power in the muscles that will be supporting your techniques out on the rink itself for extended periods. Your anaerobic systems will thank you for pushing them to the limit and strengthening themselves in the process…and in doing so, making the cardiovascular system itself work.

3. Practice Resistance Training

Resistance training is a great way to build muscle strength, particularly for the muscles that you will be most often using for ice skating – that is, your upper and lower body as well as your core. Using a machine that helps your arms, legs and your back is great if you have access to one – rowing machines are the absolute best in this regard – or classic dumbbells as the next best thing. Just make sure you perfect your form – lifting heavy means nothing unless you do it properly. Better the one who lifts light weights with perfect form rather than the blowhard who makes an ass of himself trying to impress everybody but having the incorrect form anyway.

4. Try Dryland Training

This is one of the seasoned hockey coach’s most important playbooks for training – dryland training involving high intensity interval workouts and plyometric training for much improved targeted training which will definitely complement the work you will be putting out on the rink, because the principles of proper ice skating remain the same across all ice sports.

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Women in Skating: 5 Stars of the Present

Ice skating has grown leaps and bounds from the days of Janet Champion and Dorothy Hamill – and nowadays, it’s the women who are shattering old records and taking the sport to a whole different level. Gone are the days of a single mazurka or a double axel being the be all and end all of the sport…say hello to triple axels and extremely intricate jumps.

Women are a leading force in this sport, so we took the time to pay tribute to 5 of its foremost stars in the recent era – so we can pay homage to their role in changing the face of the sport almost entirely. And they deserve all the recognition and respect that they do.

1. Kim Yuna

Who could forget Queen Yuna herself in the flesh? Quite frankly, Bucheon, Korea-born Kim Yuna’s absolutely breathtaking performance in the 2010 Olympics stands as arguably the pinnacle of aesthetic ice skating beauty of all time – and at quite surely in recent memory, because they are etched forever in the record books as some of the highest scores ever recorded in the sport. Her elegance and grace in these performances and her ruthlessness in her athletic ability literally destroyed all of her competitors in sight en route to the championship. She is most definitely something to look out for – remember, she has barely scratched her potential. Remarkable, isn’t it? All hail the queen.

2. Katarina Witt

Staaken, East Germany-born Katarina Witt heralded the age of modern ice skating in so many ways – not only did she have a reputation as a ruthless, callous competitor who struck fear in the eyes of her competitors and terrorized her opponents with her gamesmanship and piercing looks, and still remains the only woman to have won two consecutive Olympic gold medals. She parlayed her success on the rink into mainstream popularity as a sex symbol by breaking the mold of what constituted outfits during competitions – going so far as having a rule instituted thanks to her. The “Katarina Rule” states that performers must wear more conservative outfits in response to Witt rocking a trademark skimpy suit…skimpier than the usual. A true trailblazer for everyone who continues her success off the rink as a business owner and actress.

3. Analeigh Tipton

Analeigh Tipton is one of the ice skating figures who parlayed her early success in the field into mainstream popularity towards a career in showbusiness. The Minneapolis-born model and celebrity is not just known for her exploits in her career as a young figure skater, but also for her appearances in TV as a top ranker in America’s Next Top Model, apart from appearances on the silver screen such as Warm Bodies and Crazy in Love. Who’s to say there’s no life after the lights and crowds of figure skating?

4. Michelle Kwan

There is nothing more anybody can say about Michelle Kwan – she is, after all, only one of the most decorated and most renowned figure skaters in Olympics and skating history itself. She has been one of the most consistent performers in the history of the sport from her early days as a substitute to more established skaters (and just as remarkable a career as many), Tony Harding and Nancy Kerrigan in the 1994 Olympics. And she still remains as one of the most experssively artistic in terms of technique as well as one of the most recognizable faces in the sport as a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

5. Tanith Belbin

Kingston, Canada-born American Tanith Jessica Belbin is one of the brightest lights in recent memory as one of the most decorated ice skaters in the history of the United States and the world, and is proudly representing the USA as one of its leading lights on the world stage.

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Difficult Figure Skating Moves

Anyone who loves the sport of figure skating will likely tell you they love the sport because of the seemingly impossible jumps and graceful moves of the skaters. The best skaters make it all look so effortless – it’s almost as if the ice surface is simply an extension of their own bodies. It’s one of the most graceful sports on the planet and the athletes that take part in this sport are something akin to magicians. At least it seems this way to us mere mortals that have two feet firmly planted on the ground pretty much all of the time. We thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the more difficult moves in the figure skating bag of tricks.

The Lutz

One of the most graceful moves in figure skating, at least in one person’s humble opinion, is the triple Lutz. The Lutz was first performed way back in 1913 by a skater named Alois Lutz. Ever since that first appearance of the move figure skaters have been trying to perfect it and take it to the next level. It involves a toe pick taking off from the back outside edge of one foot and landing on the back outside edge of the other foot. These days a triple Lutz is fairly common place with three spins in the air before the skater comes back down on their opposite foot. They may make it look effortless, but every skater that performs it has put in hours of practise.

Browning and the Quad

Compared to the quad a triple Lutz is child’s play. The quad was first performed by Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning in 1988 and it made him an instant success. Other skaters had tried it before and some had even managed it in practise, but none had ever pulled it off in completion before when the pressure was on. Today almost all male figure skaters have a quad in their routine and those that don’t rarely win competitions.

Is a Quintuple Even Possible?

After the quad became pretty much common place in the figure skating world some in the business started to consider the quintuple. That’s a jump with five rotations in the air before hitting the ice. There’s a lot of debate on whether this is even possible and at the moment it seems that the consensus opinion is that this probably isn’t humanly possible. Then again that’s what they said about the quad.

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How Technology is Changing Figure Skating for the Better

Technology is transforming all aspects of our lives and the sport of figure skating is not immune to this never ending march forward. While figure skating may be seen as a traditional sport with a stubborn reliance on so called old ways of doing things nothing could be further from the truth. The sport has actually embraced new technologies over the years and that pace of acceptance has continued to increase with each passing year. Here are some interesting ways that technology is transforming the sport of figure skating.

Waterproof Toe Picks

Technology hasn’t always been about how to make Wi-Fi routers get smarter every day. In the 1940’s figure skaters just wanted to be able to keep their feet dry and believe it or not that it was a serious issue back then. Technology isn’t always glamorous and it isn’t always spectacular, but more often than not it does change the world for the better in some way or another. That’s what happened when the first waterproof toe pick was placed on a skate in the 1940’s. Today this type of technology is taken for granted and we have 1940’s technology to thank for that.

Instant Replay

I remember watching a figure skating competition as a small child in the 80’s and listening to my mother remark how unfair the judging was. That may have had something to do with less than honest judges at the time, but it also had a fair bit to do with the limits of the technology at the time. There was no such thing as instant replay in any sport in the 80’s and definitely not in figure sporting. Fast-forward about three decades and times sure have changed. Like many sports figure skating has now adopted instant replay technology that allows judges to take a second look and make sure they made the right call.

Stromotion

Watching figure skaters perform almost inhuman feats has become something we’re used to and they make it look effortless. Whether it’s a triple Lutz, a quad, or any other number of jumps they provide us with a magical viewing experience just about every single time. It may all look effortless, but it’s not. Those jumps we see on television are the result of hours of choreography and practise. By using a new stop motion technology known as stromotion coaches can now analyze their skaters jumps one frame at a time.

Smart Ice Skates

All of that jumping that figure skaters do has to have an effect on the body – especially when you consider that the force exerted on the body from each jump is roughly 6 times the skater’s body weight. That’s a lot of force being applied every time they come down on their feet and that takes a toll on the body. Well now there’s a new type of skate called a smart skate that can actually measure and record the impact of each jump. With the use of this technology trainers and coaches can potentially help to prevent injuries to athletes going forward.

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Why they Flood and Clean the Ice Surface

Recently, I purchased an excellent power washer that I discovered here on Wash Wisely. The reason I mention this is that as I was using my new power washer to clean my deck the other day, it got me to thinking about how important the process of flooding and cleaning the ice is for figure skating competitions. I thought that would make for a great subject for our next post.

Why do they Flood?

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch the arena crew preparing the ice for a major figure skating competition, you may have wondered why they were flooding the ice with water. It’s actually quite intuitive when you think about it. Ice is just frozen water, so when the ice becomes damaged from excessive use you have to fill the gaps with fresh water to create the smooth surface that the skaters need to perform their routines. That’s exactly what the ice crew is doing when they flood the ice with fresh water. It’s a painstaking process, but without the efforts of these tireless individuals we wouldn’t get to enjoy the finest of exhibitions in world class figure skating.

What About the Zamboni?

A friend of mine asked me the other day “What exactly is a Zamboni?” That was a good question, and one that does require a bit of clarification. A Zamboni is actually just a certain brand of ice resurfacer, and it does have its competitors. It just happens to be the frontrunner, and that’s why most people associate these machines synonymously with this company’s name. It’s an honest mistake for the uninitiated.

So the question still remains – what exactly is a Zamboni or ice resurfacer? Essentially, it’s a machine that automates the process of flooding the ice with fresh water to repair the surface. In the past this was done by a team of individuals with shovels and buckets of water, and that was a rather time-consuming process that also made for some unpredictable results. The Zamboni was definitely a game changer.

What’s the Difference Between Fast Ice and Slow Ice?

Another couple of terms that are often used when referring to figure skating are fast ice and slow ice. In fact, these are terms that actually originated with the game of hockey, but they apply just as well to figure skating. Fast ice refers to fresh ice that’s just been resurfaced. It is completely free of debris and is categorized by a fresh sheen on the surface that is the newly-applied water. That smooth surface allows the skaters to skate more accurately, but it also makes the surface a little slippery, of course.

Slow ice is what you can expect after the first few competitors have had a spin around the ice. That freshly-flooded surface is quickly covered in ice shavings that can slow down the pace. Slow ice gives the skaters something more to grip, but they can’t get the speed that skaters on fast ice experience.

Periodic Manual Repairs

Something else you’ll notice if you’re attending a live event is that on occasion arena workers will be called in to make periodic manual repairs. The skaters’ safety must always be in the forefront for event organizers, and large holes in the ice have to be fixed as soon as possible. The way they normally do this is by shoveling some of the nearby ice shavings into the hole and then packing it down. If this doesn’t quite fix the problem, they may have to apply a little water, but this takes time to freeze, so it’s not an ideal solution in the middle of a competition.

Can You do It In Your Own Backyard?

Recreating the professional ice surface you find in arenas is pretty difficult to achieve in your back yard, but not impossible. With a lot of painstaking effort and patience, it can be done. Obviously, you can’t afford a Zamboni for the backyard, but by using the manual methods we’ve touched upon above you can create a very smooth surface for practice – you just have to be dedicated to the process.

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The Four Most Famous Figure Skaters of All Time

There have been many famous figure skaters over the years, and that makes it difficult to narrow down the list to the four best. Many had to overcome various adversity to become the best. That’s why we decided to put together a list of the four most famous instead. These four skaters are our choice for the most famous, but there are certainly many who can match their skill – we simply believe these have had the biggest impact on the sport.

Kurt Browning

One of the best male figure skaters to come out of Canada was Kurt Browning. He was known for a bit of artistic flare that many of his contemporaries found hard to match. In figure skating, personality can be the difference between making it to the top and being an also-ran. Browning had that little something special, and that’s why he was able to capture the world title four times, as well as to lead the way for his country. While he never did capture Olympic gold, he was the first man to successfully land a quadruple jump in competition, making it next to impossible to leave him off this list.

Brian Boitano

Between 1985 and 1988 Brian Boitano became a household name for US figure skating fans, and throughout the world. He captured the world championship twice during that period, and in 1988 he reached the pinnacle of the sport by capturing the Olympic gold medal. While 3 years may seem like a short period of time to be at the top of the figure skating world, it was a memorable three years that few will ever forget. He was known as a strong technical skater, but in the early days he struggled with the artistic side. It was the extra attention to his perceived artistic weakness in the time period leading up to the Olympics in 1988 that enabled him to establish his rightful place in the annals of figure skating history.

Katarina Witt

As far as female figure skaters are concerned there’s one name that always comes to mind first – Katarina Witt. Most skaters find it difficult to win an Olympic medal, but Witt was able to find the strength and tenacity to win two Olympic golds. She was also European champion an amazing six times. Witt was known for her solid technical skills and almost flawless execution. She also happened to be in amazing physical shape her whole career, which is why she was able to remain at the top of her sport for so long.

Kristi Yamaguchi

The last skater to make our list is Kristi Yamaguchi. She was a two-time world champion, and in 1992 she reached the top of her sport by winning Olympic gold. She may not have quite the pedigree of some of the female skaters that came before her, but she was still one of figure skating’s shining lights during a successful career. It didn’t hurt that she was also a celebrity champion on Dancing with the Stars!

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The Importance of Image for the Figure Skater

For a champion figure skater there may be nothing more important than picture-perfect grooming, and that means every little detail from clothing to hairdo and make-up. You’re trying to create an image that will impress the judges and influence their perception of you in a positive way. In a cutthroat and competitive sport like figure skating, every advantage counts. Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind, on and off the ice, to help improve your image for the judges.

Personal Grooming

We’ve already touched upon personal grooming being of huge importance in the figure skating world, but this comes down to more than just a couple of stray nose hairs. Now, the best choice for removing nose hair is a special trimmer, but details like this are just the easy part. It also means making sure your hair is neat and tidy and that it suits your overall appearance – it’s all about the whole package. The right amount and the style of your make-up is also something you have to consider. Remember, you’re being judged on everything as a professional figure skater; not just your ability on the ice. This may seem very subjective and a little unfair, but it is the reality that the figure skating world deals with at every major competition.

Weight and Physical Appearance

Think back to the last figure skating competition you watched on TV. Were there any overweight competitors or ones that seemed to have anything but flawless features? It’s doubtful, for three main reasons. First, the rigors of the sport demand that competitors keep themselves in the best of shape, so it’s rare that they’ll appear anything other than slim and trim. Secondly, when it comes to doubles skating, male skaters are expected to lift their female partners; for this to work well both skaters need to be light enough to pull it off. Last, it comes down to the judges again. Even if you could remain competitive while packing a few extra pounds, it’s doubtful you’d do well with the judges. This may sound a little dubious, but it’s the simple truth of today’s current figure skating reality.

The Costumes

The final thing that’s important to get right, if you want to impress the judges with your impeccable image as a figure skater, is your costume. This should be carefully chosen to match your choreography and your chosen music. You’re trying to impress the judges with your talent as well as your artistic impression. This is probably even more important for anyone competing in pairs skating, where you also have to coordinate your costume with your partner’s. Of course, professional figure skaters get a lot of help from a team behind the scenes, but the most successful skaters have a lot of control over their costume and their image as a whole.

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Money is No Reason to Keep your Child from Skating

Any sport can be expensive for parents and that can be stressful – especially if you know your child has the talent to succeed at the highest level. Every parent wants to believe their kid has something special, of course, so you have to really be honest with yourself before making a strong financial commitment. If you really, truly believe that your child has what it takes, don’t use “I can’t afford it” as an excuse. Here’s why.

Second Hand Skates

The most expensive piece of equipment for the newbie figure skater is the skates – these can easily cost you a couple hundred dollars or more. Instead of saving your pennies for the most expensive pair you can find, look on sites like Kijiji for great deals you can afford now. It’s better to get your child’s figure skating journey started with older skates than to not start at all.

Look for Free Ice-Time Opportunities

Ice time is not cheap, so rather than jumping in feet first by renting ice in a rink, look for free opportunities. Many towns have free outdoor skating rinks in the winter and these are a great place for your child to begin learning to skate. There’s no point in rushing them off to lessons if they can’t handle the basics as yet.

Local Clubs May Help

Once you’ve gotten past the initial introductions to skating and you’re confident that your child does have potential, try looking for local clubs that may offer to sponsor them along the way. These sponsors may not pay for everything, but their help may be enough to make the financial burden bearable for parents that are struggling with the expense.

Find a Coach that Offers Mini Lessons

Full hour lessons with a professional figure skating coach can be expensive, but don’t be shy in asking your local coach if they offer mini lessons. Some coaches offer half-hour or even 15 minute lessons. That may not sound like much, but the skills your child can learn this way will be invaluable.

Try Every Other Week

If you can’t afford to have your child enrolled in weekly figure skating lessons, why not consider every other week? An enthusiastic student will still make strong progress towards their figure skating goals as long as they can learn to practice on their own during the off-weeks. No challenge is insurmountable, you just need to get creative.

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