Few people know their way around the surface of an ice skating rink as well as Kimberly Derrick. As a member of two U.S. Olympic speed skating teams, and a medal winner at two speed skating world championship events and the 2010 Olympics, Kim proved herself to be one of the best skaters on the planet.
When she was living in Utah and training with the U.S. Olympic team, Kimberly would often hop out on the ice with some of the young skaters and answer their questions about what it would take for each of them to get better. If you were fortunate enough to have been out on the ice with Kimberly, here are five things she probably would have told you.
1. Other forms of skating can help you on the ice
Not everyone has access to a local skating rink, and those that do are at the mercy of the schedule makers and the hours they set for open skating. According to Kimberly, who decided she wanted to skate in the Olympics when she was 8 years old, early access to ice doesn’t matter as much as you might think.
“I didn’t get into ice skating until I was 18,” said Kimberly. “When you’re younger, doing both inline skating and ice skating can be beneficial. On the 2010 Olympic team, seven of the ten speed skaters were actually former inline skaters. They know that inliners can be used to feed the speed skating program.”
2. Nutrition makes a big difference
At this point, everyone knows the food you eat directly influences athletic performance. With that being said, sometimes you have to step outside of your culinary comfort zone in order to make sure your diet is what it should be… especially if you want to get all of your food from natural sources. That’s a lesson that Kimberly says she learned the hard way.
“My iron and vitamin D levels were really low, and our nutritionist told me that I needed to eat fish,” explained Kimberly. “I said that I didn’t like fish, and the nutritionist turned around and told me that I needed to learn to like fish because that was the only way I was going to help my iron and vitamin D. I had to learn to like red meat, too. Other than that, I would follow my training schedule, so in a hard week I would eat more carbs and less protein.”
3. You’ll need to build muscle
The only way for a speed skater to maintain balance while cornering at speeds exceeding 25 miles an hour is if they have a great deal of strength. Ultimately, mastering the most challenging aspects of the sport requires skaters to add a certain amount of muscle mass. As Kimberly learned when she got to college, the best place to do this is in the gym.
"During the summers, we would lift three or four times a week to build our base, and then we would lift two days a week during the season just to keep building some strength,” said Kimberly. “We would do deadlifts, power cleans, back squats and front squats. For me, the best thing I could do for my training was endurance lifting, so one of my sets might have been ten sets of ten reps on back squats with ascending weight, or five sets of 30 or 40 speed squats.”
4. Sports-specific training is essential for on-ice success
Aside from training on the ice or in the weight room, there are other ways of developing the strength required to perform all of the physically demanding techniques that speed skating requires. Kimberly advises that young speed skaters perform plenty of sports-specific resistance exercises off the ice.
“Sports-specific exercises are some of the best things you can do because you can build the muscle, and also develop great muscle memory,” explained Kimberly. “You can do things like dry skating and one-legged squats in the skating position, and there are also the slide board and the belt that simulates the lean you get in the corner. All of these exercises help.”
5. You’re never too good to learn something new
Kimberly found the transition from inline skating to be very challenging, but fortunately, Shani Davis was there to lend her a hand at getting acclimated to her new sport. Even so, it took Kimberly three or four years of diligent training just to master the technique of pushing into the ice instead of skating on top of it while cornering, and she says she was continuing to learn things right up until the very end.
“I feel like, right up until I quit skating, I was learning something new every day,” admitted Kimberly. “Every skater is different, and every skater needs to learn their own body. You’re leaning things throughout the process, and you apply the new information to your body as you go. There are different ways of doing things, and I’ve found that most up-and-coming skaters are anxious to learn.”
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