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What's With the Emphasis on Slenderness in Figure Skating?

The world of figure skating is famous for its effortless performances, dazzling costumes, and fantastic aesthetics. However, this reputation has long carried some other implications, most notably an emphasis on slenderness. Our minds have long engraved that figure skaters must adhere to a specific body image to perform their multi-rotational jumps and advanced spins. Being lighter is advantageous for jumping because skaters have less mass to carry. They also put less pressure on their joints, meaning less risk of injury, especially when practicing triple jumps.

Looking back at my sports career, I have trained five to six hours a day, six days a week, for most of my life. With that routine, it is hard to gain much weight. When my diet wasn't optimized for healthy performance, I did gain weight. For too long, I ate too many sweets, pastries, pasta, and more, and by the age of 14, I started feeling pain in my knees every time I did triple jumps on ice. No one told me why jumping had started to hurt so much, but I know the answer now - my body wasn't ready for this level of intense training, and, of course, I needed to be lighter to ease the pressure on my knees to be able to make 20-40 jumps each training session.

I think every skater experiences problems like this in one way or another. The most challenging period in any figure skater's career is puberty. As we grow, our bodies change, and it's hard for training programs to keep up. This can mean jump techniques changing a lot, sometimes irreversibly. As a coach, I encourage all of my skaters to maintain healthy, training-optimized diets from the age of 8 or 9. This good habit will help ease puberty's stress on a young skater's body as the body changes at age 13 or 14.

With this in mind, I can confidently say that the emphasis on slenderness that we see in the world of figure skating is more about skaters' health than their appearance. Skaters and coaches at a high level understand this and will be sure to follow healthy habits and maintain a training-optimized diet to stay fit. When a coach recommends weight loss to a skater, they do so because the risk of injury increases with each extra pound, not because they are worried that a skater's costume is too small. This health-focused mentality - as opposed to a mentality focused on aesthetics - is vital, as eating disorders have become common among elite-level skaters. While female skaters are more at risk in this regard, male skaters aren't immune from this pressure.

You will find that much of your success from season to season is dictated by your ability to stay well and injury-free. As a coach, I do not recommend that my skaters follow any special diets or try to lose weight dangerously. Instead, I encourage them to establish healthy eating habits at a young age. That's something that starts at home, with their parents, who can help their budding skaters grow up to be healthy athletes with bright futures and positive mindsets.

About the Author

Victoria Drazdova is a Founder of Victory Skating Academy, an innovative online training platform connecting world-class coaches with athletes across the globe. Victoria has a Bachelor's Degree in single figure skating. She has been coaching for over 10 years. She has developed her own proven, results-oriented off-ice program for skaters of all ages and levels which helps them unlock their potential.

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