For most skaters warming up means taking a few laps around the rink then running a couple basic drills before a lesson with a coach. But warming up should begin before you lace up your skates for optimal performance on the ice. To reduce the risk of injury and improve performance of any activity, including figure skating, your muscles need to be fully warm before you put them to work. Your heart rate should be faster than it is at rest, but not pounding. A good rule to go by is that you should be breaking out in a light sweat by the end of your warm-up. The simple truth is that many skaters neglect the warm-up in favor of skating practice instead of viewing the warm-up as a tool that can make your on ice practice that much better and more effective.
A warm up is needed to incrementally increase your heart rate so your circulatory system is eased into the demands of intensive exercise. It will increase blood flow to your muscles so that your muscles are primed with an increased supply of oxygen and nutrients before you begin to use them. Another critical benefit is that when you warm up, you’re allowing your body to move through a range of motion which not only loosens up your joints, but also reduces the chance of soft tissue injury (your ligaments, tendons, fascia etc.). Not only do you reduce the chance of both soft tissue and muscular injury, but you give yourself the opportunity to practice sport specific balance and coordination improving your reaction time and nerve-muscle connections.
Since the benefits of warming up are many and to not do so increases your chance of injury, is it not worth spending the extra five to ten minutes before you lace up your skates?
PS: We needed an excuse to share this image of Dion Phaneuf – see, even professional NHL players warm up!