Goal set­ting is very im­por­tant be­cause it gives you things to strive for and try to suc­ceed.

Figure Skater Fitness - - IN THE SPOTLIGHT - by Adri­ana Ermter

Gabrielle Dale­man wears the weight of the Olympic gold and World bronze medals hang­ing from their rib­bons around her neck like a pro. She should. The 21-year-old New­mar­ket, On­tar­ian has been prepar­ing for grandeur since she first laced up a pair of fig­ure skates in 2002.

“My par­ents put me in CanSkate when I was four; they thought ev­ery Cana­dian child should know how to skate,” af­firms Dale­man. They were right, be­cause four years later while watch­ing Joan­nie Ro­chette com­pete for Canada dur­ing the 2006 Olympics, Dale­man turned to her par­ents and said, “that is what I want to do when I grow up.” So she did. She has. And de­spite a de­bil­i­tat­ing fall, which could have ended her ca­reer, Dale­man con­tin­ues to make strides for­ward—all with the sup­port of her fam­ily, friends and the Gran­ite Club where she trains with her coach Lee Barkell and chore­og­ra­pher Lori Nichol.

How did your fall im­pact you?

“Dur­ing the warm-up for the World Team Tro­phy com­pe­ti­tion I was in the process of warm­ing up my dou­ble axel to triple toe com­bi­na­tion. I was skat­ing for­ward and then turned back­wards be­fore my take-off of the axel jump. While I had my back turned, an­other skater had drifted out from the boards and into my path, so when I turned around to jump, she was there. I tried to avoid her, but our blades still touched and I went fly­ing to the ice. It was a hard fall, caus­ing me to have a con­cus­sion, a per­fo­rated eardrum, two bro­ken ribs and a badly bruised knee.

Not re­al­iz­ing how badly I was hurt, I still at­tempted my Free Skate at the com­pe­ti­tion. Later that month I tried to do some shows, but I was un­able to per­form. I took the rest of April and May off to re­cover from my in­juries and hoped it would be enough time, but my re­cov­ery was slow. I was go­ing to see a con­cus­sion doc­tor in Toronto. I had to take mi­graine medicine to get the headaches from the con­cus­sion to stop. I had to see an oph­thal­mol­o­gist for my vi­sion and now, I wear cor­rec­tive glasses for my eyes. I met with Skate Canada, my coach and my par­ents at the be­gin­ning of July and to­gether we de­cided that I would tem­po­rar­ily stop skat­ing since I still had con­cus­sion symp­toms. Skate Canada cre­ated a re­cov­ery plan for me, com­plete with see­ing Meghan But­tle, a phys­io­ther­a­pist who or­ches­trated ev­ery­thing and was the cen­tral per­son who over­saw my re­cov­ery.

I was off the ice un­til the end of Au­gust. When I was al­lowed back on the ice, I had to take it slow with just edges and stroking. Even at Na­tional Camp, I was not al­lowed to do much. I with­drew from all my sum­mer com­pe­ti­tions and the Au­tumn Clas­sic. Fi­nally, I was cleared to do full train­ing by the end of Septem­ber.

I com­peted in Fin­land with only two weeks of full train­ing, so I knew that I was not go­ing to per­form well there and that it was part of the re­cov­ery process. I then com­peted at Skate Canada In­ter­na­tional, two weeks later and had a good short pro­gram, but I didn’t have the mileage for my Free Skate. Dur­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion, I started to be both­ered by the lights and the team doc­tor no­ticed this. So Skate Canada pulled me from the Cup of China event, as they didn’t think I would be able to han­dle the 26-hour trip to Chongqing. I have been good the last few weeks with no symp­toms and I’m prepar­ing for Na­tion­als.”

What steps do you take to pre­vent in­jury now?

“I make sure I al­ways warm-up and cool down prop­erly, not only for com­pe­ti­tions, but for train­ing ses­sions as well. I also make sure I fol­low the diet laid out by my nu­tri­tion­ist so that my body gets the proper fuel it needs for my work­outs and for re­cov­ery. I no longer train when I am in pain and I let my coaches know if some­thing is wrong, where as be­fore I wouldn’t say any­thing.”

I no longer train when I am in pain and I let my coaches know if some­thing is wrong.

How have you coped psy­cho­log­i­cally?

“I won’t lie. I have been deal­ing anx­i­ety for al­most two years and de­pres­sion for al­most a year and a half. The de­pres­sion came last Septem­ber when I fell on the ice and hit my head. My coach didn’t see it and I didn’t tell him. It was then that I ex­pe­ri­enced my first con­cus­sion, but I still com­peted at Salt Lake four days later. Two weeks af­ter that I went into a state of de­pres­sion, as I could not cope with the symp­toms. I didn’t know that it was the con­cus­sion caus­ing me to have con­stant headaches, nau­sea and just not feel­ing like my­self.

Af­ter the ac­ci­dent, in April, I had the same symp­toms, but even though we knew that it was con­cus­sion caus­ing them, it was not any bet­ter. Hav­ing to take time off from the ice is not easy for me. I had to can­cel shows and guest ap­pear­ances. I had to see a con­cus­sion doc­tor, an oph­thal­mol­o­gist, ears, nose and throat spe­cial­ist, my psy­chi­a­trist, my sports psy­chol­o­gist ev­ery two weeks—all to mon­i­tor my re­cov­ery. Not be­ing able to train prop­erly for al­most six months is not an easy thing for any­body, es­pe­cially a high per­for­mance ath­lete. But I also had my fam­ily there for me. My mom and dad were great, mak­ing sure that I got to all my ap­point­ments and was get­ting the proper nu­tri­tion and medicine.”

Are nu­tri­tion and psy­cho­log­i­cal train­ing part of your cur­rent plan?

“I in­clude proper nu­tri­tion reg­i­ments and psy­cho­log­i­cal train­ing in my goal-set­ting plan be­cause fig­ure skat­ing is a tough and de­mand­ing sport, both phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally. I spend up to four hours on the ice in a day and then have an­other one and a half to two hours of off-ice train­ing. So nu­tri­tion is very im­por­tant in not only keep­ing my bod­ies fu­elled to train, but also in re­cov­er­ing from our work­outs as well.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal train­ing is im­por­tant be­cause fig­ure skat­ing is unique from other sports, such as bas­ket­ball or hockey where you re­spond to where the ball or puck is and who has it. In fig­ure skat­ing I know that nine sec­onds into my pro­gram I have a jump com­bi­na­tion and in an­other seven sec­onds af­ter that I an­other jump and so on. If you miss your first jump, you have to be able to men­tally over­come that and re­group for the next 10 el­e­ments. Al­ter­na­tively, if you nail that first jump you need to be able to con­trol that emo­tion as well. All this is through men­tal train­ing. I do a lot im­agery train­ing and talk­ing through pro­grams [with my coach].”

How do you man­age your men­tal health train­ing dur­ing the In-sea­son?

“I meet reg­u­larly with Judy Goss, a sports psy­chol­o­gist and Dr. Carla Ed­wards, a sports psy­chi­a­trist. We dis­cuss chal­lenges or events in my life and strate­gies to help me cope. “

De­scribe your In-sea­son off-ice rou­tine:

“Sprints, weights and core. These in­clude short sprints to tar­get my anaer­o­bic train­ing and my weight pro­gram is con­di­tion­ing in the off-sea­son, strength in the pre-sea­son and power in the com­pet­i­tive sea­son.”

What type of off-ice train­ing did you do to achieve on-ice height?

“Over the years I have done a lot of weight train­ing to strengthen my legs and core to pre­form jumps. I have also in­cor­po­rated ply­o­met­rics into my train­ing pro­gram. My fa­ther is a track coach spe­cial­iz­ing in jumps, so he ba­si­cally trained me like track ath­lete.”

What is your pre-prac­tice, off-ice warm-up?

“I start my warm-up with a slow jog for up to 10 min­utes. Then I do dy­namic moves to get my range of move­ment in my limbs. This can be up to 20 min­utes, start­ing with my up­per body and then mov­ing down to my legs. I then do off-ice jumps and go through var­i­ous parts of my pro­gram’s foot work. My warm-up is prob­a­bly about 45 min­utes.”

How long is your off-ice cool down?

“My cool down starts off with a slow cool down jog for about 10 min­utes. Then, here I do static stretches for about 20 min­utes to try and re­lease the lac­tic acid that has built up in my mus­cles.

How has goal set­ting sup­ported you?

“Goal set­ting is very im­por­tant, be­cause it gives you things to strive for and try to suc­ceed. You need short, medium and long-range goals in or­der to be suc­cess­ful. The short-term goals are things that can be at­tained in weeks or months and the medium ones are in a few months or a year.

I al­ways dreamed that I would one day be a World and Olympic medal­ist. When I was 10, I wanted to go to the Sochi Olympics. So, at the be­gin­ning of each sea­son, my coach and I would cre­ate a set of goals and iden­tify the steps to take to chal­lenge me. Like, when I was 11, I com­peted and won the Ju­ve­nile Ti­tle in On­tario, so I skipped Pre-Novice and jumped straight into the Novice divi­sion. It shocked a lot of peo­ple, but it was one of the steps we had iden­ti­fied to chal­lenge me as a skater. That year, I came in sixth at Na­tion­als and lot of peo­ple thought I was go­ing to stay in that divi­sion. At the end of the sea­son how­ever, my coach and I de­cided to move up to the Ju­nior divi­sion. I worked so hard and trained a lot that sum­mer and into the fall. It paid off, be­cause in Jan­uary I won Ju­nior Na­tion­als just af­ter my 13th birth­day.”

What are your cur­rent goals?

“I would like to go to the next Olympics and as­pire to be on the podium there for the Team and the in­di­vid­ual events. I know I have more in me and I want to show the world that Cana­dian Ladies skat­ing is still very strong.”

How do you keep your­self ac­count­able to your goals?

“I write my goals in a note­book and stick them on a wall in my bed­room. Ev­ery morn­ing I wake up and I see the short-term goals that I am work­ing on so it is in my mind. I also have my medium and long-range goals writ­ten there, as well. I know that in or­der to achieve my medium and long-range goals that I first have to achieve my short-range goals.”

I know that in or­der to achieve my medium and long-range goals that I first have to achieve my short-range goals.

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