It’s Elementary, My Dear….

Skaters and coaches often ask me, “What is the best approach to learning a higher level spin?” My answer is simple: go back to the basics.

This may seem counter intuitive to a skater that has already mastered the basic spins and even a combination or two. But you need to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. Although it may not always be what they want to hear, I tell my students that the best approach in learning any new spin is to take baby steps rather than just dive right in.

If you focus only on the execution of the new spin, you are more likely to build in bad habits from the start. For example, a skater may find that even though they are doing the mechanics of a flying camel correctly, they are still struggling with the spin. This is because they are forgetting the basic building blocks common to all spins, whether it is a forward scratch or a death drop.

There are four to six basic elements to each spin. As you learn the new spin, break it down into these basic steps: entry, centering, spin position, and exit and remember these key points:

• Remember what I like to call “Centeration”
– stepping into the center of the circle after your crossovers to keep your spin centered.
• Go ¾ of a circle before you step into the spin and pull in
• Keep your arms in a skinny “V” as you enter.
• Push into the spin…think Spinergy!
• Keep your belly button “sewn” to your back as you spin.
• Return your arms to the skinny V as you exit.

Using a more “elementary” approach to learning a spin will give you a stronger basic spin position. When we talk about a basic spin position being strong, that means 20 rounds in base position v.s. three rounds. Although three rounds will get you credit for the spin by the judges, 20 rounds are what will make you competitive!
For example, when starting combo spins or variations of a base spin such as a pancake, first master three rounds in basic sit position, three rounds in pancake position and then come up to skinny “V” and exit. That’s crawling. Next, add on rounds four and four, then five and five and so on until you can do 20 rounds in a pancake position – now you are going from crawling to walking AND running!

As you practice any new spin, break it down to these building blocks and pay attention to the little details. Then process everything and put all of the elements together when you take your lesson. Try this approach for one week, and you will see results. That’s what I call Spinergy!

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 Giving Your Spins that Competitive Edge

Giving Your Spins that Competitive Edge

Competition season is just around the corner. When you step out on the ice in front of the judges will your spins be as polished as your skates?

In preparation for competition, many skaters focus their practice on the program as a whole, or on elements specific to their program, especially jumps. While this is an important part of your preparation strategy, you and your coach also need to dedicate some practice time to building the skills and strength that will give your spins a competitive edge.

Here are some of the “training tricks” I recommend to my students who are preparing for competition.

  • Look at your calendar and set a time frame for preparation. If your first competition is October 12, for example, you are going to want to start your spin training at least 6 weeks prior – the last week in August. Keep in mind that although you may practice up until the competition day, you are not going to gain anything new in the last 3 weeks.
  • Set aside a specific amount of time in your practice to focus on spins. Spin practice should be a set process both within your lesson and when practicing on your own. Work with your main coach to include some spin work in every lesson. When practicing on your own, you should spend 15 minutes on spins for every hour of on-ice practice.
  • Aim for 20 rounds in basic positon for every spin in your program. Although you may only be required to perform 6 rotations to get credit for a spin, to make sure it is solid under pressure, aim for 20 rotations when practicing the spin by itself. Then you can move on to your combination spins, but remember the stronger the base position the stronger the spin.
  • Cross Train to build endurance and strength. Build your strength and endurance off ice as well as on. Do back bends and wall walking at home to improve flexibility for laybacks; deep knee bends for sit spins.
  • Warm up and cool down with spins. Begin and end each practice session with spins. Although they require strength and conditioning, they will get you moving and ready for the more aerobic part of your practice such as jumps and running through your program.


There will be times when 20 rounds seems impossible, or it’s just not a good spin day. But keep working consistently and by the time of your first completion, your spins will be as dazzling as your skating costume!

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