Skating Legacy - Injuries and Healing

By Kristen Townsend


August 1, 2016
   In The Loop Extended Articles

Many years ago I made a decision. It was the decision to dedicate myself to my skating and to push myself as hard as I could, to become the most advanced skater that all my hard work would allow.

For me, that dedication looked like 4:30am practice sessions before school; after school training with a team of specialist coaches; hours of off-ice conditioning either in the gym or in my bedroom; skating in my tennis shoes through the grocery store aisles; reading biographies about the professional skaters who I admired so much; long drives to training camps and skate shops; always preparing for a competition or a skating test; and sometimes it looked like healing an injury. It looked like every moment I wasn’t on the ice, I was thinking about my world on the ice. What it didn’t look like but also became, as it happens to many, was a whole mess of neuroses about self-worth, body image, food, and some twist of a perfectionism complex.

As my dedication to my sport developed, so did the enmeshment of my identity as “a skater”. Being a skater was not only part of my identity, but was my entire identity and my entire world.  Every paper or project I was assigned in school was somehow executed in a way that it related to skating.

Then one day, my life forever changed. Where I am now in life is definitely nothing I ever dreamed of, but I feel it as a “dream come true” life I’m living. And the beginning of that shift; that bend in the river of the skating life I was living, happened in a single moment.  One moment I was training Lutzes with one of my all- time favorite coaches, planning out my next jump take off, and the next moment I was falling to the ice with my knee cap distorted and out of place. That particular healing journey was long, full of peaks and valleys, and in a way triumphant, but led me down I path I had never envisioned.

The road I have traveled since that moment has been one full of healers, trainers, coaches and teachers who have guided me through the disentanglement of my identity as solely an ice skater, and who taught me about living passion in a more balanced way, and how that doesn’t lessen one’s passion or dedication - it just means that peaks and valleys along the journey don’t uproot my sense of happiness, nor my sense of identity or purpose.

It has been this support network who I’ve chosen to inspire me as a coach and as a teacher. The skaters that I teach learn to train smart rather than hard. They understand the importance of their conditioning and in the structure of their skating practice as it relates to injury prevention and training muscle memory. We only ever discuss food as it relates to nutrition and supporting their health and building strength, rather than ever allowing the discussion to relate to how their bodies look. And we celebrate their accomplishments off the ice - their music, their art, their playtime with their friend s- we celebrate happiness and connection and their growth as the amazing young women that they are. My mission is to give them all the wonderful and positive elements of the skating world and hold a space for us all that doesn’t feed the neuroses and drama that is the primary experience of many skaters.