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Figure skater Patrick Chan staying sharp

Written by: Cary Castagna, QMI Agency
May. 3, 2013

Patrick Chan. (Supplied)


Like many guys his age, Patrick Chan loves to play video games.

But to an extent.

The 22-year-old Ottawa native can only handle so much sitting around.

“I do love video games. But after a while, you feel like you really need to get up and do something,” he tells Sun Media in a phone interview.

“There isn’t quite a feeling you get from playing video games that you get when you’re playing sports, which is like a sense of euphoria. You just get the satisfaction of doing something active and feeling good after.”

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Besides, Chan didn’t become a three-time world figure skating champion by sitting on his couch.

In fact, he credits an extensive off-ice fitness regimen for giving him an edge on the ice — which has caught the attention of his competitors.

“I think skaters have noticed I’ve had some success with doing a proper off-ice program. So I think a lot of skaters are now picking it up,” explains Chan, fresh off a gold medal-winning performance at last month’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ont.

“Funny enough, the world silver medalist this year who came right behind me (Denis Ten), he went and saw my trainer in Calgary. He’s from Kazakhstan and he went all the way to Calgary to see my trainer (fitness guru Andy O’Brien) just to get assessed and get an off-ice program. He had never done any kind of off-ice training, but he saw that’s a part of figure skating that people shouldn’t overlook.”

In general, figure skaters have been slow to embrace off-ice training, Chan says.

“They like to stick to the tradition of just skating. But look at all the sports nowadays. Records are being broken. People are getting stronger and faster and more flexible. People are evolving and becoming better athletes. So you have to somehow keep up.”

The reigning champ — 150 pounds at five-foot-seven — isn’t just keeping up.

He’s setting the pace.

Chan, currently on a cross-Canada tour with Stars On Ice, hits the gym most days at 9 a.m.

He starts with an aerobic warm-up, either on the treadmill or elliptical machine.

It’s a progressive warm-up that builds in intensity for about 15-20 minutes. On the treadmill, for example, Chan begins by walking at a “very high incline to activate my glutes and get warm,” before breaking into an 11 km/h run at a 5% incline.

Then he moves into some active stretching, followed by explosive-style resistance training involving mostly bodyweight-only exercises.

“I don’t really do any kind of weights. If I do, it’s light and it’s mainly my legs and core. I don’t really do any upper body that much,” he explains, adding that his dad has a weightlifting background. “He’s very thick in the upper body, so I think I got some of his genetics. I carry a lot of muscle easily.”

Chan skates up to six days a week, three and a half hours a day.

“Not straight through. There’s breaks in between,” he adds.

The six-time Canadian champ, who follows a largely gluten-free and organic diet, rounds out what is often a 9 a.m.-to-6 p.m. training day with “studio work.” That includes a session of modern dance and stability exercises with his coach Kathy Johnson.

It’s an arduous schedule.

But for Chan, who plans to relocate his skating base from Colorado Springs to Detroit after he wraps up his Stars On Ice tour next month, it works.

“Although it’s hard some days to wake up an hour earlier to do the gym workout as opposed to other skaters who just show up to the rink, I know that if I don’t do it, my day will be much worse. I might as well not even skate actually,” says the man who’s intent on capturing his first Olympic medal at next year’s Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. “It’s very important for me to go to the gym in the morning and activate myself and get warmed up. It makes a huge difference on the ice.”

And he certainly earns some evening screen time with his favourite video games.

 

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