Quality vs. Quantity

overedge

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In February, the NYTimes had an article about Chellsie Memmel, 2008 US Olympic gymnast, who's training to compete in the 2020 Olympic qualifiers at age 32. The story is paywalled, but this article sums up most of its points, including that Memmel is focusing her training on "quality execution rather than a high number of repetitions" and taking regular rest days. https://honisoit.com/2020/08/chellsie-memmel-is-not-too-old/

I wonder if this idea is applicable to skating, and not just for adult skaters. IMO you have to do a certain number of repetitions of a move before you get the feel of how to do it well or do it best, but I thought these articles made a really good point that beyond a certain point more repetitions don't really improve performance. I think there are old-school coaches out there who insist on repetitions just because that's how they were trained themselves.
 
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MacMadame

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There is a movement in many sports for doing more with less IME. I see it quite a bit with endurance sports. Elites would train full time so their training hours were a minimum of 20 hours a week plus strength training. Some elites train for marathons running 100 miles a week, for example. And pros training for Ironmans were (and probably still are) training 25-45 hours a week. Because the pros did it, recreational athletes thought they had to do it too.

This leads to what we call "junk miles" where you go out on your bike and ride 50 miles but with no goal in mind. It's just riding to ride or running to run or swimming to swim. You see people doing this posting things on Strave or FB like: "another 50 miles in the bank". But our bodies don't work like that. You can't put just miles in a bank and expect to make progress. If you want to advance, you need progressive overload.

Now if you've never biked 50 miles before, that can be progressive overload. But so can riding 40 miles but 30 minutes of it is at a tempo pace and each week you increase how much of the ride is done at tempo pace.

The other issue is inadequate recovery. Fitness gains actually happen at rest. You tear down your muscles during training and they build themselves back up, but stronger, during your recovery periods. Inadequate recovery means you can't get the full benefit of your workouts. If you are popping Advil and taking ice baths after every workout in order to get through the next workout, you are being inefficient. You'd get better results from doing less during the workout and recovering naturally. And not doing the next workout if you are inadequately recovered.

Time-starved athletes have worked with coaches who are into the science to come up with a better way to train. Even the pros are doing it now. So people are training for Ironmans with 10-15 hours a week. And are succeeding too.

So I do see merit in this approach and I'd like to see it in all sports. More isn't always better. Sometimes less is more. Though if the 16-year-olds in gymnastics or skating start doing this the 30-year-olds are still going to be at a disadvantage. It takes them longer to recover and longer to heal from injury in particular. It would still be better for everyone though.
 

ioana

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I love everything about Chellsie's comeback and would love to see her make a Worlds team after 2021. Assuming she wants to keep going 🤞.

That said, my issue with some skating skills is a combination of fear and being unable to do them correctly. I haven't been able to find a way around doing them enough times until that gets better. My off ice axels have been fully rotated with decent air position for years and years. It's only recently -after we changed my free leg position on the RBO before stepping LFO- that I've done a few where my legs resemble a crossed position on ice. Course, changing my free leg position changed the timing of the jump so now it's back to reps until I can figure out a way to consistently do this correctly. A lot of athletes who come back don't have this fear issue with getting skills back, or even doing new ones.
I would say the reason for reps is really important. There are plenty of adult skaters where reps are needed to build the confidence they can do a certain skill. And there aren't too many substitutes available. When they do exist and they help minimize risk of injury, am all for them.
 

MacMadame

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@ioana your post reminds me of an argument that is sometimes made against this "quality over quantity" argument in endurance sports. They say it might work for someone who has been training the old way for years and "has the base" but it doesn't work for beginners. I am not sure I buy that. Beginners might take longer to build up endurance because they are putting in fewer hours but it's still progressive overload so there still should be progress in fitness.

In terms of skills, they say practice makes perfect but then others say that perfect practice makes perfect. I do think there is a point where all practice is doing is reinforcing bad skills. So the trick is to stop when your form breaks down.
 

Aussie Willy

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I think quality is more important to the overall picture than quantity. Particularly when you are judging skaters you want to see that quality. However skating can be such an indefinable at times in terms of what skaters can accomplish.

I have seen skaters who spend hours and hours on the ice practicing and plenty of dollars on coaching and will never move past looking like they have been skating for 6 months. And from a judging perspective you can give them lots of feedback but they will still never improve. They end being a continual competitor at the lowest level year after year. But they take themselves incredibly seriously.

On the other hand there are lots of adults you see work really hard and make great strides. Their quality improves and they have the ability to achieve more difficult elements. They might put in the same time and money but somehow they are getting better "value" out of it. They really want to do better but also don't take themselves too seriously either.
 

sk8girl

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I think quality is more important to the overall picture than quantity. Particularly when you are judging skaters you want to see that quality. However skating can be such an indefinable at times in terms of what skaters can accomplish.

I have seen skaters who spend hours and hours on the ice practicing and plenty of dollars on coaching and will never move past looking like they have been skating for 6 months. And from a judging perspective you can give them lots of feedback but they will still never improve. They end being a continual competitor at the lowest level year after year. But they take themselves incredibly seriously.

On the other hand there are lots of adults you see work really hard and make great strides. Their quality improves and they have the ability to achieve more difficult elements. They might put in the same time and money but somehow they are getting better "value" out of it. They really want to do better but also don't take themselves too seriously either.
Is there any advice that you (or anyone else) would give adults in the first group above (lots of practice and coaching, yet minimal improvement), who are frustrated by their lack of progress and want to get better "value", but don't know what to do differently?

I definitely see myself and lots of adult skaters I know falling into the two categories above.Those of us more in the first group are putting in the hours and the work (and the money), yet we watch those in the second group just fly past us, with the same or less practice time and coaching. It's hard not to sometimes think that it just comes down to natural talent or athletic ability, but I really want to believe that anyone can improve with time and hard work and good coaching.

Do you think those in the first group are just not spending their practice hours wisely? Or is it natural talent/ability (or something else) coming into play?

I see both sides of the quantity/quality discussion in terms of practice time on elements. As an adult, I've had my share of injuries and would definitely like to minimize the wear and tear on my body and do fewer repetitions of things when possible. But on the other hand, I think muscle memory is a huge thing in skating and a certain amount of repetition is needed, especially when learning new elements or trying to break old bad habits so that they don't keep coming back under competition pressure... So, I'm not sure how to find the right balance there.
 

ioana

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@ioana I do think there is a point where all practice is doing is reinforcing bad skills. So the trick is to stop when your form breaks down.
Completely agree. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results - or whatever the exact quote is. My point was more along the lines extra reps might be needed for some people vs others -overcoming fear, the fact that you're less athletic, post-p@ndemic fat 😇 or what have you. And that is perfectly fine as long as some progress is being made. If all you're doing is reinforcing bad habits, that's counterproductive.

I don't really know enough about building endurance to comment on that specific aspect, but I still think adding X more miles is not an exact comparison to learning a new skating jump or hard turn (extended rocker chocktaws 👋). That would be more along the lines of skating up a level and doing a longer program. Which is challenging and needs extra practice, but not as much as a cyclist who never swam more than a few pool laps needs to overcome to do a triathlon.
 

MacMadame

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I definitely see myself and lots of adult skaters I know falling into the two categories above.Those of us more in the first group are putting in the hours and the work (and the money), yet we watch those in the second group just fly past us, with the same or less practice time and coaching. It's hard not to sometimes think that it just comes down to natural talent or athletic ability, but I really want to believe that anyone can improve with time and hard work and good coaching.
I was in that group and I think it is a lack of talent at some level. It can also be fear. Adults often have subconscious fears of falling. Personally, I tend to have less fear than I should so for me it definitely was a lack of talent. :lol: Also, I think of the unconscious fear as part of not having the talent.

I accepted it and I just did 2x as many lessons and 2x as much practice (about 6-8 hours a week) as those hotshots and, when I did that, I made progress even if it was slower than other skaters.

This is still nothing compared to elite skaters so I wasn't afraid of overuse injuries. I only had injuries from falling, not overuse. If I was skating 2-4 hours a day, 6 days a week plus off-ice training, then I might be worried.

Btw, off-ice training is a way to get better without doing tons of repetitions. Having stronger core muscles and working on flexibility off-ice helps a lot.

I don't really know enough about building endurance to comment on that specific aspect, but I still think adding X more miles is not an exact comparison to learning a new skating jump or hard turn (extended rocker chocktaws 👋).
Endurance sports use different muscle types too. (More slow twitch and fast twitch is the simple explanation.) But swimming is very technical and it's a good example of how just swimming more times a week isn't going to get you much faster unless you also get coaching and do drills. Swimming less but working on technique is a much better investment of time than just swimming, swimming, swimming. So is doing intervals in the pool instead of swimming a mile without stopping.

I know adults who go to the rink and just do the same move (jump, spin, footwork, etc) over and over and over. These people also almost never take lessons. I think they would be better served with more lessons and less practice, myself.
 

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