This article is from the Recreational Figure Skating FAQ, by Karen Bryden with numerous contributions by others.
Warming up properly before any sport activity is crucial to avoid
injury, improve performance and reduce soreness after exercising.
Unfortunately it is all too common to see skaters whose idea of
warming-up is to do a single lap around the rink and then put their
leg up on on the ice rink barrier! There is also the misconception
that a good warm-up for skating involves only stretching. While
stretching is beneficial and should be included in a full warm-up the
really critical part of warming up,most important to prevent injury
and prepare you for skating is to perform some gentle physical
activity for long enough to increase the temperature of your body
("warm-up") and increase the blood flow to your muscles.
Although in principle it is possible to warm up on the ice, by doing a
few laps or certain Moves In The Field, you will be wasting valuable
(and often expensive) ice time on something which can be done for free
at the rink-side. Even if you think that working on stroking is never
a waste of time, it is much easier to concentrate in proper technique
and posture when you are not all cold and stiff. Also, it is
impossible to stretch you leg muscles properly with your boots on.
Finally, if you test or compete it is especially important to have an
off-ice warm-up routine in order to be able to use the short on-ice
warm up more effectively. Not to mention that the warm up helps relax
and keep those pre-performance nerves under control!
Here are some suggestions for a warm up:
* Start by "lubricating" your joints: gently rotate your head,
shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, bend your knees, raise on your
toe-tips and rotate your ankles. Do not force any movements!
* Do a few of minutes of jogging, jumping rope or similar. This has
to be intensive and long enough to break into a sweat, but you
should not run out of breath or tire out your muscles. Take breaks
to stretch your calf muscles if they feel stiff. You can also do a
few single or (if you can) multi-revolution jumps or run through
your program off-ice.
* Stretch all the major muscles in your body. There is some useful
on-line material about stretching. Just be aware that some
stretching exercises can be harmful if they are not done
correctly. Your instructor can probably give you some tips and
recommend some exercises
* Put on your skates and conquer the ice!
The full off-ice warm up should last between 5-15 minutes. As a rule
of thumb, the higher your skater level and the older you are, the more
you benefit from a longer warm-up. However, even a few minutes make a
big difference: you get a feeling for the ice much faster and skate
with more power and better balance right from the start, being able to
make more efficient use of the session.