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Life in Motion

They Do What?! Skeleton Racing: An Olympic Sport

Olympics, Sports & Exercise

Skeleton racing is when athletes, called sliders, race head-first, with their faces millimeters from the ground, down a steep and treacherous ice track on a small sled. Olympic sliders begin their race with a running start from the opening gate, and can reach speeds up to 80 miles/hour. Other than nerves of steel, we were curious: what does it take for athletes to get in shape for skeleton racing? Here, Athletic Trainers at the NEBH Sports Performance Center look into what makes a successful skeleton racer.

Getting in Shape

At the start of each race, sliders sprint for 40-50 meters while pushing their sled before hopping on and going down the track. Since the difference between winning and losing in skeleton racing often is determined by the sprint start, it is vitally important to train and improve your speed. Skeleton athletes train similar to 100m sprinters. To improve your speed, try this work out:

Sprints

  • 15 m sprints x 10 repetitions with 15 seconds rest in between each sprint
  • 30 m sprints x 10 repetitions with 45 seconds rest in between each sprint
  • 50 m sprints x 10 repetitions with 60 seconds rest in between each sprint

While cardiovascular training is important in sprinting, an athlete cannot improve their speed without strength training. Strength training exercises include:

Wall Slides

  • Lean with you back against a wall and place your feet out in front of you
  • Bend your knees, sliding your back down the wall
  • The greater the bend in your knees the more difficult the exercise
  • Look to make sure that you can see your toes at all times
  • Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions

Heel Raises

  • Start with your feet shoulder width apart
  • Rise up to the balls of your feet
  • Slowly lower back down to standing position
  • Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions

Squats (with weight or without)

  • Stand with your feet about hip and shoulder width apart
  • Bend your trunk slightly forward. Bend your knees allowing your weight to shift through your heels-think like you are sitting down on a chair
  • Go only as low as you feel safe and pain free
  • Be sure to keep the back and shoulders straight and to look straight ahead to maintain proper positioning
  • Use your quadriceps and buttocks to return to a standing position
  • Aim to complete 2 sets of 10 repetitions

Planks

  • Lie on your stomach with your forearms on the floor and your elbows directly below your shoulders.
  • Push yourself up onto your elbows or with arms extended straight.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your hips off the floor.
  • Squeeze your gluteal muscles and lift your knees off the floor.
  • Keep your body straight and hold for 30 seconds. If you cannot hold this position, bring your knees back to the floor and hold with just your hips lifted.
  • Slowly return to the start position and rest 30 seconds. Repeat.

While this intense sport may not be for everyone, it is certainly exciting to watch!

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