Getting in shape for Short Track Speed Skating is a delicate balancing act – so achieving the right ratio of training, stretching, rehab and rest is vital, says Slovakia’s Petra Rusnakova.
“We train almost every day, and I’ll do seven to ten sessions each week,” she says. “We have some hard sessions and some that will be more about recovering. We maybe do four sessions a week on the ice.
“It’s a bit tricky at my local rink in Spišská Nová Ves because the Short Track skaters have to share it with the ice hockey players, so we can’t always get on. That means we have a lot of training on dry land and in the gym, too.”
On the ice, there’s a focus on two things: endurance (“as many laps as possible, a session can be four hours, too many laps! It is very tiring”) and speed (“we work on sprints and technique”). Off it, there’s a lot of pumping iron to get the legs as strong as possible. “It is mainly leg work,” says Petra, 18.
Petra Rusnakova (SLO) at the ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
“We do squats and deadlifts with the barbell. I’m not pushing huge weights but I’m getting stronger. We also do different jumps which help get you a lot more dynamic. It’s really tough.” There are also sessions with resistance bands. “These help you with sprints, power and dynamics,” says Petra.
Finally, the teenager does a lot of cycling. “I’m out on the bike every other day through the year,” she says. “And in the summer, sometimes every day. It’s very good and works the same muscles as skating. I really like it and I think I could be a cyclist. I might try track riding later in my career.”
With the body under such stress on a regular basis, rehab is as important as exercise. “Short Track needs a lot of flexibility, so stretching is vital,” says Petra. “I stretch every day. We have to take care to stop getting injuries so I put the hours in. I stretch every night too because you sleep better and don’t wake up as sore.”
Refuelling is also key. “I eat well. I’m not vegetarian and love meat but too much meat is not good so I will have it maybe three times a week,” says Petra. “I have a lot of fruit, veg and dairy – I especially like carrots, tomatoes, apples and oranges. I also love sweets sometimes.”
On a cheat day, Petra will go and see her granddad for his specialty dish. “He makes a delicious traditional Slovakian cake called kysnutý koláč,” she says. “You can add in chocolate, jam and poppy seeds. I love it, and it’s something Slovakians eat for every celebration.”
Petra Rusnakova (SLO) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Petra juggles training with studying at school, something she’s done from a young age. “I started doing Short Track aged five because my older brother did it,” she says. “I love the speed and it’s very good for your mentality too. I started representing Slovakia when I was eight, so I knew I was quite fast but I considered it a hobby and didn’t take myself too seriously. I really liked the Korean skater Shim Suk-hee – she is fast, fast, fast – and I wanted to be like her. So I just kept training, and kept going to school.”
Petra is looking forward to the seasons ahead and hopes that with good continuation of her regime – eat, train, school, sleep, repeat – she can make it to the biggest winter sport stage of them all.
“I would love to make it to Beijing 2022 so this season I just want to stay fit and well,” she says. “Things have been complicated by corona, so this year is as much about rehab and rest as anything else. But I keep training and will stay in condition. We will see what’s going on with our world in 2021, and hope things will get better.”