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Olympic Fitness: Ice Dancing

Health and Wellness, General, Physicians

Lloyd Center.

Clackamas Town Center.

Mountain View.

For many of us who grew up in the Portland/Vancouver area in the 80s and 90s, those names remind us of ice skating — on weekends, at birthday parties, maybe even while taking lessons.

No one knows those names better than Dr. Ryland Stucke, Adventist Health Portland general surgeon and former competitive figure skater, pictured here with his skating partner, Elizabeth Palmer. "I grew up in Portland skating with family on the weekends,” Dr. Stucke says. “Learning to skate turned into something I found myself naturally good at."

So good, in fact, that in high school Dr. Stucke left his family to live and train with elite coaches in Delaware. He excelled in ice dancing and skated all over the world with his partner, Elizabeth Palmer. Ultimately, they were ranked 10th nationally.

What to watch for in Beijing

Regardless of which figure skating discipline — singles, pairs or ice dance — Dr. Stucke explains Olympic skaters typically begin their sport as young children, often between age 4 and 8.

Those who have made the Olympic teams likely have spent a lot of time away from their family and a normal school experience. "It’s common to train away from family at focused centers," Dr. Stucke explains. "I enrolled in a high school that was flexible about my travel schedule. I was able to balance my training and school demands with help from a tutor."

Olympic skaters likely grow up skating for two or three hours before school each day, plus more hours after school and an additional hour or two of off-ice training to increase strength and endurance.

What we can learn from ice skating

Though most of us likely won’t be competing in ice skating, we can still learn from watching this demanding and beautiful sport.

Dr. Stucke points out that ice skating uniquely combines physicality with presentation. "You have to be good at both," he says.

While his wife, a competitive runner, notices she doesn’t have to look her best while competing, Dr. Stucke found his sport demanded both athleticism and artistic ability. "This sport is very different that way," he explains.

He also points out that competitive skating requires a massive investment of time and commitment all year for performances that are just minutes long. Dr. Stucke says, "It really taught me about discipline, time management and delayed gratification."

While watching Olympic skaters perform, remember ice skating is truly a team sport. "There are the coaches and other teams you practice with," Dr. Stucke points out. "Surgery has a similar dynamic. It’s about coordination and working as a team — in and out of the operating room — to make one specific surgery go well."

If you and your family want to get some fun exercise on the ice, Dr. Stucke’s former rinks at Lloyd Center and Mountain View still offer public skating and beginner lessons.

Photo used by permission. Credit: Michelle Wojdyla / ice-dance.com