Lauren Downes MSPT: My name is Lauren Downes, and I am a licensed physical therapist with a Masters degree from Boston University, a professional figure skating instructor, competitive skater, and off-ice strength and conditioning coach. Since the year 2000, I have developed strength and conditioning programs for figure skaters from the recreational to national and junior national levels. It took many years of hard work, numerous injuries, a college education, and countless hours of trial and error to get to that point. Let me fill you in on my background....
I began figure skating at the age of nine (pretty late in this day and age) at a small club in Massachusetts. I advanced quickly through the lower levels and developed a passion for the sport. As I progressed through the intermediate and novice levels, my mom would drive an hour and a half several times per week to and from the Boston area for lessons from one of the best coaches in the country. For serious summer training, I spent eight weeks away from home in a top training camp alongside Olympic competitors. Yet even with top level coaching and 5 hours of on and off-ice training five days per week, something was missing to bring me to the highest competitive level. I could perform the jumps required at my level cleanly and with good height, but I was never very consistent and never had great endurance. Looking back, I discovered the missing piece to the puzzle was the correct off-ice training program. Here I was at one of the best training camps in the country, with Olympic, national, and sectional medalists, and our off-ice training program consisted of three hours per week of step aerobics, two hours at the gym using various weight machines with little direction, and two forty-five minute stretch classes. I cringe just thinking about it! Very little of what we did had any carry-over to the demands our sport puts on our body. This was not the fault of the coaches; at that time there was scarce research and information available about off-ice training.
I stopped seriously competing at the Junior level following a significant back injury, which had been ongoing for several months. Devastated by not being able to skate, I wondered what I could have done to prevent the injury. At the same time, I was about to enter college, and was considering studying physical therapy. This major required intense study of anatomy, biomechanics, injuries, and evaluation and treatment methods to help those who are injured. My goal was to somehow use my knowledge from a physical therapy degree to develop safe and effective off-ice training programs for figure skaters. Throughout my stay at Boston University, I continued my own skating for the collegiate team and began to brainstorm ideas for off-ice strength and conditioning programs.
Following graduation, I began to perform evaluations of skaters’ strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. From there, I would develop a home program for each skater, tailored to their level, ability, and schedule. The off-ice programs incorporate exercises focusing on core stability, lower and upper body strengthening, plyometrics, and balance. Having attended numerous functional training seminars conducted by nationally recognized strength and conditioning specialists, I stay current with the advancing ideas in the field. To this day, I have evaluated and created programs for over seventy skaters and work with many skaters individually and in group classes to maximize their athletic performance.
Lauren currently trains skaters in the Hartford, Connecticut and western Massachusetts areas. To inquire about training sessions or an individualized evaluation, email lauren at email@example.com or call (413)262-7053
Stephen Conca: Since 1996 Stephen Conca has spent his career improving the performance of athletes at every level of competition in virtually every major sport. In the Spring of 2008, we teamed up to provide the figure skating community with the knowledge and resources that the sports science world has to offer. In "traditional" sports such as soccer, baseball, tennis, football and basketball, the world of sports science has evolved to provide athletes with the know how to resist injury, become stronger, move faster, and enhance flexibility and balance.
As with any sport, especially figure skating, developing symmetry throughout your body is critical to moving with grace and power on the ice. Being symmetrical in your movements has also been proven to reduce your chances for overuse injuries, allowing you to continue your development on the ice. Our goal is to assist in the coaching and physical development process, provide feedback, and become your resource to help you take your skating to the next level...what ever level that might be!
Stephen is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Coach Conca is also recognized by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Certified Performance Enhancement Specialist. Stephen earned his degree in Exercise and Sports Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1994. Soon after, he began his career in athletic performance at Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy (Danville, VA), focusing mainly on the rehabilitative process after sports injuries and surgical interventions. Stephen had the privilege of working with nationally recognized physical therapist and strength coach Gray Cook. Stephen became part of Gray's team as he developed the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), an innovative system used to evaluate movement pattern quality in athletes.
Recognizing the growing demand for quality performance-based training, injury prevention and sports-specific conditioning, Stephen co-founded East Coast Athletics (ECA) in 1999. ECA's mission was to serve the community's athletic population as an adjunct training ground to the actual playing field. Stephen's goal was to offer the highest level of sports performance instruction with the most knowledgeable staff. Through Stephen's rapport with the largest orthopedic group in the region, ECA became an integral service to the many community sports associations.
In 2008 Stephen took the success he had in North Carolina and began the co-development of ATTAIN Sports Performance with Performance Rehabilitation in East Longmeadow, MA. Steve acted as the director of Sk8Strong's videos. He now owns his own strength and conditioning facility in West Springfield, MA, "Conca Sport and Fitness."