Fitness without frills

By Dorene Internicola

As young athletes converge on Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, figure skating legend Dorothy Hamill is sharing her secrets for staying fit when there's no rink in sight.

For Dorothy Hamill staying fit means getting back to basics.

“I try and exercise every day,” said Hamill, who won the gold medal at the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

At 53, Hamill still sports the signature bob that sparked a hairstyle fad in the 1970s, and the sunny disposition that made her so popular toymakers were inspired to create a Dorothy Hamill doll in 1977.

About getting older she is cheerful and candid.

“Things change. I’m not the 19-year-old I was. My body hurts more,” said Hamill. “When I take care of myself I feel better. It’s not gibberish and hogwash. It’s really true.”

Working out these days does not always include ice skating, even for the athlete whose autobiography was titled “A Skating Life.”

“In the wintertime I don’t live very close (to a rink),” said Hamill, who is based in Baltimore, Maryland. “So I’ve been trying to figure out other ways to stay fit.”

Biking and running are two favorite types of exercise.

“I’m not talking about a stationary bike. I like to get on the road,” she said. “Not racing, just gentle. I’ve been dabbling with other things.

She also enjoys running on a treadmill.

“When I haven’t done my workout I feel fat and lazy and I’ll just get up and start jogging in place, doing jumping jacks,” said the woman who invented and popularised a skating spin called the Hamill Camel.

Hamill is looking forward to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. She has been mentoring 17-year-old Rachael Flatt, the 2010 US National Champion, who will be competing at the games.

“I’ll be in the stands for most of the ice skating, cheering our incredible team. It’s fun to watch it after experiencing it as a competitor,” said Hamill. “It’s the strongest team I’ve ever seen.”

But she did not make specific predictions about who will take home the gold medal.

“I mean it’s figure skating so anything can happen,” she explained.

Hamill has worked with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the International Special Olympics, and she’s involved with Kennedy Krieger Institute’s adaptive sports program for children with spinal chord injuries.

Her fitness tips for adults are typically down to earth.

“If you don’t have access to a gym, park your car away so you walk. Take the stairs. Don’t take the elevator,” she said. “If you watch TV then do something while you’re watching it. It’s really important to keep it moving.”

Above all Hamill remains chief ambassador for the sport she fell in love with at the age of eight.

“To me there’s nothing like ice skating. I encourage people to try it. It’s not just to be done at an Olympic level,” said Hamill, who runs an annual ice skating camp for adults with or without expertise.

Best of all, when camp convenes this August in Nantucket, Massachusetts, she’ll be near a rink.

“I love the cold air and I love the music and I love the solitude of being out there,” she said. “There’s nothing that fills my soul the way ice skating does.”




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