Figure skating pairs need trust, communication, and chemistry to be a success. Considering the parallels with a romantic relationship, it’s fitting that figure skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim,
Your former coach introduced you to each other. Was there a spark right away?
Chris: Definitely. In any tryout, there are always things you have to work through in terms of matching your techniques so you can mold them together. The week we tried out, it just looked and felt like we were going to be a good match.
You took your relationship off the ice soon after that.
Alexa: I felt more excitement and a different energy skating with Chris than I did with previous partners. We were aware that something was stirring up inside, an attraction. There’s that honeymoon stage when skaters first pair up, but for us, it lingered. We wanted to spend all our time together. It felt very natural.
Your current coaches, Todd Sand, and Jenni Meno, were also married skating partners.
Alexa: That’s right. It’s one reason we were drawn to them. They understand the dynamic of skating with your spouse.
Have they given you good advice on merging your professional and romantic partnerships?
Chris: They’ve both been through it. Alexa can vent to Jenni and I can turn to Todd. They give us unique insight into what they’re seeing and what’s worked for them, making arguments and other problems disappear more quickly.
How does your work relationship compare to your personal one?
Alexa: I had to learn to treat Chris like my partner on the ice, not my husband, and to give him space and not micromanage. Sometimes I want to nurture him, but he’s independent and knows what he needs at that moment.
The upside is that when you have to travel, you don’t leave your loved one behind like other athletes do.
Alexa: That’s a big pro for us. People think it’s crazy to be with someone literally twenty-four-seven, but that’s all we know. It’s weird for us to be apart, and honestly, we rarely are.
What about when you train off the ice—are you together then, too?
Chris: Sometimes. In the off-season, we do lifts on the ground in our sneakers to figure out the timing and balance before we take them to the ice. We also do circuit training sessions with other skaters, where we do five or six exercises that engage several muscle groups.
Alexa: It’ll be burpees, ladder drills, planks, Romanian deadlifts, sprints, kettlebell swings, and more. We go through it a few times and try to hit our max at each station.
But lifting and landing require distinct skillsets.
Alexa: Yes. During competition season, we stick to our own workouts. Chris works to keep his trunk, core, and back strong while I focus on my balance and reaction time. For female skaters, it’s important to balance the strength in each glute because your landing leg is typically stronger, so you have to do things to activate the weaker side.
You guys are strong, but also petite.
Alexa: Yeah, we don’t use a ton of heavy weights.
Chris: I try not to bulk up. I don’t want to put weight on my upper body as it will affect how I rotate.
How does your training change ahead of big competitions?
Chris: Earlier in the season we skate a lot more. At this point, we’re maintaining. We skate two or three sessions a day and do some off-ice gym work and a lot of recovery with the Normatec, foam rollers, and lacrosse balls.
Alexa: Yeah, we also cut back on off-ice lifts because we’ve fine-tuned them. We’ll do an hour of jogging, stretching, and core work like seated twists, planks, and V-sits before our skate sessions.
How do you fuel for performance?
Chris: Alexa and I are very different nutritionally. We do a lot of cooking at home, often chicken, steak, fish, and vegetables. I don’t focus on the high-protein, low-carb diet. I like to have a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, sometimes oatmeal with yogurt and orange juice. It’s always carb-based.
Alexa: I’m pretty strict and consistent. I don’t eat many carbs apart from oatmeal at breakfast. I fill up on greens and lean protein and between sessions, I’ll have an Rx bar. Sometimes when we cook together, Chris will add pasta or rice and I’ll pass on those.
That all sounds very balanced.
Chris: Once in a while on weekends, I’ll get a burger.
Alexa: I won't waste calories on pasta or sandwiches, but I have a sweet tooth so I won’t deprive myself of a cookie or chocolate if I want it.