After stepping away from competitive figure skating a few years ago, 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Wagner didn’t really feel like there was a place for her on the ice anymore.
“Figure skating predominantly caters to a younger crowd, and a lot of us grow up skating. But then, you wrap it up and move onto other things,” she says. Wagner describes going to public skating sessions and freestyle, or practice sessions, post-retirement and neither feeling quite right. “I felt like there was no longer a space on the ice where I fit in and had that sense of belonging,” she says.
So she launched Skate & Sculpt in 2021 to give herself — and other retired ice skaters — access to the kind of skating she wanted to do. “I figured if I was feeling that way, there had to be a group of people that felt similarly,” she says. “It’s been an incredible experience for me.”
Wagner has no shortage of things on her plate right now. In addition to running Skate & Sculpt, she’s currently studying for a degree in psychology at Northeastern University. She wants to use her degree to open her own private practice, working within the LGBTQ+ community and focusing on trauma.
She’s also going to be working for NBC and covering the 2022 Olympic Games. “My head is in full figure skating mode,” she says. “I’m really excited for two of my teammates that I used to train with, Nathan Chen and Mariah Bell.”
Ahead of this year’s Olympics, we had the chance to chat with Wagner about her new business venture and what it means to her.
Creating a supportive community
Wagner wanted Skate & Sculpt, the fitness class she teaches in Boston and at popups around the country, to be a place where retired skaters like herself could feel good on the ice. And she says Skate & Sculpt has played a huge role in redefining her own relationship with the sport.
“To reach this elite level of sport, sometimes you have to push outside the boundaries of what would be normal or healthy,” she says. “[Skate & Sculpt] is a positive environment, and I always make sure I’m never pushing the athletes beyond what they’re comfortable with.”
Wagner’s number one philosophy on the ice is “choose your own adventure,” she says. “At the end of the day, you have to listen to your body and advocate for your body.”
This philosophy was borne out of her experiences as a competitive figure skater. “In skating, for so long I was told how my body looked, I was told what to do with my body, and I never really had an ownership over it,” she says. “And I really stress the importance of owning your experience on the ice and making it whatever you need it to be for that day.”
Wagner has new athletes in every class — and many of them tell her they missed the ice but didn’t know how to get back on and feel comfortable.
“I’ve had new moms getting back on the ice, who just want to do something for themselves. I’ve had 60-year-old women who’ve been off the ice for 30 years getting back on the ice,” she says. “It’s a really diverse group of skaters. But at the end of the day, we’re united by our love of the sport — and it’s really fun.”
Wagner posits that Skate & Sculpt has been so successful because she not only gives a nice level of instruction in each class but has truly created a community. “That’s what I’m most proud of — reconnecting people with not only the ice but with people who’ve had a similar experience,” she says.
Kicking ass on the ice
Skate & Sculpt is “an old-school power skating class,” says Wagner. (If you’re in the skating community, you’ll know exactly what that term means, she says.)
“It’s a lot of line drills,” says Wagner of the class. “You get to have that really yummy, good edge work that just feels really satisfying.” The class also gets into some HIIT workouts for a cardio boost, and it ends with crossover circles to burn out your legs.
Wagner explains that Skate & Sculpt is similar to barre in that it’s a full-body workout. “It’s sneaky,” she says. “I’m sore after these classes.” While you don’t have to be a phenomenal skater to participate, you will be moving the entire time and getting your heart rate up. “It’s a cardio workout for an hour,” she says.
For those who might be a little rusty on the ice, Wagner says one of the best things you can do is skate laps. “If you want to get back into skating or try it out, go to a public skate, skate laps, get comfortable on your blades, and then come to Skate & Sculpt so that I can properly give you a good ass-kicking,” she says.
But what if you’re intimidated to take a class taught by an Olympic medalist? Wagner wants you to know there’s no pressure. “I am the ultimate hype girl, the number one cheerleader of this class,” she says. “The ice is slippery, people fall, but I don’t care — you can’t embarrass yourself in front of me.”
Preparing for what’s next
Wagner, who never thought she’d be an entrepreneur, hopes to bring Skate & Sculpt nationwide in the near future. She’ll be trying out test cities this spring and summer to see where the class is wanted, with the goal of having a couple of cities up and running regularly next fall.
“It’s just so cool to see this is something that’s so wanted and needed in the community,” she says. “I had no idea it would become this, but here we are — so I’m going to give as many athletes access to the ice in their own way as I can possibly help out.”