Ice skating can be great exercise, and a great way to get out and have some fun. Many adults are trying to get into, as well, after seeing how much fun their children are having. If you’re one of them, and you want some tips on how to ice skate, here are a number of things to consider for your first time on skates.
Wear the Proper Clothing
You may think your favorite jeans are the best, but denim is typically thick and rigid, and doesn’t lend well to movement. It can also collect moisture during falls. Trying something loose like jogging pants that are water resistant. But remember, falling on ice as hard as concrete can hurt knees and backsides. Thick garments are a good idea. As far as everything else, dress warmly, but comfortably. Remember, ice rinks are typically chilly to keep the ice hard. Bring a hat and gloves. And if you’re renting skates that may not fit properly, bring two pairs of socks. For Children, snow pants are a great idea for both warmth and a little more padding. A helmet should also be worn by anyone 8-10 or below. If you insist on a helmet while riding a bike, skating should be no different.
When it comes to skates, you should wear one size smaller than your shoe size, so if you normally wear a size ten loafer, wear a size nine skate. Try them on and strut around in a soft surface, like carpet or the rubber mats around the rink to get the feel. Junior skate sizes are the opposite. If your child wears a size six, get a size seven, and bring a second pair of socks for comfort and to fill out the boot, if necessary. Watching people on skates for the first time, you’ll typically see bent ankles, because their strength hasn’t developed yet, especially among children. If you own your own skates, and they are fairly new, they should be sturdy, and supportive, but rental skates at the rink are well known for being soft. They will be flimsy and not offer much support. If this becomes a problem, there are exercises that can strengthen your ankles. The most important muscle when skating is your calf muscle.
To exercise your calf, stand with both palms against a wall, allowing one foot to remain directly under your body’s weight, so that your toe is directly under your chin. Pull the other foot back, and press it firmly into the ground until you can feel your calf and ankle stretching. Hold it for 30 seconds and switch feet. Do this for a few days prior to skating, and just after tying your skates on at the rink for the first time.
Hockey Skates Versus Figure Skates
For children, figure skates are a must. Hockey skates have a skate blade like a rocker that allows a player to rock fully forwards or backwards, while figure skate blades extend back beyond the skate boot to better prevent falling backwards. Figure skates are also a bit lighter. They’re designed for skating straight lines, and if you’ve ever gone for a basic skating session, you know you’ll spend the time, just circling the rink. Hockey skates are made with agility and speed in mind, so the support isn’t always there. They’re also quite a bit sturdier, so they can withstand the battles of ice hockey. But to new skaters, they can feel like lead boots on feet that are used to sneakers. Once you’ve skated a few times, and you feel stronger, it may be time to move up to hockey skates for added speed and fun. Especially if you’re ready to buy your first pair.
Tying on Your Skates
Many people err on the side of tying skates excessively tight. This will be painful for your foot. Everyone’s foot is different, so it’s best to experiment with what feels better. But wide feet can become intensely constricted in ice skates. A good rule of thumb is to tie skates loosely around your feet and tight around the ankles and lower calf, but they’re your feet, so experiment and find what works best for you.
Get Used to Your Skates
Once you have your skates on, you’ll want to become a little more comfortable in them before you step on the ice. Try walking around in them for a little while, as if you were trying on a new pair of shoes at the shoe store. Try marching, and really working your legs, ankles and foot muscles. You’ll likely feel somewhat uncomfortable at first, but as long as nothing is extremely painful, it’s typically alright. Walk back and forth a few times, making sure to turn without help on the mats surrounding the rink. The ice will be different, but this is a good first step.
Hitting the Ice
The three main issues when beginning ice skating are, getting the posture down, developing the right muscles, and gaining confidence in yourself. The proper posture on the ice is to have your feet about shoulder length apart, and bend at the knees and hips, so that your chin, knees and toes are all lined up. To begin, step onto the ice, and push off from the boards as best you can. It’s not important to achieve any kind of speed at first. The main thing to establish at the start is a little confidence. Push off and assume the proper position. Extend your arms if you need added balance. Take gentle steps to keep a slight momentum up the ice. Don’t look down at your feet, or you’ll possibly follow your eyes to the ice. Try not to tense up either. Just glide along. It’s best to just try to glide for a while, until you’ve gained some more confidence, and feel comfortable enough to get adventurous. Just get the basic movement down at first. You’ve seen skating a million times. It’s not rocket science. Just remain calm and let yourself go. One thing to note, however, is many first time skaters like to begin by remaining along the boards for something to hold onto, and inching themselves along. This is not skating. The six inches, or so, along the boards are the choppiest ice on the rink. Most Zambonis (the vehicle that cleans up the ice) don’t repair this area very well. It’s easy to feel uncomfortable, and unstable in this area. It’s also not good for developing good skating technique, as you can’t fully move pressed up against the boards. If you must, take a few steps along the boards to gain your balance, but when you’re ready, step out onto some fresh clean ice, and you’ll quickly find yourself gliding much better.
Falling is a Part of Ice Skating
There’s no easy way to break into this. Ice is slippery and, especially on your first time, you will fall. Don’t be afraid of it. Many professional skaters and hockey players fall frequently. If you lose your balance, try to go down gracefully, and don’t panic. In fact, try to embrace it. Your first fall will not be your last. There are a few things to note about falling. It’s best to fall forwards. Falling backwards can lead to you banging your head. If you do fall backwards, try to fall on your back-side. It may sting, but you’ll be fine in a few minutes. If you do fall flat on your back, raise your neck, so your head never touches the ice. This will greatly reduce the chance of possible head injury. If you’re falling forward, know your body. Hard ice hitting joints can be tough, such as knees and elbows. Try to contort your body, so you land on a fleshy part. Thicker clothing can also help pad a fall. Your best bet is to not be afraid of it. Learn to fall with a little grace, so as not to cause injury.
Once You’re Feeling Adventurous
Once you’ve made it a few times around the rink, you should begin to feel more confident. When this happens, experiment with what you can do. Bend at your knees and hips a bit more and extend your strides for a little more speed. Lean into the turns. One thing professional skaters talk about is edge control. That’s the idea of knowing just how far you can trust the edges of your skate blades. Take a few turns a little more sharply. Lean on your edges, and see just how far you can go. If you’ve ever watched Olympic speed skating, you know it’s possible to lean into a turn so tightly, that a skater can touch the ice. On your first day, this is probably too lofty a goal, but you can lean on your skates, and try to develop that trust. Remember, one of the biggest things when learning to skate is confidence. Watch any skater on TV, and you’ll see they don’t even think about balance, they just trust in it.
Ice Skating Lessons
Once you’ve gone out skating once or twice, you might think a lesson is in order. There’s more to skating than just gliding around the rink. There’s stopping, skating backwards, cross-over turns, and a general sense of calm and trust in what you can accomplish. Many rinks offer adult skating classes to teach these techniques. If you’re interested in gaining greater skill, or possibly moving on to figure skating or ice hockey, finding such a class would be a great first step. Most rinks have these types of lessons advertised online, but if not, just go to the office, and there will likely be some kind of a schedule they can show you.
Hopefully, this has given a number of people a good starting point for learning to ice skate. Remember, the biggest keys are, posture, strength and confidence. Happy skating.