Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tips to Enjoy Ice Skating

I know that this must be the most eclectic blog ever.

But, I'm a pretty eclectic person.

Six years ago, I was recovering from an achilles tendon rupture that basically had me on my butt and crutches/walking boot/limping for about six months.  I had always been afraid of skating, but the boots seemed supportive and it actually turned out to be great therapy for me-- while I was limping on the ground, I flew on the ice.  Now, I'm jumping and spinning-- and live for the perfect wooosh-wooosh-wooosh sound of a centered scratch spin.

Nothing is impossible. Six years ago, I could barely walk. I had almost no muscle in my left leg, and skating had always been a terrifying experience that involved me clutching the boards and falling on my butt. Now, I still fall on my butt, but I also can do some pretty awesome stuff:

Scratch Spin with crossed arms, video taken this December

Falling still happens-- a LOT.

Rehearsing my 1940's style program in the dress that I'll be wearing (without the tank top underneath!) I'm still working on keeping my balance with the weight of the skirt dragging at me during jumps and spins.

Still, as someone who started skating as an adult, I remember those terrifying public sessions.  And now, when I see kids and adults struggling to enjoy themselves on the ice, I can sympathise.

There are a few common (And easily repaired) mistakes that I see at the rink every weekend that actually make recreational skating less enjoyable.  Note: I am not a PSA certified instructor.  However, I have six years of experience on the ice and skate at the Adult Bronze level.  Always use your own judgement when skating!

(Skating is also on my mind 24/7 because the main character in my current WIP figure skates.  So, I guess that something like this works in a writing-ish blog?)

Tips to Enjoy Ice Skating:

  1. Make sure that your skates fit well.  Figure skates should be snug with no room in boot (you should be able to fit about two fingers down the back of the boot when fully laced.)  Hockey skates should be comfortable but not loose.  Don't be afraid to ask for a different size or to ask a more experienced-looking skater if your skates fit right.  Note: If you can slip on your skates without loosening the laces all the way to the bottom, they're too big.
  2. Lace ALL the way up your boot-- the eyelets and hooks are there for a reason.  You shouldn't be collapsing at the ankles when you stand and if you can't walk in skates, I guarantee that you won't be able to skate in them. (and, yes, you will see some figure skaters and hockey players with slightly looser lacing up at the tongue area so that they can get a deeper knee bend... but this isn't a trick for beginner skaters.)
  3. Laces should be tied up and not hanging.  If they get under your blade, you are definitely going to fall.
  4. Dress in layers- you'll get hot and may want to take off a layer or two while skating. And one common problem that I see with little girls: though figure skaters wear dresses, we also wear skating tights.  Putting a little girl on the ice in a dress with no tights or everyday tights could mean a very uncomfortable experience for her. Ice burn is bad.
  5. Kneepads/elbow pads:  Here's my secret: I always skate with kneepads (I use special gel ones for figure skating.)  The extra lumpiness under my tights is worth the protection when I fall.  Believe me, swelling under your kneecap is not fun.
  6. A rink has a direction of traffic. Follow it. You don't drive the wrong way down a road, do you?  If you go against the flow, you seriously risk getting hit or hurt by another skater.
  7. This is my biggest pet peeve!: Skates should not be taken onto concrete or metal or asphalt (believe me, I've seen it)-- walk only on the rubberized surfaces in the rink.  When you walk on a hard surface, you roll the sharp edges of your skates, making them unuseable.  Those sharp edges give you grip on the ice and allow you to turn and move-- without them, you will have a VERY difficult time trying to skate.
  8. Annnd, finally: Even if you only skate a few times per year, if your feet are finished growing*, think about investing in a pair of recreational skates.  I'd suggest going to a pro shop and getting fitted by someone who knows how skates should fit.  Believe me, you'll notice a world of difference in your skating experience.  Plus, you save on skate rental over time.
  9. (edited to add the most important thing:) Helmets, especially for little ones.  Children's heads are proportionally heavier than an adult head.  When they fall, they have more of a tendency to hit the ice with their head than an adult counterpart.  Ice is HARD.  Head injuries are bad.  Helmets are good.
* Honestly, I believe that everyone should have their own skates, even kids.  Some rinks have skate exchange programs that allow you to sell and buy used kids' skates for fit.  Also, my local Learn To Skate program runs a yearly promotion that gives you a free pair of skates with your registration-- even if you only take one LTS session, it's worth the investment for future skating enjoyment!

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