Ice-skating doesn’t mean years of practicing at 4:00 am in the morning on the way to the Olympics, rather it can be a wonderful way to burn off some calories with friends, either on the local pond on at the rink. The truth is that there is a an overwhelming difference between those of us who get excited about being able to skate smoothly around a rink and those who can jump, cross skates backwards or perform those fast turns in the center of the pond.
Here we give you some suggestions about both skills and the safety issues involved, but most of all after reading this article, you will be able to feel the wind in your face as you picture yourself skating in a circle around the ice. You will remember those lovely skating parties after an evening of skating, and the camaraderie of you and your friends. Before you put on skates, make sure you have medical clearance and that you warm up a bit. The same is true for ice skating as for any other sport. It’s warm up and stretching, exercise, and cool down. Then glide to fitness.
So what is this graceful sport? When you lace up your boots you will find that you have to balance on steel runners that are affixed to the bottom of the boots which are high enough to protect your ankles. If you get good enough, you can compete as a speed skater, which takes a great deal of stamina, or you can begin to learn the basics of figure skating. These are the sports of our dreams. To figure skate you will need some basic skills like the best posture you can imagine.
Have you ever watched skating on Sunday, or gone to the Ice Capades? Skaters move across the ice in a side to side manner, which involves pushing off on one foot, then gliding, and then pushing off with the other foot. When you get that motion, you will know it: it’s like magic as you glide over the top of the ice in concert with the music that always seems to accompany skating, and you become part of the group of people on the ice at that moment.
I can still remember practicing skating backwards, which is somewhat trickier than forward. To stop you can snow plow, much like skiing, or you can do a T-stop, which means that you glide forward on one skate and place the other skate at a right angle to it coming to a stop with your feet in a T.
Once you can go forward and stop, and even perhaps begin to work on moving backward, it’s time to think about changing direction by learning how to turn. You will be taught how to crossover which means that you alternately cross and uncross the feet while stroking through a turn. So to turn to the right, you would cross the left foot over the right.
This is a basic skill and your teacher will work with you to make sure you can do it safely and hopefully still look like a champ. If you get serious about skating, and it’s easy to get into this sport, you will begin to learn spins in a single spot and maybe even short jumps. To tell the truth, after hours and months of practice, I did learn how to turn in one spot, however no one would have mistaken me for a pro. It was just plain fun.
After learning to balance on steel runners on a substance that is slippery as ice, then you will also learn how to use your arms to gain speed and to balance. I can still remember my uncle teaching me to swing my arms as he taught me to glide. No wonder, we all love to watch this sport. When it works, it really is wonderful.
Equipment for ice skating is not like taking out a second mortgage for a ski vacation. Unless you are in training for the Olympics, all that you need is a really good pair of skates that fit you properly and which are made for the type of skating you will be doing. Boots on figure skates are made of leather, have 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) heels, and extend above the ankle for support. The blades, which are made of steel, are a few millimeters wide, slightly curved at the bottom, and have toe picks (serrated teeth on the front of the blade) to assist in certain spins and jumps.
Speed skates must be as lightweight as possible for maximum acceleration. The boots are composed of light, flexible leather and are quite short, with no ankle support. The blades are long and straight, made from lightweight steel, and are thinner than figure skate blades. If you ever decide to try speed skating, you will need to purchase one of those tight-fitting body suits we have all seen on TV, which reduce wind resistance. Of course, wearing one of those in front of others would make me think twice, but then I can say that, knowing that a leisurely hour at a rink is my idea of fun.
Safety is an important part of ice skating. Do wear the proper clothing. Stretch and warm-up before getting on the ice. Move in the same direction as the rest of the skaters, and learn how to fall. Do watch your fingers if you do fall. Those blades are sharp. Let’s look at some of these safety issues. Most people hurt themselves when they trip over a bump in the ice or when they collide with other skaters. Sadly, some people fall through the ice on ponds, not knowing that the ice is too thin to skate on. As I just stated, some people get hurt when they tussle with blades themselves, which have sharp edges and those points.
One of the skills to learn is how to fall whether alone or in a crowd. A fall on the ice is less serious than a fall on solid ground because the body tends to slide along the ice and much of the impact is absorbed. Many people are afraid of falling, and you can watch some beginners automatically struggling to stay up. Once you learn to fall, you will be safer because you will be relaxed and allow nature to take its course. Now how do you actually fall safely? Lean forward, which is not all that hard because you may be going that way any way. It does get more difficult if you are unstable and going backward, but it is possible to shift.
When you fall bring your hands in so you don’t hurt your wrists and keep your hands from being hurt by someone else’s skate blades. By the way, wearing gloves is a great way of protection also. Try not to break your fall with your hands. Just go down on your rear or side. These are the parts of you that have the most padding. Falling backward is much more dangerous as you are more prone to hit your head. Once you are down you will have to get back up so here are some safety rules for that skill. First, try to get up quickly. Get on your hands and knees, making sure that your hands are within your knees to protect them from other’s skates.
Keeping both hands on the ice, first put one blade flat on the outside of your hands, and then the other, After you are on your skates with both hands on the ice, then gradually raise your body. If you see someone else has fallen and might be injured, don’t drag them off without being certain that you won’t hurt them more. If you think someone is really hurt, get someone to stand guard to protect them from errant skaters and get a qualified person to come over and make decisions about how to proceed. If you have an extra jacket, this might help keep them warm while you wait.
You will also need to know that beginners should stay to the outside of the pond or rink. Those who can skate well tend to practice in the center and that area is usually reserved for more advanced skaters. You will need to be able to skate well enough to keep constant watch for others who have fallen, particularly when skating backwards.
Here are some other ways to protect yourself when skating. Wear thick pants that offer more protection when you fall and a jacket made of a slippery material such as nylon. This will help you slide if you fall, thus cutting down on injuries.
Many rinks and public ponds post their rules:
- skate at your own risk
- ice thickness varies so beware
- never skate alone
- children should never skate on a pond alone, and this is also true at a rink. On a pond make sure you know about submerged objects such as trees, logs, etc.
- never congregate in one area
- stay away from cracks, seams and ridges on a pond
- in a rink or pond, skate with the flow of skaters
- stay out of the center of the rink if you are not an advanced skater
- take lessons and go to practice sessions
- look out for pairs skaters if they are practicing, as they may take up more room than you think
- most important, remain courteous. You must respect the rights of other skaters around you. If skaters of significantly greater or lesser skills surround you, be especially careful. Avoid collisions!
Now you can go to the rink or pond. Make sure you are dressed in layers so that you can keep warm and dry. Protect yourself by taking your blood glucose level before you start and, after you have begun skating, stop and test at regular intervals.
Make sure you have carbohydrate snacks so that you will remain safe. This is one sport where you can hurt yourself or others if you become hypoglycemic, so preplanning can make ice skating with friends a joyful experience. There are few recreational sports that make you feel more glamorous, light or in tune with nature. It is the sport of memories and one that we hope you will try.