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Winter Sports: Learning To Skate At Our Age

Winter Sports: Learning To Skate At Our Age
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Maybe you haven’t been on ice skates since you were a kid or maybe you never learned at all, but one of the joys of winter (and year-round if you go to an indoor rink) is gliding across the ice, feeling the cold air on your cheeks, free as a bird.

But how to learn now that we are all a little older?

Here’s some tips:

Stretch beforeheand: Though skating isn’t the most intense cardio workout, you will use muscles you barely remembered you have when you are out there trying to balance on those thin blades.

Don’t pad yourself too much: Rendering yourself impervious to bruising by piling on the layers also makes you impervious to fluid movements. Don’t overdress. One good thing to wear is thin (but warm) hockey socks.

Have properly fitted boots and sharp blades: Rental skates don’t fit right and are usually dull. Proper boots will transfer the strain of the edge up your ankle into your calves, and basically lock your ankle into place so it doesn’t twist. Your foot has to fit in the skating boot. There should be no extra room in the boot, especially in the heel. Since the boot should fit like a glove, your skates may hurt a little at first until you break them in. Keep the blades sharpened. Well-sharpened blades will cut into the ice, increasing traction and safety. Good equipment is worth the investment.

Safety equipment is a good idea: Sure, helmet and pads might make you look like a newbie, but what do you care? You are the one safeguarding those bones you have become so fond of over the years.

Get over the fear of falling: Yes, you are going to fall and no, it doesn’t have to kill you. The trick is to fall on your side; neither forward (ouchies on the knees) or back (your bum can take it, but you might crack your head.) If you are inside, hang on to the guardrail for as long as you need (or even a chair on the ice, if its allowed). If you are hanging on to a person, try to pick one not on skates his or herself. Let your guide be wearing boots with good treads (or crampons if possible.)

Other first steps: Make heel to toe marks in the ice as you go along—no gliding or giant steps. Get a feel for your sense of balance (everybody’s center of gravity is a bit different) and how the ice feels beneath your feet.

Sooner or later, you’ve got to let go: Clutching the rail or waddling around the ice with a chair won’t get you skating. Take a deep breath, check for other skaters and push off.

Try gliding: Try for one long swooping glide—even if it’s on two feet at first. Don’t make huge movements to correct your balance with your arms. Small, measured gestures work better. Once you have done it a few times, try it while lifting one foot.

Speed helps: Momentum is what makes this whole thing work. It is easier to push off and glide and, while still moving quickly, to switch feet and push as though you were on a coaster. Slowing down causes stumbles. You eventually want to stroke the ice with the inside edge of your skates. You’ll also want to practice stopping by putting your toe down in the ice (as opposed to hitting the railing.)

Keep trying: Get your local rinks schedule and find out when adults, especially beginners, are allowed to skate. Usually in the evenings (before the hockey players take the ice or on the weekends when Free Skate can seem like being on a NASCAR track), there is a time set aside for you to skate. Try to stay near the middle of the rink, out of the way of other skaters who may be zooming past you, or observe where on the rail you can create a little safety zone to try out your new skills.

No need to be embarrassed: Who cares if the 8-year-old makes faces at you as he zips by (little brat) or some other adult passes you facing backwards (she had to start somewhere too.) Clap yourself on the back for your bravery (wait until you get off the ice to do that) and treat yourself to a hot chocolate with whipped cream for learning something new.

Don’t get fancy: Crossovers and the other elegant moves and jumps like you see in the Olympics will take more training (and a lot of practice.)

Ask for help: Sign up for lessons at your local rink or find an instructor near you.

See you on the ice!




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