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Road Test: Ice skating

Thanks to television show Dancing on Ice and our national ice hockey team – the Ice Blacks – gaining increased media coverage, ice skating is gaining popularity in New Zealand. We’ve given ice skating a go and find it pretty addictive (plus we’ve learned that even if you don’t have balance to begin with, it’s something you can work on!).

So if you’re fortunate enough to be living within range of an ice rink, here are our top beginner’s tips put together thanks to the advice of Paradice Ice Skating in Auckland. These will have you leaping across the ice in no time! Or at least skating forwards and falling over less 😉

Tip #1: Wear comfortable clothing

Wear comfy, breathable, warm exercise gear like trackpants and a long-sleeved top. Layers are good as you can always take jackets off if you need to. Jeans are not as they usually don’t have enough stretch to allow you to bend your knees adequately. A pair of gloves is useful – especially if you fall over as your hands will get icy cold and wet quickly! Hats to keep your head warm are also good but scarves may get tangled up in legs and skates if you fall over so best to tuck them into your jacket or leave them at home. At least one or two pairs of relatively thick socks are necessary as well (recreational hire skates usually aren’t made for comfort!).

Tip #2: Get the right skates for your feet

Getting skates that fit well will make your ice skating experience much better than if they don’t fit right. Your skate size will likely be different from your normal shoe size, so it’s important to size them up properly and change them out if they aren’t correct. Your skates should fit very snugly and your feet should not be able to move around on the sole at the bottom. Do them up as tight as you can but don’t cut off the circulation to your feet! Loose skates may result in a sprained or broken ankle, so if you see your laces come undone, hop off the ice and retie them.

Tip #3: Bend your knees

Keeping your legs straight makes it really difficult to skate properly, keep a little bend in your knees and if you feel like you’re going to fall over, go into your ‘safety position’ which is sliding your hands down your thighs with your knees slightly bent in a squat position; keep your head and chest up.

Tip #4: Get comfortable with the idea of possibly falling over

Falling over is generally a part of ice skating, so it’s best for you to get used to the idea that you may end up on the ground at some stage. If you feel your arms begin to wave crazily and your legs wobbling under you, get into the safety position we mentioned before. Too late? If you’re falling over backwards, try to keep your head tucked in so that you won’t hit it on the ice.

If you are falling you preferably want to land on the part of you with the most padding – slightly to the side on your butt (not to be confused with your tailbone which is not ideal!). If you need to get back up again, go on all fours, place one foot under you with hands on the ice either side, then the other foot under you, and push yourself up before allowing your hands to leave the ice. If you need help and would like to practice this before you get on the ice, ask an ice rink employee for assistance.

Tip#5: Don’t look down!

Looking down brings your posture forward and down which means… you guessed it – you’re more likely to fall over forwards. Keep the upper half of your body nice and straight by making sure your chest is up and your eyes are looking forward at least a few metres in front of you.

Tip #6: Hold your arms out for balance

Yes, we know you’ll feel a bit silly and your arms will get tired, but holding them out at your sides can actually help with your balance and act as a visual cue to remind you to keep your chest up. Hold your arms out, just a little forward of your body. This way, if you feel you need support you can also still keep one hand on the barrier as you skate around.

Tip #7: Keep your feet in a ‘V’ shape

Start off with your heels together and your toes turned out, and see if you can march one foot at a time. You should start moving forwards. Hurrah!

Tip #8: Lift your feet!

Sliding your feet along the ice may feel safer, but it’s more likely to end up with you on your butt! Whenever you need to pause, take the time to think about resetting your foot position back into the ‘V’ shape and start your marching again.

Tip #9: If you want to try skating backwards, turn your ‘V’ upside down

Just to get tricky, if you want to give backwards a go, turn your toes in and your heels out in an upside down ‘V’ shape. Start marching and you’ll end up going backwards. Remember to keep your arms and eyes up, and that you can always use your safety position doing this as well. Take a little look over your shoulder every now and then to make sure you’re not going to crash into anyone.

Tip #10: Try not to hold on too much…

Holding on to the barrier for dear life with both hands may feel safer, but it can ruin your skating posture and may lead to some nasty bumps if you fall over into it. Same goes for holding on for dear life to a person! If one of you falls down, it’s likely the other person is going to end up on the floor too. As we mentioned before, it’s best to keep your arms up at your sides and let one of your hands sit on the barrier or in someone else’s hand.

For more tips and help from an experienced professional, head to your local ice rink and look into beginner’s Kiwiskate learn to skate classes.

Image / Flickr – Rich Moffitt

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