Having been ice skating for 5 years, I will be guiding you on how to get started and impart some of my knowledge about ice skating for newbies.
Ice skating is a fun and exciting activity that is enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. However, it is not just a recreational activity; ice skating also has many benefits for physical and mental health. At least for me, I ice skate to keep myself from staying in front of the computer all day and recharge my brain that way.
The Benefits and Importance of Learning Ice Skating
Learning to ice skate can provide numerous advantages for individuals of all ages, including improved balance, coordination, strength, flexibility, and endurance. Aside from the physical benefits, ice skating also offers many mental health benefits by helping the body release endorphins, according to Sports Medicine Weekly.
It can help reduce stress and anxiety levels by providing an outlet for relaxation and release of energy. Additionally, mastering new skills can help build self-esteem and confidence while fostering a sense of accomplishment.
The Common Fears and Misconceptions about Ice Skating
While there are many benefits to learning how to ice skate, some folks may be hesitant to try this due to common fears or misconceptions associated with it. One common fear is the potential for injury while on the ice. I had a friend that would fear getting his fingers getting cut by other figure skaters if he falls. But from my 5 years of ice skating, everyone is very well aware of when you fail and will avoid you.
However, with proper protective gear such as helmets and pads along with cautious practice techniques, injury risks can be reduced significantly. This is quite important when learning the basics. Trust me, I fell way too many times to count and being as stubborn as I can be, I suffered many cuts and bruises on my elbows and knees during the first 3 months.
Another misconception about ice skating is that it requires expensive skates, which may discourage people from trying it out in the first place. My own skates aren’t too expensive, which I bought for $150. It has lasted my 5 years and counting so far. Granted that most ice skating rinks will charge you for rentals, you will have saved much more if you skate once a week or more for 2 years.
Some people might think learning how to ice skate requires innate talent or natural ability but that simply isn’t true! As with any new skill, some people will find it easier than others but practicing regularly over time anyone can develop proficiency in this sport. It took me 1 year to comfortably skate without needing much help or falling while skating forward.
Choosing the Right Equipment
One of the first steps to learning how to ice skate is making sure that you have a nice pair of skates that fits you. It must be comfortable to wear. The skates should fit snugly but not be too tight, and they should provide proper ankle support.
In addition to skates, you’ll also need appropriate clothing for skating. As I live in Poland as an expat, the winter season is the most popular season. Wearing a jacket/sweater will fit the most during that season. For spring and fall, I usually just wear a t-shirt, but most people here will also wear a jacker. I tend to sweat a lot, so I feel warm while skating. For others, they feel cold even while skating, so it depends on your own body.
If you are serious about learning and want to minimize injuries, I suggest elbow and knee pads alongside a helmet. I have hit my head before while falling and am lucky not to have serious head injuries.
Figure Skates vs Hockey Skates
This one will depend on whether you want to try out figure skating moves or just only speed skate, play ice hockey or try some cool maneuvers.
The biggest difference between the two is that the figure skate has toe picks, which allows you to break easily just be tipping a bit forward. It has longer blades and can perform spins and glides more gracefully. The figure skate is usually made with leather and the toe pick helps deal with jumps and spins.
The hockey skate requires you to learn proper breaking, plus it is also much lighter since it is made of plastic most of the time. It can change directions faster than the figure skate and can allow you to skate at high speeds. It also protects you from stick blades and pucks when playing ice hockey.
If you are not interested in learning figure skate moves, then hockey skates are recommended. I myself wanted to learn spins, so I went with the figure skates.
Finding a Suitable Rink
Once you have your equipment sorted out, it’s time to find a suitable rink where you can practice your skills. There are various types of rinks available including indoor vs outdoor rinks and public vs private rinks.
Indoor rinks are typically more common in urban areas with colder climates as they allow for year-round skating regardless of weather conditions. Outdoor rinks usually open during winter months but may close due to inclement weather conditions such as heavy snowfall or freezing rain.
Public rinks are often affordable options and offer open skate sessions where anyone can come and skate during specified times throughout the day. Private rinks may require memberships or fees but often offer fewer crowds during sessions which can make it easier for beginners who may need more space when learning.
Consider the location, operating hours, and cost of the rink when deciding which one to visit. It’s important to find a rink that is convenient for you and fits within your budget.
Most public rinks that I have visited ranged from $5-20 and gave 1-2 hours of skating time.
Basic Techniques for Beginners
Standing and Balancing on Skates: Finding Your Footing
One of the biggest challenges beginners face in ice skating is finding their footing and balance on the slippery surface. To start, it’s important to choose skates that fit properly and offer adequate support. Once you have your skates on, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knees.
This will help you maintain a low center of gravity and prevent falls. Your posture also plays a key role in standing and balancing on skates.
Keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed, while keeping your head up and eyes forward. Avoid looking down at your feet as this will throw off your balance.
When I started out, I always looked at my feet as I was scared. As time passes, you will feel more comfortable and naturally stop looking at it.
Moving Forward: Gliding with Grace
Once you are comfortable standing on skates, it’s time to start moving forward. Begin by pushing off with one foot while gliding with the other foot behind it. Using your dominant foot to push comes more naturally for most.
As you gain speed, alternate pushing off with each foot to maintain momentum. As you glide forward, keep your weight evenly distributed over both feet to maintain balance. Avoid leaning too far forward or backward as this can cause falls.
Stopping: The Snowplow Technique
Stopping is an essential skill for any ice skater, especially beginners who need a reliable way to slow down or come to a complete stop if necessary. The snowplow technique is one of the easiest ways to stop when starting out. To perform a snowplow stop, bring both feet together in a V-shape while turning the toes inward toward each other until they touch (or almost touch).
At the same time, press down lightly on the inside edges of both skates until they create friction against the ice surface which slows down or halts movement completely. Practice these basic techniques until you feel comfortable moving around on the ice rink.
If you are wearing the figure skate, you can use the toe pick to break by slightly pressing the toe pick against the ice. Make sure not to force it too hard or you might fall flat.
Remember to take it slow and steady, and don’t get discouraged if you struggle at first. With patience and practice, you’ll be gliding across the ice in no time!
Tips for Improving Skills
Turning Techniques: C-Cut Turn and Mohawk Turn
Turning on ice skates is a fundamental skill that every ice skater must learn. The C-cut turn and Mohawk turn are two of the most important turning techniques that beginners need to know.
The C-cut turn involves cutting into the ice with one skate, while the other skate glides behind it in a smooth curve. The Mohawk turn involves crossing one foot over the other while turning, which helps to change direction quickly.
To perform a C-cut turn, start by gliding forward on both feet. Then lift your left foot slightly and point it towards the right side, keeping your right foot in place.
Place your left foot down at an angle, cutting into the ice with its inside edge. As you cut into the ice, gently push off with your right foot and use it to glide behind you in a smooth curve.
To perform a Mohawk turn, start by gliding forward on both feet. Then lift your left foot and cross it over your right foot while turning slightly to the right.
As you complete the crossover step, place your left foot down on its outside edge while lifting your right foot off of the ice. You should be facing in a new direction now with both feet pointing to this new direction.
Backward Skating and Gliding
While it may seem daunting at first, skating backward is an essential skill for any ice skater who wants to progress beyond basic skating skills. There are two primary backward skating techniques that beginners should master: backward gliding and backward crossover.
To begin practicing backward gliding, stand still holding onto something sturdy such as a railing or partner’s hand for support until you feel balanced enough for unaided movement.
Plant both blades parallel to each other pointing backward and then shift all of your weight onto your left foot, do not lift the right foot off the ice yet. Push back with your left foot and shift your weight onto your right foot. You can also use your hips to control the movement here.
This takes practice and I suggest trying this when you are very comfortable with skating forward.
Basic Jumping Technique: Waltz Jump
Jumping is an exciting aspect of ice skating that requires good technique. For beginners, you can learn are the Waltz Jump.It is a basic jump that involves taking off from one skate, rotating in the air, and landing on both skates simultaneously.
To perform a Waltz jump, begin by skating forward with bent knees and arms outstretched in front of you. Then step on to one skate while lifting another leg up into preparation for the jump.
Push off from this standing foot’s toe pick as you rise up into mid-air while swinging your free leg forward to help maintain balance as you rotate in mid-air. To land safely after jumping, keep your knees bent for shock absorption whilst landing gently back with both feet evenly placed flat upon hitting the ground.
This takes a lot of practice and do not get discouraged if you do not get it quickly. Took me months to get this to an acceptable level.
Additional Safety Tips for Ice Skating Beginners
As mentioned earlier, ice skating can be dangerous, especially for beginners who have little experience on the ice. Before you start skating, make sure you are wearing the appropriate safety gear. This includes a helmet, gloves, elbow and knee pads, and wrist guards. This is especially important when you are in public outdoor ice rinks that have uneven surfaces or unpolished ice surfaces.
These items will help protect you in case of a fall or collision with another skater. It is also important to be aware of your surroundings while on the ice. Always look around before you start moving and keep an eye on other skaters who may be moving quickly around you. Avoid skating too close to other people and keep a safe distance from the boards or walls.
Staying Warm and Hydrated
Skating requires a lot of physical energy and can cause your body temperature to drop rapidly. It is important to dress warmly in layers that can be removed as needed. This will help regulate your body temperature during your skating session.
It is also important to stay hydrated while ice skating since it is an aerobic activity that can cause dehydration quickly. Bring a water bottle with you and take breaks as needed to rehydrate. I personally also bring a towel with me to wipe off my sweat after a long 1 hour session.
Knowing Your Limits
It is important to know your limits when it comes to ice skating. Don’t try advanced techniques until you are comfortable with the basics and have enough experience on the ice.
If you feel exhausted or dizzy while skating, take a break immediately. Don’t push yourself too hard or try something beyond your abilities just because someone else is doing it.
Here is a list of commonly asked question by new ice skaters. I have compiled them for easy reference.
How do I lace up my ice skates properly?
To lace up your ice skates, start at the bottom and work your way up. Pull the laces snugly but not too tight, ensuring they are evenly tightened across the foot. As you reach the top, leave a bit of room to allow ankle movement. Secure the laces with a knot or bow and tuck any excess lace away.
What are the basic techniques for balancing on ice skates?
The basic techniques for balancing on ice skates involve keeping your knees slightly bent, maintaining a straight posture, and distributing your weight evenly over both skates. Keep your arms relaxed and out to the sides to help with balance. Practice shifting your weight from one foot to the other while maintaining control.
What are some common mistakes beginners make when learning to ice skate?
Some common mistakes beginners make include leaning too far forward or backward, holding their breath, looking down at their feet instead of forward, and tensing up their bodies. It’s important to maintain a relaxed and upright posture, look ahead, and focus on maintaining balance and control.
How long does it take to become proficient at ice skating?
The time it takes to become proficient at ice skating varies from person to person. It depends on factors such as natural ability, frequency of practice, and individual dedication. With regular practice and consistent effort, beginners can expect to make noticeable progress within a few weeks to a few months.
What are some exercises or drills I can do off-ice to improve my ice skating skills?
Off-ice exercises can help improve your ice skating skills. Strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges, and core workouts can enhance your balance and stability. Additionally, activities like rollerblading, yoga, and general cardiovascular exercises can improve your overall fitness level and contribute to better performance on the ice.
How do I safely fall and get back up on the ice?
When falling on the ice, it’s important to protect your head and avoid landing on your hands with your fingers extended. Instead, try to land on your forearms and roll with the fall to absorb the impact. To get back up, position yourself on your hands and knees, bring one foot forward, and push up to a standing position while maintaining balance.
Are there any specific safety precautions I should take while ice skating?
Yes, there are several safety precautions to follow while ice skating. These include wearing a properly fitted helmet, using wrist guards and knee pads for added protection, avoiding overcrowded areas, skating in the same direction as others, and being aware of your surroundings. It’s also important to learn and practice proper stopping techniques to avoid collisions.
Are there any age restrictions for learning to ice skate?
There are typically no strict age restrictions for learning to ice skate. People of all ages can enjoy and learn to skate. Many ice rinks offer skating lessons specifically designed for different age groups, including children, teenagers, and adults. It’s never too late to start learning and enjoying the sport.
Are there any specific exercises or stretches to improve flexibility for ice skating?
Improving flexibility can greatly benefit your ice skating skills. Some exercises and stretches that can help include lunges, leg swings, squats, hamstring stretches, and hip stretches. Incorporating a regular stretching routine into your off-ice training can enhance your range of motion, agility, and overall performance on the ice.
How do I find a reputable ice skating coach or instructor?
To find a reputable ice skating coach or instructor, you can start by checking local ice rinks or skating clubs in your area. They often have certified coaches who offer lessons for beginners. You can also ask for recommendations from other skaters or search online directories of skating coaches. Look for coaches with experience, good reviews, and proper certifications or affiliations with recognized skating organizations.