Many people don’t go ice skating all year long, but when the weather gets cold, few other activities seem to fit the season as well. Still, even as an adult, putting on a pair of skates can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you feel more shaky than graceful, learning new skills to improve your form on the ice, your fitness off the ice, and your overall attitude can help you enjoy gliding across frozen surfaces and keep you fit for other activities, too.
Kelly Cassity, a competitive figure skater who is now the Learn to Skate coordinator at the Utah Olympic Oval, says that ice skating works out the whole body. “It takes balance, determination, and coordination to stay balanced on a blade that is 4 millimeters thick.”
She says that the biggest mistake adults make is getting stiff when they step onto the ice because they are afraid. When you’re tense, your muscles can’t take the impact of a fall as well. This makes falls even more painful. You will get far if you keep your knees bent, stay low to the ice, and learn how to fall and get back up.
Before practicing edging, crossovers, and other drills on the ice, skaters can work on their balance and core strength off the ice.
Cassity says that it will pay off to learn these basics. “When you go out and do something hard, it gives you a sense of pride and satisfaction. Skating can also be a very social activity, so it’s a great way for adults to meet each other.
Andy Ness, who played hockey in college and is now a coach at ProEdge Power in Minnesota and a skating and skills coach for the Minnesota Wild, says that skating is also a great way to build up your endurance. “Once you know how to skate well, you can almost always work out on ice,” he says.
Cassity and Ness give these easy tips and drills to help people who just want to skate for fun.
Drill 1: Stretching
Cassity says that having flexible muscles makes it easier to move on the ice and means you fall less often and hurt less when you do. She suggests that you do the following lower-body stretches at home as part of your training. After a quick warm-up, like jogging or jumping jacks, do these moves every day.
Stretching the hamstrings while lying down: Lay on your back with straight legs. Lift up one leg and support yourself by holding the back of your thigh, calf, or ankle. Pull your raised leg toward your head until you feel a stretch in your hamstring, but don’t pull so hard that it hurts. For extra support, loop a resistance band or towel around your foot. Hold each leg for one to two minutes.
Hip-flexor stretch: Stand with your feet about 3 to 4 feet apart, with your front foot in front of your back foot. With your hands on your hips and your core braced, let the heel of your back foot rise up while bending the knee of your front foot directly over your toes. Keep your chest up and your front shin straight as you squat down. Straighten your back leg and squeeze your glutes to feel a stretch in the front of that hip. Hold each side for 30 seconds.
Drill 2: Balance
Ness says that this drill gives you the strength and balance you need to stay standing on the ice. Add this three-part move to your workouts three times a week.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart on the curved side of a BOSU ball. Squat down with your palms facing forward and your elbows bent. Move your hands to the left and right while staying in a squat. Your torso and head should move in the same direction. Ten times in each direction, repeat.
Stand up on the BOSU ball, then lift your right foot and tap it to the floor on the right side. Come back to the middle and do the same thing with your left leg. Do 20 reps, switching sides each time.
With your right foot on the BOSU ball, put your left leg about 2 to 3 feet behind you so that your toes are on the floor and your heel is lifted. To do a lunge, you bend your knees. Finish 10 reps on one side and then switch to the other side.
Drill 3: Falling Down and Getting Back Up
Cassity says that if you know how to fall properly, you will be less likely to hurt yourself when you trip and fall. The trick is to land on a stronger part of your body instead of your hands. Start by practicing off the ice, first without skates and then with them on. Next, get on the ice and fall from a stop while moving slowly, and then do it again while skating faster.
Wearing gloves and wrist guards, put your hands in front of you, bend your knees slightly, and squat.
Fall to the side, letting your butt, hip, or upper arm take most of the impact.
To get back up, put yourself back on all fours with your hands.
Put one foot, then the other, between your hands.
Slowly stand up, keeping your glutes tight and your knees bent to stay stable.
Drill 4: Borders
Ness says that good balance and strength on your blade edges will help you feel more confident on the ice. Once you can skate steadily, do this drill every time you go to the rink.
Start at one end of the rink and make your way to the other. After three steps, turn on one leg in a small circle while keeping your balance on the outside edge of the skate.
Skate forward for three more steps, then switch legs and do it again. Don’t forget to bend your knees, drop your hips, and stay low to the ice.
Switch legs and build up your strength and stamina so that you can make five trips up and down the ice.