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Ever wondered how to ice skate for the first time? We first need to understand how to stand, walk then glide. Before we go further, the ice rink wall or barrier is a very good friend at this stage, use it for stability and don’t step onto the ice for the first time away from it. Don’t overly lean against it, rather try and stand free but only use it to re-check your position. You should stand on the inside edge of your blade, let us explain. Your blades are made up of two sides – inner and outer, and shaped like the letter n. It’s these edges of the blade which give you the sensation of two sides. Your legs have also two sides, outer leg, and inner leg, so as you stand on the ice try to lean on the inside edge, with legs leaning slightly in, shoulder-width apart. Actually here is a good book from Amazon to start you off Figure Skating 101
Posture when ice skating
Most people who ice skate for the first time do not realise how key this is. We need to bend our legs just so the knees match the caps of your ice skate boots. Combined with our back straight, stomach in, shoulders back. We then allow our body weight to be centralised over the skates and not be top-heavy. Your arms should be raised from the sides of your body, in slightly forward direction. We need to forget trying to look too elegant at this stage standing with straight legs, experience will show you that your body weight will take you backward.
How to practice balancing on the ice
Practice with your arms out wide, this will spread your weight evenly and you will be ready to spread your weight on the ice if you fall. Youngsters can skate with the small penguins, but may need a little push from parents because they can be a little heavy for the youngsters– it does get a little back achy after a while for mum and dad. But what great fun it is, sometimes us parents love cornering on them, just don’t forget your kids are still hanging on! Alternatively, if lucky enough to have one, you can use an ice hockey stick positioned out in front of you to maintain balance.
How to walk on the ice for the first time
As you approach the edge of the ice rink, step onto the ice sideways to stop any risk of your boot slipping forward. Once on, try to walk or march gently, maintaining the posture as mentioned above and keep your head high. If this is difficult then use the wall as support. Don’t grab on to the wall, instead try to float your hand over it as a guide. This helps to stop pulling yourself forward as this will shift your body weight too far in front. Next, try to master walking backward, we do recommend using the wall this time! You can also try marching in a circle if you feel brave enough at this stage.
Stroking – you are nearly ice skating
This is where your ice skating takes shape. Initially, the direction of your ice skate boots should be aligned in parallel to the direction of travel. Start by moving the right boot off to the side and use your toe area to push away whilst maintaining the majority of the weight in the left leg.
Your right leg should push out to the side, not the back. The left leg does not move direction, its job is to glide. Practice again after stopping, but this time hold the glide for longer on your left leg. Try to stand more upright as you slow down as you bring the right leg back into position, with both feet pointing forward. Next, launch from the left leg and then try alternating from leg to leg from a fixed position until you feel comfortable with each short glide.
Next it’s time to transition to alternative right & left legs for a continuous glide, imagine your centre of gravity (dividing line vertically through your body) moving from right-centre-left. Whichever leg you are pushing from, move your gravity onto the opposite balancing leg. Simply glide, straighten up and then balance over to the other side repeating the ‘push to the side’ action.
No matter what sport you wish to adapt in ice skating – ice hockey, figure skating, recreational skating – these techniques are the same to eventually become competent on the ice and skating freely.
Practice Swizzles Forward & Backwards
Maintaining our skating posture, imagine creating an 0 shape, fish shape or lemon on the ice in front of you. Starting with the inside edge of your blade move your feet out like a pigeon toe, open out wide and then pull/squeeze your legs back in with feet together. By pointing your toes back in that will help you return to the starting position. Don’t go too wide or else you won’t be able to pull them back! The next stage is to complete going backwards, start by turning your feet in and open your legs just beyond the shoulders. Then angle your heels in to return. These baby movements will provide confidence on the ice and are good fun to do.
Ski Glides Forwards and Backwards
This is all about rotating your hips left and right but maintaining flexibility in the knees and ankles. Imagine you are skiing or you are a dog wagging your tail. Whilst maintaining the feet a small distance apart in parallel, use the outside edge of your blades to glide. One leg at the time will take the lead to slightly push off whether you are going backwards or forwards. After a while you will find control in your hips to do the work and it will feel natural. You can move your arms in a jogging motion to help the effort. Now take a look at yourself, if you can do all of the above, you have mastered how to ice skate for the first time!
How to Stop when ice skating
The number one query when learning how to ice skate for the first time. Everyone hates the embarrassment of falling and must stop with confidence. There are better ways to stop vs slamming into the wall!
Forward SnowPlough Stop:
To practice this try holding the wall with your left arm and with your outer leg scrap the ice away from your body. Change sides and repeat on the other leg. Next, whilst holding the wall for balance push both feet out at the same time. Now you have the technique lets but it into practice using a one leg Snow Plough stop. Travel at gentle speed and then bring one blade forward, turn the toes in and then push the ice away as you did on the wall.
Don’t go too far with the blade or you may lose balance. Now for the 2 legged snow plough – travel at a gentle speed, keep knees relaxed, bodyweight low & centre and then push your feet out to stop. Remember to bring both toes inwards otherwise if feet remain parallel you will keep travelling. Your body weight must be centre, not too back or forward. If too forward you end up jumping forwards after you stop and potentially fall. Master the above before you progress to the next one.
This where you create the letter T by pulling the rear skating blade up behind your leading boot. This blade must travel on its outer side, so you will need to engage your inside leg muscles to pull it in as it shaves the ice. From a side view, your legs would look like they are creating a diamond shape. Your lead boot heal will eventually nestle onto the side of your rear heal and you will stop. Your upper body shape should have shoulders square and lead leg pointing forwards. Whilst your opposing leg and hip are open, it’s then you will bend both knees and pull and push that blade in from the back. Try to lean slightly back as you push the blade inwards at the very end, otherwise you will find it hard to get on the outside edge of the blade.
How to Fall when Ice skating
So the breaking advice didn’t work and oops you are going to fall. Don’t worry, when learning how to ice skate for the first time learning to fall is just as important as any other skating skill. Your number one priority is to protect your head. If you want your kids to be safe try this SKL Kids Protective Gear Set we found with strong reviews on Amazon.
As you fall try to make your body loose and relaxed, that way you are less likely to injure yourself on the ice as your body absorbs the impact better. Avoid being too tense because your arms and legs will straighten up, inviting shock up your joints when you land. Make sure you engage your stomach muscles and maintain upper body strength. If humanly possible fall forwards not back, as falling forward with arms will stop the head hitting the ice.
Remember ice skating blades are sharp, so NEVER put your fingers out flat on the ice when you land, you never know who is skating by at speed. If you fall on your front, roll over onto your back, sit up and get back onto your knees first, this is a very stable position. Raise one leg onto the ice with one knee bent. Lastly to stand up maintain centre balance and place both hands on top of your thigh forcing all the weight down to push yourself up.
As the smile suggests on the NY Rockefeller Ice Rink picture, put these techniques into play and you will enjoy your skating experience. Hopefully one day you can be one of these great skaters.