Like the thought of taking to the ice, but not sure where to start? Helen Keeling shows that, with Skate UK’s Learn to Ice Skate Programme, even those with two left feet can discover their inner Jayne Torville.
The First Skate
As we ‘booted up’ in preparation for our first lesson, we were harbouring different aspirations. My fiancé had heard that ice skating would help with his skiing (his carving, don’t you know), whereas I? Well, I had visions of me landing an elegant triple lutz to the roar of the appreciative crowd. Five minutes in, however, I realised that just being able to skate forwards with a modicum of grace and finesse would be something of a result.
Skate UK is the National Ice Skating Association (NISA)’s Learn to Skate Programme. Designed for beginners of all ages, it aims to teach the basic movements and skills in a fun and friendly environment.
Offered at ice rinks across the country, the programme is broken down into ten stages – each stage covering four basic principles. Skate UK’s coaches are keen to stress that it’s all about progressing at a pace that’s comfortable for you, and so, in order to avoid being shown up by twirling, swirling seven-year-olds, we enrolled onto one of the adult-only six-week programmes.
Breaking the Ice
Despite a somewhat slow and shaky start, by the end of our first half-hour lesson we, and our new-found ice skating friends, could competently glide forwards – all having mastered the two-footed glide and dip. Amazingly, not one of us had taken a tumble.
A Backwards Step
In lesson two, we focused on both backwards skating and stopping. Perhaps surprisingly, the snowplough stopping proved to be the more challenging of the two, resulting in many a wobble, and, for an unfortunate few, a fall and a damp derrière! In this action-packed half hour, we were also taught how to skate on one leg (easier than it sounds) and we attempted a two-footed glide on a curve.
The next three lessons were all about consolidating what we’d learnt in our first couple of lessons; our coach, Rebecca, believing that practice makes perfect. Whilst I was steadily improving at the backwards skating, the circling of a cone and the one-footed gliding, my nemesis was still the stopping. My breakthrough, however, came at the end of lesson four, when something in my brain suddenly ‘clicked’ and I figured out how to use the edges of my blades to create friction, without doing it so violently that I’d wobble. It felt good.
Jumping in with Both Feet
The challenge in our final lesson was the two-footed jump whilst skating forwards. The key attribute needed here was courage – the courage to just go for it. It was great fun and a perfect way to round off a challenging, fulfilling, and most of all fun, six-weeks.
On picking up our certificates (we had all successfully passed the first three of Skate UK’s ten stages), we discussed our next steps. One lady commented that she would now have the confidence to skate at the outdoor Christmas ice rinks that are becoming so popular in the UK.
Some other members of our group said that they were planning to sign up for further Skate UK lessons, in an attempt to pass some of the higher stages and learn some more sophisticated spins and jumps.
And me? I’ve decided to train for the 2013 Vikingaturen, an annual Swedish ice skating marathon held on a fresh water lake. How far we’d all come since that first wobbly lesson!
Ice Skating Health Benefits
*Cardio-vascular – ice skating provides you with a low-impact, aerobic workout – but you’ll be having so much fun, you won’t realise you’re working out!
*Weight loss – dependent on your weight and effort, it’s estimated that skating can burn up to 800 calories an hour!
*Strength – gliding on the ice helps to tone your quads, hamstrings, back muscles and abs.
We paid £60 each for a six-week course, which comprised of six half-hour lessons, skate hire and unlimited skating after our lessons.
Helen Keeling, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine