Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fall Gracefully: Tips for the Casual Ice Skater + Where to Skate

There are times where I wish I could ice skate like Michelle Trachtenberg in Ice Princess. If you haven't seen it, it's about a nerdy girl who uses simple physics and learns how to ice skate like a pro. (I recommend it if you're looking for B-movie goodness.) While we can't all skate like Michelle Kwan, we can learn how to fall.

If you have ever taken lessons or even tried for the first time, you know you're going to fall (at least once).

I still love ice skating.  When I first moved to New York and found out that Bryant Park had an ice rink, it was like longing to relive a childhood memory. I took lessons in middle school, but never kept it up. Surprisingly it's like riding a bike. Even in Lolita.

If your a Lolita who loves to ice skate or always wanted to try, here's some advice:

Wear gloves. Gloves are warm, the ice is not. Glove can provide some protection against the ice if you do fall or if you hand gets cut against someone else's blade. Preferably anything that looks cute like Meta's Princess Gloves.

Petticoats are your friend. While it's not always advantageous to wear petticoats a lot of the time, that cumbersome volume does ease your fall. It's not good as knee or elbow pads or even a butt pad, but it will create distant between the hard ice and tender skin.

If you know you're going to fall, try to fall on your butt. Compared to any other angle to fall, this is the safest. This does not mean you should fall all the way back (I've seen this happen). Avoid areas to fall like your head, face, joints as these are very fragile area.

Ice skating is a dangerous sport. You can get hurt. If you don't realize this then you shouldn't be ice skating. Like the old saying goes - it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Now if you are aware of this and are still ready to tackle the ice, we'll move onto the fun stuff.

Imagine you are a little bird learning to fly. This is a metaphor I use whenever I help people who've never set there foot on the ice. A) Because a little bird is afraid and extremely cautious. B) A little bird learns to take flight a step at a time.

Push off one foot at a time. This will give you momentum on the ice and will keep you moving. When you first step on the ice use the railing to push yourself away and move one foot away from heel to toe, so the other is used for balance. Note: Don't concentrate on moving your feet this way, but concentrate more on how just making sure you keep skating.

Bend your knees and spread your wings.  Unlike jogging where your are allowed to swing your arms, when you're ice skating this is not the greatest thing to do. Basically your arms are going to help keep you balance. Bending your knees will help you push off a little better.

Perfect fit. A perfectly fitting skate should be tight, as in your foot should not be able to move inside the boot. Old school ice skates sizes were often smaller than your actual shoe size. However when trying skates one, try one or a half size smaller. Note: You shouldn't cram your foot into the boot. It should be a perfect fit, like Cinderella's glass slipper.

Onto the Don'ts

Avoid rentals. In my opinion, rentals are the Devil. As you're not sure what will fit right. Ice skates are pretty cheap nowadays so it's easy to buy your own. However don't buy too cheaply, as they may fall apart while you're on the ice. Aim for ones that cost $30 - $50

Don't buy and skate. I go to Bryant Park to skate and I see tons of adults and teens buy skates and then go on the ice. This is dangerous as the blades are not as sharp as you think and you will not be able to skate properly. Rinks will have sharpening services on the premises, so get them sharpened first. I tend go to Westside Skate & Stick.

(I like this place because they'll ask you a lot of questions to know how sharp the blade should be. How often you skate, are you casual or pro, even where you normally skate.)

Don't be a jerk. This mainly applies to people who like to skate like they're playing hockey, but applies to everyone who's on the ice. Chopping up the ice looks cool, it's not really safe for the other people who've never skated before or even people who are just skating for fun. The same goes for weaving in and out, and going at break-neck speeds. You are creating more accidents.

If you want to skate like a hockey player, join a team.

You're not the only one on the ice. Be aware there are other people on the ice, and, more often than not, they don't know how to ice skate. Leave a personal bubble between you and others.

Avoid the railing. The railing looks nice. It will be there if you fall, and you can pull yourself around the rink without falling. Using the railing as a security blanket is not the best way to ice skate. You have to learn to let go. If you must, try to skate a little away from the railing until you get comfortable skating on your own.

Walking gets you nowhere. Just because you have ice skates doesn't mean you can walk on ice. Ice has no friction, and trying to walk on ice with sharp blades on your feet won't help you move (actually it makes you look quite silly). You have to realize you need to glide. It's called ice skating, not ice walking.

I hope this will help you wherever you choose to go and skate. Ice skating is really great once you know your way around the ice. Here are some places in the city you can go to:

The Pond at Bryant Park - This ice rink is not only in Midtown, but it has free admission. This means all you have to pay is for the skates - and if you have your own all you got to do is walk right in.

Wollman Rink - For some shopping or dropping the kids off somewhere, Wollman is a good central place where you can skate at your leisure.

Trump Lasker Rink - If you mostly hang around uptown near Harlem then this is the most convenient rink to go to. Two hockey-sized outdoor arenas for skating convenience

WWII Veterans Memorial Ice Skating Rink - Don't want to travel all the way to the city? Staten Island has it's own rink.

Rockefellar Ice Rink - Everyone's heard of the famous Rockefellar Ice Rink. Not sure what else I could say that you haven't heard. However if you want to ice skate at Rockefellar I suggest going after February when admission is cheaper ($14).

W Hotel - It's small but free (if you own skates). Located on the fifth floor of the W Hotel. Note: It's only open until February 15th, so grab your skates and head downtown.

Can't get enough of skating? There are also some indoor rinks around the city to go to when the weather is warmer.

Chelsea Piers Sky Rink - Chelsea Piers is quite a long walk from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it makes up for it by having an entire sports center with a view of the river.

World Ice Arena - You may have to travel all the way to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but you'll be able to skate all year round.

Kate Wollman Rink - Sadly there was no outdoor ice skating for Brooklyn this year. However never fear because Parks and Recreations is building a whole new rink to use all year round!

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