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Skate Your Way To Better Health


As with any other sport, warming up for skating is crucial to preventing injuries. Most of the power comes from your thighs and buttocks, so it's essential to make sure they're stretched and ready to go.

As with any other sport, warming up for skating is crucial to preventing injuries. Most of the power comes from your thighs and buttocks, so it's essential to make sure they're stretched and ready to go. Here are some examples of stretching to do in the change room before you hit the ice.

  • Seat yourself on the floor of the change room with your legs spread apart until your toes, legs and hips form a triangle. Reach forward with both hands towards your feet as far as you can go. Hold for a count of 30. Relax. Repeat three times.

  • Stand up. Place your foot on a bench, ensuring your leg is fully extended. With the arm closest to the extended leg across your waist, raise the opposite arm overhead and bend towards the extended leg. Hold for 30. Repeat on opposite side.

  • Kneel on the floor and seat yourself on your feet. Extend arms overhead and lean backward as far as is comfortable. This will stretch your back and thighs.

Don't Be Fashion Conscious

Remember, most small town arenas or local ponds are very cold. Long sleeved sweaters or turtlenecks will help keep you warm as you glide along the ice.

Protect your noggin. Whether you're an old pro or a beginner, everyone hits the ice from time to time. Make sure you wear a helmet certified by the Canadian Standards Association. Most people prefer a hockey helmet, but you can also use the lighter hard-shell skating helmet. Both protect against cuts, and impacts with the ice.

Gloves are a must. Not only will they keep your hands warm but you'll have fewer cuts and bruises from falling.

If The Skate Fits

The most common injury from skating is overturned ankles. This problem can be solved by making sure your skates fit properly. Never buy skates that are one-size too big. Thick socks will make the fit sloppy and can actually encourage blisters. The most important factor in fitting a skate is to have a snug heel to keep your ankle from wobbling and to promote stability. It shouldn't pinch anywhere along your foot and there should be "wiggle room" for your toes. If you can feel the end of the boot, it's too small.

Once you've found the right pair, lace them up. This may take some trial and error. You'll know your skates are too tight if your toes are numb after a few minutes skating. If they're too loose, your ankles will not get the support they need. A rule of thumb is the finger test. When your skates are laced properly, you should be able to fit your index finger sideways around the top of the boot.

Safety First

Now that you're dressed and ready to go, it's time to hit the ice. But there are a few things you should still check. Make sure your skate laces aren't too long and flopping. You could inadvertently skate over them and wind up doing a different type of snowplow.

Check you pockets. Make sure that you remove keys, change or any other sharp objects that might cause an unpleasant surprise if you fall on them.

Always be alert to avoid skating collisions. Be aware of beginner and advanced skaters, they may be concentrating a little too hard on what they're doing and not be aware of their surroundings. Always skate with the traffic on the ice and stick to the edges. Don't stand around on the ice and chat, you may get run over.

It's All In The Moves

If you've never been skating before, go with a friend who has a bit of know-how. Most local rec centres offer lessons for skaters of all levels and ages, but if you really want to join the fun of a public skate, here are a few pointers:

  • Start out by "walking" on your skates. You'll get used to the feel of the skate on the ice before you glide.

  • When you're ready to move faster, push forward with the side of your blade. Go slowly to get used to the feeling of gliding on ice. If you have toe-picks (three small grooves at the front of the blade usually used in figure skating) don't use them for starting or stopping until you're more advanced.

  • Proper posture is vital. Keep yourself straight and make sure your head is over your centre of gravity. Hold your arms out slightly for balance. For better balance use an "ice walker" metal walkers with blades on the bottom that help you learn how to balance.

Be patient. Skating isn't difficult to learn, but you can expect to fall a few times. If you lose your balance, go with the flow. Relax and try to crumple, it'll be easier than if you remain stiff. It may be scary at first, but you'll get the hang of it.

It's Fun, It's Aerobic, It's Skating!

Fitness skating is one of the fastest growing sports in North America. Correct technique will increase the cardiovascular benefits. A long stroke more speed. More speed a faster heart rate.

With a longer stroke you're using the large muscles in your legs, including the thighs and buttocks, to transfer power from your body to the ice surface to get you moving. The more stress and exertion on the muscles, the greater the blood flow, the greater the need for blood, the faster the heart beats. The faster the heart beats, the more calories are burned.

To achieve a longer stroke skate with your knees bent as close to 90 degrees as you can. The deeper the bend, the longer the stroke. It places "stress" on your body during exercise and helps tear down the muscle fibre so that when the muscles rebuild they become stronger (like lifting weights). You build muscle mass and lose body fat. If you just putter around the rink, you're not getting the full benefit.

The forward motion is spread out over the thighs and buttocks and you can go further and longer before tiring. This results in greater fitness benefits. A longer stroke requires lower body flexibility and builds strength in your lower back and abdomen. It's also important to push straight out from your body and push back with your heel. These two moves will help keep your weight on your heels, preventing "face plants" when you hit a rut or other obstacle. Your centre of gravity is lower, making it easier to keep your balance. Dig the inside edge of your blade into the ice and push, then lift the leg, bringing it in a semi-circle back underneath you and plant it slightly ahead of you with the blades firmly on the ice.



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