Adult Ice Skating Lessons – Urban Athlete


I WAS the youngest of three children and the only girl in a family where football was king, so life itself was a contact sport. So it’s no surprise that I was drawn to milder, gentler physical activities (and ones that involved sparkly costumes). But when I asked to add figure skating to my weekly activity list, my mom said no. She thought ballet, tap dancing, jazz, gymnastics, violin lessons and brownies were enough.

Some dreams never die. This fall, almost 30 years later, I signed up for an adult skating class at the City Ice Pavilion, a closed rink in Long Island City, Queens that offers classes for all ages and abilities. It’s not that moving around the rink was a problem. I could skate in circles, but I wanted to spin.

Classes ($ 200 for eight sessions) at this rink follow the Basic Skills curriculum established by the United States Figure Skating Association, the official governing body of the sport here. Each level is made up of “elements”, such as one-foot slides and snowplow stops, that a skater must master before moving forward.

On the first day, our coach, Jessica Huot, slowed down. We learned about forward strides, slides, dips and what is called swizzles (basically making a marquee shape with your skates).

I felt wobbly and pathetic. Weak ankles and a numb right knee made it difficult to balance on a skate. And although I have studied dance most of my life, exercised in a gym, and do yoga regularly, figure skating has used a set of muscles that were in hibernation.

“Most people are surprised how difficult it is to skate,” said Tanya Douglas, figure skating program director at the City Ice Pavilion. She quoted an adage from the rink ?? “There is being in shape and there is being in the form of skating” ?? because she explained that sport involves everything: the trunk, the legs, the glutes, the hamstrings.

“It’s also a good workout for your mind,” she said, and my ego agrees.

It was an exercise in humility. You have to be ready to fall (the first class included lessons on the fall, and I bought elbow and knee pads) and look really, really stupid or you’re not going to progress.

This is especially difficult for adults, who Ms. Douglas says play sports for a variety of reasons. Most want to skate with their children. For some, like me, it’s a child’s dream come true. Others want to rediscover a passion from their youth. Still others are looking for a stress reliever or a workout that doesn’t look like it.

Ms Douglas said she tutored a woman who worked in private equity and skating helped the woman cope with the pressures of her job. I could see what she meant. Skating, when done correctly, requires absolute concentration. If you let your mind slip, your feet will follow.

Over the next six weeks, I noticed a marked improvement. I can slide on one foot, the other in a slight arabesque, without wobbling (stronger ankles!), And I can skate backwards with ease (less fear!). When the “skate keeper,” a lifeguard’s version of the rink, said to me, “You’re getting better,” I beamed.

It’s hard to tell if I’ve gained confidence or improved, but who cares? I have fun.

I might not be twirling yet, and the sparkly outfit can wait. But I’ve definitely learned a little repertoire of moves, and maybe I’ll even BeDazzle my crash pads.

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