So you want to learn how to ice skate. You’re a complete beginner. Or maybe you used to skate, but you’ve not practiced for ages. Fortunately, you bumped into this post on how to ice skate for beginners. Lucky you! Here, you’ll learn the fundamentals or basics of ice skating and more. Of course, you won’t instantly become Nathan Chen. But at least, you’ll know where to start.
You’ll learn various beginning ice skating moves. In the end, though, ice skating is more about doing and less about reading or even thinking about it! So, read this. Watch a couple videos. Buy the gear you need, or rent it if possible. Most importantly, start practicing earliest you can. And remember to wear protective gear for ice skating including a helmet and protective pads.
Skating is a hobby or sport where people use skates or wheeled-shoes to glide on ice or other surfaces. It’s an all all-embracing term referring to a smorgasbord of different types of activities.
Someone may say “I’m going skating,” but they mean they’re actually going electric skateboarding or just street skating rather than ice skating. Or maybe they’re going roller skating. In the end, it’s a question of context. Skating means whatever version of gliding around the speaker practices.
By the way, ice skating isn’t the same as roller skating. Typical roller skates have wheels while regular ice skates feature a metallic blade on the underside. Take a look.
Science-backed Benefits of Ice Skating
You’ve probably wondered whether ice skating delivers any real benefits. Can skating really help me lose weight, you ask.
Now, here’s good news:
Skating can help a 125-pound person burn as much as 210 calories in just 30 minutes according to Harvard Medical School. By comparison, the same person would burn just 90 calories if they did general weightlifting for 30 minutes.
As you can see, ice skating actually burns 57 percent more calories than weightlifting! Evidently, ice skating can help you lose weight. It’s a great way to regain one’s self-esteem and confidence.
Another great advantage of skating is that it can help you develop a leaner, well-toned body. As you stretch your muscles and various body parts such as hands and legs, your overall body shape will improve. Your ability to endure will soar, and you’ll become stronger.
Finally, skating can do wonders for your mental health according to Healthline. The activity is a great way to push one’s body and mind beyond their comfort zones, boosting clarity and mental control. Isn’t this something you’d want to learn with your significant other or friends?
Enough of that. Now, let’s start……
Prepping for Ice Skating
Let’s start at the beginning. You don’t need any kind of fancy equipment to get started. Pretty much anyone can afford this hobby.
First off, you need good skates — probably the best ice skates you can afford. But who says you can’t rent? Renting lets you learn the sport cheaply. It gives you sufficient time to decide whether you really love ice skating without spending a whole boatload of money. Get skates that’ll fit just right. Choose those that’ll offer you enough foot and ankle support.
Of course, you should wrap up warm for the activity. Also, have several pairs of socks whether you’re renting skates or using your own. It does get cold out there, and you want to stay warm. Plus, socks make your skates less roomy, and that helps you avoid nasty blisters.
And before you strap those skates on, wear something that covers your legs entirely. Wearing shorts is just a bad idea. There’s always a chance you might fall, leaving a layer of your skin on the ice! So, grab a pair of warm-up pants or sweatpants. They should be close-fitting rather than too tight. Also, have knee pads as well as shin pads.
In addition, wear a safety helmet. Figure skating pros say that all beginners regardless of age should have protective gear for the head. Your helmet should be snug and comfortable. It shouldn’t move or fall off at any time during practicing. So, buckle your helmet’s chin strap properly.
Don’t tilt the helmet too far back on the top of your head. Or pull it too low over your forehead. And before you get onto the ice, test the safety helmet to ensure it’s a good fit. Here’s one more thing. Make sure the helmet doesn’t have any cracks or other signs of damage.
Lest I forget, you should also wear cut-proof skating gloves. Gloves or mittens keep your hands warm. And in the event of a fall, you can avoid getting cut. It’s also nice to have elbow pads and wrist guards. Pads minimize impact in case you fall.
Let’s now put the skates on….
How to Lace Up Your Skates
Have your heels as far back into the boot as possible. At that point, hold the tongue and gently pull it up. Next, tuck the tongue on either side of the foot. Then, start pulling the laces, starting at the second set/pair of laces.
Ensure each boot closes well over the front of each foot. The first two sets of laces and those meant to support the ankles should be snug. The last two laces should be somewhat looser, allowing you adequate flexibility. Finally, cross the ends nicely over the last two hooks, tying them tightly.
Note: make sure you have no loose flying bows. Why? It’s because they can cause accidents.
How do you know you’ve done the job correctly? Put a finger between each leg and the back of the boot. If you tied the laces right, your finger should fit without too much work. But you shouldn’t be able to stick it in effortlessly. Also, your feet should feel comfortable. They shouldn’t hurt at all. If that’s not the kind of fit you have, make adjustments until you get it right.
Let’s Start Skating
Want to see a real pro doing it rather than read how to ice skate? Here’s a video for you so you can learn the basics quickly and hit the rink.
Ice Skating Video (You won’t find a better trainer!)
This video explains in clear detail various fundamental ice skating moves. Watch it, understand it, and most important, practice the moves. Happy gliding!
Gliding successfully on ice is a function of how well you can command balance and control. So, learn how to achieve and maintain your balance. How do you do this? Get into the correct ice skating posture from the get-go. And maintain that posture throughout each session.
Your knees should always stay slightly bent. That position lowers your center of gravity, stabilizing you. It also helps you to skate without falling. Also, you should always have your weight positioned over your skating leg.
One time you’re skating on the right leg, and the next moment on the left one. Every time you switch legs, you must shift your weight so that it’s over the skating leg. Here’s one more thing. Your hands should stay stretched out to the front. Picture someone riding a scooter, with their hands holding onto the bars.
But before you get onto the ice…..
Learn How to Fall, Too
While falls rarely cause severe injuries or death, they happen. It’s critical to learn how to fall right.
As a kid, you fell many times before you learned to walk. A couple years later, you fell of the bike several times before you learned how to cycle without falling. The same goes for ice skating. No matter how well you know the art, you’ll fall.
Note: If it feels like you’re falling, do what you can to fall to the side rather than backward or forward. That’s why it’s advisable to practice for some time off the ice.
Here’s the secret of falling right. ALWAYS lower your center of gravity before a fall. Maybe your high school physics is a little rusty, huh? Don’t worry; it doesn’t matter.
So, bend your knees. That reduces the distance between you and the ice, minimizing the odds of getting hurt. And don’t use your hands to catch yourself, no matter how natural that feels. You don’t want to end up with broken arms, do you?
As stated elsewhere, most bad ice skating falls happen to folks who try to break the fall using their hands. Keep your hands out of the way so you don’t crush them. Then, fall on the side. As you fall, make sure to tuck your chin to your body. You never want to bash your head against the ground.
Do Ice Skating Falls Hurt?
Many beginners wonder what it’s like to fall while skating. They can’t stop imagining all the pain they’d feel if they took a bad fall. But here’s good news. Even though beginners and pros fall a lot, bad falls aren’t scarily common. Especially if you’ve learned how to fall properly. By default, your knees are bent, and you’re always comfortably close to the ground.
One study shows that most ice skating falls happen when people fall the “wrong way.” The study focused on an ice rink in Cambridge, but it can be assumed the same goes for most rinks. The vast majority of falls occur because people tried to break the fall using their outstretched hands. That’s most likely why fully 98% of all accidents affect the upper limbs.
How to Get Up
If you fall, try to get back up as quickly as possible. Get out of the way, or you’ll stop a speeding skater!
To get back up, roll onto your hands and knees. Set one of your feet, preferably your dominant one, on the ice — between your hands. After that, quickly get the other foot on the ice, also between your hands. At that point, stand up, and keep your knees slightly bent. Once you’re back up, regain your balance and you’re good.
Ready? Let’s start gliding…
1. Skate Forward
It’s time to march forward. With your toes pointing in the direction you’re heading to, take one step forward. Then, repeat the action with the other foot. Afraid? Hold onto the wall first as you build up your confidence. Oh, and stop looking down to see whether you’re doing it right, or you’ll collide with someone and get injured. Next, try to push a little harder, doing two-foot glides. As your confidence grows, you’ll do longer glides faster.
2. Backward Skating
Keep your feet parallel to each other, knees bent, and chest up. Then, shift your weight to some position between your feet, and push outward, one foot at a time. To maintain your balance, work off the balls of your feet, pushing backward gently. Not going anywhere? No worries. Try this: with your toes turned in, try to walk backward slowly. As you do that, shift your weight until you find that sweet spot where balance happens almost effortlessly.
3. Forward Swizzles (Scissors)
This move starts with you standing in a V-shaped position, your heels touching and toes turned out. Of course, you should bend your knees a little. Now, use the inside edges of your skates to push outward and forward. Keep going until your blades are one foot apart.
At that point, with your knees straightened, form an inverted V by bringing your toes together. When you complete this move, you’ll have done a circular move, like the letter O.
4. Backward Swizzles
For many people, backward swizzles are more difficult than forward swizzles. You may have done the forward wiggles without much difficulty, but you may find you have trouble doing backward swizzles.
Fundamentally, backward swizzles are similar to their forward counterparts. Except that in this case, you’re moving backward.
Backward swizzles have you starting the glide in an inverted V position. So, bend your knees. And your toes should stay together. Next, use your inside edges to press your heels outward. At that point, your skates should start gliding apart. Continue moving until your feet are at roughly one foot apart.
Next, start straightening your knees as you rise up. Simultaneously, put your heels together as if you’re prepping for a two-foot backward glide. Do this again and again, about 6-8 times.
Backward swizzles (and wiggles) are very important. Without them, you won’t do backward crossovers successfully.
5. One-foot Glide (Forward)
To do this one, start with forward marching or swizzles as per your preference. Then, get into a two-foot glide. Next, pick one of your feet up, placing the foot close and parallel to the skating one.
Remember to keep the hip on the free foot a little raised. At the same time, have your arms extended forward, parallel to the ice in the direction you’re heading.
Also, position your shoulders parallel to the direction you’re gliding in. Want a really strong glide? Learn to balance on your foot for about 3 or more counts. Or, glide a over distance that equates to your height.
6. Learn the Dip
Let’s now do the dip. It’s a basic ice skating lesson taught in all beginning classes.
Here’s how to do the dip:
Start with your arms extended sideways, one to the right and the other to the left. Then, start marching slowly to build momentum. Finally, push off into a 2-foot glide. Next, bend both knees in a dip. Meanwhile, your arms should be extended forward, parallel to the ice and over your knees. Your upper body and chin should stay straight up.
We have forward crossovers and backward crossovers. These elements help skaters immensely when it comes to maneuvering corners. They require you to place your outside skate (assuming you’re practicing in a hockey circle) over the inside skate.
Crossovers are something you must practice frequently. They’re a fundamental move, and while they can be quite tough for a beginner, you won’t make much progress without learn them.
Here’s how to do the forward crossovers. First, stand with your feet parallel to each other, one arm in the front, and the other stretching backward. Then, try crossing the right foot over the left one, searching for your balance in the process.
Next, lift the left leg and put it next to the right, assuming your starting position once again. To make sure you’re moving straight, follow one of the hockey lines. And as you do all this, be sure not to turn your hip as this will have you walking in a new direction.
You can also try to do sidesteps, one arm in the back and the other extended to the front. As you do that, you’ll feel like there’s a bit of a twist between your hips and shoulders. That’s because your shoulders and hips won’t be square.
Next, learn the edges you’ll be using to do the forward crossovers. As you cross your right leg over the left, bend the left one a bit, dropping it over to the outside edge, toward the smallest toe. Doing that allows you to cross over the left leg without a problem. It also helps avoid toe pushing later in the process.
And as you put the right foot down, bend the ankle a little, stepping on the outside edge. Finally, pick the left foot and position it parallel to the other foot. Note: as you cross one foot over the other, shift your weight in alignment with that move.
At this point, you’re ready to start practicing in a circle. Now, start pushing with the right foot. Note that this foot is on the outside of the circle. At first, bring the right foot to the left one without crossing over. As your confidence grows, start doing the crossovers as detailed above.
Keep this in mind: The first push should be done on the inside edge, the second one on the outside edge. Always start a new push with an edge opposite to the previous one.
Here’s another important thing. As you do the crossovers, keep your knees somewhat bent. A common beginner mistake is to play as if they’re walking rather than skating. You won’t get skating flow unless your knees remain fluid.
Another reason to bend your knees a little is to avoid tripping yourself by your toe picks. Once you’re comfortable doing forward crossovers in one direction, start practicing in the opposite direction.
By now, you can skate backward or do backward swizzles and wiggles without issues (hopefully).
Now, start with backward wiggles or swizzles. Then, lift one foot up, find your balance, and glide in that position. Then, resume the backward wiggles or swizzles and lift the other foot up. Now, move over to a hockey circle (there are usually many such circles in an indoor ice rink).
Next, do one-foot backward glides around the circle until you can do it smoothly. Note: turn your head over your shoulder so you’re facing the direction of travel. A common mistake is to face the direction you’re gliding from, thinking it’s the best way to avoid collision! Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But beginners do that all the time.
Push with the foot outside the circle, using the inside backward edge. Next, lift the same foot (the one you pushed with) and cross it over the other foot. Then, pick the skating foot and place it next to the other foot, just like you did for forward crossovers.
Remember to bend your knees as you do a crossover so you can have smooth moves and avoid tripping. One arm should extend to the front while the other should stretch out to the back, helping you maintain balance. Once you’re comfortable moving in one direction, start practicing in the opposite direction.
This is another trick you should learn. The good thing with the shoot-the-duck move is that it’s quite hard to fall while practicing it. Normally, your backside stays pretty close to the ice. If you fall, it likely won’t be a thud! You most likely won’t get hurt.
Start by deeply bending one leg so that your knee stays close to your chest. At the same time, have the other leg out to the front. Pretend you’re prepping to aim and shoot at some unlucky duck. Now, in that position, push off and have fun.
Ice skating jumps involve actually jumping off the ice and rotating in the air. There are 6 different elements (rotational jumps) you’ll learn (eventually).
The salchow is the easiest jump, followed by the toe loop. Then there’s the loop jump, the flip jump, and the lutz jump. Finally, we have the axel jump, the toughest of them all.
Even though I said the salchow is the easiest, ALL these jumps are hard to learn for a beginner. And you can easily get hurt. So, I strongly suggest you get a professional trainer to guide you.
Some people land the salchow jump after a month or two of practice. Others take 2+ years to learn the same jump. Not everyone in school gets what the instructor is saying the first time around. Similarly, there’ll always be differences in learning speed when it comes to ice skating.
There’s academic intelligence, and then there’s kinesthetic intelligence. To become a professional skater, you must consistently and passionately increase your kinesthetic intelligence.
Before you start with these 6 jumps, learn to hop. A hop is a simple jump where you leap into the air without rotating. Once you learn that, you can try practicing these 6 ice skating jumps from the simplest to the hardest.
How to Stop When Ice Skating
You can’t glide forever, certainly. Learning to stop is a vitally important skill. The T-stop and Snowplow stop are two essential stopping tricks you should grasp.
How to do a Snowplow Stop
To do a snowplow stop, start by reducing your speed by assuming a two-foot glide position. Next, bend your knees and ankles. Then, apply sufficient pressure (not too little or too much) to your stakes’ inside edges. When you do that, your heels will naturally begin to angle out. And that’ll have you skidding rather than gliding, bringing you to a successful, safe stop.
How to do a T-stop
You can do either the right foot T-stop or the left foot T-stop.
Let’s do the right foot T-stop. First, assume the T-position with your skates, the right one meeting the left one, forming the letter T. As you do that, stretch your right arm to the front while putting the left one to the back. Then, stand and achieve balance while in this position. Practice this until you can maintain that T-position without moving.
Now, you’re all set.
Next, use your left foot to push off and do a nice glide, holding the right foot (the stopping foot) up. The free foot should help you control the glide. At this juncture, you’re ready to start putting the foot down.
Avoid dragging the stopping foot on the inside edge. Instead, use the skate’s outer edge to push the foot toward the left foot’s heel. Take care not to step on the left blade. Then, angle your blade (of the right foot) to the outside edge while bending your knees all the way to a fine stop. And to do the left foot T stop, repeat this move, starting with the left foot.
How to Ice Skate for Beginners: The Dos and Don’ts
I’ll start with the Dos.
7 Ice Skating Dos to Keep in Mind:
- Get a decent pair of blades if you intend to practice this fun sport for years. Wearing ill-fitting ones most often hurts your feet. But if you’re not planning on doing it frequently, you can use rented skates.
- Lace up the skates correctly.
- Warm up before you step onto the ice so your body won’t react adversely to cold water.
- Always lean forward, knees bent and arms stretched forward for balance.
- Pay someone to teach you the basics if you’re an absolute beginner. It helps.
- Practice, practice, practice.
- ALWAYS finish a move like you’re the best ice skater the world’s ever seen.
- Have fun.
5 Ice Skating Don’ts
- Don’t look at your toe picks. Avoid collisions with strangers!
- Don’t lean backward while gliding. Avoid those not-always-funny falls on your backside.
- Don’t try the 6 jumps mentioned above without professional guidance.
- Don’t feel too bad if you’re not progressing as fast as you’d hoped. Learning something worth learning takes time.
- Don’t practice excessively.
Pain After Ice Skating
Many beginners ask, “Is it normal to experience pain or have blisters after a skating session? As a skating beginner, you may feel a bit of discomfort as you learn the ropes. And yes, be ready for a blister or two before your feet get used to wearing ice skates.
But how do you deal with skating-related pain? A certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Lance Silverman answers that question best. According to Dr. Silverman, it’s common for beginners in skating to hurt their ankles. It’s normal to wake up to aching, sore feet.
That’s because ice skating involves loads of footwork, and your foot and ankle muscles work hard.
One way to deal with the pain is to build ankle-strengthening exercises. A wobble board is another proven way to minimize ankle pain. Wobble boards help you balance your body better. And as you do that, your muscles become stronger and hurt much less.
Another common cause of ankle pain is wearing ill-fitting skates. It’s a common problem with people who rent skates. If your feet slide right in, you most likely have the wrong size. Skates with too much room — more than you need — end up hurting your ankles. They pile a ton of pressure on your ankle ligaments (outer), and you’ll experience pain upon waking up.
So, before picking that pair of rented skates at the rink, ask an experienced staffer to help you choose the right fit.
You can take the pain. It’s a small price to pay to learn a skill that’ll thrill you for a lifetime.
Lastly, DON’T overdo it. Don’t over-practice. In golfing, you don’t practice for a day and suddenly morph into legendary Tiger Woods. Similarly, you shouldn’t try to master ice skating in a day. Learning anything requires patience and persistence. And skating is no exception.
Final Thoughts on How to Ice Stake for Beginners
You’ve learned the basics of ice skating. Now, what remains is to overcome the fear of falling. Go out there and start skating. It’ll be hard and painfully slow at the start. And you may fall a few times, but be persistent. You’ll soon mesmerize everyone with the jumps, spins, glides, and glides you’ll effortlessly do. Here’s the thing: grab those skates and rush out. Happy skating!