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First time ice skating: 10 tips for beginners

 

 

#1 Dress for comfort and safety

The way you dress will have an impact on your first ice skating experience. Your clothes must ensure comfort, warmth, safety.
Below are the essential dos and don'ts of ice skating beginner clothes:

DON'T wear thick socks 
      this is the #1 mistake people make because so many websites recommend it... and people are afraid that their feet will get cold. But thick socks will not be breathable and will limit your movements. At the end your feet will get colder. Plus, the thickness hinders your balance.
DO wear socks that reach above the boot
       to avoid friction and blisters
DO wear layers
      depending on how fast you are going to move you might need more or less warmth - wear layers so that you can easily remove or add depending on how you feel. We recommend snow pants for any one under 9 years of age and wind pants to older skaters that are starting out
DON'T wear a jean
       as a beginner - they limit movements and if the ice is wet and you fall, it will become very uncomfortable
DO wear gloves 
                        they will keep you warm and protect your hands if you fall. Gloves or mittens are mandatory for skaters under the  Academy level. 

 

DON'T wear a hanging scarf or a hat that does not hold well to your head - do not wear anything loose that can fall and make somebody else fall or that can get stuck in                                 another piece of clothing and be dangerous for you.

#2 - Choose the right skates

2a What to buy for a beginner? Hockey skates or figure skates - summary

First, there is no better skate or better sport. There are often small conflicts between hockey skaters and figure skaters or people skating with hockey skates or figure skates. But both allow impressive moves. Don't let people tell you what is supposed to be 'cooler' to wear.

Second, whatever the chosen sport, the beginner has to learn a set of basic skating skills: balance, posture, stopping, stroking.
You can learn with both types of skates. However, it is often considered that the long blade of figure skates makes it easier to get balance at the beginning.
I think you should choose your skates based on your skating objectives. And below are my answers

 
 

     

If you do know what sport you want to practice

If you already know you want to do figure skating or hockey. Then no need to wonder. Just start learning on the right skates for your sport.
If you want to speed, turn, stop fast choose the hockey skate.
If you want to jump and spin, choose figure skates.

If you just want to skate as fast as possible

If you just want to have fun during public skating session and be able to go as fast as possible, then hockey skates are for you. Just know that it will take a little bit more time to get the balance (unless you are used to roller blading)

If you want to feel safer at the beginning and progress faster

Figure skates have longer blades with toe picks. It is easier to find balance with them. So, most people feel safer when starting with figure skates.
Therefore beginners normally progress faster with figure skates.

 2b - Choose the right size of skates

Finding the right size of skates is critical. Here are some tips for your first-time ice skating:

  • If they are too small your toes and feet will be sore quickly and you will only be thinking of removing them making the experience not fun
  • If they are too big, you won't have proper ankle support and will increase risk of injury

In theory, it is your normal size or larger. Try them to find the most appropriate. They should feel snug. But they should not feel too tight. You must be able to move your toes (so that they don't go numb).

Hockey skates or figure skates - differences in the boots

The main difference between the hockey skating boots and the figure skating boots are in their respective designs. While figure skating boots consist of multiple layers of leather, which makes them highly expensive, the boots worn by the hockey skater are made up of both leather and light plastics and are relatively cheaper.

Figure skating boots characteristics

  • they have a small outer heel and a wooden sole inside to provide extra comfort;
  • they are light, short and thin as compared to hockey skating boots when placed side by side;
  • they are shaped specifically for performing precision moves and not speed runs as is deemed necessary for ice hockey skating.

Ice Hockey boots characteristics

  • they are solely meant to cater to good support of the feet in order to make standing erect easy, something which is not a requirement for figure skating boots; 
  • they are taller, thicker and are heavily padded with foam to safeguard against collision with other hockey players and hits from hockey sticks and the puck;
  • they are designed to take all kinds of abuse, for a long stretch of time.
figure skate vs hockey skate boot and blade
 
 
 

Comparing the hockey and figure skating blades

Figure skating blades 

The blades under the boots of a figure skater have a serrated edge, known as a toe pick, which allows the skater to perform various routines like jumping, spinning, stopping, etc. quite effectively. 

Figure skating blades are longer and extend to the length of the boot
They are also wider and heavier than the blades on the hockey skating boots.
The blades are fixed to the boot by a pair of plates known as toe and heel plates.

Hockey blades

Hockey skating blades are narrow and deep so as to allow the player free movement at high speeds.
The blades are slightly curved at the back and front and do not extend beyond the length of the boot. They are more rounded and have less edges.
They are also comparatively much lighter than ice skating blades due to the smaller size.
The blades are fixed to the boots by a solid piece of plastic called tuuk. 

Types of skating possible with figure vs hockey skates

 

Why choose Figure skates?

Pros of the figure skate

  • PRECISION - The longer blade allows the skater to carve better arcs and more perfect lines.
  • SUPPORT & FLEXIBILITY - The boot is tight enough to support the ankle, but flexible enough to flex and jump
  • TOE PICK - The toe pick helps the skater execute jumps and pivots.

Advantages for the beginner

For a beginner, the figure skates are often considered a better option because they feel more stable: the blade is longer, the toe pick stops the skater from going too far forward on the blade and the tail prevents from leaning too far back.
The beginner often uses the toe pick to propel, getting speed faster at the beginning (even though it is not a good idea to propel with the toe pick).

What are figure skates best shaped for?

The skates are shaped to perform precision moves while gilding and acrobatic moves such as: 

  • Jumps: axel, lutz, salchow, to loop...
  • Spins: turning fast on one foot in various positions
  • Technical turns: rocker, twizzles

You won't be able to perform such moves with hockey skates.

Why choose Hockey skates?

Pros of the hockey skates

  • PROTECTION - The boots protect the feet against the blades of other players and pucks flying at full speed
  • SPEED - The lighter weight allows players to skate fast and stop fast
  • TURNS - The blades are more curved at both ends. It makes it easier to turn for the skater.

Advantages for the beginner

For a beginner, the hockey skate option should not be overlooked. Especially if you are looking for speed. They are made for it.
Plus, as I said with the figure skates, beginners use the toe pick for propulsion which is not a good technic. With the hockey skate, there is no risk of doing that.
And hockey skates are lighter (in weight), so you can practice longer before fatigue sets in.

What are hockey skates best shaped for?

The skates are shaped to perform maneuvers and quick reflex movements such as: 

  • Starting fast - being explosive to chase the opponent
  • Stopping fast, scraping the flat part of the blade over the ice surface
  • Turning fast / changing direction - the puck flies all across the rink and you have to change directions very quickly.

How to take care of your skates

Irrespective of your choice between the two games, skates make up a vital part of the equipment of any player and are required to be serviced regularly in order to be in tip top condition at all times:

  • Make sure the blades get sharpened regularly,
  • Wear skate guards whenever walking off the ice,
  • Dry your blades thoroughly after practice,
  • Inside the bag, protect your blades with soakers,
  • Once at home, take your skates out of the bag to dry,
  • Carry your skates in a bag to protect them.

      

                        Skate Guards - figure skates                               Blade Soakers - Hockey skates

 

 

#3 - Lace your skate for comfort and ankle support

 

How to tie ice skates - summary

Why is proper lacing important?

Proper lacing ensures that your foot stays in a naturally locked position while you skate. Then:

  • you get the best possible performance - allowing the right movements inside the boot and blocking others;
  • you get proper support to prevent injuries;
  • you take care of your skates and avoid premature wear-out.

What not to do

There are a few tendencies which are hazardous and wrong practice which cause discomfort:

  • Tying them not tight enough is the commonest practice with parents who tie for kids. When the child starts on loosely tied skated the ankles are moving about in the shoe and they end up unsupported. This adds a lot of pressure on the ankles.
  • The opposite is true as well. Too tight everywhere on the skate and the skater cannot do any moves.

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