Aug 29, 2010

A 30-minute training session for people who "can't skate"

I get a lot of beginning adults and parents of beginning skaters who complain that they can't do anything so it's hard to practice. They also get locked into the idea that they have to be learning "skating skills." As a beginner, your only job is to get comfortable with speed, balance, and glide.

Start- once around the ice surface just to get your feet under you. The only aim is to get comfortable on the ice and get a glide going. With kids, call this "free time."

Working on glide and comfort
5 minutes
Continuous stroking (or stepping, if you're not quite up to stroking). "Continuous" means your feet must keep moving. Think of it as walking-- if you were going for a walk, you wouldn't stop every 5th or 6th step. Don't do it on the ice either. Don't worry about form, or acceleration, just keep your feet moving.

Working on the pressure of the blade against the ice
5 minutes
Swizzles. Mix it up and challenge yourself-- how many can you do in a row. How long can you hold the wide part before you can't pull back in. How far can you glide on a single swizzle. Can you make it all the way around doing only swizzles (it's hard!)? Find ways to keep it interesting; 5 minutes is longer than you think.

Working on weight shift and balance
5 minutes
Scooter pushes and half-swizzle pumps. Again, mix it up. Start with going all the way down one side of the rink using just your right foot, then back up the other side using just your left. Then do 5 on one foot and 5 on the other, then alternating.

Working on bilateralism
5+ minutes
Swizzles and scooters in the other direction (i.e. if you were going counter clockwise, turn 180 and go clockwise, unless you're on a public session and they won't let you.

Working on backwards
2 minutes
Backward swizzles or wiggles, either back and forth across the short axis, or all the way around the rink (if you go all the way around, also use the opportunity to learn how to check behind you).

Working on blade pressure
5 minutes
Slalom. Feet together, essentially forward wiggles. Let yourself build speed (that's what this move is for)

2 minutes
Practice your hardest move (not jumping-- I'm talking about beginner skills like stroking, crossovers, long one-foot glides, backwards glides, 2-foot turns, etc.), or practice putting together a small program-- sequential skills in a pattern (make sure you go both clockwise and counterclockwise)

1-3 minutes
Cool down. Gentle skating once or twice around the rink.

This work-out will both get you comfortable on your skates in a very gentle way, and is also a surprisingly effective cardio workout, if you keep moving. You can do this identical workout at a high level, by making the focus power and acceleration and by splitting each 5 minutes in half-- doing half forwards and half backwards, figuring out different ways of making the turn (mohawks, rockers, jumping turns, et cetera, all at speed).

Any child who can read can do this too-- give her or him a list and a stop watch. Make a card with these items on it, and have them time themselves. They get a checkmark for attempting, and a sticker every time they really make it to 5 minutes. (Like I said, 5 minutes is longer than you think!)

When you are done, do a light stretch, focusing especially on ankles, hamstrings and lower back.


  1. Thanks Xan, this is really helpful. I was so bored during my practice time yesterday, I think it will be really helpful for me to use a checklist like this.

  2. Great post, Xan! I think it's a fantastic idea for people to have a checklist/plan for when they start skating. You did an excellent job of covering the important skills in a way that's challenging but not intimidating.

  3. This is great! Thanks for sharing these ideas. Any chance you'll do more posts like this? *prints post, scampers to the rink*

  4. Yes more posts like this! I wrote it down in my skating notebook as the Xan Plan.

  5. @orangechiffon- that's great.