Motivation 10, Experience 0
February 28, 2011 10:55 AM   Subscribe

I've never ice skated in my life. In a week, I'm starting lessons, in the eventual hope of learning how to play hockey and joining a club league down the line. I am 39, 6'3" and around 250 pounds. My exercise regimen is walking/running 4-5 times a week, 3-5 miles at a time. I have questions, as a total novice to on-ice sports of any kind:
  1. What is going to frustrate me the most?
  2. What is going to hurt the most (and how do I treat it?)
  3. What's the most important thing to remember, so I don't get frustrated?

posted by scrump to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (34 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Good for you to actually get lessons before thinking of playing hockey! That's something I wished I did rather than join my school's club hockey team and learn how to skate through doing hockey drills.

1. You'll fall down. A lot.

2. The area a few inches above your heel is going to hurt a bit. You can try to wear longer socks but I don't find that helps. I try to slather lots of lotion on it, but I don't really think it works. It doesn't hurt anymore for me, so I guess you get used to it.

3. Remember that you'll fall down. A lot.
posted by astapasta24 at 11:00 AM on February 28, 2011

Things that have annoyed me when I've tried to ice skate (though I've never played ice hockey):

the fit of the skates (blisters, sore spots, etc.
getting used to maneuvering on two tiny strips of metal running along a slick surface
not being afraid to fall (may not be as much of an issue with all the padding that ice hockey players use)
ankle strength
posted by dfriedman at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2011

1. Skating backwards.

2 & 3. Ankles and knees.

Keep your ankles straight (up).. Good boots, tied tightly, can help keep you from going all rolly-polly on the ankle. Also as you wear in a pair of hockey skates, the ankle padding will irritate your ankles quite a bit (if/when you get to cross over/under, or whatever they're calling it now..)

Bend your knees.. (I feel like I yell that at every rickety roller-blader I see. It really helps your center of gravity, balance, etc.)
posted by k5.user at 11:10 AM on February 28, 2011

When you are learning to skate, wear kneepads.

New skates are hard to tie tight enough. After a few minutes to skating around I try to tighten the laces.

Practice stopping a lot. You'll think you can get by with a wussy stop and use of the boards, but it really doesn't work that way.

Practice going from skating forwards to skating backwards.
posted by advicepig at 11:11 AM on February 28, 2011

As a Canadian, the best advice I can give you is to buy a used pair of skates, as worn out and comfortable as you can find. Buying new skates is a waste of money, and a recipe for sore ankles.

I'd also encourage you to start skating with a stick as soon as possible. Once you start playing hockey, it will essentially become an extension of your body, and you'll probably feel weird without it.

Skating is really a lot like learning to ride a bicycle, difficult and frustrating at first, but once you figure it out, the skill will be with your for life.
posted by Fastest Pokemon at 11:14 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

your feet will hurt like hell as you get used to the fit of your skates. it will help to wear the thinnest socks you can; better yet, wear none.

also, any problem i've ever had on ice skates was almost immediately solved by bending my knees more. sounds simplistic, but most of the problems adults have when learning to ice skate comes from their knees not being bent enough.
posted by hollisimo at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Those questions are going to be different for each person. It's pretty easy to get the hang of skating slowly forward with some degree of confidence. When you move on to crossovers, skating backwards, backward crossovers, two-foot stops is where you'll start experiencing real frustration.

Make sure your skates fit well. Lace them tightly. Don't tape your ankles or use braces, etc. Learn to squat fairly low while skating. It will make you more explosive and stronger on your feet as well as harder to push off the puck.
Don't fall onto your hands\wrists.
Falling when you're barely moving seems to hurt much more than just falling when skating sort of fast (which doesn't hurt at all)

I recommend going out and skating at least once or twice this week just at a regular public session in hockey skates. Continuing to do so after your lessons start would be a good idea too. It will help you focus on improving your skating instead of getting distracted playing around with the puck, etc. After your hockey lessons are over try to get involved in a weekly stick n' shoot or pickup game.

The best tip I can give you is just keep putting the time in, especially to practice. A lot of older guys get into a C3 league right away and they never improve because the only time they skate is during games. Games are no place to work on individual skill sets.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2011

3. When you first put on your skates, you'll have the tendancy to try to put your feet flat on the ground, like you are used to. This is where you see people in skates with their feet bowed in, and complain of "weak ankles", which I don't think exist. When you are on your skates, the blades are what are touching the ice, so "stand" on your blades, this will help you balance.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:18 AM on February 28, 2011

Hooray for you! Ice skating is awesome. You're going to love it.

My number one tip is if you're getting brand new skates, they're probably going to hurt a lot at first since they're so stiff. Put on ultra thin socks and start wearing the skates and walking around the house (WITH THE GUARDS ON) for an hour here, an hour there, for several days in a row. This will help break them in and feel nice and comfy, and you can identify and treat any problem areas before you get on the ice, which will make your first lesson way more pleasant.
posted by anderjen at 11:19 AM on February 28, 2011

Take your time learning, and be patient. The feeling you get when you score your first goal will make it all worthwhile, that I can promise :)
Seconding the recommendation to go with used skates, and go without socks.
Skating is really not bad on your ankles and knees, but you will be sore.
posted by joecacti at 11:22 AM on February 28, 2011

What is going to frustrate me the most?

The fact that, at 39, you will not recover from bumps, bruises and injuries as quickly as you used to. Sure, you can keep up with the kids today, but tomorrow, you're going to feel it, and it will linger for longer than you remember it lingering.

This is completely normal. Stretch, warm-up slowly, cool down slowly, take it easy, stretch on the off-days, and make friends with Advil.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:37 AM on February 28, 2011

Also Canadian: I'm going to nth the tie your skates tight-- this is what keeps your ankles supported. Get your skates sharpened semi-regularly as having edges is really useful, especially if you get used skates (which I personally wouldn't do b/c of the other ppl's foot sweat factor but that's just me). Take care of any hotspots that develop on your feet after getting off the ice and tape those spots before putting on your skates the next time (ie don't be like I'm just going to ignore these blisters until I'm bleeding).

I think ppl are a bit more scared of falling as adults, you will get used to it after doing it a bunch of times. Think of it as even falling takes practice.

Depending on your personality, you might be frustrated that small children who can barely walk off the ice will be able to skate speedy circles around you- it might help to remember you would win in a bar fight against them.
posted by tangaroo at 11:39 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Learn how to fall safely.

This is usually something you'll pick up in your first class, but takes time to refine.

Enjoy it, relax, you will learn in your own time!
posted by wingless_angel at 11:53 AM on February 28, 2011

I'm an inch shorter and 40 pounds lighter than you, and I grew up skating but now I do it infrequently. If your experience mirrors mine, your feet/ankles/heels will hurt because skates, especially new ones, just kind of hurt. I keep strips of terrycloth duct taped over the back of my skates to protect the skin and tendons above my heels. But the foot pain (except for potential blisters/chafing) will abate minutes after you remove your skates.

Knee pain is my biggest problem. That constant shifting and pushing between knees is taxing on a big man's knees. Stretch your legs as best you can before you go out there and cool down slowly or you'll feel dull pains in the sides and tops of your knees for days. You're probably going to feel it whether you stretch or not, but it does seem to mitigate it quite a bit.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:04 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your lungs will hurt as will the arches on your feet. Only thing to do is practice and get into better shape. I learned to skate barefoot in the skate and love it. I feel like I have more control. Falling wasn't the issue (I learned as a 24 year old) but getting up quickly was. It takes a little while to learn to get up. I fell down no problem.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:36 PM on February 28, 2011

The first thing I was taught about ice skating: If you feel yourself falling backwards, tuck your chin. That way, you won't bump your head on the ice.
posted by wryly at 12:48 PM on February 28, 2011

(I found) Falling on ice hurts like shit. And I did it a lot. Somehow it always hurt more than just falling on the ground, or even a hard floor. So wear all the padding your dignity will allow, even a helmet the first few times. (Have you ever roller-bladed? This will help).

Bend your knees! Seriously, this will save you, often. Unfortunately, the first bunch of times, muscle groups you are not used to working are going to hurt. Ice and ibuprofen.

For me the saving grace was always getting up to speed and then just coasting. That and pulling the puck out of the boards, shooting it across to the other wing and then moving just enough to avoid getting creamed. This happened way less frequently than my delusional memories will admit.

I never went barefoot in my skates but I learned back in the 70s and maybe skates are more forgiving inside now.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:53 PM on February 28, 2011

-bend your knees. locking your knees is a great way to fall over backwards.
-if you do fall don't try to catch yourself on your hand. sprained elbows or worse abound. let your butt do the catching if it feels like it won't be catastrophic.
-if you fall down don't be shy about just sitting there for a second. trying to get back up right away is another good way to fall down quickly.
posted by chrillsicka at 12:55 PM on February 28, 2011

A lot of brand new skaters fall on the transition from non-ice to ice. Hold the wall as you step onto the ice, and don't take a big step.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:37 PM on February 28, 2011

Take everything out of your pockets. Knee pads or really cushy snow pants are a good idea. If you're just trying to get used to it, taking a pushable chair out on the ice (if feasible) can help.
posted by starman at 1:47 PM on February 28, 2011

Response by poster: You people are AWESOME. Keep 'em coming!
posted by scrump at 1:57 PM on February 28, 2011

Don't get too confident too fast. It's easy to get into your head that because you skated without falling down for over five minutes, that suddenly your "Sid the Kid",the "Great One" or the "Road runner". It'll probably frustrate you the most finding out that ice is indeed very "icy" and that all this time while watching hockey players, figure skaters, or just people skating, that it looks pretty easy. Your walking/running will help immensely in your breathing. You shouldn't tire all that much to begin with anyway. You might want to wear a couple of pairs of underwear even if your wearing even long johns ( extra padding). But don't over dress, meaning wearing too much so as to to not move freely. If, make that when you do fall, try and support your head away from the ice. It may only be water, but it is frozen water. I'd suggest a helmet for sure. Elbow pads ( under your jacket or coat) would be a good idea. I don't skate often, but when I do, my inner thighs ( and back a bit) hurt the most. 39 isn't all that old to try skating. You'll love it if you stick with it. Have fun!
posted by Taurid at 1:58 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just got a new pair of hockey skates after years of not skating. I can tell you from painful experience that if you buy them new, and they are "heat-moldable," make sure the store heats them enough so they actually mold. My store didn't, and the skates are excruciating to wear. (Either that or the "heat-mold" thing is a load of BS.)

I'd also advise you to learn to skate without a hockey stick. Most public skates don't allow them, for one thing, and for another, you'll use it as a crutch.
posted by Camofrog at 2:20 PM on February 28, 2011

Ice is really hard. My 39 year old husband went back on the ice after 20 years, and fell down....and despite falling what looked like well, landed just wrong and broke his hip. Clearly this was a fluke, careful. And maybe wear a helmet for a while?
posted by leahwrenn at 2:34 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good for you! Skating is so much fun. Nthing the advice to bend your knees - it's key. You want to kind of "sit down on it" to lean forward, as opposed to leaning forward from the waist. Keep your head up.

Stay on your outside edges. This is a bit counterintuitive, but you get way more power and stability that way, and it will help you not collapse your ankles inwards. This guy explains it well. Yeah, he's demonstrating it for inline speedskating (the double push doesn't really apply to ice skating much, at least I don't think so), but advice in the first step is definitely helpful.

Blisters: Put a roll of hockey tape and a pair of scissors in your bag. When you feel a hot spot starting up on one of your feet, go put some tape on that spot. Don't peel it off afterwards, let it come off naturally as you sweat, or soak it off in the tub.
posted by Cimrmanova at 2:36 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't wear socks that are too thick. Because it's going to be 'cold' your first instinct will be to reach for big thick wool socks. But thinner socks (maybe bare feet like above?) will keep your feet warm enough.

The tight lacing is so important. I have skinny feet so I find it helps to get someone else to tighten my laces (which also makes me feel like I'm 4 years old) because I can't get the leverage. That said, skating kills my ankles more than any other activity.

And those children are really frustrating! Also the older folks who literally skate circles around you. And the people on speed skates going so fast so gracefully. And the people on figure skates that can spin.

I'm not a very good skater obviously.
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:59 PM on February 28, 2011

Elbow pads are good stuff not fall on your elbows. They can shatter from the impact!

I learned how to skate by holding onto the back of a chair that slid along the ice with me. I know they make sliders these days but I doubt they'll "fit" you!
posted by Khazk at 4:05 PM on February 28, 2011

What's the most important thing to remember

When you see someone skating, it looks like their legs are moving back-and-forth in a similar motion to walking/running. If you try this on the ice you'll find nothing useful happens.

To skate you move your legs sideways. Hold one skate pointing straight ahead, and the other at an angle [toe in], now push that foot outwards and you'll move forward [and that foot will trail], then repeat on the opposite side.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:39 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

As you get some proficiency with skating, you might find How To Hockey useful.
posted by lakeroon at 8:38 PM on February 28, 2011

I think what HiroProtagonist meant when they said "the other at an angle [toe in], now push that foot outwards" the toe should point outward.

Oh yeah, and keep your center of gravity over the middle ( not too far forward, not too far towards the backend). It helps when your bending your knees.
posted by Taurid at 8:57 PM on February 28, 2011

I'd practice doing some squats first!
posted by radioamy at 9:05 PM on February 28, 2011

I took skating lessons before starting hockey (as a ~22-year-old) and it REALLY helped. So, you're definitely going about this the right way. The lessons will give you proper form, i.e. C-cuts, keeping your movements efficient, stopping, etc. I didn't have trouble with blisters from my skates, but I agree w/ some of the above points--lace 'em up tight, don't wear super-thick socks. Falling down will happen, but the bonus is that it doesn't really hurt in hockey gear.

One thing I was told was if you ever fall forward into the boards, the thing to remember is "head up, don't tuck [your chin]".
posted by statolith at 9:52 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

the toe should point outward

Indeed. For some reason I thought [toe out] and wrote [toe in].
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:37 PM on March 8, 2011

Response by poster: Hi, guys!

I can't thank everyone enough for all their advice: I armored up, kept a positive mental attitude, and staggered around having a great time and falling down frequently. Which, due to armor and positive mental attitude, was almost fun!

For the record, I appear to be one of those people who can't even fall down normally, as all of my falls were forward.

My knees twanged unhappily at me, but I stretched afterwards and have been doing a lot of bodyweight squats, and had limited soreness.

I'm really glad I asked this question: your answers made a big difference in how it went.
posted by scrump at 3:54 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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