How long will it take for ice-skating lessons to "click in?"
January 13, 2013 1:56 PM   Subscribe

How long will it take for ice-skating lessons to "click in?" I already know it's not like learning to ride a bicycle, where once it "clicks" in your head, you can never go back to not knowing how.

I'm 58, and taking private, one-on-one ice skating lessons. i've had one so far. I searched and found this thread, but it doesn't really deal with my question. Before we go any further, please know that I wear every kind of joint protection there is, including padded shorts meant for rollerblading.

My goal is not fancy twirls and jumps, but to become a competent and graceful ice skater. I would love to get as far as learning to skate backwards, but that's far off in the future. For next lesson, I hope to not have to cling to the railing.

Is there hope for me? I'm not an athletic person; never have been. My balance is okay in that I can ride a motorscooter and a bicycle. My desire to learn is HUGE. I'm hoping my history of being slow to pick up anything new won't intrude on this thing I really, really want to do.

I have a pair of skates that fit like a dream, by the way, with merciless ankle support and newly sharpened blades,
posted by BostonTerrier to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It must happen eventually, because I took about 25 years off of ice skating until last winter, and damn if I wasn't doing better than people who looked like they knew what they were doing. I think the key is to keep your knees bent and understand that you're going to fall sometimes. Don't react to every little shift in your position.
posted by Etrigan at 2:01 PM on January 13, 2013

I would expect confident motion in very few lessons. Once you have forward motion, a twirl on stop and skating backwards are much easier to learn than learning to skate was.

I'm completely un-athletic and uncoordinated and skating is one of the few physical tasks I can do competently. I figure if masses of enthusiastic log-skirted Victorian women who were allowed almost no other sporting activities could master basic skating, I can and you can, too.

I already know it's not like learning to ride a bicycle, where once it "clicks" in your head, you can never go back to not knowing how.

Actually, my experience is that it is totally like riding a bike - you may wobble after several years off but you should regain the hang of it very quickly.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think there is definitely hope for you! Everybody is probably different, but here is some anecdata for you: I ice skated a few times at birthday parties and such while I was growing up, but I didn't really learn to skate until I was...22, I guess? Which is not quite 58, but at least over the threshold of adulthood. I also don't consider myself particularly athletic, and I generally feel slow to pick up new physical activities. Anyway, I was at college, and I took a beginner skating class which met for hour-long sessions twice a week for a quarter, and by the end of that I felt competent at or beyond the level you seem to be aiming for at the moment. I did try to go to public skating at least once a week in addition to the class, and that helped a lot. Sometimes I skated all by myself, really trying to focus on what I was doing, and other times I skated with people, talking to them, which meant my body had to try and handle the physical activity on its own while my conscious mind was mostly occupied with something else. I think both types of practice were helpful in different ways. The more you do it, the better you get at it - I think it's the kind of thing you do over and over again and eventually you drive it into muscle memory, especially just basic forward skating without external support or wobbling, avoiding obstacles, recovering from minor imbalances, and stopping reliably.

On preview, I agree entirely with DarlingBri.
posted by sigmagalator at 3:06 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is absolutely hope for you, and yay for picking up a sport later in life! (I did, too :-)

One of the coaches at my club told me that it takes most people about 1 year of training before they feel really confident on skates.

I'm assuming that you're taking figure skating lessons? My experiences as a speed skater might not quite line up because the mechanics are different, but I have found that I experience lengthy, tedious skill plateaus interspersed with the occasional, gratifying quantum leap in ability. Talking with other members (of all abilities) confirms this, too.

Basically, it's all down to balance, conditioning, and muscle memory. (And not being afraid to fall.) Every so often, your brain and body will bring all your hours of repetition together and whatever technique that you're working on (balance, finding your edges, cross-overse, etc.) will suddenly feel effortless--because you won't have to think about it anymore.

You can definitely accelerate your progress by doing exercises that help develop your proprioceptors (esp. in your legs) and your balance, such as working out with a wobble board. Watching Youtube videos can help also; there are tons of 'how to' videos out there.
posted by skye.dancer at 3:22 PM on January 13, 2013

I would imagine your skating teacher is teaching you how to fall? If not, mention it at your next lesson. Knowing that I wouldn't necessarily crack my skull open every time I went down really helped with my confidence. I still fell, but at least it wasn't so scary to do so. Oh, and ask to be taught how to get up when there's nothing to hold on to. Also good for the confidence! Good luck! You can do this!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:12 PM on January 13, 2013

Good for you for pursuing something you're passionate about! I've never tried to learn to ice skate as an adult, but I did work really hard over several seasons to learn how to ski as an adult. I started off painfully bad, and ended up solidly mediocre! Maybe if I'd had more time on the slopes (and more money for passes) I would have gotten really good at it. In any case, I absolutely loved doing it, and I loved being able to see and feel my improvement over time.

I really believe that your drive will determine how far you go with it, and it sounds like you're very determined. That's a very admirable trait.

Just one more thing: Try to accept that you'll be frustrated at times, and try to power through the frustration. That's been key for me in new skills I've successfully learned in my adult life. It will all get easier as you do it more.
posted by mermily at 4:23 PM on January 13, 2013

I had years of lessons (and while doing the fanciest stuff and skating in programs is so far out of my ability, decades down the road I can still skate pretty much as you're hoping to - forward and backward, crossovers, pivots and stopping) and now our daughter has expressed an interest in doing more than toddle around the rink. I've been thinking about taking lessons again myself, though you'd hear my husband laughing from wherever you are if I told him I thought I could get my knee above my hip for a camel spin again...

Last year our daughter had her first lessons, and within four group lessons, she could get herself around the rink awkwardly, but without constantly falling. The group lessons were good for her in that they concentrated on learning to fall and get up; balance games (beanbags on heads; bending to pick them up; making "bubbles" around them and such); and moving with confidence (games like Red Light, Green Light and Cut the Cake.) As I understand it, the goal with those is to take your mind off the mechanics and to just get your body moving, and to find your balance. But also, to have fun. The adult lessons work pretty much the same way where we go. So, I'd suggest that if a couple of fun group lessons might help too, and I see everyone laughing during them so they might buoy your spirits until it "clicks" for you.

But when we signed her up for a round of private lessons after those, that's when we saw improvement in her form - she became noticeably more graceful. The instructor was able to say things to her that corrected her gently, like "Use both legs to push" which was better than trying to teach her perfect form from her first moments on ice. Within two private lessons she was ready to begin cross-overs. That was with once a week lessons, with recreational skating maybe twice a week in-between.

This year she was able to start skating where she left off last year, except she needs to work on stopping again. So, I do think not a lot is lost, really. I think in about half a dozen lessons you'll be at least upright and moving forward and backward, and stopping securely - but it's going to depend on how much you practice in between. Best wishes to you!
posted by peagood at 4:36 PM on January 13, 2013

If you don't have them, go get some cheap used hockey gloves and elbow pads. Really, if you can manage it I'd suggest you suit up in some hockey gear [elbow pads, gloves, maybe breezers] all the time until you're confident. I'm 50, and a terrible skater, but when I've skated in gear with my son's team I'm a lot more carefree because I know that it's really not going to hurt when I fall. If I'm just skating with the family, I just wear the gloves and elbow pads and it bumps my confidence up three steps. No way am I going to try to learn a hockey stop without gear on.

I first put on skates at about 35, and have skated maybe two dozen times since then. No lessons yet, but really should take them.
posted by chazlarson at 5:00 PM on January 13, 2013

If your teacher is experienced and qualified, he/she will be best able to answer this question, based on actual observation of your initial progress.
posted by Dansaman at 11:34 PM on January 13, 2013

I had ice-skating lessons in a group class a few years back. I found that my learning accelerated pretty quickly and then plateaued around 'basic competence', which was enough for my ambitions. I could skate backwards after about five sessions - I was amazed! There was definitely a moment when it clicked but it took a bit of practice for the technique to 'bed-in' and I practiced a a couple of hours a week outside of classes.

I think the big issue with learning as an adult is letting go of rigidity - after all you've been moving your body a certain way for many, many years and it can initially be hard to get past the instinctive response of your limbs on a hard slidey surface, but as you get more confident with the environment you'll start to feel changes. Try to ride out the fear and you'll get there.

And do look into group classes for a bit of practice, it's a lot more fun and helps a lot when you can see how other novices are tackling the ice!
posted by freya_lamb at 2:42 AM on January 14, 2013

Skating takes a while, and takes practice ... I'd expect if you are skating once or twice a week for a few hours, and pushing yourself a bit (which probably means a few falls), that you'd be feeling very comfortable in 6 months (going forward, stopping, beginning to run corners anti-clockwise and beginning to go backwards). The point you should be looking for is where you no longer need to think about the mechanics of skating, and can concentrate on your surrounds.

One thing you may want to do is make your skates less sharp ... seriously, very sharp skates require skillful and precision control, slightly blunted skates are more forgiving of learners, and easier to stop on. Skate sharpening is a personal thing which depends on your skill, skates, skating style, and the type of ice you skate on. A general purpose ground edge is probably too deep for a beginner skater on soft indoor rink ice ... and if this is what you have it may be helpful to take off some of the edge and/or get it re-ground to a shallow edge.
posted by jannw at 4:58 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having your own skates is HUGE. I always liked my skates nice and sharp, but I was playing hockey and you really need to dig in, I'm not sure how it works for figure skating.

At any rate, you'll be decently proficient soon enough. I'd say within 3 hours, you'll feel pretty good on the skates. One of the first drills we did in skate school (for hockey) was to go down and get up on skates. There's a right way and a wrong way.

Accept that falling is just a part of skating. Knowing how to do it well, builds confidence.

Form is more important than you think. To this day I still do a T-start. I'm 50.

Once you get it, it's awesome. I love everything about ice skating. EVERYTHING. Including a snot bubble on my nose.

One day, I will demonstrate a Mohawk for you. I makes no sense when they teach it, but once you get it, you'll feel like Gretzky.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:00 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

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