14 July 2008

Ice escapades

Beginners' ice skating is not all graceful gliding and gravity-defying jumps. Keeping from falling and landing spread- eagled on the ice were Leandra Engelbrecht's important goals.

Ice skating is popular for people of all ages. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits:
  • An aerobic workout, less stressful on knees and joints
  • Helps facilitate weight loss
  • Builds endurance, tones and enhances muscle strength
  • Increases coordination and flexibility
  • Improves posture and balance
  • Builds self confidence and mental control

Gliding to fitness
I'm going to be honest: when our editor said we all had to try some form of exercise, I cringed. I've never been much of a fitness fanatic. When starting gym (eight months ago) I had to force myself in the beginning. But fitness is one of my resolutions for 2008, so I started looking for the easiest form of exercise.

The local ice rink offers beginners' classes and since I can skate relatively well in a recreational sense, this seemed like hitting the jackpot - how much easier could it get? My biggest concern was being in a class with tots. Boy, was I wrong. Three weeks of lessons have given me a profound respect for professional figure skaters.

Walk the line
With my skates securely on my feet I joined the adult beginners' group. Our first exercise was to familiarise ourselves with the ice by walking - so there we all were, walking like ducks in a row, followed by a bit of jumping.

Learning to stand up from a fall without getting your fingers chopped off was next on the agenda. Most of us grasped this after two attempts, but two of my class mates struggled with the exercise and we all had to do it until my jeans were wet and my hands were frozen.

Scully away
Our instructor then taught us to scully forward. It looked pretty easy when she did it, but my first attempt was shaky. The most important aspect is keeping your legs bent at all times and pushing yourself forward with your thighs - feet out and then feet together - making a figure eight. It was really very hard trying to balance and scully forward in a continuous motion without stopping. I started feeling it working my thighs after just ten minutes.

Backward scullying was even more difficult. To make it a bit easier we had to mimic the moves with our hands, we looked really funny as though we were swimming. The first couple of tries were very difficult as we kept bumping into each other, and no one could skate backward in a straight line. It was only after my third lesson that I felt confident doing it.

Forward skating
Forward skating comprises of skating forward in the bent position, to the side - while your knee is bent you lift up the other leg, then repeat it to the other side and with the other leg. Keeping your knees bent increases your speed. To help keep your balance you have to keep your arms out to the side. You are practically balancing your weight on one knee, on a thin piece of steel on ice.

Not for the faint hearted
Three weeks down the line only three of the original group that began the class are left. We all agree that we never knew that it would be so hard. It takes concentration, perseverance and lots of practice. Try, try and try again.

Physically I can feel the difference: my thighs are getting much stronger, my posture and coordination are improving and even my abs feel tighter. My concentration has improved - I get distracted easily and this forces me to concentrate.

In two weeks time we have grading, and by then we should have perfected scullying and forward skating. Who knows, maybe soon I'll be doing half loop jumps.

To find out more about ice skating lessons in Cape Town visit , in Johannesburg contact Northgate Ice Skating Arena (011) 794 8706.

(Leandra Engelbrecht, Health24, July 2008)


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