During a long winter, ice-skating can have both mental and physical benefits (even if you can’t land a double axel).
lit christmas trees near frozen pond
Credit: John Noltner

Last winter, I was pacing around my apartment and trying to think of a way to exercise. Long walks had gotten me through the lockdown, but I needed a new activity as the temperatures dropped. Ice-skating sounded promising.

I bought a pair of skates, took them to a lake near my house in Minnesota and strapped them on one bitterly cold afternoon. It had been more than two decades since I last skated. I started out with moves I already knew, like forward glides and spins. Soaring across the frozen lake was freeing. I quickly felt eager to expand my skills and began learning tricks from YouTube, like shifting weight from one side of the blade to the other and even a few beginner jumps. 

"Skating is especially great for your balance, an important skill for folks as they get older," says Madeline Moore, director of the adult skating program at the St. Paul Figure Skating Club. "As we age, we don't do as many things to keep our equilibrium sharp and our balance fine-tuned."

Throughout the winter, I found myself getting stronger. I felt refreshed in the crisp air and learned how to trust my own balance. For two short months when the ice was solid on the lake, I discovered a grace I didn't know I had.  

3 Ice Skating Tips for Beginners

Invest in Quality Gear

I ended up having to buy three pairs of skates before winter was over because the first two pairs were cheaply made. Invest in a quality pair of ice skates that fits snugly. Minnesota-based Riedell is a good brand.

Loosen Up

Falling is a real concern, so remember this: The sooner you start bending your knees, the quicker you'll feel steady. With a little give in your legs, you're closer to the ground and can shift your balance more easily. 

Use Your Whole Body

Skating calls on every part of the body. Use your upper torso, arms and shoulders to shift your weight and "steer." And look forward, not down, says Moore: Where your head looks, your body follows.