Skate for Fitness

Lace up and breathe in the crisp chill.

From an indoor ice arena to a small frozen pond, the ice beckons as the temperature drops. Ice skating may evoke childhood memories of hot chocolate or winter carnivals with ice sculptures, but more people are discovering ice skating as a way to better health and fitness.

Gliding on the ice is relaxing to some, while others use it as a winter substitute for running, cycling and in-line skating.

"Skating is something you can do at any age and for the rest of your life," explains figure skating coach Jen Hurley of Loudon. "We have skaters ranging from 3 to 88 who frequent Tri-Town Ice Arena. Some do learn to skate in group lessons, some figure skate, some play hockey, some come to the open public sessions. All share the same passion – skating."

New Hampshire has a wealth of skating places, whether you're carrying a stick or not. Indoor arenas include rinks like Tri-Town in Hooksett, Concord's Everett Arena, Nashua's Conway Arena and Salem's Icenter. Hanover's Occom Pond, Keene's Robin Hood Park and covered Jackson's Landing in Durham are where skaters can find outside ice.

For new skaters, lessons are available, whether as a group or in private.

"To get the most out of your skate, hiring a coach would definitely be a great decision," advises Hurley. "There is a definite technique to skating even at the very basic level. You could have a couple of lessons to get you educated and moving, or you could decide to have a lesson every week for the next 20 years. It all depends on the individual and what they really would like to get out of it."

Gear Box

Which skate is for you? Figure skates are longer and heavier than hockey skates; their blades are longer, too. Either is OK for very basic stops and strokes, but figure skates are designed for more shifting weights and balances while hockey skates are built for speed and more comfort.

The Riedell 115 RS ladies figure skate has a reputation for durability ($99) among beginners.

Bauer's Vapor X 1.0 ($89.99) is a basic entry-level hockey skate. Used skates are also an option for first-timers.

How can you skate recreationally without wearing a Bruins jersey, the 2011 Stanley Cup winners? The real thing will cost you ($124.99) but knockoffs abound.

Interesting Fact

U.S. pair skater Caitlin Yankowskas, winner of the 2011 U.S. national title with John Coughlin, was born in Nashua and raised in Pelham.

Expert Advice

Skating director at Hooksett's Tri-Town ice arena and for the Granite State Figure Skating Club, Jen Hurley has coached figure skating since 1993. She also spent three years touring professionally with the acclaimed Ice Capades. She resides in Loudon.

What are the health benefits of ice skating for fitness? Figure skating is a healthy sport both for the body and mind. For the bod, skating provides an amazing cardiovascular work out as well as improving balance, coordination, stamina, flexibility and strength. For the mind, skating will improve concentration, alleviate daily stresses and help build confidence.

There are so many ways to ice skate: figure skating, hockey and speed. What is the best approach or method to ice skate as a means to fitness? Any of the disciplines of ice skating, figure, hockey or speed will offer a great workout. Everyone has their own personal preference. Hockey is a team sport, figure skating is an individual sport and speed can be either.

Can it be tedious skating around an indoor rink or outdoor pond for long periods of time? Skating will only become tedious if you are not interested in doing it. Each discipline offers new challenges from beginner through advanced levels. Goal setting is key. If you have a specific goal you are working towards, you remain focused and the end result is so gratifying.

Could I work on my endurance skating that way? Endurance is something you build. The more you skate, the longer you will be able to skate. Also, the more you skate, the more you will learn about body awareness: alignment, posture, isolation.

Does it matter what kind of skate I use? When choosing a skate, ask yourself what you would like to do. Would you like to learn how to jump, spin, turn? Figure skates would be the best. Would you like to play hockey? Recreationally or on a league? Hockey skates would be the best. Would you love to speed skate like the skaters in the Olympics? Then I would choose either a figure or hockey skate to get you started, then you would look into a speed skate. They are difficult to learn on right out of the gate.

What sort of gear/clothing would I need? Ice arenas are cold, so if you are just beginning your skating journey, generally dressing in layers is your best bet – sweats, yoga pants, long sleeve shirt, fleece jacket, gloves, etc.

Categories: Outsider, Winter Sports