The last time I went ice skating in October, I was a total dud. To be fair, a couple of my ice skating local colleagues tried to help me but since I’m generally awkward when it comes to anything even slightly resembling a sport, I could only blame myself for my absolute failure of a first attempt. Still, I had a lot of fun trying, failing and laughing at myself.
Afterwards, I felt strongly that I really wanted to learn how to ice skate, so that come spring when the nearby river is opened for skating, I can be a participant instead of a spectator. I want to be able to go out there and have fun without being in danger or causing bodily harm to myself or others. So after my first failure to launch, I asked someone from school to find out if there are any English-speaking ice skating instructors around town from whom I could take lessons. Over the past few months, she hasn’t come up with one. Still, hope springs eternal and over the holidays, I bought myself a pair of ice skates. I’ll need them when they open the river for skating anyway, since I hear that they don’t rent skates there.
So there I was sitting in the teacher’s room during our first week back at school from the holidays and I excitedly mentioned that I had bought my first ever pair of ice skates the week before because I was hoping to learn before spring. Unexpectedly, one of the local teachers asked if I wanted to go skating that Sunday with her and her husband, and she could teach me how to skate. I said, “Heck, yeah!” and we made a date. Unfortunately, we didn’t pre-buy our tickets and when we met at the ice rink all of the tickets for the next several hours were sold out. So we decided to re-schedule our date for last Sunday and bought our tickets on the spot. That’s how I came to have my first proper ice skating lesson last Sunday afternoon.
The ice rink is only about a twenty-minute walk from my flat but it was -46⁰C out so I opted to take the bus instead. At the rink, we checked our coats, showed our tickets and proceeded to the waiting area, where we changed into our skates. G from conversation club came as well, but my instructor and her husband were running a little bit late so, in order not to lose any of our one hour of ice time, G and I proceeded onto the ice without them. G, who can skate in a rudimentary sort of way (which is better than me), escorted me on a lap around the ice while we waited and by the time we got back to our starting point, my instructor had arrived.
She gave me the basics: knees slightly bent at all times; feet a little bit turned in; glide on one leg while the other foot gently goes back and to the side (or else the jagged brake edge on the front of my skates would keep digging into the ice and discombobulating my glide); and try to imagine that I was skating between wavy walls so that my feet would move in the move in the right sort of way.
For the next hour, I concentrated hard and stuck close to the outer edge of the rink so that I could hold on when I needed to. She actually kept a hold of my hand on our first two laps of the ring but let go, for the most part, on our subsequent laps. In all, I did four or five laps with two or three rest stops in between. Hey, skating is tiring work when you’re not used to it and don’t know what you’re doing. Also, I only fell once. Yay!
During my rest stops, I watched the other skaters. Some were obvious beginners, like me. Some were OK and were clearly there just for the enjoyment of the activity. Some were very good, including a man who is a ballet dancer (we got to talking afterwards, that’s how I know what his job is); he was doing all sorts of fancy moves out there. There were also several young boys doing hockey drills (I took a picture with one of them – Sergei – at the request of his dad) and a couple of little girls who were clearly there with their coaches for figure skating practice. All in all, even while I wasn’t skating, watching others was fun.
As for my instructor, she was the bomb. She really is a great teacher. She gave me clear instructions; she took her time with me; she demonstrated what I should do and how my body should move; and when she saw my problem areas, she came up with ways to help me overcome them. I tried my best to follow her instructions so that she wouldn’t feel like she was wasting a precious hour of her Sunday afternoon helping me out. I was still terrible at it so I was surprised when, at the end of our lesson, she offered to give me another lesson on my next day off, which was yesterday. We bought our tickets on the spot.
So yesterday, we went to the rink again for my second lesson. It was not as crowded as it was on Sunday but it was filled with children. There was one group which was on a class trip and several figure skating kids being coached. I fell hard as soon as I got into the ice because of one of those kids from the school group. So although there were fewer people overall, the fact that they were all kids who move in unpredictable ways, and have no awareness of what is happening around them, made my lesson more dangerous.
For almost an hour, we worked on my balance and basic gliding and at the end of our time…I sucked just as badly as when we started. I understood a little bit better what to do but I just couldn’t get my body coordinated to do it properly. Seriously, I was just not born with an athletic gene. Anyway, I’m seeing where I’ll have to practice a lot more just to keep my balance on the ice, much less to glide properly. I don’t understand people who skate twice and then move around on the ice like pros. I’m so not in that category of people!
I wanted to end this post with, “Spring skating on the river, here I come!” But I think a more realistic tone is, “Spring skating on the river, I’m still going to try you out.”