Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness challenge: Ice-skating lesson

Each week intrepid reporter Rachel Grunwell will try out a new form of exercise to bring you the lowdown.

Stephanie Woodacre is ice-skating coach at Avondale Paradice ice-skating rink.Photo / Getty Images
Stephanie Woodacre is ice-skating coach at Avondale Paradice ice-skating rink.Photo / Getty Images

What is it? An instructor gives guidance on how to skate on ice.

What's needed? Ice skates, woollen hat, socks and gloves. Warm, loose and comfortable clothing, ie, long-sleeved top and pants (not jeans). Waterproof pants could be helpful. Children should wear helmets.

The experience: Avondale's Paradice Ice Skating coach Stephanie Woodacre, a former figure-skating champ from Scotland, says one of the first things she tells first-time skaters is how to stay safe. If I fall, it's a good idea to clench my hands into fists, so there's no risk of a passing skater slicing off my splayed digits.

"I've never heard of it happening, though!" reassures Stephanie.

I'm at the rink for a lesson on a weekday, sporting baby-blue ice skates.

I've largely got 56m by 26m of ice to scoot about on by myself, bar two figure skaters and, later, some preschoolers who line up for a lesson.

It's quiet, the air is dry and 10C. It feels like I've stepped through a wardrobe into Narnia.

The rink is about 10 minutes from my home, yet I'd never ventured here before.

Week-days and nights are good times to learn, I'm told.

On Friday nights, dubbed Blackout Nights, up to 500 skaters, usually couples and youths, delight in the ice while the lights are dimmed, laser lights flicker and music booms.

Stephanie skates with me, giving tips: "Bend your knees a bit, keep your back straight, hold your arms out for balance at the outset (just above waist height), push outwards with the skates so your feet point in a V-shape, push forwards using the insides of the blades and transfer weight from one foot to the other, and bend the knees before each push ..."

To stop, I'm told to have my weight on the middle of the blades, turn the toes in and push against both edges of the blades so the feet are level.

To go backwards, I put my weight on the middle to the front of the blades (again in a V-shape with the toes together).

I'm the opposite of ice-dancing star Jayne Torvill, of Torvill and Dean fame (I used to love watching them on the telly as a kid), but I'm smiling and enjoy this slippery challenge.

When I'm done, I chat to a couple of women I had watched pull off some fancy twirls. The duo took up the sport after putting their daughters on ice. They had sat for hours freezing on the sidelines, watching their kids, until one day they decided, what the heck, let's give it whirl, too. They've been hooked for seven years now and it keeps them fit, their figures fabulous and they even compete. One of them quips, "Kids get to do roly-polys in the backyard. This is what I do to have fun!"

How much? Ice-skating admission with skate hire for adults is $17; children (12 years and younger) $13; preschoolers (under 5 years) $8.50; family pass $50. It's cheaper if you bring your own skates. Adult classes to learn how to skate are run twice a week and there are various pay options depending on the number of weeks you sign up for (four weeks is $69.99). A private lesson with an experienced coach is $30 for 30 minutes.

Worth it? Fun for the family.

Try it: Paradice Ice Skating is in the Auckland suburbs of Avondale and Botany.

Rating: 8/10

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 24 Nov 2014 16:11:42 Processing Time: 435ms