Recreational Ice Figure Skating/Adult skaters
Skating is a fun and healthy activity; if you are an adult and would like to skate, do not let age, weight or perceived lack of ability deter you from the fun and accomplishment to be gained. In fact, there are many people who discovered skating as a recreational activity as adults. There are several common factors that affect adult beginners in particular, including a fear of falling, work demands and even the occassional put-down from "skating parents" who do not skate themselves and think you are getting in the way of their children. To combat this last problem, join the skating club and make a point to get acquainted with the coaches, adult skaters and parents at the rink. Volunteer for duties at competitions. Having a group of people who know who you are, and that you're serious about skating will prevent your being railroaded by "kids first" rules.
Everyone observes that some skaters seem to have a flair for the sport and progress faster. How far does determination and practice take you? The answer is "a long way"! Physical talent may be required to be a high level competitor, but anyone with a strong desire to improve can learn at least some of the jumps and master all of the basic skills. A lot depends on how regularly you can find time for lessons and practice and your willingness to try and persevere in pursuit of your goals. Lack of time to skate is probably the biggest deterring to adults making progress. In the beginning phases, it is critical that you skate often enough so that you do not feel like you are starting all over every session. For most people, this means a minimum of twice a week, though three times with lessons would be even better. Once a basic skill is mastered, then it can be retained even if you only skate occasionally. This does not mean you have to skate yourself to death, a 30-minute warm-up/lesson/practice session every other day would be worth far more than a 3-hour session weekly.
Progress always comes in fits and starts. You will generally know when you have picked up a new trick or mastered a skill, but it is difficult to assess your overall progress. If you are still skating, enjoying yourself and being challenged, count that as progress.
With some exceptions, group lessons are mostly concerned with getting you from the "learn to skate" stage, though basic stroking and edges and then finish up with figures and edges (or dance), without getting into the more advanced jumps or spins. Even if you already know how to skate, this can be quite worthwhile, depending on the amount of individual attention from the instructor and the degree of improvement you feel from a disciplined, progressive review of the basic skills.
As far as group lessons vs. private instruction, it is not an easy call, as each has some advantages. The group lesson provides peers and a programmed sequence of lessons. If you hang in, you will learn, if not master, a lot of skills and be able to compare your progress with your peers. If you do have difficulty however, you're more likely to become discouraged.
Private lessons offer more flexibility, but lacking the fixed pace of the group lessons, it is possible to get stuck on something that you do not like or see the point of, but the instructor seems to feel is important before proceeding. This occurs more often if the lessons are infrequent or if you really have not developed a good two-way communication with the instructor. If this is a problem, try getting some off-ice quality time to discuss your progress and goals; for example, offer to buy coffee or ask if there is a "a time when we can sit down and talk for a few minutes".
Moving from private lessons to group lessons, or re-starting group lessons after dropping out can be difficult. You cannot slough off the easy stuff or you will just hit a brick wall where you had trouble before. If this situation, concentrate on doing that easy stuff as nicely as you can, with good posture and power, using your hard earned "advanced" skills.
You can also supplement group lessons with private instruction or use the group lessons to provide more structured practice time for what you are also learning in the private lessons. It is hard to predict how well this will work out for any given person, all you can do is try it. Again, talk to your instructor; some will recommend more frequent lessons with them, but few will really object to the group lessons.
Plenty of practice time is a wonderful thing, but too much unsupervised practice between lessons may not be a good idea. Not that you will injure yourself, but you can end up doing things the wrong way and form habits that can interfere with your longer term progress. Invest in a little private instruction in addition to your group lessons. This will prevent bad habits from becoming ingrained and make your practice time more worthwhile and cost-effective.
Even with regular practice and lessons, you may find that progress is slower than for the young skaters of the same level of ability. To avoid frustration, it often helps to focus on the process of learning to skate rather than on any final results. The process of skating involves a lot of self examination. You will learn to face your fears. You will learn perseverance; and you will experience the greatest highs in the world when after months of working at something without any indication of improvement you have an epiphany moment and suddenly find yourself gracefully and seemingly effortlessly doing that which only a month ago seemed impossible.
Skating involves complete control over every single muscle in your body. Learn to focus not on getting the trick, but one gaining a greater sense of awareness of your body and increased control of it. The ice rink is the skater's laboratory. It is where we go to experiment. What happens if I turn my head this way? What happens if I lean a little more that way? What happens if I drop my shoulder another 1/2 inch? If you go to each skating session with the goal of learning more about how your body affects your skating, you will never leave frustrated. You may learn 1001 and things that do not help you with a particular skill. But you will have learned some interesting things. The important thing is to have fun and keep working at it.
Here are some of the things you will get from skating:
- Peace and sanity: the feeling, similar to meditation, that comes from fully concentrating all of the body and mind on something.
- Excitement: the rush of excitement before, during, and after performance. Also the excitement of finally having something go right after you have been working at it a long time.
- Companionship and camaraderie, the special connection you have to other skaters working to succeed at something purely for the pleasure of it... no matter what their age, gender, or level; encountering and getting to know a group of people you would otherwise have never encountered.
- Fitness and body awareness. Skating is an excellent exercise and very often does not even feel like exercise.
- Perspective: When you become a very active skaters, you will find that skating puts other aspects of your like, like work, into perspective.
- Learning to face your fears: working at something that scares you until finally one day you realize that you are doing the move without even thinking about it. Also doing something that scares you even though it is still scary, and realizing that you can and will do it.
Skating programs for adults
Some time ago the US Figure Skating acknowledged the special needs from its ever increasing adult membership and created an Adult Skating Committee</a> US Figure Skating adult skaters also have an independent test track comprising freestyle and moves tests as well as separate Sectional and National Figure Skating Championships for adults. Following on these steps, Other national federations also implemented test tracks and recreational and competitive programs for adult skaters. As an example, in the United States, the adult testing track comprises four freestyle testing levels and, from September 2002, corresponding "Moves In The Field" (MITF) levels. The levels are Adult Pre-bronze, Bronze, Silver and Gold. As in the regular track, the MITF test must be passed before taking the corresponding freestyle test. The freestyle tests consist in a program done to music (except for the Pre-bronze test) containing some compulsory elements.
In addition to competitions with "adult" categories, competitions (national or international) open only to adults are held in USA, Canada, Estonia, Great Britain, Germany and France. Since 2005, the International Skating Union (ISU) is also sponsoring an international adult competition; this competition takes place every year in Oberstdorf, in the German Alps.