Last Christmas-time as I sat by the twinkling tree, watching Ice Princess, I decided that I would make returning to ice-skating one of my goals for 2017. I used to go skating two or three times a week, with lessons and practise sessions and I have certificates for the Skate UK Levels. I really missed it and it was something I wanted to get back into on a regular basis, so I made it one of my goals for this year. Today I have achieved that goal and I have just returned home from my very first skate in four and a half years!
I'm not going to lie - it was pretty nerve-wracking. I didn't sleep last night due to anxiety about it and my mind was trying to distract me with all the things that could go wrong. But I had a nice message from a pal this morning, which gave my confidence a boost and it was just the pep talk I needed. Then once I got to the rink and got my skates on, I started to feel a lot calmer. My friend was quite right - the first time back is always the hardest.
My main fear was actually stepping out onto the ice again, but I needn't have been so anxious about it. As soon as I was on the ice my old training kicked in and I did okay. I wasn't the best skater by any means, but I wasn't the worst either. I decided to just take it steady and enjoy the thrill of being back at the rink. They were playing ballet music, which I love, so this helped to calm my nerves too.
I'd forgotten how much I love skating, and with arms outstretched like wings, how much it feels like flying when the glide takes hold of you. In my head I could hear my old coach saying "Glide...be the swan, gliding across the ice" It was much like riding a bike, in that once you have learnt to do it, it all just comes back to you again and it feels like you've never been away.
I still had some nerves to contend with and there were private lessons going on so there were skaters doing sit-spins and such like around me, which is a bit distracting, but in a good way as its fun to watch. A couple of hockey players were there too, practising their stop turns and I had to keep an ear out for the dreadful scrunching sound of their hockey skates coming up behind me. My figure skates sound much nicer - they give a soft whisper as they cut through the ice. It is a comforting sound and today was mostly for figure skaters anyway.
For the most part I tried to just concentrate on what I was doing, which was to get a feel for the ice once more and nurture my confidence. I wanted today to be about feeling comfortable when skating again, so I didn't do any manoeuvres, other than sculling and forward one-foot glides. The hardest part was maintaining the correct speed - too slow and I'd get wibbly legs; too fast and the blade would bolt away from me like a misbehaved horse - it took me about half an hour to judge the right speed and maintain that.
I was also very aware of what was going on around me, making sure not to cross the paths of figure skaters having lessons, while giving those skaters who were obviously beginners the space they needed close to the edge. There is nothing worse when you're a beginner than a fast skater speeding past you too close! I remember it was one of my pet hates when I first started, so I tried to be as considerate to other skaters as possible, while claiming my own space. I had one slight stumble when I didn't get the correct ballet turn out on my left foot and the toe-pick hit the ice, but it was just a blip in the flow of movement, not a fall, so it didn't knock my confidence, which is good.
On the whole, it was a good skate and I really enjoyed it. I know it will become a regular part of my life once again, just as it used to be, and I'm already planning which manoeuvres I want to practice next time. Now that I have finished my college course, I have no excuse not to go skating and I am really looking forward to my next glide on the ice. I wish I hadn't left it so long, but it is fantastic to be back at the rink, happily skating, chatting, laughing, meeting up with old friends and new. I had great fun and when I came off the ice I had snow on my blades and my leg-warmers were wet, so I know I worked hard!
So yes, today was a milestone for me and I'm glad I didn't let the anxiety and nervousness get in my way.