It’s that time of year, when ice rinks start to pop up in Christmas markets and news about the next season of Dancing on Ice abound.
Most of us have probably watched the show or seen experienced skaters on the ice at some point, thinking: “I wish I could do that” but never got further than daydreaming about it.
Now, at Dundee Ice Arena, fans of the sport are being offered the chance to take lessons from top figure skaters and coaches – whatever their age or ability.
Team GB figure skater and 2016 British ladies senior champion Danielle Harrison has set up an adult ice skating class along with figure skating coach Georgia Briggs, daughter of European, World and Olympic coaches Simon and Debi Briggs.
The classes, held at 6.30pm on Tuesdays, are split into different ability levels meaning there are slots for everyone from absolute beginners to those who are practising their double jumps. There is also the option to learn to skate with the aim of going into amateur ice hockey.
Adult ice skating
“We noticed there were loads of adults skating on public sessions but there wasn’t really a structured class, so we saw that here was a market for it”, says Danielle.
“There are children’s group lessons but there was nothing for adult skating. The class has been really successful so far. Roughly, on a weekly basis, we have an average of about 25 people.
“We’re always looking for more people, of any skill and standard. We have people who have never skated before, who are now doing it. We always welcome new faces. It’s a really good fitness and cardio session for a lot of people. They gain a lot by keeping healthy, making friends and enjoying the social side.
“For those who want to take skating more seriously, there’s also the chance to progress and learn lots of new skills.”
The health and fitness benefits of ice skating are many. It is known to improve balance, flexibility, joint movement and leg and core strength, as well as being a great cardio workout.
And, like any physical activity, it can help improve mental wellbeing by releasing endorphins and relieving stress. The social aspect of joining a group class can be beneficial too, as it offers a chance to meet like-minded people and make friends.
“Starting skating for the first time can be scary but we’re all friendly!” adds Danielle. “There are beginners every week so there are always people to learn with.
“It’s quite exciting because we have people who started together, who have never skated before. They’ve all progressed so much. I find adults so fun to teach, you actually end up making friends with them. They’re really keen to learn.”
A change in attitudes
Traditionally, ice skating has been a young person’s activity, with figure skaters taking up the sport as children. There is often a misconception that once you hit a certain age it is nigh-on impossible to learn the skills needed to be a competent skater.
Whilst it is true that the skaters you see on TV competing on European, World or Olympic level have all trained intensively since childhood, there are also many opportunities for those who come to the sport later in life to enter amateur events.
These are just one part of the growing adult skating community, which comprises people who have either taken up skating for the first time as an adult or have come back to it having last done it a long time ago as a child.
One of those people is 21-year-old Tara Jones from Markinch, who joined Danielle and Georgia’s class while she was at university in Dundee.
Re-igniting a passion for skating
“Skating is something I enjoyed when I was a child,” she says. “Recently I came to the rink as a volunteer youth worker with a young person and really enjoyed it.
“I wanted to learn how to skate properly and a friend told me about this class. I thought ‘oh I’m definitely going to have a look at that’. So I started coming and have stuck with it. As an adult it’s really difficult to get into a new sport, especially one that’s so challenging and so scary. You are on a concrete slab covered in ice with a lot less control than you would usually have.
“But the coaches here are just so supportive, they make it really fun to learn. And it’s good to be able to learn in an environment where there are other adults who are also learning.
“I think if it wasn’t for the adult classes I wouldn’t have done skating, as I wouldn’t have wanted to be in a class full of kids.
“It would be intimidating to be surrounded by kids who are whizzing around you and doing big jumps when you can’t even more forward!”
Danielle and Georgia’s adult skating classes are held at 6.30pm on Tuesdays at Dundee Ice Area, on a drop-in basis. More information is available on the Adult Ice Skating – Dundee Facebook page.