Speed skating – in one form or another – is for everyone, from young (6yrs) to old (80 yrs+), from the lover of gentle outdoor exercise to the adrenaline fuelled speed junkie. Despite what you might think, speed skating is ideal for those that get bored easily as there is a huge variety in both the sport and the training.
Speed skating is however a very technical sport. For a beginner it is hard to even stand still on the ice. The basic movements and body position are quite different from running or walking and so feel rather un-natural at first. Most people also have to overcome an inbuilt fear of falling and the nagging doubt that you can achieve any form of grip on ice (whereas actually the grip achievable is quite extreme). However, these initial aspects are readily and rapidly overcome and once conquered you will find a whole new world open up.
For a more experienced skater it is important to refine the technique. It takes some time and effort before one can fully experience the enjoyment of a relaxed, easy, speed skating movement. The better your technique, the more efficiently (and faster) you will move across the ice and the easier and more enjoyable it becomes.
As with all sports, the younger you start, the quicker you learn. However, there are a number of sports which give a very good basis for speed skating and from which the transition can be made quickly. The key ones are in-line skating and gymnastics, both of which give the balance and leg strength. However cyclists, rowers, skiers (water and snow based), hurdlers and triple jumpers will all have a distinct advantage and faster learning curve. The transition from other ice sports (ice-hockey, short-track, figure skating) to long track is the fastest of all and generally involves ‘un-learning’ some habits brought over from those sports.
What type of speed skating suits me?
From in-line skating to speed skating: It is expected that someone who is used to in-line skate, will soon be comfortable on the ice. You’re already used to the rather insecure feeling of your leg slipping away underneath you. Also the sideway push off and using the “valbeweging’ is familiar. Also going through the ‘turn’ is often no problem. To go speed skating on a high level is different though. Using the double push during speed skating has a counterproductive effect, where using a klap-mechanism during in-line skating is useless.
For a long time, people recommended not to combine in-line skating and speed skating. However, the group of people combining these sports now becomes bigger and bigger. During the summer in-line skating is seen as a very useful training method, and a few skaters combines both. So, some in-line skate experience is recommended for speed skating. The speed in speed skating is higher and gliding on ice has lower resistance than rolling on asphalt.
The step from short-track to long track speed skating is maybe even smaller. A laymen won’t notice the difference. Though, for someone practicing short-track on some level there are some essential differences. The main difference is the klap-mechanism. Starting off won’t be a problem, but when braking one has to pay attention because that is the moment to fall over. The way to walk the ‘turn’ and the rather long straight end in long track has a different technique. There are no impediments for a short-tracker to once try long track. It is even a recent development to alternate short-track with long track and vice-versa every once in a while to improve results. At the moment this is included in many training programs.
With ice hockey and figure skating, skating is a similarity. The technique is different, but one will soon get used to it. Less obvious, it appears that cycling is close to long track. Not the technique, but rather the use of muscle and mentality. The combination of cycling during summer and speed skating during winter is common. Partly because of history, but if this combination wasn’t effective it probably wouldn’t have been used so often. An experienced cyclist probably will struggle with the skating technique but will reap the rewards of one’s labor as soon as this is in control and improve rapidly. As last part skiing and cross country skiing. Mainly the sensation of exercising in winter and the speed are important. One will find the fun experienced during these sports back in speed skating, especially with speed skating on natural ice. Training on indoor rings will improve the results and increases the fun.