Cold weather and piles of snow got you down? An ice skating outing may be just what the doctor ordered. But to make sure you don't need a doctor afterward, follow these tips. 

Get the right fit. It is important that skates fit correctly, National Safety Council community safety expert Amy Artuso stresses. If skates are too big, they don’t provide proper ankle support, which can lead to a spill. If skates are too small, they can cause problems like blisters and decreased circulation, which can lead to frostbite. When you try on skates to find the right size, wear the same thick socks you’ll be wearing when you skate.

Check ice thickness outdoors. If you’re skating on a frozen pond or lake, four inches is the recommended minimum thickness, according to Artuso. (Here’s how to check ice thickness.) Avoid cracked ice, and clear off debris before skating.

Keep 'em sharp. Sharp blades grip ice better than dull ones. “Find a trusted professional to sharpen skates rather than just using sharpening machines found at ice rinks,” Artuso says. Why not just use the sharpening machines? They need to be specifically adjusted for each pair of skates (speed skates are different from figure skates, for instance, and goalie skates are different from hockey skates). If the pair sharpened before yours was different, your blades might be sharpened incorrectly, which can increase risk of falling, Artuso explains. If you must use one these sharpeners, ask a trained employee to help you. To prevent skates from dulling, keep hard plastic guards on the blades when walking to and from the ice.

Dress the part. Hats, scarves and mittens are key, especially for outdoor ice skating. Indoor rinks may be warmer than outdoor ones, so dress in layers so you can peel off a layer if you get warm.

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Follow rink etiquette. Every rink has its own set of rules, but there’s universal etiquette, too:

  • All skaters should skate in the same direction
  • Get up as quickly as possible when you fall to avoid collisions with other skaters
  • Slower skaters should skate on the outside of the rink, with faster skaters inside

Know how to fall. No fall is fun, but there are ways to lower your risk of injury. Try to land on the outer side of your thighs or on the side of your buttocks to help cushion your fall, professional skater Karin Künzle-Watson instructs in her book, “Ice Skating: Steps to Success.” To get back up, first get in a kneeling position with both hands on the ice and one foot between your hands. Using your hands and front foot for balance, push yourself into a standing position. If you think you've been hurt, try to make it off the ice or at least to the wall of the rink to assess the injury. 

Parents may want to sign their child up for a beginner’s lesson to teach them the basics of falling, such as protecting your head from concussions, Artuso advises.

Drink up. Dehydration is one of the greatest, but also the most preventable, risks associated with winter sports. According to a University of New Hampshire study, cold temperatures decrease a person's thirst sensation, giving a false impression of hydration. Take a rest and grab some water.

Finally, embrace the cold. Come August, you’ll be missing those cool days spent at the rink.

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