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Get moving with ice skating lessons at the Columbia Ice Rink

Figure skating instructor Tracy Johnson, left, of Baltimore helps Angel Gross of Chester during Adult Ice Skating Lessons at the Columbia Ice Rink.
Figure skating instructor Tracy Johnson, left, of Baltimore helps Angel Gross of Chester during Adult Ice Skating Lessons at the Columbia Ice Rink. (Matt Hazlett)
Raised on a steady diet of Winter Olympics, little boys and girls all over the world dream about one day getting on the ice — and bringing home the gold.
For the lucky few who have competed in far-flung locales from Lillehammer to Sochi, before the sparkly costumes and “miracle” goals came a lot of hard work — hours on the ice, first learning the basics of skating then fine-tuning sport-specific skills through practice, practice, practice.
For the rest of us, the Olympics might not be a realistic goal. But even as adults, we can get a great workout ice skating — and have a ton of fun.
At the Columbia Ice Rink, instructors teach adults (and children) both in small groups and private lessons, working with people with a wide variety of experience levels and skills.
The director of Columbia’s skating program, Denise Cahill, is a petite ball of energy who has been teaching skating for 42 years. She and the other instructors impart knowledge — and inspire confidence — in newbie skaters. 
On a quiet weekday morning, a 30-minute private lesson started with one of the most important basics: how to fall. “Keep your hands in front of you,” is something that Cahill reminded me time and time again during our session. 
The rest of the session was a fun, hands-on education in proper form — it’s important to bend at the knee, keep your center of gravity low, and keep your weight shifted forward, on the balls of your feet — as Cahill walked me through skating basics. She taught me how to stop, glide while pushing from the side of my blade (not the toe), skate backwards and even do a little turn. 
She demonstrated and explained each new maneuver, then watched me closely, making recommendations as I practiced. In between maneuvers, we skated, gliding around the rink — with my hands out, of course, just in case. The more we skated, the more I was aware of my body’s position and balance, and the more natural my stance felt.
Though the room was chilly (“Always wear gloves!” says Cahill), by the end of the session, my blood was flowing — and my thigh muscles were burning. After one lesson under Cahill’s patient tutelage, I probably wasn’t ready for the Olympics, but I did feel that I got a solid, fun workout.

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