Gliding along the ice or hitting the pavement in skates can be a an effective but daunting workout if you fear potential injury. Ankle rolls in particular may lead to sprains and discomfort. While tying or snapping skates snugly is a good first step -- tight enough so ankles don't move side-to-side, but not so tight that they cause pain -- practicing proper techniques ensures injury-free skating.
According to MayoClinic.com, a sprained ankle is an injury that occurs when you roll, twist or turn your ankle in an awkward way, stretching or tearing your ligaments that keep your ankle bones together. When it comes to skating, ankle rolls occur when your ankle rolls inward and your foot turns outward, which can damage the ligaments on the inside of your ankle. Depending upon the force and damage of the ankle roll, the result can be mild or serious. Your ankle may be tender, swollen and stiff after a mild sprain, but you should be able to walk on it with little pain. Signs of a more serious sprain may include bruising and tenderness, and walking will likely be painful.
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Maintaining good form makes for better skating and is important for balancing your body and decreasing shakiness in your legs and feet. Aim to keep your feet parallel to one another, your knees bent slightly and your arms out to the sides. This ensures that your weight is evenly distributed on both legs -- and therefore both skates -- preventing your ankles from rolling.
Take Small Steps
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Before you attempt that triple toe loop, try taking small steps, one foot in front of the other, as if you were walking. Maintain proper form as you walk on the ice or pavement. It may sound easy, but by practicing this walk, you'll become accustomed to good form and balance. Besides being essential for avoiding injury, this walk helps strengthen your ankles.
Your Comfort Zone
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It may be tempting to skate like Olympian and professional skater Michelle Kwan, but skating too quickly when you are a beginner means more potential for injury. As you speed up and leave your comfort zone, you may lose your form and implement jerky, wobbly movements in an attempt not to fall. Avoiding these jerky motions by skating slowly and with balance will decrease your chance of ankle rolls.
Alexandra Vairo is a writer and editor with experience working for magazines and websites including Weight Watchers, Shape.com, Greatist.com and more. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and communication from Boston College and is pursuing a master's in clinical nutrition at New York University.