by Lisa Ann Pinkerton
Whether you are chasing a little black puck around, or simply enjoying a glide on the ice, skating can really get the blood pumping. One place to go in Pittsburgh is the Schenley Park Ice Rink, run by the city.
Eight year old, Shannon, bundled in her winter coat, brings her little white figure skates to Schenely Ice Rink at least once a week. "I'm here for Schenley Rink Skating lessons. If you're in advanced they teach you hockey stops and backwards cross overs. I like to go fast but I have to go slow if I'm going to do my tricks," said Shannon.
The rink offers lessons for all skills and ages. And most evenings, you can hear popular music blasting from large speakers, when the rink hosts family and adult-only open skating.
Shannon sits still as her mother securely straps the little pristine skates to her feet. "Well, I'm from Minnesota, so I love the winter. This has become a big family activity for us. It's not expensive and it's really a lot of fun," said Shannon's mother.
Ice-skating wasn't always just a way to get exercise. It originates, as one might expect, as away to quickly traverse frozen lakes, in Norther Europe. The earliest pair of skates ever discovered date back to 3000 BC. Rescued from the bottom of a Swiss lake, they were crafted out of honed animal bone. Schaats, the Dutch word for skate, in fact means 'leg bone', so it's not surprise that skating is good for the legs.
"Cardiovascularly it is very similar to running. If you skate for 30 to 45 minutes three times a week, great winter exercise. The thing that ice skating gives you is balance. To learn how to balance on ice skates is such a precise mental disciple. That I think it helps people think better. I think it's a very good way to feel precision," explained Eric Van, a former manager at Schenely Ice Rink.
Van says that you don't have to be an Olympic Champion to have fun. Anyone can learn to balance and move forward. "The trick is you have to be willing to fall down. Adults, they want to look cool, so if they fall that's embarrassing. A kid doesn't care," said Van.
After the fear of falling has been conquered, most people find enjoyment in the freedom ice skating brings.
"I've done most type of sports. Rollerblading, snowboarding, it's a fun, independent sport that you can do by yourself and also with friends too," said one local man.
Another woman said, "It's nice being outdoors. It's nice having fresh air. Nice gliding on the ice. And it's nice to watch the people who are really good. Who can do twirls and things and wish that you could."
A local women, Tara, stated," I don't know, I just think it's beautiful. It's nice just seeing people on the ice doing their thing. When you fall that's even more beautiful because you get a laugh and that's always fun."
One other woman said, "Well, I like ice skating. I'll tell you sometime people say they hate the wintertime. They don't like...they feel cooped up in all. But if you make an effort to get outside, if you dress right, then you lose that sense of claustrophobia which I think a lot of people find gets them down in the wintertime."