Learning to fall

“You aren’t from Minnesota, are you?” 

This was the first question my kind, well-intentioned instructor asked after I hobbled across the ice for my first adult skating lesson. 

I was born in Wisconsin, which may explain why I’m 40 years old and only just now learning to ice skate — or you might say — learning how to fall. 

On my drive to the rink for that first lesson, I was beyond scared. We’re talking heart-racing, palms-sweating, short-of-breath kind of terror. My fear was amplified when I saw the other skaters in my Adult Basics class gliding across the ice toward our instructor and even skating backwards

There had to be a mistake. Maybe I had signed up for the wrong class? I wasn’t sure I could stand up on ice skates — much less move myself across the rink to our class’s meeting spot. My terror was approaching full panic. At this point, you may wonder, why would I choose to subject myself to this ordeal? 

Joining the family

I didn’t play any team sports growing up. Sure, as an adult, I enjoy biking, yoga and running, but I have no background in skating, skiing or rollerblading.

Everyone in my family can ice skate, except for me and my 1-year-old. My husband (a native Minnesotan) is poetry in motion when he skates. He put our other two daughters in ice skates shortly after they learned to walk. 

And then there’s Mama. 

This Mama finally decided to learn how to skate so I could join my family on the ice. Plus, as humbling as it is, it’s important for our kids to see us grownups grapple with learning something new and witness (one hopes) our coping and perseverance. 

Luckily, an empathetic class member took pity on me. She skated beside me/held me up and guided me across the rink to meet our instructor, who assured me I was, indeed, in the correct class because adult classes do span a range of abilities. 

The first thing I needed to learn was how to fall. Really. My instructor demonstrated the proper way to fall and then we practiced together. 

As an adult learner, she explained, I should try to fall forward and lower my body close to the ice, to reduce the impact from a fall’s force. 

By the end of the first class, I had successfully practiced falling many times, and had even progressed to marching on the ice. In fact, I was the only skater left on the ice when my instructor needed to (gently) ask me to leave before the Zamboni ran me over. 

Going just a bit too far

I’d love to be able to report that I mastered ice skating in my seven-week course, or at least that I was able to glide competently without posing danger to myself or fellow skaters. 

But that’s not exactly what happened. 

By my third lesson, I was feeling much more confident and wanted to push ahead. I really wanted to pass the Adult Basics course, which would signify proficiency on the ice. To pass, I had to do swizzles, which required more speed. So I pushed it. I skated faster than ever, pushing into a glide across the ice. And it was amazing. Until it wasn’t. 

I lost my balance, fell backward and hit the ice with my left arm fully extended and my elbow locked. It happened in a blur. 

There was no time to lean forward or fall close to the ice. I failed at my learning-to-fall basics. But I picked myself, my throbbing elbow and my bruised ego off the ice, and I skated the final two laps of our lesson. Then I visited my local orthopedic specialist for an X-ray. 

The final diagnosis? Possibly a radial head fracture, or a bone bruise, or a lot of swelling. In short, limited activity for the next six to seven weeks, lots of icing and wearing a sling as needed. (This wasn’t a simple thing for a mother of three!) 

I’m not there — yet

But here’s the lasting impact (excuse the pun): I’m not terrified to try skating anymore. 

Maybe that seems backward, but for me, injuring myself was the scariest possibility. Yet, I gave it my all, I ended up injuring myself and it was not the end of the world. 

I healed, I’m fine and I can try skating again. And I will.

Learning to fall might be the most important lesson in skating, but for me, getting back up and trying again goes right along with it. As my daughters would remind me, I’m not a skater yet.

That little word carries all the possibility in the world. 


Laura Ramsborg lives in Bloomington with her husband, three daughters and Labrador retriever. Find her @MsRamsborgReads or ramsborgwrites@gmail.com