July 2, 2010

How To Stay Warm In The Ice Rink

We've all been there. Sat in the stands or upright rink-side, the cold rising through our shoes and slowly turning our muscles to stone (or at least that's what it feels like). As a skater (a childless one at that) I'm not in the best position to talk about my skater-parent experiences, but I have spent a lot of years hanging around giant freezers and I'm currently undergoing long hours of mentoring for my coaching diploma. I thus feel qualified enough to share a few of my heat-retention tips with you guys!

The shoes you wear are possibly the most important part of your outfit. Two words; thick, soles. I have trusty Timberland boots with a very thick rubber sole and they do the trick nicely. Couple those with wool socks or modern thermal hiking socks for ultimate heat retention. Coaches who   stand on the ice for long hours who are not wearing their skates often wear Moon Boots. Whatever you decide to go for the next time you're heading out to the rink, make sure your shoes are:
• waterproof
• have a good sole / keep your feet raised off the ground nicely
• are lined with wool / sheepskin, or you wear woollen socks

The next thing you need to think about is layering up. When I'm going to be at the rink for long periods of time , I'm going to be wearing at least one pair of tights (thick, around 50 denier), a pair of leggings and then thick sports trousers (these can be substituted by jeans, or any regular trouser with enough stretch to support the layers you're wearing underneath without making you uncomfortable). 

On the top I'm usually wearing undies, vest (thermal or a regular vest top to serve as an extra layer), top, a first jumper, then either a second jumper, a fleece pullover/jacket, and finally, a sleeveless gilet or padded jacket depending on if I'm coaching or skating (freedom of movement and all that jazz).

You're going to want to top that lot off with a really great jacket. I think you've probably realised by now that style and fashion long since went out the window. If you are a fashion-skating-parent then my hat comes off to you because I have a hard time being fashionable in my regular life during winter, never mind at the rink! I have 2 skate jackets that I alternate for fake-coaching sessions (that is, me learning to be a coach as opposed to actually being one); a puffer jacket which is warmer, and a hiking jacket with is longer in the body and also waterproof.

A warm lower back is crucial to keeping your entire body toasty, and you really need to protect it from the cold to avoid lower back pack and tightening of the muscles in the long run (who knew skating mums could get skating injuries too huh?)

Don't forget your hat (enormous amounts of heat are lost from the top of the head), gloves (your extremities are the last place blood gets to, and in cold conditions the smallest type of veins located at your extremities may become vasoconstricted causing even less blood to be delivered to these areas), and your scarf (I don't know about you, but I just hate a cold wind on my throat).

My not-so-secret tips for extra warmth (besides clothing itself) are:
- A chemically activated heatpack. They have a disc inside them which you snap, this causes an exothermic chemical reaction (a reaction which releases heat energy) and heats up the gel inside the pack, giving you warmth. The heat doesn't stay in them very long though and once you've done the disc trick once the only way to get use from the pack again is to either place in a pan of hot water or put it in the microwave.

- Bring tea, soup, coffee, or even a hot meal. You can get huge food flasks for great prices on Amazon, and I've never found anything quite like hot pasta or minced beef stew with potatoes to warm me up before going back rinkside.

- Cashmere. I know that sounds not only obvious, but also pretentious, but it's the best fabric I have ever worn for heat retention. If xmas or a birthday is coming up ask for a pair of gloves or a hat (or both if you're lucky/cheeky) and I promise you, you'll reap the benefits.

- Avoid anything synthetic that will make you sweat. Make sure all your undergarments are cotton or that sweat will be freezing the arms off you in 10 minutes flat.

- Bring a change of top and socks in case of sweat attack. If you can get to the bathroom, wipe down with deo and change into a crisp dry garment. You'll feel like a new person.

If you're sitting in the stands then bring something to put between your butt and the (cold) seat. A woolen blanket does just the trick! You can pick up a deal on eBay I'm pretty sure, click here to see a search for "wool blanket".

If you enjoyed this read, you might like more rink-related posts I've written, such as:
How To: Not Die Of Boredom At The Rink
How To Keep That Budget Low!

...And finally, don't forget to come see the Facebook page  or drop me a tweet: @skating_howto!

Until next time, stay warm & safe at the ice rink!

Photo credits (all downloaded from Flickr under the Creative Commons licence);
Moon boots by Yuan2003
Thermal underwear by Coutorture
Ski jacket by Ktpupp

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