It’s 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night and instead of relaxing on the couch unwinding after another hectic day with the kids, I’m sitting in the change room of an ice-cold rink, strapping on a helmet and lacing up skates with 12-inch, razor-sharp blades—blades I honed by hand until they were sharp enough to peel a layer off my fingernail when I glide it across the edge.
They need to be sharp to round the corners at fast speeds, it’s also the main reason everyone in my speed skating class wears a neck guard.
At the age of 41, this non-athletic, non- exercising, slightly uncoordinated mom of two decided to try speed skating.
Last September, with hesitation, my husband and I signed up our nine-year- old son for speed skating. As a mother, the very last thing you ever want to do after allowing your child to join a class that requires them to wear Ginsu Knives strapped to their feet is Google “speed skating accidents.” Week after week, I watched with bated breath as he skated. I prayed he wouldn’t become a part of those search results.
Then I went to his first meet and was completely captivated. It’s one thing to see speed skaters on television; it’s a whole other experience to watch them live. When you do it right, speed skating is a quiet ballet on skates, the strength required to round the rink in a squatting position, immense. Top female speed skaters can race 500 metres in less than 40 seconds. Even now it takes me more than two minutes.
The day after that meet, I emailed the speed skating club to see if I could join the Master’s class for the last 10 sessions of the year. This wasn’t spurred on by a mid- life crisis or an act of bravery. The reality is I’m probably just like you: A typical mom who, for the past few years, always put herself last. My main source of exercise was running—running errands, running the kids to and from school, running up against deadlines and running into what felt like quite a few brick walls. Somewhere along the line, I became so intrinsically involved in life I forgot I was supposed to live it as well.
Speed skating has changed that for me.
I’m not going to lie. It’s difficult going outside your comfort zone and trying something new. Before strapping on my speed skates, I had skated only three times in the past 12 years. My entire first class was spent just trying to stay upright while other members, who had been skating for years, flew by me. It sucks being the worst at something and there have been times that I’ve wanted to burst into tears and run away. But what I’ve learned is showing up is easy; it’s fighting past your insecurities and staying that’s the difficult part.
But I do it. Twice a week I check my ego at the door and slowly make my way onto the rink because speed skating has relit a fire in me—one I didn’t even realize had gone out. There are other benefits, too. When I spoke to Bruno LoGreco, a professional life coach in Toronto, he said, “Stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new activities not only benefits you physically, it gets you focusing on ‘you’ and provides mental stimulation as well. It’s an opportunity to express your authentic self.”
All great reasons, but mostly I do it because, for the first time in a year, I finally feel like I’m living again. And it feels really, really good. I bet you could find something like that for yourself, too. If, for one brief moment, you put aside the routine of life, stepped out of your comfort zone and just tried.
My name is Sharon and I’m a speed skating mom.