I went skating today. I went last week too. Today was much better. When I went out last week it was the first time I had been on skates in a couple of years. The funny thing is that I live 2 blocks from Canada’s longest skating rink, the Rideau Canal. I really have no excuse for not getting out more often. There was a time when I would go out early on a Saturday morning and skate the entire 8 kilometres. Last week I almost didn’t get beyond 100 meters. It’s amazing what our bodies forget how to do. It’s equally amazing how quickly they will remember, given the opportunity.

I enjoy most winter activities. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are especially wonderful when there is fresh snow. Then there is skating. Standing on thin little blades on hard ice is not an easy task. I am always in awe of hockey players and figure skaters. The way they maneuver on those tiny edges blows my mind. Being the curious person that I am I started wondering about which muscles are required to execute even the most basic stride. The list is long.

This is a very basic overview of what happens:

  • The power is generated by combined effort of the gluteal muscles (buttock), and the quadriceps (front of the thigh). They create the push back motion.
  • The hamstring (back of your thigh) is responsible for bending the knee and lifting the foot off of the ice, and bringing it forward.
  • The adductor muscles (inside of the thigh) work to bring the leg inward.
  • The oblique muscles (side of the abdomen) allow for any twisting motions required.
  • The rectus abdominis (the major muscles in the centre of the abdomen) adds to the power required in the push off part of the stride. This muscle contributes to stability as well.
  • The erector spinae (runs down the spine to the lower back) is there to keep the body upright.

It’s no wonder I felt like a fish out of frozen water when I put my skates on a couple of weeks ago. Now, more than before, I am proud that I persevered. I have a new appreciation of all that I was asking my body to do. In addition to all of those muscles contracting and relaxing at the right time, my nerves had to communicate what needed to happen and when it needed to happen. All I can say is “wow”.

I do take for granted that I can move relatively pain-free most days. I believe that to stay healthy we have to move our bodies in as many different ways as we can think of on a daily basis. The old saying of “use it or lose it” comes to mind. I’m not fond of that statement. Probably because the truth hurts.

I’m off to lace up skates. What are you up to?


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