By Kara Richardson Whitely

Last winter I signed my kids up for ice-skating lessons.

I remembered how much I loved skating as a child and I wanted them to share that joy. In fact, growing up in Canada, this was something that we did on the lake, which was our backyard. We did it after school as an activity. The motion of skating was as natural as walking for me. That is, until I gained weight.

Like a lot of activities that are part of winter culture — skiing, sledding, and skating — it fell off my roster of things I was willing to do after I put on pounds. In fact, I stopped skating more than a decade ago.

I excused myself on behalf of my girth. I was worried I would get injured or make a fool of myself if I fell on the ice and couldn’t get back up again. I had a hard enough time on the ground that wasn’t slippery.

So I took the kids to their lessons and sat down on the cold bench and waited for them. Even though there was a public session afterward, meaning we could take time and skate together as a family, we never did. I typically found a way to get out of it, by booking another event right after.

I wanted so much to join them out on the ice and to give them some extra skating time but I just couldn’t. In fact, just getting off the bench required me pushing myself up with my hands or leaning forward and grabbing the seat in front of me.

The truth was: I was scared. That was about 50 pounds ago when my health was on thin ice. Everything hurt all the time — from walking to sleeping. I still worked out,   thank goodness, but when it came to doing things that I really wanted to do with my kids — from ice skating to going down water slides — I excused myself on behalf of my girth.

But skating with my girls would mean I’d have to be strong enough to hold my three-year-old daughter up. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep myself upright…especially when my balance was off even when I was walking on dry land. 

But as my weight ticked down the scale, I found myself with better balance, strength, and confidence.  And now, when I signed up my girls for a second season, I decided that it was time for me to get back on the ice. So I dug my skates out of an old trunk and packed them for a trip to Vermont along with the girls’ new skates.

When we arrived at the rink, my heart thumped as I put on my skates (and not just because I was exhausted from putting on my daughters’ skates first, which is quite an ordeal) but I got on, held onto the side of the rink for the first few pushes of my blades. But then I was off and on my own two feet.

Muscle memory kicked in and I felt parts of my body activate — from my core to my quads — for the first time in years. But most important, I found myself grinning from ear to ear as I rounded the rink. I helped my girls as they fell but I didn’t tumble once. I took a couple extra rounds with my eldest daughter, trying to do as many laps as we could before the Zamboni took the ice.  Neither one of us wanted this feeling to end. I assured her it wouldn’t. I was back on the ice for good. 

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