Ice is a more limited resource on public sessions, so it’s a challenging setting to practice figure skating. Sometimes it’s self-destructive to compromise on resources when learning – for example, it would be terrible to rent skates instead of buy them, because bad skates make it impossible to learn correct form.
When starting out, skating on public sessions are great! You can practice most basic skills, and public sessions may be the only option anyway, besides group lessons. Without time pressure, it can be nice (and effective!) to work on one difficult skill for an entire public session, because that’s the easiest way to detect progress. I also found that working on something invited helpful suggestions from more advanced skaters.
Once past the basic levels, I don’t advise practicing on public sessions as a substitute for freestyle sessions; having space is too important for jumps and spins. But attending additional public sessions is still useful if you have things to practice or polish. Often I’ve found that doing things slowly on a public session promotes the body awareness I need to solidify a skill. Public sessions are often at more times (not only in the pre-dawn hours) and they’re cheaper. They’re also an opportunity to build confidence by skating on a rougher surface and a good time to make friends!
Following are suggestions of things to practice on a public session.
- Forward skating on one foot
- Forward swizzles / wiggles
- Forward stroking
- All types of stops
- Edges in semi-circles
- Crossovers (around curves, or if you can find a less-trafficked circle)
- Turning from forward to backward / vice versa on two feet
More advanced skills:
- Forward power pulls
- Forward cross rolls
- Three turns or brackets in semi-circles
- Beginning one-rotation twizzles
- Spread eagles
- Pivots (these might be a beginning skill. But I only recently realized I should know them, so I don’t know where to put them)
- Centering spin exercises (I have a lot of trouble pulling into my spins correctly, so my coach suggested I start them standing still from my feet in a T position)
It’s necessary to be respectful of people around you at public sessions, because most people won’t be able to respond quickly. It’s possible to skate backwards if you can spot an open area, or if someone is watching out for you. A center space can be good for practicing regular spins, although camel spins make me a little paranoid since they take up more space.