A few years ago I wrote the following tips for the Rollerblade International website. With the latest update to their site I can’t seem to find it. As we move into outdoor skating weather here in the northern hemisphere I thought it worth reposting here with a few changes and additions.
Quick Tips For A Great Skate
The following is some basic information about the benefits of inline skating and a few quick tips to help you make the most of your skating experience:
Skating to Get Fit or Stay Fit Skating for fitness is the reason why many people choose to skate. Which, by the way, is a really great reason! Skating is a full-body, easy-on-the-joints workout that can improve cardiovascular respiratory function, muscle strength and endurance and body composition. Skating takes us out of the fitness center and allows us to move freely into beautiful (think parks) or exciting (think city/urban) outdoor settings.
A Good Pair of Skates To start your training you will need a good pair of skates. When it comes to skates, for the most part, “you get what you pay for” and it is best to find a pair that fit properly and are of high quality. For just starting out I suggest the Rollerblade Macroblade or Zetrablade for adults and Spitfire Cube for kids.
Mastering the Basics The success of any fitness routine is based on one’s ability to carry it out. So where do you start? Mastering some of the basics of moving, stopping, and turning will give you the confidence to take your skating to the parks and streets where you can skate for longer periods of time improving your level of fitness.
Slowly building your confidence in negotiating your surroundings while on skates will help ensure that your time on skates is safe and enjoyable.
Basic Forward Skating Are you doing the “moon walk” when trying to skate? If so, to keep all eight wheels in contact with the skating surface, push down on the inside edges and through to the heels of the skates. The added pressure will help keep the wheels on the ground throughout the stroke and allow for a more powerful push.
Also remember, “Knee bend is your friend.” Soft knees are more forgiving then locked knees while skating. For better balance, power and maneuverability keep the knees slightly bent while skating. Striding Stage 1, Striding Stage 2
Improve Skating Technique Are you already comfortable on your skates but just aren’t feeling the rhythm and flow that you see in other more accomplished skaters? You can attain that look of effortlessness that you are envying, you really can! It is just about proper skating technique and more time on your skates.
Looking like a “pro” will take some time, but you can make some immediate changes to your technique that will improve your efficiency, rhythm and overall flow. The following are just a few basic suggestions:
- Too increase the power of stroke and the length of your stride lower your skating stance. The deeper the knee bend the more power in the push. Increasing knee bend will result in a more powerful stroke, which in turn, will increase the length and efficiency of the stride.
- Are you pushing equally with both legs? Most people don’t and even the most proficient skating athlete can tell you his or her “weak” side. Try this simple drill below to improve skating posture and stride technique for a more powerful stroke and more balanced stride.
One leg Squat Push
Purpose: Improves strength, balance and stride technique
- Begin with the skates together and the hands on one knee in a low squat position.
- Push one skate out to the side until fully extended
- Lift the leg off the ground and regroup the skates under the body.
- Repeat a minimum of 10 times on each side.
Added Balance Challenge: Hold the toe to the heel for a count of 1-3 before the next stroke.
Learn to Control Your Speed The importance of knowing how to control your speed, avoiding dangerous situations, and being able to come to a complete and controlled stop cannot be emphasized enough. Through the years I have heard many unfortunate stories of people’s “first and last time” skating. While the story settings change they always seem to end the same, “if I only knew how to stop.”
Brake vs. No Brake If you are a beginner to intermediate level skater it is highly suggested that your skates have a brake attached-at least in the beginning. If they do not (look in the box, it should be there), you may want to see if you can get one for your skates. Personally, I am most comfortable skating with a brake attached to my skate- especially when skating in an urban, or unfamiliar setting. But of course, this choice is ultimately up to you.
Using Your Brake Most new skates come with the brake already attached to the right skate. If you feel uncomfortable performing the Heel Brake Stop with your right leg remember that the brake can be switched to the left skate by using an Allen Wrench. Please be aware, however, that some older models skates have a brake that cannot be changed to the left side.
If you are uncertain if you should switch your brake to the left skate try answering the following questions: Do you feel that you would naturally put out your left skate? Would you kick a soccer ball into score a goal using your left foot? If you stood in front of a step, would you use your left foot first to go up? If you answered yes to anyone of these, you might want to try changing the brake.
For better balance as a beginner skater, it is best to keep your arms still and hands comfortably in front of the body. This will help keep your upper body “quiet” as you focus on what needs to be done by the lower body to stop. To master the mechanics of the stop be sure to practice all steps from a stationary position, and then repeatedly, while moving.
Grass or Emergency Stop If you do encounter a situation that you think is “unskatable,” such as a very steep decline, remember you can always leave the skating surface by performing a Grass Stop. A “grass stop” or “emergency stop” is done by scissoring forward the skate that is nearest to the grass, and shifting the weight to the back leg once the front leg crosses comes in contact with the new surface.
Planning your skate If you are a new to skating outdoors it is best to bike or walk a potential route prior to skating it. Being aware of challenging surfaces such as hills, gravel, bricks, rough surfaces etc. will allow you to adjust your skating technique or change your route altogether.
Avoiding Obstacles The scissor stance with the weight on the back leg, which was covered in “Grass Stop” above, will generally work with most road obstacles that cannot be avoided such as water, oil, gravel and twigs. Just remember that if going through water it is best not to push, as your wheels will slide. If you are lucky enough to be skating at the beach and you need to “bail out” in the sand, remember that your wheels will not roll through sand so it is best to pick up your feet and run to a stop.
If your skates have come into contact with water, oil or sand, please take the time to clean your wheels and bearings before your next skate to ensure that they do not rust and remain in good working order.
Getting Out There-Where to Skate Your wheels were made to roll so provided you are familiar with the basics let’s get moving! Skating can be done in a variety of locations. A park trail or path along side the beach can provide a safe, smooth and predicable course that will allow you to concentrate on your technique while taking in the beautiful surroundings. But if that kind of skate isn’t available to you, why not skate where you are?
City or Urban Skate One reason runners love to run is because it is easy. Just put on the running shoes and out the door you go! Minimal prep and travel time and maximal satisfaction knowing that your workout is a door step away. Skating can also be that simple. It really can be. Provided you are comfortable with the controlling your speed and stopping city or urban skating is a great way to explore your surroundings.
Anticipation After skating forward and stopping, “anticipation” is a skill that needs to be practiced and mastered for a safe and enjoyable city skate. Unlike skating on a trail, the course and terrain is anything but predictable. Negotiating rough patches of sidewalk, around pedestrians, hopping up and down street curbs, navigating around parked and moving cars and over bumps, takes some skill.
Avoid Possible Hazardous Situations First, avoid possible hazardous situations by learning to anticipate them. Pay attention to what is going on in front of you. Scan the area for pedestrians stepping off curbs or cares making a turn in front of you. Most hazardous situations on a city skate can be avoided if you stay alert and predict the likelihood of their occurrence.
Use “Timing” to Avoid Braking. Instead of skating at a steady pace, the pace is adjusted to accommodate the environment. For example; Instead of traveling up to a target to be passed and applying a brake, look ahead as far as a few hundred yards. Anticipating the optimal point of passing, you can adjust your speed to improve your timing.
Big City Skating Some of the best skating experiences of my life were smack dab in the middle of a big city. New York, Paris, Miami, Singapore, Munich, etc. present an amazing backdrop and an exhilarating ride!
Skating on sidewalks and where safe and legal, in the street, allows you to interact with the city in a way that walking, running and driving just doesn’t. I can honestly say that when I have started to skate from the doorstep of my house, or if on vacation from my hotel, I have rarely, if ever, been disappointed. If you are visiting a city for the first time or want to see your own from a new perspective, an urban or city skate is the way to go. A unique and satisfying experience is right outside your door.
Quick Tip Recap Skating is a full-body, easy-on-the-joints workout that can improve cardiovascular respiratory function, muscle strength and endurance and body composition. Take the time to become familiar with the basics of moving and controlling your speed and you will be amazed by how much fun a great workout can be!