The in-line skating industry has come a long way since 1984, when there were only 20,000 skaters in the United States.
Today that number stands at almost 11 million. The reasons for its popularity are simple. In-line skating is fun, low-impact and easy to learn. It’s the perfect way to introduce exercise and an ideal activity for any fitness level.
In fact, numerous studies have indicated that skating has a significant impact on fitness levels, especially in the areas of cardiovascular development, lung capacity, muscular strength and weight loss. One hour on skates consumes almost as many calories as running, and it strengthens the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the ankles, knees and hips.
Safety is your priority. When you feel safe, you’re open to new experiences and you decrease your risk of injury. The number-one reported reason for in-line-related trips to the emergency room, other than for cuts and bruises, is injury to the arms, wrists and hands that occurs when no protective gear is worn.
If you don’t own a pair of skates and protective gear, locate the nearest in-line rental shop, where you can rent all you need for about $5 to $20. Here are some more tips to help you get started:
- When renting or buying, be sure your skates fit snugly; your feet should not have a lot of room to move around. If you feel an uncomfortable pressure point anywhere around your feet or ankles, adjust the tongue of the skate. If this doesn’t help, try on another pair.
- Any good rental shop will include all protective gear—wrist, knee and elbow pads and helmet—with your rental. A bike helmet works fine, too.
- If possible, stand up and take a basic stride forward, on carpet or in the rental shop. Get a feel for the support surrounding your ankles. Do small tasks to get used to the skates—shift weight from one foot to the other, step around in a small circle and move your ankles and knees from side to side to feel the wheels’ edges.
- Find an outdoor location with a flat, relatively smooth surface, free from traffic or obstacles. Possible options include a parking lot, school yard or tennis court, preferably with a grassy area nearby to cushion your fall should you stumble.
- Learn how to stop! There are a variety of braking systems currently available, depending on the manufacturer. The box below offers basic instruction that works well with all of these systems.
- Improve your stride, and try to get some type of rhythm going. With each stride, concentrate on the feel of your hips balancing over one foot, then over the other. The better your balance, the longer you’ll be able to glide on that foot. Next, assume a slightly more flexed athletic position to improve your “stroke,” or the pushing phase of striding. Concentrate on pushing off from the inside of the whole foot (not just off the toes). Once you’ve pushed off, return (regroup) that foot back under your hips; push off with the other foot.
- Turning can strike fear into the hearts of novice skaters, but the following progression makes it seem simple.
– First, look in the desired direction, and then point your big toes in that direction. Keep the ankles and knees flexed and relaxed and the arms in front for balance. Continue your turn in the shape of a C until you roll to a stop. Try the same technique in the other direction; then try linking turns together.
– The distance between your feet will vary; some might stand wider than others.
Once you master the basics, it’s possible that you will be able to redefine your potential for safe participation, as well as your fitness level.
The heel brake is usually situated on the heel of the right skate.
- Step 1—Roll slowly forward on both feet, your posture upright with arms in front and knees and ankles relaxed.
- Step 2—Stagger (scissor) your right foot forward several inches while maintaining your posture.
- Step 3—Still scissoring your feet, lift the right toe up to feel the brake engage. Keep your knees and ankles flexed and relaxed. It takes a few feet to stop completely and several tries to become proficient.