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Noob to Skating: Any Advice for New (Beginner) or Intermediate Inline Skaters?

Hello all, I'm new to skating and am looking for advice on how to become better at it--right now I only skate in rinks because I need walls to stop.  :P  Any advice or suggestions would be helpful, including where I should be posting questions like this.  Thanks!

Comments

eebee's picture

Professional Inline Skating Instruction

Hi! Great responses, Tim and Blake.

 

I'm not sure where you are located Bertha, but I highly recommend some professional beginner inline skate lessons. Well worth the money! In my experience many adults mistakenly believe that if they can't just naturally balance or stop on skates without wiping out - and never having been taught how NOT to - then they just are 'no good at it'. There's that phrase that gets hurled around: "I can't even get down my driveway on those things without wiping out". Sounds like you're way past that stage, however :-)

 

Everybody learns in different ways of course. Some people can see others skating, dancing, hitting a ball, etc., and somehow manage to manipulate their bodies into mimicking the move perfectly. Some people need detailed explanations on how to execute a move. Others need to feel their body take a position before they understand what the heck an instructor is trying to get them to do. A skilled teacher should be able to discern how you learn, maximize lesson time, and teach you how to stop, balance, how to execute a basic skate stroke, and how to do parallel turns.

 

Are you wanting to learn how to skate outdoors on the roads, with a view perhaps of taking part in races, festivals or events? Or are you interested in joining an indoor speed team? An indoor speed team might be a good place to start looking, if you don't live near any groups that skate outdoors. You could call a local rink, and if they don't have a speed team, they might know somebody who does.

 

Are you on inline skates or quad skates?

 

I first learned how to skate at age 32. I first learned - from professional inline coaches - how to brake, and how to execute a skate stroke that looked halfway graceful, rather than just stumbling around not getting anywhere. I remember spending 3 weeks straight in the evenings going around a local high school parking lot (because it was the flattest thing I could find), doing endless 'swizzles', parallel turns and braking. It was frustrating and I wondered how on earth I'd ever go from that, to remotely resembling the speedies at the downtown Atlanta nightskates, who seemed to be floating over the asphalt, not rolling on it. But this all gave me tremendous improvements in balance, which I could build on again and again over the weeks, months and years to come.

 

There is so much to cover, it's tempting to write for hours on this subject. So I hope you are not already overwhelmed! 

 

First important thing: HELMET!! Wear one! Plus wrist guards (with plastic splints front and back to avoid breaking wrists), knee pads and elbow pads. There's another oft-bandied-about phrase: "I'm not fast enough to need to wear a helmet!", and another oft-bandied-about response to it: "Well I saw this girl standing still on her skates and all of a sudden her feet flew out from under her and she smacked her head on the pavement...".  Wear a helmet :-)

Oh yeah, about the other

Oh yeah, about the other question--I don't think I'll ever be good enough to race or anything; I mostly want to learn to skate on roads because I enjoy skating and want to skate more often than I can afford to do if I have to pay $5 to get into a skating rink every time.  (More, if my son finds out I'm going and tags along.)
eebee's picture

You are Worthy!

Bertha wrote: "I think some of the folks in this area occasionally go to a middle school track; I'm worried I'll show up with my skates and find out they're using it."

This is ironic! Yesterday we drove out to Athens to finish up our Athens-to-Atlanta escapades, and I had a sudden flash of a memory from when I first learned to skate back in 1999. I used to take part in Group Training Sessions (GTS), and it was a constant internal battle to get myself out the door. You should've heard the things I'd tell myself:

- Who do you think you ARE!? An athlete? A skater? You're not a skater! You're an impostor.
- You'll never be anything more than a perpetual BEGINNER!
- You'll never be able to balance, so quit pretending.
- Why are you bothering? You could spend the morning in bed, you know. You'd be safe there - nobody can laugh at your flab, big floppy T-shirts, silly helmet, ungraceful knee pads, and huge baggy shorts.
- Why are you driving out there to pretend to be one of them? They'll just be faster than you anyway.

Boy was I mean! Yesterday I remembered how downright out of place I felt IN SPITE of how welcoming my skating mentors were, and I shook my head in disbelief. It's a wonder I ever learned to skate at all with that attitude!

So I say: Go ahead and go out there to the track and start skating on it! If the speedies show up - great! Surely there's enough space for just one more? You can at least use the outer track, right? Plus if they're halfway decent people/not shy they'll probably be only too happy to give you some tips and pointers. If you didn't mean skaters came to use it but runners, walkers, etc., that doesn't strike me as problematic since you're not going to be doing 18mph laps...yet ;-)


Bertha wrote: "I also have some weird skates, which makes me kind of self-conscious about practicing where people can see me--I guess I can just tell myself everyone isn't staring at me because I suck, they're just staring at the weird skates."

What's weird about your skates? Are they landrollers or something? :-) If they're big, clunky Wal-Mart specials, that's ok! I remember having the same thoughts. But know this: You're a beginner inline skater and that won't last very long, especially if you learn technique and back it up with training several times a week. Back in 1999 at my local High School parking lot, ladies walking (safe, boring, comfort-zone) with friends (safe, boring, comfort-zone), would look at me (unsafe, terrified, alone) and ask "Are you actually getting a WORK OUT doing that on those things?!". Gee thanks for the encouragement, gals. But the exciting goal of doing my first Athens to Atlanta 4 months from then provided me with the courage to shut my ears and eyes to what I perceived as stifled giggles and finger-pointing at my ineptness, and to break through that beginner barrier to...drum roll...intermediate level!

Since you're a rollerskater, I'm sure you'll have an easier time transitioning to inlines than others who never skated at all. We'll have to see if some quad skaters'll jump in here and give you some transition tips!

Oh and that business about you not being good enough to race...well plenty of us do 'races' but aren't really racers. They are fun and a great excuse to train. They serve as the glue that holds your training together, which in turn gets you in tip-top shape (700 calories an hour!), which in turn brings euphoria, self-confidence, physical and mental strength. You can race your nemesis, or race your own previous record (recommended). I did my first race (the US10K Classic) 3 months after first learning how to brake, and I only entered it because my Team in Training coaches basically nagged me to death to do it. Sorta like parents who chuck their kids in at the deep end to make them learn how to swim. Believe me, I tried like heck to get out of it. At the start line I felt so afraid, self-conscious and miserable that I almost passed out. After I got to the finish line about 40 mins later I wanted to turn around and do it again. I finally felt like I belonged...purely because I was no longer sitting on the sidelines watching others live life.

Eebee: If you didn't mean

Eebee: If you didn't mean skaters came to use it but runners, walkers, etc., that doesn't strike me as problematic since you're not going to be doing 18mph laps...yet ;-)

Heh.  Actually I was thinking more about the middle school students--I'm afraid I'll show up and they'll be out there having a track event or cheerleading practice or what have you. 

Ebee: What's weird about your skates? Are they landrollers or something? :-)

Actually--they are!  ;)  I read they were easier to use on uneven surfaces.  So far I've tottered to the end of the driveway and back in them and that's about it, so I can't really tell.  They don't seem any harder to use than quads, so I'm no worse off.

Maybe next Thursday I'll go up to the middle school with 'em.  I did a flyby last night with my son to scope things out; there were people walking, jogging, and even a little kid riding a bike.  So obviously the school doesn't mind it, and I'll just learn to put up with the snickers.  I'll make it my hallmark.

"We saw Bertha at the track again last night."

"Who?"

"You know, the spazzy chick on the weird skates."

"Oh, her."

eebee's picture

Landrollers Brake

Well you're the first person I've ever conversed with who has some of those! That's cool. How do you like them? I had to go look at the landroller.com website to find out about brakes. In the Apolo Ohno videos it doesn't look like he's wearing one. I'm pretty sure those guys on the bikes in the slideshow aren't looking at that girl in the white bikini's skates - actually it doesn't even look like she's really there! On the FAQs it describes a heel brake much like inline skates. So based on that I'd probably try braking as I know how to on inlines, and the advice above is probably still valid.

 

I believe somebody at the 2006 Philly Freedom Skate was wearing some Landrollers, and seemed to be doing ok on the hills.

 

Oh! I DO know somebody else who has some of these...Danny from Michigan. I just found his Landrollers review on the londonskaters.com website whilst googling "landroller braking". I pulled up the article and thought "That English guy looks just like Danny". Well worth a read. He says the brake is "...much closer to the heel than is possible on speedskates, you can get plenty of leverage...".

 

Danny...any more tips?

 

You rock, Bertha. We've had people do the Tour to Tanglewood on speed & rec inlines, rollerskates, and someone on another team did it on a unicycle. You should come and do it on the Landrollers! Training rides start next July, probably :-)

 

Skater? I hardly know 'er!

My son and I went up to Reedy Creek tonight (he doesn't have skates, but he ran around and played kickball with some ladies who were there).

Me, I tottered around on my skates, and realized it's been over a year since I last skated--and that was on quads.  I stuck to the bit of pavement near the gate, as I could barely stand up.  Maybe the old-timers can offer advice on what I'm doing wrong!  Seemed like the skates kept wanting to roll out from under me, and the outsides of my feet started cramping.  I think they were trying to hold on to the ground so it would quit rolling.  :P

There was a nice fellow there doing laps on rollerblades, and he came over and said hello and gave me some encouraging words.  He made it look so easy.

I thought braking would be my problem, but it looks like I have to learn how to balance well enough to move before I need to worry about stopping! 

eebee's picture

First, Find a Patch of Grass...

When I learned to teach beginner skating with ICP/IISA, they suggested having students stand on a patch of flat grass to get the feel of the 'Ready Position' without rolling away and windmilling out of control. The ready position helps you balance whilst standing up on inline skates. Please take a look at the above link picture. Main thing is, bend your knees! That way you're more flexible and can handle over-balancing more successfully. Do this on the grass to get a feel for where your center of balance should be, i.e., not over your toes, & not leaning back. Bounce a little in the knees-bent position to get the feel of what muscles you'll be using to help you balance once rolling.

 

Find some flat asphalt. You should be wearing a helmet, wrist guards, elbow pad and knee pads. If you feel yourself falling forwards, try to land on your palm sliders and knee pads. Practice rolling slowly in the ready position, noting your body's balance. Try to keep your skates about shoulder-width apart, not too close, not too wide. If you find your skates going too wide, pick up just one toe wheel on one skate, either the left or right skate, and keeping the heel wheel on the ground, pivot the toe wheel of that skate slightly inwards to bring it back in underneath your body. This is actually a 'half-swizzle', and is much easier with knees bent.

 

Can't get going on the flat asphalt? Then execute a 'Beginner's Stride'. Liz Miller's site has a helpful page:

http://www.getrolling.com/orbit/wobbledrills.html#striding

 

I have no idea how this translates to Landrollers, but maybe it's a place to start at. Oh and I thought of you after somebody posted this skate-photo link to the Atlanta skater's list-serv.

Disclaimer: This forum member not responsible for others' booboos.

 

 

 

roadskater's picture

Probably Skart

That was probably skart who was out there from what I have heard lately of who goes where. I think some of those guys had a social skate on the American Tobacco Trail last night, and I think they've moved that to 5:30 for October, not sure.

Anyway if you keep at it you'll get it back. I don't have any way of knowing whether any of this is about Landrollers versus inlines, but a relaxed foot is very important (whenever possible). Grabbing with the toes is a sign of weight too far forward perhaps, and maybe that's because of fear of falling backward (a good reason we wear helmets, some of us). Maybe focusing on pushing with your heel and having your weight back on your heel will help?

Glad to see you had the courage to go out there, and rest assured, the fast skaters we know are interested in bringing along new skaters, because we all got help when we were starting, and because it is vital to our sport that we have fresh faces come along as some of us drop out due to life's other concerns.

Now for the hard part for us outdoor types: keeping it going over the winter! I went out too late today, and ending up talking about skating instead of skating, but that was good too, as I met a couple starting out at the park who might join us soon for our no-drop Tuesday skate. We'll see.

I've mostly skated on quads,

I've mostly skated on quads, although I've tried inlines a couple of times.  But so far I've only every skated in a skating rink, where there are walls to stop with.  I've got a helmet and protective pads that I snarfed on sale at Target last year--I just don't know where to go or how to get started!  I imagine I just need practice, practice, practice.  Where are good places to practice?  I think some of the folks in this area occasionally go to a middle school track; I'm worried I'll show up with my skates and find out they're using it.

 I also have some weird skates, which makes me kind of self-conscious about practicing where people can see me--I guess I can just tell myself everyone isn't staring at me because I suck, they're just staring at the weird skates.  :P

roadskater's picture

Learning to Stop (and Not), Equal Sides, Heel Push, Steady Body

Hi Bertha and a big welcome here from all of us. We need more beginners and intermediates here to remind us of the questions we had, so we can help others get off the couch and into the streets!

Reasonable people disagree on skating technique and how to teach it, and since we are not even always reasonable, I hope you'll get some consistency but some variety here as well. Here goes! Please share what works and doesn't for you!

Timv's advice is excellent, but don't be discouraged if that glide on one foot thing is more like 5 seconds at first, working your way up as you go. But one thing skate teacher Eddy Matzger stresses is to skate on one skate almost all the time (when propelling yourself at least). Eddy holds workshops for intermediate to advanced skaters and we should have him in Greensboro again in 2008 if all goes as planned. Check out http://skatecentral.com for more on what Eddy teaches and see the videos on Roadskater.net classic, http://RSN1.net as well.

I have to say the key to my having fun on skates, however, was the time I spent learning to stop. There's a guy from Puerto Rico in Greensboro Country Park who loved watching me more before I knew how to stop. One day, Solis, who has this great, joyful, voice, said, "I saw you coming down that hill, ho, ho. Oh my goodness I couldn't believe it. You were rolling like a banana!"

Solis was right. I was doing laps that included a hill where top speed is probably only a bit over 20mph, but at the time that was very fast. Worse, I had not learned that I needed to let people know I was there (I did that part well) then let THEM be responsible for not jumping in front of me. It is extremely important to be polite and even apologetic afterward, but also not to hurt yourself in a heroic effort for which you are not sufficiently skilled. Let walkers, dog walkers and parents be responsible for their responsibilities, and concentrate on keeping safe and being safe by clearly explaining in nice but loud tones where you will go. Trying to stop, jump over an extended leash, dive into the grass, or any other crazy move is just as likely to hurt someone using the squirrel theory of walker behavior...they might just go where you go anyway if you don't let them know where you'll be.

But the key of course is to learn to stop so you can love learning to fly. People ask us, "how do you stop on those things?!" And I often reply, "we try not to, but when we really need to, we use this heel brake."

Many of us use a heel brake on our speedskates too, for several reasons. First, it helps others feel better about us, which is not a bad thing. Second, it lets you stop without burning up wheels, which is a very good thing (a set of great wheels is about $60 roughly, sometimes more, and a brake pad is likely to cost from $2 to $5). Third, oh yeah, there are times when heading downhill into a busy intersection where stopping is not just a good thing, it is a certain thing, and you want to stop yourself instead of being stopped by a car or truck or highway ornament.

As timv said, you need to be able to put weight on one leg to stop more effectively. The more weight you can put on the brake pad leg, the quicker you'll be able to stop using the brakepad instead of the buttburger method. As with everything skating, bending your knees is essential, and I think of ALMOST sitting in a chair...like when you are about to sit in a chair but you realize there's lemon pie in the seat, so you wait a second for someone to move that before you sit. I'm sure this has happened often to everyone, ha. But the key idea is to put weight onto the only thing you want to stop you...the brake pad.

If you find yourself flying off into the woods, which I've done often and not just when stopping but when trying to learn the skating method called the double push, remember to put the braking foot below the center of your body, not to the side, and use the non-braking foot to guide you along. You may also want to put your hands on the knee or just above the knee on the braking foot, to offer stability and to help you feel how much pressure you are getting onto that particular leg where the brake pad is smoking you to a stop.

Some of us also have a brake leash from http://gatorbackskate.com, and this device can give you more leverage to stop more quickly, particularly when using longer frames mostly found on speedskates. I used the leash only once this weekend at Athens to Atlanta, but I was glad it was there and I think it helped. It will help even more when I have time to practice more with it.

As boring as it sounds, though, the key to enjoying skating outdoors in particular is learning to stop. You'll save yourself some road rash by spending some time every time you skate, say at the beginning each time for 5 minutes, just practicing braking. If you KNOW you can stop, then you see that often you won't have to. And you may have had the experience of thinking "uh oh I'm going too fast to stop," and that very thought causes you to freak out and try to stop even when you didn't really have to...ending up in the weeds again. Know how to stop, let others know where you plan to go, and let them stay where they are or move as you stay as calm and in control as possible. Then if you think you scared someone, by all means go back and see that they're OK and tell them you're sorry if you scared them (even if they were really not paying attention...they will next time).

Another good thing to work on with the glide is to make sure you develop both sides as equally as possible. Work on turning in both directions and gliding one one foot equally well on either foot. I've seen skaters with brakes on both feet and have even seen one person smokin' both pads at once wearing a long skirt (it was a gal). I know I couldn't do that without some practice (I guess I could wear a skirt without practice but have no special desire to do so at this point).

When it comes to moving forward, there's much debate especially among rec skaters as to whether a toe push is good or not. Most of the speedskaters will say push to the side as much as possible and push through the heel, as this is connected more directly to the power from your legs. In reality, there are times when a toe flick seems to come in handy in a sprint for a speedskater, but to remain injury free in the long run, the less stress on the ankles, the better, and you can really hear the difference when you push through your heel, as more wheels will be on the ground during the most powerful part of your push.

Another thing to think about when skating is to avoid going in a serpentine path unless you're just doing the boom box jam or so. Our park has a line marking the edge of the bike/skate lane for when there are motor vehicles in the park, and this is a painted line, not one of those tape lines that can trip you if you are not careful. See if you can skate along that line with your body remaining above that line no matter where your feet are in relation to it. In other words, either with a regular "classic" technique or the "double push" technique, your body should be traveling in a straight line as much as possible, weaving as little as possible, but your legs will be on either side of that line, pushing (by straightening your legs) to the sides to propel you. There will be some weaving and bobbing in real life, but as with runners, great speedskaters' heads and upper bodies seem to float along smoothly no matter how much they flail their arms and feet...and in fact you can see your friends and competitors getting tired by watching for unusual movement in their shoulders.

OK that's a start at some ideas, but please let us know if it makes sense, what you discover, what we've obviously forgotten, and where you are on your path to skating. All of us were helped along by great skaters who have been and still are our mentors, and we want to do that for others too.

Thanks for asking, and skateylove! Blake

timv's picture

Greetings and my simplistic advice

Hi Bertha and welcome to the site! Where you posted is fine by me.

 

Others will have much more to say about this than I do, I'm sure. (Many were in Georgia for a big event this past weekend, Athens to Atlanta, and are still traveling and/or recovering today.)

 

I've done little coaching of new skaters, but I have two basic bits of advice to offer: First, practice skating on one foot. Most of what we do on skates, besides just coasting along, involves gliding on one skate and then gliding on the other one. So see if you can count to 30 while coasting along on one foot. (It might help your balance to trail the other foot right behind, barely off the ground. I find that easier. You may or may not) I still work on this one a lot. And be sure to alternate feet when you practice!

 

And note that this is particularly important for braking. You have to be able to glide on one skate in order to pick up the other foot and gradually apply weight to it as you stop. I'll bet you'll find that being able to use your brake is much more satisfying than running into walls!

 

Second, give it time. Practice helps, but a lot of skating skill comes from developing subconscious reactions and from building specific muscle strength that's needed to control your skates and keep your balance. And those things take time to develop. I've been surprised a few times when I went out skating in the spring after not skating much over the winter, and found that I had gotten better anyway despite not working on it. I think a lot of it really does just come with the passing of time.

 

Oh, and I guess to be very conscious of where your weight is and learn to use it to your advantage. To a great extent, we're basically falling from one skate to the other. But that's three...

 

And that's it for me. I hope you're having fun already. That's the main thing. If you enjoy it you'll stick with it, and if you stick with it you'll get better and then enjoy it more.

 

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