Archive for May, 2011

Sk8 FAQ: Am I too old to skate?

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Inline skating is a really great low-impact exercise  for aging joints. My main worry for older people, especially women, is bone density. The undeniable truth is that it’s not really a matter of if you fall, but when you fall. If you do have brittle bones or have not been exercising regularly for a few years, the impact of a fall is more likely to lead to injury. This is a serious consideration before going out and buying the gear.

That said, many of my students are in their mid- to late-sixties and some do astonishingly well. I am guessing it’s partly due to the active California lifestyle, but also because they’ve had a lifetime to develop the cumulative balance that is such an asset to the beginning skater. Here are the most common and helpful advantages for beginners of any age:

  • Past balance experience: Ice or roller skating translate wonderfully to inline skating (many other activities help too, and it doesn’t matter how long ago or how well you did them)
  • Sure-footedness or general agility: There is a definite advantage if you are steady on your feet and have decent balance while standing on one foot.
  • Fitness: You need to have a baseline of fitness to be safe on skates. Here is a good test to see if you are fit enough for skating: you must be able to get up off the floor by yourself without help from furniture or another person.

Occasionally—and more so in recent years—the problem of being rigid with fear has prevented some of my students from ever relaxing enough to enjoy the delicious inline stride and glide, even on a flat surface. If you tend to be physically timid, you may want to stick with less athletic sports.

All new skaters can take action to reduce fear and risk, and increase their chances for success. First, there is a subtle confidence that comes from always wearing a helmet along with knee, elbow and wrist guards. Some people wear padded shorts to protect their hips and tailbones.

Do try and find a lesson for your first time out. To find a qualified instructor your area, go to the Inline Instructor search page and enter your state abbreviation. Another option is Camp Rollerblade, which specializes in 5-day learn-to-skate instruction for mature adults. Many of my proudest teaching memories are from people I helped at these camps over the past dozen years!

Good luck!

Teacher, Mind Your Attitude!

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Heads up fellow inline skating instructors. Whether intended or subconscious, the attitude you display toward your students has a big impact on how much they learn and how much fun the activity is—for you and them. Here’s a personal experience from the receiving end that drove this home for me.

By the time our  one-hour Thursday Spin class had ended, I’d decided there was no need to follow the substitute teacher’s directives because, really, that class was all about her, not us. Within half an hour, I felt disengaged from her and the group experience, and decided I’d have to get the best workout I could on my own.

For starters, we were ten minutes into the session before Debbie began her agenda. Maybe it’s because she got annoyed by satisfying our morning group’s preference for the overhead fans: back row on, front row off. People choose where to set up their bike according to this non-verbal standard. “Are you happy now?” she asked. “As long as you’re happy!” she repeated at least twice, only slightly sarcastically.

Then she turned on her iPod, climbed astride her bike (in the non-fan row) and started a standing sprint that lasted five minutes with no acknowledgement or instructions to us. That particular sprint is not a beginner skill: it takes coordination, core strength and lightening-fast leg speed. So basically it looked a lot like she was showing off as she watched herself in the mirror for five minutes. Or maybe it was her heavy-handed way to demonstrate her credentials (read: superiority over us mere mortals).

As her iPod music selections played in sequence from start to end (easy for the instructor, tedious for the participants), Debbie announced what to do at the beginning of each 3-4 minute piece and then left us to our own devices. No cheerleading, no encouragement, no “Only 30 more seconds to go, you can do it!” Her teaching style was to direct rather than guide us through the intervals, sprints and “hills,” and to berate us for being stuck in a rut (“You’ve got to learn something new every once in awhile!),” as though our regular instructor has been neglecting us.

During one moderate-paced song, our 15-year veteran (“I learned Spinning from the inventor!”) decided to improve our technique. First she pointed out that there was too much bobbing up and down in the ranks. Then she”congratulated” one  lady who had smoothed it out, pointing her out to all as the main culprit, although 2/3 of the room bobs.

Debbie got off her bike a couple times with no comment and for no apparant reason. Was she taking a break? (She never gave us one!) Finally, with several more minutes remaining, she started moving the unused cycles to the back of the room, apparantly to save herself some time so she could leave the gym sooner.

All of these  behaviors add up to what looks like nothing so much as an instructor with a chip on her shoulder, which translated to me as dislike or disrespect for her students. I was so shocked she felt free to express this attitude that I immediately scribbled out how it felt to be on the receiving end on a paper towel.

Note to self:  Give up teaching inline skating altogether if I can’t always be enthusiastic about my students and what I am about to offer them.

PS: If you are curious to read my Beginner Spinner series of Fitness blogs from start to finish, here is the first post, right after I started in November 2010, My Head is Spinning!