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Inline Skating Newsletter Article

Technique: Discover the Skater's Edge

By Liz Miller

Susan and I met for her private lesson on an absolutely perfect October morning--azure sky, temps in the 70s, no breeze. Within minutes, I'd decided that Susan was perfect for learning intermediate skills, too! As I later told Dan, "She took my beginner class about six weeks ago, has been practicing a couple times a week, is neither right- or left-footed, and had enough balance to learn outside edge skills in minutes!" Susan became a solid intermediate skater during our hour and a half together, and went home with the drills that will most certainly make her advanced with a few more hours of practice.

Skis and Skates Got Edges

Edging is one of the four fundamentals of inline skating, along with pressure, balance and rotation. Edging is based on the concept that your skates each have three sets of wheel "edges" on which you roll. An instructor's reference to using the "inside edge" indicates one or both skates are tipped inward toward the center of the body. Reference to the "outside edge" means the skate is tipped away from the midline. The "center edge" is in play when the wheels are upright, that is, perpendicular to the pavement.

Awareness of how you currently use your edges is the first step toward more advanced skating. Check your wear pattern next time you do your wheel rotation. Are your inside edges shaved off? That is typical of most skaters, since "Stride 2," the basic stride, propels you from a push off your inside wheel edges.

The three most important outside edge skills to learn are parallel turns, forward crossovers, and what we instructors call Stride 3. The parallel turn and crossovers rely on tipping the skates onto corresponding edges. In both of these skills, turning to the left tips the skate inside the turn onto its outside edge while the other tips onto its inside wheel edges. Stride 3, the foundation of a classic fitness or speedskating stride, is characterized by initial set down on the outside wheel edges before tipping to the inside to complete the new push.

Turning on Corresponding Edges

Let's examine the two turning skills first. When properly executed, basic parallel turns are very much like a banked turn on a bicycle. A narrow stance puts your skate wheels in a bicycle-like configuration which makes them easy to tip onto corresponding edges once you learn to trust their grip (the hardest part!) A series of short, linked parallel turns becomes slaloms, ideal for ski cross training.

At a more advanced level, you can link several deeply-edged parallel turns into a series of "slowing slaloms" to reduce downhill speed. Extreme edging combined with the proper balance, timing and angle actually results in the hockey stop you see on the ice.

Never Too Slick to Swizzle

When was the last time you swizzled? With practice, it is possible to slow forward momentum by swizzling both skates hard and wide at the hips. Similar to a skier's snow plow, we call this the slow plow. You scrub off speed (and wheel matter) tipping onto your outside edges as you attempt to keep the wide stance. Do this by pushing both ankles outward and keeping your center of gravity low and behind both skates.

To improve your stride technique, swizzle on your center edges or try initiating each push from the outside wheel edges. This requires you to relax the ankles outward when the skates are in their narrowest position.

Secrets of a Speedskater

Advancing to Stride 3, the fitness and speedskating stride, you learn how to set down the freshly recovered skate on its outside wheel edges. As long as you stroke to the side and not back, this happens almost naturally. The force generated by the completed stroke on the opposite leg pushes your hips laterally across the midline of your direction of travel. The landing skate is then slightly crossed under your body when you first set it down on its outside wheel edges. As you initiate the new push, this skate tips across its center edge and then onto the inside edge as you complete your leg extension. Some skaters strive to complete the full lateral extension still atop the center edges, as taught in the popular Eddy Matzger weekend clinics.

Besides looking more competent and elegant when you start incorporating crossovers, parallel turns and Stride 3 into your day-to-day skating, there is another almost equally desirable benefit. By spending more time on the outsides of your wheels and less on the insides, you'll discover you don't have to rotate them so often because the wear and tear is more even. Such a deal!

Getting Edgy?

Even if you only have 20-30 hours of skating under your belt, you probably have the balance and confidence it takes to overcome an initial reluctance to shift your center of gravity outside your stance and learn corresponding edge turning. Both of my instructional books, Get Rolling the Beginner's Guide to Inline Skating and Advanced In-line Skating include specific drills to help you learn parallel and crossover turns and, of course, Stride 3. If you live in a metropolitan area and prefer a live coach, you can find a local certified skating instructor using the Skate Instructor Association's (SkateIA) Instructor Search Page.

Discover your own skater's edge and I promise you'll acquire a whole new grace on wheels!