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Inline Skating Newsletter Article

Ramp Up to Roll-Aerobics

By Liz Miller
Do you live near a long bike path or community trail that is uninterrupted by intersections? With a few adjustments in skating posture and stroke technique, you can use in-line skating to increase your muscular strength and endurance, improve your body fat-to-lean ratio, and gain better overall flexibility and coordination. To get started, you must first learn the four fundamentals of a powerful fitness stride.


Bending your torso even slightly to decrease wind resistance conserves precious energy for a longer workout. Standing still with feet shoulder-width apart, fold your hands together, place your knuckles under your chin and touch your elbows to your knees. This is the deepest tuck used by serious speed skaters, and probably a bit extreme for the new fitness skater. Keeping in form, rise to a position that feels comfortable enough to hold. Next, clasp both hands in the small of your back. Allow shoulders and elbows to droop toward the ground. It may take months of practice before you can maintain a tuck for more than a few minutes. Keep at it, and your tolerance will gradually improve. For better balance, try skating in a tuck with just one arm behind at first.

Arm Swing

An advanced skater only uses a side-to-side arm swing for short sprints at a race starting line or for steep uphills. Otherwise, throwing your arms to the side is counter productive to forward momentum. Even before you learn to make a balanced stroke from well-bent knees (up to 90 degrees), you can begin to skate with both arms behind your back. At the end of a forward swing, the hand stops just short of the nose; at the rear position with the arm close to your side, the baby finger points to the sky.

Stride angle and duration

Stand upright in a normal ready position with both skates at shoulder width across a line or crack. Shift your weight to one foot and extend the other leg out to the side along the path of the line. Make note of where the skate loses contact with the pavement. Now assume the tuck position and repeat. Notice how much longer your skate can remain in contact with the pavement when the stroke starts from a well-bent knee. Both stroke intensity and duration are improved by pushing directly to the side and keeping the heel wheel in contact with the pavement throughout. This longer stroke is supported (literally) by a longer glide, so you alternately balance on each skate much longer than usual.

Outside edge

You can add another inch or two to your newly extended stroke length by placing the stroking leg back on the pavement beyond the center line of your direction of travel. When a skate recovered this fully hits the ground, it lands on its outside wheel edges. You pull it across the center line to roll it onto the inside edges so you can finish with a more powerful pushing stroke. This is the most technical aspect of your fitness stride, and one that is often a natural result of working on the other fundamentals described above.

Advanced training methods

Begin your fitness workouts by skating in a tuck with fully extended, side-directed strokes and proper arm swing. Take a few weeks to get used to your newfound speed, stroke power and demands for balance. Then begin working on pulling into each stroke from the outside wheel edges.

To focus your training toward specific fitness goals, you should invest in a heart rate monitor and seek out expert in-line fitness training advice. Here are two resources I highly recommend:

SkateFit with Carolyn Bradley
Published 1994 by ABA, Inc.

SkateFit delivers practical information about how to apply your love of skating toward staying fit. This colorful video uses a team of three skaters to demonstrate the basic in-line moves, safety precautions and workout drills. Carolyn adds training tips to her narration as she shows the team performing workouts that both beginning and intermediate skaters can perform, either in a large parking lot or along an uncrowded paved route. Each section of the video is introduced with lively artistic skating sequences.

Fitness in-Line Skating
by Suzanne Nottingham and Frank J. Fedel
Published 1997 by Human Kinetics Fitness Spectrum Series

This well-written and easy-to-read 170-page book delivers everything you need to craft an effective in-line workout, whether your goals are cross training for another sport or competition, building strength and endurance or decreasing your body fat percentage. After discussing equipment, proper technique and how to warm up and cool down, the book helps you determine your own starting fitness level. Following, you'll find training techniques and sample workouts based on six workout zones that cover all fitness levels.