Oomph! Ow, wow, what happened?
My students are never happy to hear that I fall down about once a year. Sometimes I end up with a scrape or two. I don't like getting hurt any more than they do, so I wear thick knee pads and sleeve-style slip-on pads rather than strap-ons. And of course, my ever-present helmet. The reasons for falling are different for less experienced skaters than for those who roll frequently. I have tips for both groups.
Intermediates: Pay Attention
Folks who participate in more extreme in-line disciplines have more exciting crash histories than I do. As a recreational and fitness skater, though, my reasons for taking a dive are probably closer to the norm:
- While working on new moves in a parking lot I'm likely to lose my balance. In the old days I might get an “asphalt” on my tush because I hadn't yet gained the required level of coordination.
- I trip over a rock or stick on the trail because I'm looking away at the wrong moment – the moment when I'd normally adjust my stride to miss it.
- When surprised by fellow trail users (or their dogs) doing something sudden or unexpected, I have had to dive to the side and hope for the best.
- My most embarrassing tumble was when I was racing to catch up with an attractive young man while guiding a Zephyr tour in Holland. I didn't notice the wide cow grate across the trail ahead until the very last minute. Bailing to the left turned into my first instinctive tuck-and-roll somersault. That move has saved me from injury in several falls since.
Three of the four situations above could be prevented by paying attention. Here's more advice to reduce crashes for experienced skaters:
Beginners: Practice with Purpose
New skaters have to get used to a whole new posture that is quite different from the one used for walking. That's why most falls in the early days are related to straight knees.
- Review the skating stances that lead to success and then strive to maintain them while skating.
- You may believe your knees are bent enough but oftentimes they are not, so try lowering your hips a couple more inches in what may feel like an exaggerated crouch.
- The key to stride efficiency is pushing to the side with your back heel wheel. This will feel a lot more natural and is more effective when your knees are well bent. The leg that just stroked should be straight at the end. By the time you set it back down on the pavement, make sure that leg is well bent for the next stroke.
Any novice will agree that when 3-inch tall wheels come between skater and earth, it is a much more complex balancing act to remain upright than in regular shoes.
- A great short term balance aid is to tighten your stomach muscles (abdominals) while skating. This stabilizes your torso and reduces the amount of arm flailing needed to stay balanced over your wheels.
- And of course, keep your knees bent.
- For the long term, make time to work on your balance and core strength off skates. Performing balance lunges daily will build both core and leg strength along with better one-footed balance. See Get a Little Balance in Your Life for photos and links to some excellent balance building tools.
Bottom line, if you can't quite keep your bottom off the line yet, keep focused on what you're doing, bend your knees and keep practicing. Nothing beats focused practice to build skating skill, which adds up to balance and coordination, which give you the confidence to skate more fluidly and safely.