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Inline Skating Newsletter Article

Anti-Wobble Drills

By Liz Miller

Were you blessed with gifts that let you embrace the thrill and benefits of inline skating right away? If yes, you can skip this article. Iíve written it for the wobbly or frightened folks who are determined to get rolling without inborn coordination or a useful sports history.

It's possible to build skating muscle memory without the distraction of gravity or slippery pavement. Doing certain skating movements over a period of time on a non-rolling surface can stimulate the same muscles, tendons, balance points and weight distribution as skating does.

Practice the following exercises on a carpeted surface, in front of a mirror if possible. Wear your skates and full protective gear: helmet, wrist, knee and elbow pads. If you arenít sure how you should look as you practice these moves, see the video clips on SkateInstrutor.com.

Ready Position

Straight legs work great for walking but not for skating. To build muscle memory for the bent-knees skating stance, stand with your feet shoulder width apart in your best posture.

Ready PositionYour spine should be stacked perfectly along its normal curves. Raise your hands to waist level and within view. Without leaning or bending forward, get shorter: Push your knees forward 5-6 inches as the joints in your hips, knees and ankles bend. Keep your eyes forward and keep your shoulders directly above your hips, and hips over heels.

Now raise and lower your hips repeatedly, keeping your knees and spine loose and flexible. There should be a slight resistance of the boot against the front of your shins as you sink, offering a comforting feeling of stability. This low point is where you will end up after the effective application of your heel brake.

Before moving on to the next drill, with knees still bent, try standing with both skates tipped to the right and then to the left. You are learning how it feels to put weight on your wheel edges, both inside and outside edges. This type of muscle memory applies to your future turning skills.

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Falling Down and Getting Up

Indulge in a pain-free, controlled fall to test your knee, elbow and wrist guards. Starting from a ready position, bend down and put your hands near your toes. With fingers raised, reach forward until you topple onto your hands and knees.

Bounce your knee and elbow pads on the floor a couple more times. Doesnít that cushion feel good? If not, consider paying more for gear with thicker padding.

Getting upTo get back up, move both hands close to your feet and between your knees. Lift one knee and place that skate flat. For added security, press your elbow and knee together. Pressing both hands on the ground for support, raise the second knee outside the elbow so you end up in a deep squat. Right about now, you should look like a frog. Lock your skates into a V or T shape to prevent rolling (likely on pavement) and then unfold upwards.

Fall down and get up as much as you want on your carpet. Later, make it a point to repeat this on an uncarpeted surface several times to build confidence in your gear before heading outdoors.

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Braking stance

You need the Ready Position's well-bent knees for effective braking. With straight knees, you wonít be able to apply as much pressure and friction to the heel brake because you lack proper leverage. Practice these movements to see what it feels like to have your weight distributed properly for the most effective braking stance.

  • Braking StanceSettle into a relaxed ready position with knees well bent and hands in view.
  • Shift most of your weight over the brakeless skate (your support leg) so the braking foot feels light.
  • Slide the skate with the brake slowly forward 8 inches, but keep the full weight of your ready position on the back, support skate. From the side view, your lower legs should form a triangle.
  • Make sure your skates are parallel and no more than 4 inches apart so your toes are both pointing forward.

When you donít raise the toe, this is called a Scissors Stance: low, narrow and long. Raise and lower your body several times over that single support leg. Don't stop until you can feel your thigh muscles begin to burn in that one leg. Dropping your hips builds valuable muscle memory for the final move that will someday complete a heel brake stop.

If you feel balanced enough, try the up and down motion with the braking skateís toe lifted.

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Turning motion

Stand so that your wheels are parallel and your skates are set wider than shoulder width. The wider the stance, the more stable you will feel and the easier it will be to make the basic A-Frame turn once you try this on pavement. Never fear, after you build muscle memory through a few successful turns with this very wide stance, you can easily translate that to a more natural width.

  • Keeping your spine upright in its natural curves, bend your knees and raise hands within view at waist height, both arms outstretched. This reproduces the starting position for a turn, when you are simply coasting forward.
  • Rotate your head, shoulders, ribcage, and outstretched hands toward the left. Keep your helmet centered over your feet, being careful not to lean or shift your weight to the left skate. When done properly, rotating left will add pressure to the right skate and cause it to tip onto its inside wheel edges.
  • Now come back to center and rotate to the right so the left skate tips inward and feels heavier. Notice that the knee moves slightly inward in the same direction as the skate tips.
  • Repeat looking around to the right and then to the left and feel the tipping and changing pressure inside your boots.

On pavement with a little momentum, the simple movement of looking where you want to go without unnecessary muscle tenseness will accomplish an effortless turn.

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Striding motions

The basic stride is all about keeping your feet close under your body so you can stay in balance and control. To make in-line skates go forward, you must push off from your inside wheel edges. Practice the Duck Walk on a plush carpet to get used to both feelings without the distraction of a glide.

  • Duck walk skate printsStarting position: Assume a V-stance (toes out, heels touching).
  • Marching in place: Standing in place, lift one skate at a time, shifting your weight right, left, right, left. Take care to keep your V-Stance at each setdown.
  • Duck Walk: Relaxing your inner ankles so both skates tip slightly onto the inside wheel edges, begin stepping forward, advancing each skate a few inches ahead before setting it down right under your navel. The weight shift with your feet so close together may cause you to waddle like a duck (thus the name).
    • Remember to keep those knees bent in the Ready Position! You may be jerky at first, but this will smooth out as you gain confidence.
    • Feel the pressure along the inside of your foot as you push against each skateís inside edges to move forward.
    • Try to set each skate down so the back wheel is right below your navel and just two inches ahead of the middle wheels of the front skate. This helps head off the habit of an unnecessarily wide stance.

Physical momentum is what turns hesitant skate stepping into real stride and gliding. The same commitment to forward momentum is what turned our first jerky baby steps into real walking. Here's a carpet-safe way to turn your stepping into gliding. Make sure you have a few yards of clear carpet ahead before you start.

  • Assume your best Ready Position.
  • Take one Duck Walk step so your skate wheels are perpendicular to each other as shown in the diagram above: this is the T-stance.
  • Tip the rear skate onto its inside wheels.
  • Press against the rear skate until your forward skate begins to advance. Let your upper body move forward with the front skate in a glide of 3-4 inches at most.
  • When the back skate gets light, lift and set it back down in a new T-stance right under your navel.
  • Repeat, starting each stroke by pushing against the inside edge of the back skateís wheels.

It's important to try and close the gap between your skates as much as possible before you start each new stride. Otherwise, you will end up lurching around looking like a modern day Frankenstein.

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Now what?

Carpet skate for half an hour three times a week until you feel ready for a rolling surface. If you're still nervous about the great outdoors, this might be your clean kitchen or garage floor, where many a skater has gotten her start.

From there, you should advance to a smooth, empty parking lot that looks flat. Avoid bike paths and intersections until you have mastered all the basic turning, striding and stopping skills that ensure your safety.

Last tip: Consider a lesson! There are certified instructors all over the US and internationally just waiting to help you.

Other November 2005 Stories


bulletred picture All About Momentum - Advice for both ends of the spectrum: skaters who seek the thrill of downhills and those trying to avoid it.

bulletred picture Anti-Wobble Drills - Practice carpet skating to build memory in your joints, muscles and brain for proper technique and stances.

bulletred picture Ski Pole Tips for Skaters - Using ski poles adds confidence and a feeling of security on steeper hills. Get pole training tips from this excerpt from Get Rolling.

bulletred picture It's All Downhill From Here! - From the Orbit archives:
"With more machismo than skill, I ventured out the shop door and pointed my skates down the crowded sidewalk," Dan recalls.

bulletred picture SF East Bay - Lafayette-Moraga Rail Trail - Gravity aids momentum in this lovely roll past St. Mary's College, which glows white in the winter sun against the lush grasses of Mt. Diablo's foothills.

bulletred picture Adventure: We joined Zephyr Adventures' Tibet Trekking trip in August. Words cannot express what we saw, did, and felt in China, so we are sharing Dan's captioned photo album.