Inline skating — also known as rollerblading — is great exercise and a quick way to get around. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), an hour on skates burns almost as many calories as running. It also strengthens the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the ankles, knees and hips.
Plus, it’s a great way to enjoy being outside — as long as you wear protective gear and don’t crash into large objects. And unlike other sports on wheels (biking, race car driving), inline skating doesn’t require a huge investment. You can pick up a decent pair of skates for $100 to $200, which isn’t exactly pocket change, but it’s a whole lot less than the several hundred you’d spend for a new bike.
When buying skates, finding a good fit is extremely important. “Make sure the boot of the skate is comfortable,” says Joyce Buckley, certified in-line skating instructor. Take note of any pressure spots. If skates are uncomfortable when you try them on, Buckley says, don’t expect them to break in.
If you’re not sure whether inline skating is for you, “A good solution is to rent skates — the [protective] gear comes with the rentals — and try it,” Buckley says. If you decide to buy and you’re on a limited budget, she recommends shopping around. “Look for shops that will sell you their last season rentals at a low price.”
Once you’re outfitted, it’s time to get rolling. For beginners, Buckley recommends taking a lesson. “It is good to take at least one lesson so that you learn the proper form and stopping before you venture out.”
If you can’t take a lesson, at least make sure you practice basic skills before getting out and skating on the roads. Stopping, striding and turning — along with some basic safety tips — are the things you need to get a handle on.
If you can stop, you can go just about anywhere. ACE offers the following tips for braking like a pro. First, be aware that the heel brake is usually situated on the right heel of the skate. Then practice this braking technique:
Step One: Roll slowly forward on both feet, your posture upright with arms in front and knees and ankles relaxed.
Step Two: Stagger (scissor) your right foot forward several inches while maintaining your posture.
Step Three: Still scissoring your feet, lift the right toe up to feel the brake engage. Keep your knees and ankles flexed and relaxed. It takes a few feet to stop completely and several tries to become proficient.
Once you know how to stop, you can learn how to go. ACE suggests practicing small tasks to get used to the skates. Put them on and shift weight from one foot to the other, step around in a small circle, and move your ankles and knees from side to side to feel the wheels’ edges. Next, practice striding on a flat, relatively smooth outdoor surface. Look for a spot with no traffic or obstacles — like a parking lot, schoolyard, or tennis court.
When you’re in a safe practice area, you should also try turning. Look in the direction you want to go then point your big toes in that direction. Keep your ankles and knees flexed and relaxed and put your arms in front for balance. Try it in both directions. You’ll get the hang of it, and soon you’ll be cruising all over campus and getting in great shape.
In addition to skates, you’ll have to shell out for protective gear like wrist, knee, and elbow pads and a helmet.
Gear will run you about $30 to $40, and a helmet is another $40 to $50. If you already own a bike helmet, get double use out if it by wearing it skating.
Melissa Hicks is still working on that whole stopping thing.