Rollerblading, Roller-skating, Ice Skating Part 2:Hints

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Fear is a terrible thing.  Want to skate: get over it!  Sorry to start on a harsh note but, as a rugby coach once said to me, the guys I see who are scared of getting hurt and back off, they are the guys who get hurt.  Skating is not rugby and I don't encourage people to be reckless or take silly risks, but there are several reasons for my view.

Ice skating, roller skating or rollerblading.  I have enjoyed them all, competed at a local, state and national level - in one discipline or another - and have taught thousands (really) how to skate.  I am not the best skater, despite decades of doing it, although "those of us who can do and those who can't,... teach" as the saying goes.  I guess I am better at teaching - oh well.

I don't want to get into a lot of legal disclaimers.  Usually more protective gear is better than less.  Usually well maintained equipment is better than the alternative.  Indoors is safer than outdoors.  This could go on for ever...if you are paranoid, search Google, and lets get on with the subject, if that's acceptable, :-)

FIRST, relax (a key reason for ignoring your fear).  The tension will make you tired quickly.  You will be more rigid when you fall - that's bad.  You will also cloud you thinking and diminish your fun.  This is meant to be fun, I hope.

SECOND, learn to walk like a duck.  It's OK.  No body's watching and if they are, they really don't care.  Honest. Think: knees bent, toes turned out, little steps.  Bend a little from the waist, don't look at your feet.  Use a hand rail as a support, if available, but don't drag yourself along, just walk like a duck...quak, quak.  For ice skaters, this basic move can first be done off the rink, to get a feel for the skates and then on the rink.  Remember...quak, quak...become the duck.  For roller skaters or rollerbladers try it at home on the carpet or at the rink on the carpeted area.  Move to the rink when you can skate on the carpet without holding on, and go back to the duck walk on the rink. 

DOING IT OUTSIDE?  Avoid uneven surfaces, gravel or anything unpredictable.  Avoid wet areas or roads.  Don't try going down hill on the first day.  Find a fence, for example, and use it as a hand rail, so that you can get support while you walk (not skate) on your blades.  Gradually, learn to let go.  The skating will come, naturally, after a while.  I implied earlier that you needed to take risks, and although you do, don't rush and don't get over confident - that's bad.  Think: fun, relax, a bit at a time...walk...skate...quak quak.

Years ago, people used to over tighten roller skate wheels as a means of exposing people to the feeling of the skates, without giving them too much mobility (over tightened wheels didn't roll very well).  My grand dad was born in 1901 and my dad in 1928; they tried it.  In my opinion, this is a great way of protracting the learning process without significantly altering the risk.  In other words, skating is a developmental process and you will need to confront that critical moment sooner or later.  Over-tightening wheels sometimes damages the bearing and helps some instructors extend the learning process (I can feel the daggers now).  Using the duck walk & handrail technique, first on carpet, then on the rink, I have had even autistic kids skating in a short while - without messing around with skates and in one quarter of the time!

They're great.  I charge $60 an hour.  Want to save some money? (Those daggers are back.)  Like I said: Think: knees bent, toes turned out, little steps...the duck walk.  Don't stress about stopping, that's actually a more advanced technique.  Relax, be patient.  When you are a little independent, then lessons can be a good idea.  Better still, play roller, ice or inline'll learn fast - you'll have to!  No skill required, just guts (and good health insurance).  Did I just lose some credibility then?  Actually, although I see more bruises from hockey, I tend to see less real injuries, so think about it.  Men, women, boys or girls, you can all do it.  Was it Nike who said: Just do it?  So what are you waiting for?


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