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Getting in Shape with In-Line Skating

In-line skating — often called Rollerblading — is enjoyed by more than 15 million people. Skating is fun because it isn’t as linear as running, walking, and cycling. You can curve, turn, glide, sprint, and spin. Skating is also a terrific tush toner because you push your legs out to the side, which works several seldom-used hip muscles. Skating is a good calorie burner, too.

In-line skating can be dangerous. About 270,000 skaters per year wind up at the doctor or emergency room with injuries. Injuries are common because the sport requires so much balance and concentration. Plus, stopping on in-line skates is darn tough.

Essential skating gear

Skating equipment isn’t cheap — a good pair of skates costs between $150 and $500. Try on several pairs at the store and wear each for at least ten minutes, until your feet start to get hot. Tilt your feet to the inside and the outside, putting plenty of pressure on your feet to make sure nothing hurts. Otherwise, you’re asking for blisters. The boots should feel snug in the toe and heel. If your heel is loose, you won’t have enough control when you skate.

Most skates have a plastic shell and foam-lined bootie, so they breathe more easily and conform to your feet much better than leather skates. You typically can get a more comfortable fit with skates that buckle rather than lace. Be sure to wear synthetic socks; cotton fibers retain moisture, which can irritate your feet.

A helmet is essential for skating. A cycling helmet will suffice, but you can buy special in-line helmets with more protection at the rear of the head. Also crucial: wrist guards, knee guards, and elbow guards. Purchase safety equipment before you buy your skates so you won’t be tempted to take a quick spin before suiting up.

Skating the right way

Keep your hands in front of your body at all times with your elbows in, your forearms straight ahead, and your palms down, as if you’re placing your hands on a table. If you move your hands off center, your body is likely to follow. Keep your arms as still as possible — don’t pump them back and forth.

Travel in a modified squat position, bending at the knees as if you’re about to sit down. Keep your weight on your back wheel and push off straight with your heel. Pull your abdominal muscles inward and don’t round your back. If you start to lose your balance, crouch lower — don’t stand up straighter. If you veer off the pavement and onto mud or grass, run on your skates instead of stopping cold.

Skating tips for rookies

To find out whether skating is the sport for you, take a few lessons. (You can find an instructor through a skate shop, or call the International In-Line Skating Association for a referral.) In the meantime, here are some suggestions to get started:

  • Practice balancing by walking on the skates on your living-room carpet or your lawn. Head to a parking lot to practice skating, turning, and stopping. Stick to bike paths until you’re quite comfortable skating, and when you do head for the open road, always skate with — not against — traffic. Remember: You’re responsible for abiding by the same rules as motorists.

  • Don’t expect brakes to bring you to a complete halt. The best a novice can hope to do is slow down. To do this, simultaneously lean forward from your waist, tilt the braking skate up, and exert pressure on the heel pad while maintaining your balance. Skip hills until you master stopping, and always skate slowly enough that you feel as though you could stop at any time.

  • Don’t skate on the side of a busy road, where a cyclist might ride. Stick to bike trails, sidewalks, and other smooth, well-maintained, no-traffic areas.

  • Don’t skate while holding anything in your hand, even a can of soda. When you fall, your reflex is to save what you’re holding, not to protect your body.

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