By Debbie Rice
Debbie Rice demonstrates the one-leg squat.
The older I get, the more I notice that my body wants to find a more comfortable position during training, which happens to be skating in a more upright position.
This is probably due to arthritis in the back, knees and whatnot. But you have to fight the urge and maintain a low body position if you want to keep that edge on your competitors.
Take notice of the younger skaters, it almost comes natural for them to stay low. But if you watch more mature skaters, they tend to skate more upright. It may feel better to stand taller, but when you do, you lose all the power and spring in your push, as well as the length of your stride.
Tips to stay low
If you normally train with a group or within a pack, take some time to skate by yourself so that you can concentrate strictly on form.
While skating, think about rolling as if you're sitting in a chair — instead of bending over at the waist, bend your knees and keep your butt down, almost as if you're sitting in a chair. The lower you are, the longer your stride will be, which gives you more power in each stroke.
Concentrate on keeping your feet out in front of you, rather than kicking them back behind you. When you kick back, you waste energy because you have to haul your leg all the way back up to the front, losing precious stroke time.
Focus on pushing out efficiently, directly to the side, and rounding out the kick without allowing your leg to flail too far behind you.
Tips to maintain lower body power
In order to stay low, you must build up your lower body strength. The best way to do this is by skating in the low position. But offskate exercises also help.
Try one-legged squats: Prop one leg up behind you on a chair and do slow, steady knee bends on each leg, keeping the weight on the heel of your foot and using your glutes.
Wall sits are also good: Put your back against a wall and slide down to a 90 degree angle and maintain that position.
You can also mimmick skating without skates on, as if on a slideboard, staying low the entire time.
Don't forget to work on your back. Weak back muscles often trigger the pain that causes skaters to raise up. You can strengthen these muscles with a stability ball or by using free weights at the gym.
Debbie Rice is the reigning women's champion of the National Roller Cup. She won four inline marathons last year and this year got off to another great start, winning the master's division at the Squiggy Classic Inline and the open pro division at the Texas Road Rash, despite breaking her wrist in a crash on the last downhill. "I'm supposed to be in my cast for two more weeks," she told us today. "But I cut it off early and am wearing a splint instead." Among her many accomplishments, the Houston native has won 15 indoor national titles and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest woman on skates. (She was clocked at 61 mph on a downhill.) She lives in Baton Rouge, where in addition to a day job, she works weekends as a Bont sales representative and team manager.
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