By Tony Muse
Elite skaters take a corner at the 2007 Indoor Nationals.
The U.S. inline racing program is less than perfect. We have a flawed national team selection process and a flawed year-round team training system. We lose lots of talent to ice. Our large events are struggling. ... I could go on and on.
But despite these problems, the U.S. national team continues to perform well year after year at the World Championships.
Because of our indoor training programs and, in particular, our highly developed cornering technique.
Want to learn to corner like a gold medalist. Master these five rules for cornering:
Rule 1 - Keep your inside hip in ... in other words, pointed toward the middle of the corner.
This is the most important thing to keep in mind and a common technical flaw of outdoor skaters and racers from countries who do not train indoors. Pointing your hip to the inside is difficult to learn without the grippy floor of a well-maintained indoor rink. Grippy floors provide you with stability on the corners. And that allows you to feel secure enough to commit your hips without the fear of falling. (Note: one crash can destroy this sense of security for a number of sessions.)
Rule 2 - Keep your shoulders level with the course you are skating on.
Keeping your shoulders level is tricky because as you turn (and learn to keep your hip in), you will tend to counterbalance yourself by reaching your inside arm to the floor or middle of the track. To help keep your shoulders level, imagine that you are mashing your outside shoulder into your outside hip. You will immediately notice the extra power and grip you get from your outside leg when you can do this correctly.
Rule 3 - Reach your inside foot as far to the inside of the corner as possible without reaching past you’re inside hip/knee line.
This is the big ticket speed item. The inside leg provides the bulk of your power. Reaching your foot inside sounds much easier than it is. In fact, if your hip and shoulders are not perfectly aligned to start with, it's impossible. As you practice this, watch out for ankle rolling.
Note: Many skaters who struggle with Rule 1 (turning the inside hip in) develop the bad habit of rolling the inside ankle in order to get on the right edge of their skates. But in doing so, they sacrifice the best part of their push.
Rule 4 - Use your inside arm as a counter balance, then swing it more across your body than forward and back.
The saying goes "whatever your arms do, your legs will follow." So, it follows that if you want to push with your toes, bend over your nose and reach to your heels — all bad ideas — you should swing your arms forward and back.
The proper inline push is to the side, even though it may not seem that way because, since you're moving, your skate ends up behind you at the end of your push. So it makes sense that your arm swing should be to the side as well.
Here's the thing to remember: After you get through the tough part or apex of your push, visualize yourself answering the phone on the outside of your head with your inside arm. Proper arm swing is not really side to side, nor is it front and back; it's more of a hybrid.
Rule 5 - Sit low and deal with the pressure and pain.
Without sitting low, you will not have a powerful push. The faster you go, the more force will be put on your legs and the greater desire you will have to lift your backside.
Fight the pain because without your hips down, you will not be able to reach far to the inside or sustain high speeds.
Master all five rules. Once you do, you'll feel like your whipping around the corners on your personal roller coaster!
Tony Muse is one of the winningest racers in the history of U.S. speed skating, both quad and inline. The younger brother of Dante Muse, Tony won 18 world championships in the 1980s and 1990s. He has raced professionally since 1992 and is a member of the Luigino Racing team. He also found success as a coach. Among his proteges are former world champion Solange Franklin and US indoor national champion Todd Foley. "This is my sport," he says, "and some day I would like to run our national governing body in order to get us the exposure we deserve and the Olympic opportunity we deserve." Tony is a father of five and real estate broker. He lives in his hometown of West Des Moines, Iowa.
Copyright © 2009 Inline Planet