By Peter Doucet
Barry Publow demonstrates the low skating position.
Technique is the secret sauce of inline skating. You can go out there and hammer all you like. But if your technique is faulty, your results will be paltry.
Here's the bottom line: the better your technique, the longer and stronger you will roll.
Proper technique makes you faster and helps you conserve energy for those times when you really need it, like when it's time to sprint or catch that mouthy cyclist who just flew by you.
Technique is an endless subject, which is why the Skate Tip of the Week column never gets old.
But for starters, focus on these three basics:
1) Proper alignment
When you skate, your hips and shoulders should be lined up one over the other. What that means is that your hips and torso should be facing forward without a lot of twisting side to side.
Also, don't allow your knees and ankles to cave in toward each other. When you look down, they should be lined up.
2) The low skating position
As much as possible, maintain a compressed body position with your ankles bent, knees forward and hips low. Remember the skater's mantra: "knees, nose, toes," meaning that your nose, knees and toes should form a straight line.
3) Push to the side
The tendency with skating is to push back with your wheels. This is called toe-pushing. Don't do it. It robs your push of power.
Instead, push directly to the side of your body. In other words, your foot — the one pushing — should extend out at a 90-degree angle to your direction of travel. This goes for both straightaways and corners.
When to work on technique
I'd like to say all the time. But that's not practical. But try to work on technique every time you skate. This is what most of the top skaters do. They know that if they don't, bad habits sprout quickly.
Start working on technique during your warm-up while your mind and muscles are fresh. Work for a couple minutes on one aspect of technique (let's say, low position). Then switch to another (maybe, push to the side). Then put the different elements together.
During intense workouts, it's hard to focus on technique. But here's a trick you can use to sneak it in:
If you're on a track or loop, designate a particular spot as your "technique point." Then each time you reach this spot, refocus on the technical aspects you've been working on.
You can do the same thing on a road or trail by setting your watch to give you regular "technique alerts."
It's hard for us skaters to gauge our own technique. Typically, we think our form is better than it is.
The cure is video. Hand your iPhone or camcorder to a friend and have them record your skating. If possible, have them catch you at several points during your workout, such as warm-up and interval training.
Then watch the video. You may be surprised — and disappointed — by what you see.
But don't despair. Use the video to illuminate what you need to work on.
Pretty soon, good technique will be second nature.
April 23, 2010
Peter Doucet is a veteran speed skater and the webmaster of Speed Skate World. A resident of Mississauga, Ontario, he has represented Canada in seven World Championships and at the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil. He founded the Toronto International Inline Race Weekend and the RSO Speed Points Series. He is also a coach of the Toronto Inline Skating Club. His hobbies include writing and performing music, cycling, watching movies, going out with friends, and cooking.
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