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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

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Oct. 27, 2010

How Important Is Pushing to the Side?

QHi, Bill: I’m a 56-year-old beginning inline skater who covers a mile in five minutes. But my son says my technique is terrible. When I watch experienced skaters, I notice that their lead skate always seems to point pretty much straight out in front. But when I skate, my lead skate makes a herringbone pattern. This allows me to push off with my back foot at a 90-degree angle to my front foot. This seems like the most powerful stride possible and reminds me of the technique used for climbing hills. I assume my logic is flawed, but I need someone to explain why. - Charlie from Edina, MN

Hi, Charlie: I can fully understand what you are saying. My daughter, Nicole, has probably the most herringbone pattern of any top skater. But at the same time, she gets great roll by efficiently transfering her body weight over her support leg.

Here are some things to keep in mind to find the right balance:

1) Direct your push to 3 o’clock on the right side and 9 o’clock on the left. But keep in mind that your support leg is rolling forward, so your push will be a little delayed and look more like 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock.

2) As a "mature" athlete, you may not be getting into the low (butt down) skating position. If so, you will be unable to fully extend your push with all your wheels on the ground. In the correct skating position, your hips should be over your ankles and your knees should be over your toes.

This is the power position. When you are in it, you are liked a compressed spring. If you don't believe it try springing up into the air from a low position and then from a more erect position. You'll find you can jump higher from the low position.

3) Take full advantage of roll. You do this by transfering your body weight over the support leg when you push. (Watch videos of Joey Mantia and Nicole Begg to see how this is done.) This may cause you to cover some extra ground, like Nicole, but it gives you more roll. On the other hand, if you go too much in a straight line, your body is not working for you and you'll never go fast.

4) Make sure you have good wheels. Bad wheels don't roll well no matter what you do. And if you want the best roll, you must be on 100mm or 110mm wheels.

5) Think of yourself as something like a sail boat when you skate. Sail boats move by translating the sideways force of the wind into forward momentum. Skaters move by translating a sideways push into forward momentum.

Sail on, skater.

Cheers, Bill

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