This week's column:
How Many Wheels on the Ground?
July 18, 2012
Hi, Mr. Begg: You say that in a proper push, all your wheels should be in contact with the ground. (Step 2 of the “Six Simple Steps to Straight Line Speed”) Does this mean you should have both feet on the ground throughout your push? The reason I ask is that I often see people essentially pushing first — and then, at nearly the end of the push, setting down the recovering foot (as if only to keep from falling down). Is that wrong? Is it better to set down first and push second? How about when climbing hills? Cheers - Chris from Berlin
Hi, Chris: Let me clarify. When I say all your wheels should be in contact with the ground, I am referring only to the wheels of your pushing leg.
As you push, try to keep all the wheels of your pushing skate in contact with the skating surface — for as long as possible. This increases your power and efficiency.
Also, be sure to start your push directly under the center of your body and, from there, push directly to the side. Your foot will naturally drift back a little because you are moving forward as you skate. But nevertheless, focus on pushing to the side.
As for the timing of your setdown (the placement of your recovery skate on the ground) this varies somewhat from skater to skater and depends on several factors, including speed (cruising or sprinting).
Some skaters land (set down) their skates midway through their push. Others wait until almost the end of their push.
Sometimes, elite skaters in a pack hardly pick up their skates at all. Instead, they do a little foot shuffle. This helps them transfer their body weight and conserve energy.
Don’t worry too much about the timing of your setdown. Instead, concentrate on the “Six Steps.” If master them, your setdown will take care of itself.
And for hill climbing, use a little different technique: stand a little taller, swing your arms to the side, and direct your energy more to the side than down into the skating surface.
Hope that helps!