A fallen skater in the Northshore Inline Marathon Photo: Darlene Prois
Yep. Falling is a part of skating. Just like it's a part of cycling, running and even walking.
After 16 years of inline skating, I still fall occasionally. Heck, even Joey Mantia takes an occasional tumble.
The trick is to learn to fall less often and less hard. Here's how:
Why We Fall
To avoid falls, the first thing you need to do is understand what causes them. Most often, they happen because we instinctively lurch backwards with our head and shoulders when we start to lose our balance.
Rather than save us, this movement hastens our collapse. It shifts our weight backwards, causing our wheels to roll out from under us. That pushes our feet forward and sends our butts crashing onto the pavement. Ouch!
How To Stay Balanced
So how can you prevent this?
Simple. Keep your elbows in front of your body at all times. Another way to visualize this is to keep your hands in front of your body.
With your elbows/hands in front, it's easier to maintain your balance. And if you do fall, you will fall forward, which, if you are wearing your wrist guards, is safer than falling on your backside. (You are wearing your wrist guards, aren't you?)
Another way to stay balanced is to keep your head, shoulders, hips and skates aligned. In other words, to position your head over your shoulders, shoulders over your hips, and hips over your skates.
What To Do When You Lose Your Balance
OK, so now you know how to maintain your balance. But what do you do if you start to lose it? Let's say you hit a rock on the trail and start to fall.
Get back into the hands forward position. Push your hands out to the front.
This may not keep you from falling but at least you won't fall on your butt!
"Oh, no! Go low" Drill
Another thing you can do when you start to lose your balance is to reach down and grab your knees. This will steady you and increase your stability.
To learn to do this, practice the "Oh, no! Go low" drill, which I teach all my students.
Here's what you do:
1) Stand up in your skates. (You can try it first with your shoes on.)
2) Wave your arms in the air above your head. This is what beginners typically do when they lose their balance. I call it "windmilling." Doing this will make you feel unbalanced.
3) Reach down and grab your knees. Your balance will be restored.
4) Practice this drill until it becomes second nature. And then try it on flat ground while moving.
Pretty soon you'll be falling less and rolling more and taking your skating to higher levels.
Trish Alexander is the head of the Skate Instructors Association and director of the Skate Journey Skate School in Bellevue, WA. She started ice skating as a child and was a competitive figure skater as a pre-teen. She started inline skating in 1994 and began teaching two years later. She is certified to teach Level I, Level II, Master Fitness, Blade Fitness and Fitness Inline Marathon Training. In a former life, she was a paralegal and private detective.