By Kimberly Foster
The Aching Back — the Achilles' Heel of Skaters
It's no wonder that most skaters suffer back pain occassionally. We spend 99 percent of our time in a flexed body position.
I'm no different. My back got so bad a few years ago that I tried surgery. This helped but didn't entirely fix the problem.
Since then, I've come to learn that surgery is not necessarily the answer and that most skaters can limit — if not entirely eliminate — back pain through a combination of stretching and strengthening.
Here's my prescription for a happy back:
Use the following exercises to stretch your back thoroughly before and after every workout.
Lie on the floor and bring your knees to your chest. Then roll your knees from side to side, keeping your shoulders flat on the floor. If your knees don't touch the floor, give them a gentle nudge with your hand.
Lie flat on your stomach. Put your hands, fingers pointed forward, under your shoulders. Push up with your arms, arching your back and keeping your legs on the floor.
Stretch 3 (the Cat)
Get on your hands and knees. Arch your back up as high as it will go comfortably. Release. Repeat ten times.
Do crunches to strengthen your abs.
Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees and place your hands behind your head or across your chest. Flatten your lower back against the floor. Use your abdominal muscles to raise your shoulder blades a few inches. Repeat 15-20 times.
Watch Your Form
Coaches don't agree on the best posture for skaters. Some recommend a straight back, others an upwardly arched back, like a cat. For me, the arched position usually works best.
During a race, I make it a practice to straighten my back and stretch whenever I get a chance. That gives me a little vacation from the crouched position.
Devote a few minutes to these exercises and stretch regularly, and your back will thank you. (March 16, 2007)
Kimberly Darnell Foster is a veteran inline skater and former member of the Bont North America racing team. She won several U.S. national championships in the 1990s and was a member of the World Team in 1999 and 2000. Her race highlights include a fifth-place finish in the 2004 Northshore Inline Marathon and a fourth-place finish in the 2006 US 10K in Atlanta. "I have been competing forever," she told us. "I now have two little boys, so my racing is not as intense as before. But I still love it!"