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Ask Bill Begg!

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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.

Find out more about Bill Begg and his column.

Nov. 13, 2008

How Can I Go As Fast as the Pros?

QHello, Bill: I finished this year's Berlin Inline Marathon in 1 hour and 30 minutes. My average speed was 28 km/h (17 mph). Meanwhile, the winners averaged 42 km/h (26 mph) (about 1.5 times faster than my speed). I am not a professional athlete, but I skate regularly, use good equipment and try to stay in shape. I devote one session a week to slow skating (to work on technique), and I skate long distances on weekends. I maintain a low position with my knees bent and am not a toe-pusher. What do I need to do to skate 1.5 times faster? - Ilan Arinstein, Israel, Tel Aviv

Hi, Ilan. It's true that you were a bit off the pro pace. Even the women mucked around and finished in 1 hour and 13 minutes, and I had a 14-year-old girl post a 1:20, and she does not get her edges quite right. So most likely something is wrong with your technique, conditioning or equipment.

Technique is the most likely culprit. Often skaters think they are doing everything right when in fact they're not. But before we get to technique, let's rule out any possible equipment problems.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you using the right kind of wheels? For the Berlin Marathon, you should have been on the dry Matter (yellows or greens), the Bont mints or MPCs.
  2. Were your wheels spinning freely? If not, you may not have the correct spacers.
  3. Did you lubricate your bearings? This is important for optimal roll.
  4. Could your second wheel be rubbing against the bottom of your boot?
  5. Is your frame bent? If so, one of your wheels could be rubbing against it.

If none of the these seem to be a problem, consider these technical issues:

  1. Is your push proper? You should be pushing to the side (rather than the back) with all your wheels on the ground.
  2. Are you transferring your body weight over your support leg?
  3. Is your body positioned correctly? ... Remember: sitting low means getting your butt down and back, not just bending at the waist.
  4. Are you looping your foot back behind your body, pointing the toe in and closing the hip before bringing your leg through after each stroke?
  5. Are you landing your wheels at the right moment? You should not set your skate down until your knee is ahead of the knee of the support skate.

Remember that big wheels are for roll, so you must make sure your technique allows them some roll time. The secret is to make your skates work for you, not the other way around.

Cheers, Bill

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