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Ask Bill Begg!

Skating's top coach answers your questions

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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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Aug. 20, 2009

How Do You Train for Hills?

QHello, Bill: Let me first say thank you for this column. I have learned a lot from it, and now I have a question of my own: I live in Florida, which is very flat. But in a few months, I will be skating the 87-mile Athens to Atlanta Road Skate. I've built up a good base and have been working on very high intensity intervals for the last couple of months. But one thing still worries me: a2a's famous hills. I ride hills — the few I can find — on my bicycle. But these hills aren't safe for rollerblading. I'm wondering if there is some way to train for hills without actually skating them? Thanks in advance. - Benjamin in Florida

Hi, Benjamin: Skating hills requires substantial changes in your technique.

The main thing to keep in mind is that on steep hills, you must slide across the surface a bit instead of digging straight in. So when your foot hits the ground, it should veer to the side a little more than usual, which can put a bit more strain on your groin muscles. At the same time, your arms swing across your body a bit more than usual.

Do not try skating hills in the technically correct speed skating style (long stroke, looping your leg around, etc.) Instead, shorten your steps and stand a bit more upright.

Of course, the best place to practice this is on hills. So if you can, even if it involves some driving, find some hills and skate them.

But if that's impossible, you may be able to simulate uphill skating by doing some overload training; for instance, you could tow a tire behind you with a rope attached to a belt. This will force you to drive to the side a bit more for traction. (Just be sure the tire doesn't get stuck on something and make you fall.)

Another option (and this might be safer), would be to tow a skater behind you. (Maybe you could recruit your wife or training partner?) Have them hold on to a bike tube (or something) around your waist and drag them around.

Towing something or somebody should give you a feel for the extra gravity of hill climbing.

As for downhills, the only way to prepare for them is to practice on them. (Typically, you do this by starting at the bottom of a hill, going up a few yards and skating down. Then, once your comfortable with that, going up a little higher ... and higher ... until you've tamed the whole hill.)

Cheers, Bill

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