World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.
Help! I Can't Get into the Low Skating Position?
Hi, Bill: I'm a middle-aged female who is having a great time learning to speed skate! But one thing troubles me: I have very tight Achilles tendons, making it difficult for me to squat down without either lifting my heels (not desirable when skating) or tipping my upper body or hands way forward to keep balanced. This happens on dry land, not just on skates. So my question is: short of getting longer Achilles tendons, are there any adjustments I could make in my skate set up to help with this? - Thanks, Julie
Hi, Julie. The first thing to do is check the pitch of your skates, which is the rise in deck height from toe to heel. The pitch should be no less than 6 mm and no more than 15 mm. The pitch of most skates is between 10 and 12 mm. If the pitch is too low, you will naturally have a harder time keeping your weight forward.
If that's not the problem (and it probably isn't), try testing your flexibility by doing some half squats (knees bent at a 45 degree angle). If you can do these with your heels on the ground, you should not have a problem getting into the skating position.
If you can't do half squats, your calf muscles may be too short. This sometimes happens to women who have spent a lot of time on high heels.
If you find it difficult to squat, do some low walks or wall sitting. These exercises can help restore flexibility. (The exercises are demonstrated at the end of the Beggsport video that follows this column.)
If that doesn't work, make an appointment with a podiatrist. He or she should be able to sort out the problem and prescribe a corrective exercise program.
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