INDOORS or OUTDOORS
This post is written with the indoor skater in mind. Although the same principals still apply there are a few things to keep in mind.
If skating outside you should wear full protective gear. Helmet, wrist guards, elbow guards and knee pads.
For indoor skating I would say these are optional. Most people don’t wear any protection. Whist injuries are rare it is usually the wrists which get injured so a good pair of wrist guards is a good option. You can buy these quite cheaply from most high street sportswear shops.
What to wear
Roller skating is quite physical and requires that you bend, get up and down from the floor etc so it is probably not a good idea to wear tight skirts or tight jeans.
You are not going to look cool just yet so please wear something comfortable that you can move in.
Make sure your skates seem in good condition. Wheels go round but don’t feel wobbly, the toe stop feels secure. Then lace them up to the top so they feel snug. Not too loose and not to tight.
There really is nothing worse than a loosely tied skate with the laces hanging down to the floor so please check your children’s skates as well as your own.
The absolute worse thing that can happen to a beginner who has just put skates on for the 1st time is to fall backwards from their full hight and land heavily.
This usually results in pain followed by taking off skates and deciding they are never going skating again.
My aim then with absolute beginners is to minimise that risk from the word go. The technique I use has saved a lot of people pain and helped them through that awkward initial skating stage. Everyone falls at some point, even for fun, Its how you fall that’s important.
This is how I teach a class of absolute beginners who have never put on skates before. From age 4 or 5 through to adults.
I shall add my own thought and comments (in brackets)
- So everybody please spread out and stand in a line facing me.
- Give yourselves enough room to hold your arms out without touching the person next to you.
(as some people are now wobbling around)
Try and stand still, keep your weight over you skates.
- Now I would like you all to make sure your feet are about the width of your hips apart and that they are straight, as though they are on train tracks.
- Put your arms out for balance, to the side and a little in front.
(not like an aeroplane, I need the shoulders relaxed)
- OK everybody bend your knees slightly.
(brings their weight forward slightly and unlocks their knees)
- Now bring your arms to the front like a zombie and bend your knees a little more.
This is the bend and roll position and is very useful. If when we are skating along we feel a bit wobbly we quickly put our arms out in front and bend our knees. That should save us from falling backwards onto our bottoms.
(whilst still in this position)
- So, keeping your head up and your bum down I want you to bend your knees, bend, bend, bend.
(I keep saying bend until everyone is squatting down as low as they can. Most people can squat down until they have their bottom on their heels).
- Now tip yourself onto the floor.
(I get a few odd looks at this point but everyone ends up sat on the floor).
So we all fell onto the floor. Did anybody hurt themselves?
(everyone says no)
So when you are skating around and you feel a bit wobbly, you need to quickly put your arms out in front and bend your knees. If you still think you may fall just keep bending right down. Fall from that height, like we all just did, and you won’t hurt yourself.
Now we are on the floor, lets look at ways of getting back up.
(I get a number of suggestions from the kids. I go on to explain that there is only one way taught for roller and ice skating)
- Turn over onto your fists and knees
(like hands and knees but make fists to avoid having fingers run over)
- Now kneel up. We are almost up now.
- Put one foot under you, on all 4 wheels not using the toe stop.
- Now get your weight over that knee, hand on knee if you need to and carefully, slowly, push yourself up.
- Carefully like you have just climbed on top of a wall and need to balance on top.
(When they are stood up I remind them to stand still, arms out for balance and feet straight like they are on train tracks and knees slightly bent)
Lets do it all again.
(We will get up and down like this several times. It gives them quite a lot of confidence to realise that they can get up and down from the floor)
SKATING vs WALKING
Skating is not walking.
To walk we have to tip ourselves off balance and put one foot in front to stop from falling flat on our faces. This is not going to work on skates.
Think of the difference between an ostrich walking and a penguin walking. The ostrich strides out in front whilst the penguin waddles from side to side.
So we need to be more like penguins and move side to side.
- Now I would like everyone to form a line once more facing me. Feet a little apart and parallel (train tracks), knees bent slightly, arms out to the side and a little in front.
- Everyone, put your heels together and your toes out at about 45 degrees making a V.
- You may feel your feet want to roll away from each other, so use your leg muscles (lots of muscles actually including groin, lower back, buttocks etc)
We call this the V position.
- Now put your toes together and your heels apart at about 45 degrees making Λ or an upside down V, arrow.
- You will notice that your feet want to roll backwards so use your muscles to keep those toes together.
- I call this the arrow position. We will use this later when we start going backwards. (lots of incredulous comments and nervous laughter here as if to say “backwards, never”, well just you wait).
OK, back to the bend and roll position. (feet parallel, few inches apart, knees bent a little, arms out to the side and a little in front.)
- Now, who can move their weight mostly over to one side (foot) and pick the other foot up and put it back down again?
(balance on one leg)
- Now move the weight over to the other side and pick up the other foot. Put it back down.
(some people will start to roll)
If you are rolling then make sure you are putting your foot back straight and not turned out in the V position.
- We are going to do it again but this time lets see if you can hold it for 3 seconds.
- Now making sure you put your foot down straight move your weight over to the other side. Pick up your free leg and try and balance for 3 seconds.
OK back to the bend and roll position.
(believe it or not but by this stage in the lesson, about 10 minutes in, most people do a pretty good job at the balance exercise)
Ok, we are going to make this a bit easier.
Instead of balancing for 3 seconds we are only going to balance for half a second.
- So making sure you are in the bend and roll position.
- Move your weight over to one side, pick up the free foot, half a second, move the weight to other side, balance for half a second.
- Other side – half a second. Other side – half a second.
- Now keep up the rhythm side to side. Side to side.
If you are rolling make sure you are putting your feet down straight and not in a V.
Keep going, side to side.
- As you are moving your body from one side to the other I want you to feel that you are pushing from the floor.
- To move your weight across you are pushing against the floor with your other leg.
- Keep going. Side to side.
- Push one side, push other side.
(I wait until I think everyone has got the rhythm)
Now as you are moving side to side I want you to start to put your feet down with your toes turned out in a V position.
(like a penguin or duck)
(Everyone now starts skating forward)
(I get everyone to stop and ask them what happened)
Q. What happened?
A. We skated forward
Q. Did you walk?
Ok, back to the bend and roll position.
- Side to side with the feet straight (parallel, train tracks)
Keep going, side to side.
Now while you are going side to side let’s see what happens if we put our feet back down with our toes turned in and our heels out (arrow, upside down V)
(everyone starts skating backwards)
Q. What’s happening people?
A. We are skating backwards!
Q. Are you walking backwards?
I know people who have been roller skated for 15 years (true) and didn’t know how to skate backwards and you guys know how after 15 minutes!
Line up again please.
Now we are going to practice what we do if when we are skating along we feel a bit wobbly.
So I’d like you to skate forward which is side to side with toes turned out a bit in a V. Knees slightly bent and arms out for balance.
About half way across the floor I want you to pretend that you feel wobbly. So you will quickly bend your knees some more whist reaching forward with your arms.
As they set off across the floor there may be one or two people who start to walk/skate. I can tell without looking at their feet. If their arms are moving forward and back then they are walking. So I remind them to just move side to side, feet in a V position and with both arms out to the side. THINK PENGUIN and basically wadle or shuffle your weight from one side to the other. DO NOT STEP IN FRONT.
(They all do this as I watch to see if anyone needs extra help later)
Ok, this time I want you to:
- Skate across the floor and when you get to about the middle I want you to pretend you feel wobbly again.
- Do the same thing again, reach forward and bend your knees, but this time keep bending all the way down and fall over on purpose.
(I get a few shocked looks at this but they all do it and end up sat on the floor laughing)
Now who remembers how to get up off the floor safely?
I have them do the exercise a couple more times. Skate across the floor then bend and roll. Skate across the floor then bend all the way, fall over and get back up.
At the end of this Lesson One they have gained a lot of confidence. They can skate without walking. They are not afraid of the floor and very rarely come to any harm in the future.
About 10 minutes after this lesson I will get out our limbo game. The kids line up and one at a time go under the limbo. Not by bending backwards but by doing the same as we have been doing, reaching forward and bending the knees.
We have many other people at our skating sessions and some are at a much higher skill level but the beginners normally feel confident enough to join in with all the others.
Hope this helps you to skate or even allows you to help someone else.
The next post will move us on from the Penguin waddle to the push and glide technique.