Like bucket hats and claw clips, rollerblading is a trend from the 1990s that deserves a complete comeback. And for valid reasons – this low-impact exercise doubles as a social activity or a personal stress-reliever, and there’s no need for a gym membership or expensive equipment to give it a try.
Moreover, rollerblading serves as excellent cross-training for various sports, making it an ideal way to add diversity and round out your fitness routine. Don’t just take our word for it – listen to Kacie Cleveland, who in 2012, became the first and fastest woman to rollerblade across the United States, covering over 2,700 miles in just 37 days. According to her, “I believe rollerblading is one of the finest cross-training tools any athlete can utilize to stay fit, build strength, and have a blast.”
Persuaded? This is your comprehensive guide to rollerblading, complete with a detailed explanation of the activity, its advantages, and the equipment you’ll need to get started.
What Is Rollerblading?
Rollerblading is an activity that involves human-powered movement on wheels. Rollerbladers wear shoes consisting of a boot with a frame at the bottom that contains three to four wheels. These wheels are arranged in a line for enhanced speed and maneuverability, giving the sport its name. As per Anna Zuver, a Rollerblade Ambassador, “When you put on a pair of rollerblades, the wheels are positioned from front to back, running along the middle of your foot, longitudinally. A rollerblader wears these skates and utilizes their body weight and muscles to push off the wheels from side to side, propelling themselves forward.”
By practicing and gaining confidence in the fundamental movements of rollerblading, you open yourself up to various styles of skating and competitive sports. For instance, you can take your rollerblading skills to the next level and try inline speed skating, long-distance outdoor skating, paved trail skating, or street skating, among other forms.
Rollerblading is a versatile sport that can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors, making it suitable for beginners in either setting. According to Tom Hyser, the product and marketing manager of Rollerblade, “Typically, I recommend rollerblading in a smooth, level area devoid of any debris. An empty parking lot is an excellent place to begin. If you prefer starting indoors, a roller rink is also a great option.”
And here’s a heads up: rollerblades differ from roller skates, which you may have recently seen all over social media. While rollerblades have a single central frame with a line of wheels, roller skates have two horizontal rows.
If you’re just getting started, a great choice is to visit a local skate shop and rent a pair of rollerblades.
However, if you’re prepared to make a commitment and invest in a pair, you have the option of selecting from various brands, such as SEBA, FR, Rollerblade, and K2. (By the way, many individuals use the terms “Rollerblading” and “inline skating” interchangeably, but the actual activity is referred to as inline skating; Rollerblade is a registered trademark and the leading brand in the industry.)
When selecting inline skates for beginners, it’s advisable to choose a snug fit and opt for skates with 80 mm wheels, as they offer a lower center of gravity compared to larger wheels, thus facilitating balance, according to Hyser. Ensure that the skate is equipped with a brake, typically found at the back of the right skate. Inline skates generally follow the same sizing as regular shoes.
If you wish to carry your phone, keys, or other essentials while skating, it can be helpful to invest in a backpack or waist pack, as suggested by Zuver. “I enjoy longer skates with a fanny pack that has two holders for water bottles — one for regular water and one for sports drinks — along with enough room inside for my tools and snacks,” she explains. “I possess a vintage one, but I have noticed them available at REI.”
Lastly, protective gear should not be overlooked, including a helmet. “The objective of wearing a helmet is to prevent skull fractures, which could result in severe brain damage,” states Zuver. “Most modern cycling-style helmets are equipped with MIPS, which is a system designed to help prevent concussions from impacts.”
Knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards can also contribute to your safety. “Instructors advise skaters to always fall forward — sliding on your knee pads, wrist guards, and elbow pads,” reveals Zuver. “Knees and hands often endure the initial impact in a skating fall. Wrist guards will protect your palms from painful road rash and your wrists from ligament sprains. Elbow pads are effective in preventing road rash and bone bruises.”
The Advantages of Inline Skating
As previously mentioned, inline skating serves as excellent cross training for various other sports. In fact, “the Rollerblade brand was established because hockey players needed to engage in cross training during the summer, so they attached wheels to their hockey boots and kept going,” Cleveland explains. Whether utilized as cross training or as the primary form of exercise, the following benefits can be gained from inline skating.
Enhances Muscle Strength and Improves Posture
The action of inline skating targets major lower body muscles such as the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, but it involves movement in different planes compared to many other sports. “As an additional advantage, inline skating also engages smaller stabilizing muscles like the gluteus medius and adductors in the hips, as well as the peroneal and tibialis muscles in the lower legs and feet, which often go neglected in single-plane movements like running or cycling,” explains Zuver. Targeting these muscles can enhance overall balance and joint stability, which is beneficial for daily life and other sports. “Skating even works the muscles in the core as the upper body twists,” she adds.
Improves Body Awareness
Inline skating can enhance proprioception, which refers to the body’s awareness of movement and spatial orientation, according to Zuver. When proprioception is well-developed, you become more agile on your feet, improving your ability to learn and perform other sports.
Good kinesthesia enhances your overall equilibrium and synchronization, she observes. Regulated, exact, harmonized, well-balanced movements are crucial for day-to-day existence as well as athletics, she clarifies. Rollerblading enhances your kinesthesia as it constantly challenges your equilibrium, instructing your body to feel more at ease in less secure settings.
May Aid in Reducing Stress
Ultimately, rollerblading can offer a respite from the pressures of daily life, whether that escape involves being in the company of a fantastic community of individuals on skates or enjoying a solitary skate session. Like other types of physical activity, the act of rollerblading can trigger a surge of endorphins in your brain, hormones that contribute to stress management.
Inline skating can also grant you a distinctive sense of liberty. “It’s distinct from running because I can cover much greater distances and attain speeds that make me feel robust and influential,” asserts Zuver. “It’s different from cycling because I have more mobility to explore my surroundings — traversing curbs onto sidewalks, ascending or descending stairs, stepping through grass… rollerblading feels liberating, which imparts a significant sense of delight.”
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