The global pandemic has created a boom in rollerskating. Many beginner skaters have no doubt been enticed onto skates because it looks fun, free and judging by scores of videos on Instagram, (ours included?!) pretty cool.
I can confirm after 37 years of skating and teaching people how to rollerskate, it most definitely is cool. But the reality of strapping wheels to your adult feet is often an unexpected and unwelcome shock for the complete beginner. If you don’t learn the foundations properly right from the start you’ll soon realise how easy it is to fall over.
Most of the articles written about this pandemic skating boom begin with some witty anecdote about falling being inevitable and humorous, “And you’ll fall. Oh, you will fall.”
Or they provide flippant or scant attention to the importance of learning specific techniques: “The first step to learning is simply to train your body to move on wheels.” What does that even mean??
It’s not nice to fall over when skating. It hurts. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. But it’s also embarrassing and every beginner wants to avoid falling when learning how to rollerskate. The good news is that with the right training, you can skate without falling!
Learning correct techniques to find and maintain balance as you move will help you to feel more confident on your skates, reducing fear and tension in the body. Once stability and improved technique are the norm, the smoothness and gracefulness of Instagram-worthy videos will follow.
These skills can be learned, practiced and mastered. Let me show you how to get started…
5 essential practices to overcome fear and rollerskate smoothly (for beginners)
1. Skates on TIGHTLY!
During my 20 years of teaching inline and quad skating lessons, I see 99% of people put on their skates, pull up the tongue, grab the laces and PULL.
This is incorrect! Try this instead:
1. Put the skate on, pull the tongue and tuck it inside the outside ankle cuff of your boot.
2. Using both hands, grab the lowest cross of your laces, nearest your toes and pull them tightly.
3. Then move up to the next lace cross and PULL. Then move up to the next etc. FEEL your skate becoming tighter on your whole foot.
4. Then tie the laces tight at the top.
Only if your skates are firmly attached to your feet can you hope to control them with your conscious movements.
2. Practice falling forward!
The fear of falling is the greatest creator of tension in the body for new beginner roller skaters and can make us literally ‘rigid with fear’. To overcome this fear it can be useful to practice falling on purpose on grass onto your knee and wrist pads.
You can do this in 2 ways;
- Kneel down on your knee pads on the ground and try banging your knee pads into the ground with a tiny knee jump. This will help you feel how well protected your knees are wearing knee pads. It will also help reassure you that falling forwards onto your protective gear is preferable to falling over backwards onto your lower back or butt.
- Stand in Ready position (feet parallel and side by side) on some grass with your hands up in front of you and bend your knees deeply. Now bend even further and roll over your front wheels and hit your knee pads on the grass first and then your wrist guards. I recommend this second exercise for everyone except those with existing knee and back injuries or weakness.
This single exercise can reduce your fear of falling significantly and help create forward falls (onto protective gear) if they do happen later on.
3. Learn the Ready Position (statically)
When learning how to rollerskate, the Ready position is a crucial next important step as this position gives you your ‘safe place’ on skates. You should use the Ready position to prepare for every movement and recover from any wobbles.
Standing still on grass (or carpet) is the best place to learn the Ready position and then reproduce it statically on the skating surface before taking your first skating steps.
Stand with feet parallel, about a hand’s width apart (this is closer than most beginners want their feet).
Look at your toes and then bend your knees until your toes disappear from view under your knee pads) and you can feel your weight on the balls of both feet.
Now notice that your shins should be touching and feeling supported by the top ankle straps of your skates. This will only happen if your ankle straps are done up tightly enough, so readjust them a few clicks if necessary.
Too loose with the top ankle strap and you won’t feel any connecting on the front of your shin. Too tight and you won’t be able to bend your knees at all. You want to be able to bend your knees until your knee caps cover your toes (from the side) and you actually feel the ankle strap supporting you in the shin.
Also on the blog: How to start quad skating for beginners
4. Ready Position rolling
Mastering the Ready position correctly while rolling will help you create the trustworthy stability that will in turn reduce your anxiety.
Your initial skating strides should always be punctuated by a rolling Ready position where you can regroup and get comfortable with the momentum you just created and slowly allow your speed to roll out.
Use this checklist to make sure your rolling Ready position is perfect:
- Feet parallel, one hand’s width apart (knee pads can be touching together).
- Knees bent until you feel your weight on the balls of your feet.
- Shins touching and being supported by your top ankle straps.
- If your weight is correctly on the balls of the feet, your heels should feel slightly lighter in your skates.
Remember, it’s impossible to fall over backwards if your weight is correctly on the balls of your feet. But you have to make this happen consciously!
5. Keep your speed low
The final factor to reducing fear in beginner quad skaters is to keep your speeds low. This may sound obvious but many skaters are unaware of what actually creates acceleration on skates, so controlling speed is very often an unconscious process and therefore random.
Propulsion on skates is created by gently ‘V’ing your skates, creating a ‘slice of pizza’ shape with your heels slightly in and your toes slightly out.
Remember: The amount of V (or the exact size of your pizza slice) is extremely important. A more open V makes you accelerate faster than a less open V.
The correct angle of the V should be like a normal pizza slice shape, but most beginners overdo this and either open their toes too much and create acceleration that feels too fast and uncontrolled.
Or they may have just one foot which opens into the V shape too much while the other is fine.
The number of skating strides you choose to take will also affect your speed. Begin with just 3-4 V-ing strides and then cruise in Ready position. If you skate with a V shape that is correct you will in fact accelerate with each and every step, so you must decide consciously to not take too many steps at first!
If you’d like to see this process being taught in video format, do get access to these 2 beginner quad skating lessons which will help you get started safely.
Gain lifetime access immediately:
Here’s the same free lesson for inline skates: (from the How to Skate Beginner course)
Once you can take several skating strides and roll comfortably for several metres you will then need to begin the more challenging job of learning to stop on skates. This is best taught in video format. When you’re ready, check out this Free T-Stop tutorial for quad skaters.
Practicing these 5 essential steps for beginner quad skaters will help you skate smoothly and reduce fear and tension right from the start. Maintaining safe and correct skating technique will take some focus and concentration especially at the beginning when it’s all new, but doing so will make permanent and successful additions to your muscle memory.
Most regular skaters report feelings of freedom, joy and elation when skating, proving that fear need not become a permanent companion!
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