If you’re a beginner wanting to know how to start inline skating without getting hurt, you’ll probably have a look online for tips and advice. But beware.
A quick Google search of this question surfaces some shockingly bad advice for beginners. In particular, suggestions that beginners should ‘walk’ or ’step forward’ on wheels pose a great threat to their stability. If your aiming to skate without fall over, this is not the way to do it.
See these examples of bad skating advice from real skating / info websites:
“You can also try out walking with your skates. Push one foot forward and start gliding.” Ref 1.
“Take a step forward with one foot, push off with the other and glide forward on your set foot.” Ref 2.
“As you put one foot forward, push it back to glide before placing your other blade on the ground.” Ref 3.
The problem here is that walking, stepping, or pushing forward is precisely what the beginner should not be doing. If you step forwards in a walking motion on skates and your heel wheel touches the ground first, that skate will roll off uncontrollably in front of you, potentially sending you into a split.
If you happen to step forwards with a flat foot and all your wheels touch the ground at the same time, that’s better — but your skates will still likely roll in imprecise directions. Stepping forwards or walking on skates is at best inefficient and odd-looking, at worst painful and dangerous. And if you get hurt, it could easily put you off skating for good.
How do you make skates roll forwards?
When you start inline skating it’s important to understand how basic propulsion is created with all roller skates: by putting your skates in ‘V’ shape like a pizza slice, or like a clock face when it’s five minutes to one (~60 degrees straight forward) with your toes slightly everted and your heels close together.
This V position on skates will convert any force applied into forward movement.
How to take your first skating strides – in 4 steps
It’s best to practice the first three of these beginner exercises on a carpet or grass or some other high-friction surface that will keep you from actually rolling. (You can even start practicing the positions and moves with your skateless feet as you sit reading this.)
Only when you feel comfortable with these first three drills on stationary skates should you try to do all four on a smooth, flat concrete or asphalt surface.
1. Find the ‘Ready’ position
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This is where both your skates are parallel and pointing straight ahead about an open hand’s width apart.
Keeping your body upright, bend your knees slowly forwards until your kneecaps are vertically over your toes. You should now feel your weight on the balls of both feet, with your heels slightly lighter inside your boots.
2. Begin ‘mini-marching’ your skates alternately up and down on the spot
Lift each skate no more than 3cm. The tempo should be pretty quick, nearly two lifts per second, and you need to stay low on the knee you are not lifting.
Your head should not bob up and down. You should not move off the spot, because your skates are parallel in Ready, and it is only the V shape that opens up forward movement — and because, the first few times you try this, you are on a non-roll surface.
3. Open your toes into the V position
As you mini-march in a static position, gently begin to open your toes out into the V position, or ‘pizza slice’. But keep both feet even.
Do not step forwards. When you do this on a smooth surface, you should begin to roll gently forward.
4. Return your feet to Ready position to glide
Once you’re rolling forwards with these mini-marches, and have taken between four and six tiny skate strides in this way, step both skates into Ready position, pointing straight ahead, and enjoy the momentum you have produced.
Allow yourself to roll slowly to a stop. Well done! You have just started inline skating safely.
Now repeat, mini-marching in Ready position and then slowly opening your toes into V and continuing until you don’t want any more speed, and again roll to a stop in Ready.
These four steps really work!
These four simple steps are the best way to feel how sensitive the generation of forward motion is to the angle of your ‘V’. If you open your V more, you will accelerate more rapidly; with less V, there’s less propulsion.
If you open one foot more than the other, then your movement and acceleration will not be smooth. If your V is not pointing straight forward, but for example saying ’two o’clock’ or ’ten to twelve’ instead of ‘five to one’, you will head off unsteadily on the tangent to which you are pointing.
These exercises are also meant to help you to accept responsibility for what your wheels do, because you control the position and movement of your body and skates. They do not have a life of their own, though you might well feel as if they do if you start out by trying to ‘walk’ with them.
Conscious control with no nasty surprises!
The process of learning to skate is among other things a process of taking conscious control of your physical self and the wheels you’ve just attached to it.
Over the twenty years that I’ve been teaching skating, these steps have helped thousands of students to become skaters with self-command, who understand exactly what they are doing at every moment and why.
Learning to skate should not include nasty sudden surprises! And this is the premise of our approach at Skatefresh.
If you’d like to start inline skating (or quad skating!) click the buttons below to view our online courses and FREE trial lessons.