How do you feel when you are out for a skate and then you see a downhill slope approaching or you simply notice that you have started accelerating?
If it’s a gentle downhill slope and you can see when it flattens out, then perhaps you feel some excitement as you know you’ll get some free roll and be able to chill for a few moments and rest your legs as you roll through the acceleration.
What about a medium, longer looking slope which goes around a slight corner so you can’t see where the slope ends? Is this still exciting or has the emotion shifted to anxiety or fear?
Are you aware of the difference between exhilaration and anxiety? They are pretty close on the emotional spectrum. Both can make your heart rate increase, but many people learning how to skate have trouble pinpointing fear and disguise it as ‘exhilaration’ instead.
It is still surprising to me how many people I see going down a slope on inline or roller skates and they are completely out of control and unable to stop. But because the slope is relatively short, the skater can sometimes just roll down the hill and eventually slow down on the flat. The fear they inevitably felt at the beginning of the hill is gone by the bottom of the hill and the whole experience is logged as an exciting moment – without the awareness that they were in huge danger of having a serious fall and getting injured.
Unless you are very clear about what angle of slope you are sufficiently skilled at to control your speed and stop on, you should be very wary and cautious of downhill slopes. Too many accidents happen because this awareness wasn’t there and a slope suddenly became uncontrollable and crashing or falling on purpose were the only outcomes.
Some beginner skaters aren’t so lucky. The loss of control when the acceleration begins does create a fall and injuries are unfortunately very common. Ask any medical professional who works in casualty/accident and emergency department what they think of rollerblading/rollerskating and they tend to reply “very dangerous, people are in here all the time breaking bones.”
So begin to become very aware of the emotions you are feeling in your body every moment you are on skates outdoors. If you feel fear at the sensing of unwanted acceleration, then listen to this and try to divert, stop or turn off the slope as soon as possible before any more speed is created. Doing nothing and accelerating down the slope even further is the worst thing to do.
The act of just rolling fast down slopes as the solution (often called “bombing it”) should be avoided unless you are very experienced and can control maneuvers at high speeds. It is often unimaginable the speeds you can accelerate to on skates on a slope and at a certain speed your body experiences so much fear that it ‘freaks out’ and will fall just to make the madness stop. Or in the middle or end of a slope that you are bombing you need to make a maneuver to avoid a pedestrian or cyclist but the high speed makes you unable to move or you make a mistake.
Be very wary of bombing hills unless you know the hill very well and know you can stop at the end and that there wont be unexpected events to avoid such as cars pulling out.
So what should you do to get comfortable on slopes?
- You need to learn and master SEVERAL stopping methods on the flat first. This is where people go wrong. They try to stop on slopes when the methods they are using isn’t fluent or perfected on the flat.
- Learning several stopping methods takes time and just “practicing” a stop over and over usually doesn’t create mastery. If the stopping method e.g. T-stop doesn’t bring you to a complete stop from your medium to high speeds, then it’s not good enough to keep you safe on a slope. Too many skaters are complacent and don’t force themselves to train their stopping methods so they actually stop them, every time.
Using a progressive framework of exercise drills that teach you all parts of the skill one by one (e.g. edge control, weight distribution, upper body placement etc.) will allow you to learn new stopping methods MUCH FASTER than copying friends or using brief YouTube tips.
- When you have some fluent stopping methods on the flat you need to consciously train them on different inclines of slopes until you develop ‘slope fluency’.
THEN (and only then) will you be ‘slope ready’ and able to approach slopes properly equipped to handle them without the risk of getting out of control, falling or getting hurt.
If you know that your fear of slopes is justified, check out our Stops & Slides series of full online stopping lessons, where you’ll learn each part of each stopping method one at a time and make noticeable progress each time you practice.
Don’t be stuck with slopes and stopping any longer!
It’s too easy after an accident to say “I wish I’d worked more on my stopping techniques.”