Q – I’m a fan of Asha’s Youtube videos and am considering some of her online courses. I used to rollerblade as a kid and now, as 38 year old male, I want to get back into it to lose weight and get in shape. I am a little concerned, though, that when I get on my rollerblades, I can’t do it for very long because the muscles on the outside of my calves start to burn with cramp like pain. I can do maybe 20 minutes of light strides and trying to keep my balance and then I have to stop.
Does this indicate that I am doing something wrong or can you give some exercises to strengthen those muscles?
Adam Langer (38) USA
A – Welcome to skating! You are discovering that it is proper and demanding physical exercise.
The outer calf pain you talk about is an indication I think that your legs are in extreme tension while you are skating and Id like you to do the following exercise statically off skates to see if you can get a feeling for whats actually happening while you are on skates.
Stand with your feet parallel and beside each other but at hip width apart (in shoes or barefoot). Slowly shift your weight a little back on your feet by moving your butt slightly backwards. When you feel your weight on your heels, stay there and assess the rest of your body. You will probably feel your toes tight and ‘gripping’ and the tendons of the toes may even be more visible as your feet with weight on your heels will be doing everything possible to stop you over balancing backwards. This is usually the cause other people’s agonising foot pain. But I think this is also the cause of your lateral calf pain (and other’s front of lower leg, ‘shin splint-like’ pains).
When your body detects ‘imbalance’ ie weight on the back half of your foot, tension is a normal and natural response. We may or may not be aware of this tension as it is slight, but over time, in about 20mins is how long it usually takes to manifest.
So I believe the fix to try out is to bend your knees forwards in this parallel stance I call the Ready position (on and off skates), and as your knees bend forwards, consciously place your weight on the front half of your feet, mainly on the balls of your feet (so your heels feel lighter and as if you could slide a piece of paper under your heels).
In this correct position, your toes will be relaxed (try wiggling them to prove this) and your lower leg muscles will be more relaxed than in the weight-on-heels position.
Try shifting from ‘correct’ Ready position to ‘incorrect’ ready position simply by moving your butt backwards behind your heels and notice your weight shifting on your feet and the muscular changes that happen with that shift.
If you notice this tension in the lower legs and feet with weight back, then this is where to focus when skating. The hardest part about skating correctly is maintaining your weight on the front half of your feet or foot AT ALL TIMES AND FOREVER. This correct position in my opinion barely changes for all skills and movements on skates. Only with your weight on the front half of your foot will your body feel balanced.
You asked how you can strengthen your leg muscles. The best way is by skating correctly with your knees bent as indicated above. Over time you will skate for longer with each session. However, when your muscles fatigue they will want to relax and they will (on their own) straighten your knees to ease the muscular demand (but so putting you in the wrong position). So it takes a lot of awareness of your body while learning to skate to try and implement these theories.
If you’d like to see all that explained in video format for Free, please click on “Free Trial” on this page (next to the Trailer Video) and you’ll get immediate access to 2 Beginner lessons which this and more is explained and demonstrated.
I hope this reply and the accompanying videos help.