In-line Skating

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Bodywork, May 1997

In-line Skating
By Jim Harmon

If you're in search of powerful, walnut-cracking thighs, strap on those in-line skates. "Some people describe well-developed skaters as T-rexes on wheels: huge legs, small arms," says Mark Greenwald, a former U.S. Olympic speed skater and a coach at Calgary's Olympic arena. By exerting a high amount of force at a relatively low frequency, skaters build uncommonly powerful quads and glutes. Skating also strengthens hip abductors and adductors, dramatically enhancing your legs' ability to make quick lateral movements — you'll be able to more easily juke a defender in that open-field soccer matchup. One caveat: In-line skating will condition your legs in this fashion only if you actually master the stroke.

It's as simple as adopting a low stance, skating in a crouched position as though you're ready to plop down into a chair. To transfer your weight, glide on one skate and use the other to propel you by pushing off to the side — not the back — swinging the opposite arm forward for momentum. Really thrust with your legs, and don't let your shoulders twist, lest you throw off your stance.

The Routine
Monday: After a ten-minute warm-up, execute a series of one-minute repetitions to improve your balance and strength in each leg, skating easy for one minute between reps. Here's the drill: (1) Balance on right leg while coasting, pushing off only when necessary. Repeat on left leg. (2) Slalom around imaginary cones (every three feet) on right leg while coasting. Repeat on left leg. (3) Push off only with the right leg, balancing on the left. Repeat with left leg. (4) "Swizzle" — maintain forward momentum, keeping both skates on the ground by sculling back and forth. Work through the drill three times, skating easy for five minutes between sets.

Tuesday: After a ten-minute skating warm-up, do six three-minute intervals just below your maximum effort, skating easy for four minutes between intervals.

Wednesday: Confining feet to skates day after day will cause them to sprout blisters, so rest them with a running/walking routine. Warm up with five to ten minutes of easy jogging and stretch your legs for five minutes. Then, for one minute, walk in a squat, Groucho Marx-style, extending one leg in front of you while keeping your thighs parallel to the ground. Jog for four minutes after each squat-walk to recover; then repeat. Do ten sets. "This is guaranteed to make you sore," says Greenwald, "so be careful."

Thursday Skate for 30 to 45 minutes at a pace you can maintain for the duration. As you improve and learn to hold your shoulders still, try tucking one or both arms behind the small of your back on long outings, which makes you concentrate more on your legs.

Friday: After a ten-minute skating warm-up, do five one-minute intervals, skating easy for three minutes after each hard effort. Then do seven 45-second bursts interspersed with two minutes of recovery skating. Finally, do ten 30-second sprints with two-minute recoveries. Bend your knees, swing your arms, feel the burn.

Saturday: Do a slow, steady cruise for an hour — a weekend tour up the bike path.

Sunday: Rest.

Photograph by David Roth
Filed To: Snow Sports

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