When I decided to buy my first ever roller skates, I had so many questions in my mind. Which skates are the best to buy, how to maintain balance, how long will it take me to learn to balance, and so on? So, I did some research and testing to find out which techniques work for beginners and which type of skates are best to learn to balance.
So, how do you keep a balance on roller skates? Well, you need to choose the right gear, learn the correct tactics, keep proper stance, and practice the modus operandi. Ideally, there are different types of skates with obvious advantages. You should choose one as per your level of expertise.
Traditional 4-wheel recreational skates are ideal for leisurely skating in local outskirts such as a skating rink. They have hard, narrow wheels and high-top boots. Alternatively, you can select the speed skates with low-cut boots and instep strap for ankle support. These quad roller skates provide fast skating with appropriate balance. Dancers and freestyle skaters often prefer lightweight artistic skates with soft, grippy wheels and rigid, tall boots. Outdoor inline skates usually have an array of soft wheels to ensure better friction and grip on a rough surface. Your skating gear should also include a safety helmet, wrist guards, and knee pads.
Once you have the right equipment, the next step is to understand the fundamentals of roller skating thoroughly. Your posture plays a vital role in maintaining your balance on the skates. You must learn how to place your feet, bend your knees, and maintain a squat position. Your skating gear is equipped with brakes, which are ideally situated on the toes of your skates. You must practice using them correctly to avoid toppling over. Some basic riding techniques that you must learn are getting your feet off the ground, duck walk, gliding tactics, and essential start-stop techniques. Once you master the basics, you can try special maneuvers such as back skating, heel-toe movement, crossover turn, and other skillful stunts.
Roller skating relies on exceptional balance. A perfect balance gives you an effective start off, controls your push, and limits the re-balancing of your energy. Balancing on roller skates involves a crisp weight transfer learned through numerous balancing techniques.
Fundamentals of Balancing on Roller Skates
Roller skating is not only a competitive sport but also a great form of exercise. Although many people do it for fun and take it up as a soothing leisure activity. No matter what makes you strap those wheels and hit the rink, you must get the basics right; if you do not want to end up with a broken leg or a strained ligament. Thoroughly understand the fundamentals of balancing correctly for a good kick start:
- Put on your gear – Starters often begin their skating lessons with only a pair of roller skates. You can easily get one according to your standard shoe size from a sporting store. However, you should also pick up safety gears, which include a helmet and a pair of safety pads for your knee and wrist. You may take some spills while practicing balance. Proper gear protects you from a major injury.
- Learn the correct stance – Place your feet at least a shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knees. Lower your backside and lean forward into a comfortable squatting position. You must maintain this stance throughout your skating session. This posture not only prevents a fall but also helps you quickly regain your poise after a slight imbalance. Mastering the posture may require a little practice at first, but once you get it right, you can administer the skill to improve your balance.
- Practice duck walk – Keep your heels together with your toes pointed out. Start small, and slowly walk forward, altering your right and left foot. Maintain the squat posture and keep the center of your body on your heels. Once you are comfortable walking slowly, you can try longer strides.
- Learn to glide – Gradually lengthen your stride by rolling your wheels. Take a slight push with one wheel and glide until you lose momentum. Then switch your foot and glide again. Keep the other foot above the ground. Turn left and right accordingly during gliding to shift your body weight correctly. Maintain the squatting position throughout your session. You can move faster by putting a little pressure on your wheels to propel forward. Move your elbows back and forth, sustain your stride, and maintain your balance.
- Understand how to stop – Your right roller skate usually bears a brake near the toe. To stop, you must maintain the squat position while both your skates are gliding in parallel disposition. Then gently lean forward, place your right skate in front of the left, lift the toe, and press it hard. If you do not press down the brake hard enough, you may lose balance and fall to the ground.
And voila! Now you know the fundamentals of balancing. All you need to do next is a little practice each day to master the skill.
Taking Your Balancing Skills to the Next Level
Mastering the basics will not take too long. With persistent efforts, you will eventually learn the art and skill of balancing on your roller skates. Once you learn the basic moves, it is time to take your balancing skills to the next level. Following techniques will help you learn to maintain balance during special maneuvers:
- Skating backward – You skate forward by placing your feet in V-shape, propelling yourself, and applying pressure on your heels. When you skate backwards, you should place your feet to form an inverted V-shape. In other words, you keep your heels apart and toes together. Maintain the squat position, lift your left foot, apply pressure on your right toe, gently drop your left foot, put pressure on your left toe while lifting your right foot. Pretty confused, right! Don’t worry; a little practice will get you going in no time. Start slow, turn back time to time to look behind and avoid falling. Do not lean backward in any case. Gradually lengthen your strokes and maintain the inverted V-shape as you practice rolling backward.
- Practice heel-toe – In this movement, you align your skates so that you glide on the heel of one and the toe of the other. Start your stride with a few glides to gradually gain momentum. Once you do, try lifting the toe of the stronger skating foot, keep skating on the heel. Then gently lift the heel of the other skating foot so that you are skating on the toe.
- Try a crossover turn – Start your stride with a few glides to gain momentum. Gently cross your skates, one over the other, to make a smooth turn and push forward in a new direction. For example, cross your right skate over the left to make a left turn. Gently turn your body towards left and use your right skate to push off in the left direction. Learn to turn your shoulder in the intended direction and lean a bit to maintain balance. Keep your knees bent to maintain equilibrium.
- How about a jump? – Jumping in the air while skating and getting back to your feet without falling is the real deal and the best test of your balancing skills. You can start with some glides. Keep your skates together, crouch a little, and make a short jump. Practice jumping higher to gain confidence. Once you master the basic jump, you can try fancy stunts such as jump with a turn to change direction.
Regular practice is the key to balance better on your roller skates. You can visit a roller skating rink once a week to polish your skills. Keep practicing until you find yourself comfortable with the basic moves as well as special maneuvers. You can also take your love for roller skating to the next level by joining a league. Here, you not only get to compete with the finest but also get to learn certain daring tricks. Alternatively, you can find some like-minded people who love roller-skating and form a group of buddies who enjoy the same sport.
Get The Right Skates to Match Your Skill Level
Remember to buy skates, which are designed to enhance your performance gradually. Roller skates come in different varieties. As you get better, invest in a pair that suits your specific needs and complements your skill level. You can look for any of the following options:
- Indoor skates – Get a pair of traditional four-wheel skates when you start your skating journey. Buying your pair will save you from renting one every time you visit the rink.
- Outdoor skates – These skates are often designed for durability and strength. Their wheels can withstand tough outdoor conditions and help you skate swiftly on nearly any material surface such as asphalt, concrete, or other road material.
- Speed skates – These sleek, super-speedy skates are designed for fast speed and skillful performances. They are much faster than regular skates. They can eventually make you fly down the street. Inline speed skates either have a row of wheels or a quad having two wheels, one on either side.
Off-Skate and On-Skate Exercises to Improve Balance
Now that you know how to balance your skates, you should strive for improving that balance. Some simple off-skate and on-skate exercises can help you sharpen your skills. Following off-skate training can help prepare your body for the drill:
- Identify your weaker leg. Your stronger leg is the one that you often use to kick, lean, or perform other one-legged activities. You can stand on one leg while the other is off the ground. Repeat with the other leg and time the duration for how long you can withstand the pressure. You should focus on strengthening the leg muscles, which gets a shorter time.
- Indulge in yoga sessions. Yoga can exceptionally improve your foot balance, which is fundamental to skating. Even professionals recommend yoga session for beginners to gain stability and physical balance.
- Try some balancing acts during routine activities. For example, try brushing your teeth by standing barefoot on one leg. Take it a step further by trying the varying amount of knee bends such as speed skater bend or recreational bend.
- Consider using wobble boards, which are wooden discs having a hemisphere on the lower surface. You can try many different exercises on the wobble boards. Start with something relatively easy, like two-foot balancing. Gradually switch to harder ones such as balancing on a single foot or with closed eyes.
- Roll a broomstick, round piece of wood, or a hardball underneath your feet. Continue by applying pressure for 5 minutes. Cover the entire sole of your foot while applying pressure. This simple exercise will sensitize your feet and eventually improve balance.
Try these off-skate exercises barefoot to maximize the benefits. The exercises will help you develop the sense of proprioception, which is of prime importance in skating. Learn to feel your ankle, foot muscles, and relative movements that help improve balance. Here are some on-skate exercises to help you improve your balance on skates:
- Try scooters in which you maintain foot balance by pushing to one side.
- Practice toe roll drill by balancing your weight on a single foot while dragging the other foot behind on the toe to assist balance.
- Practice T-stopping where you learn to stop and balance properly by keeping your feet in a T-shape in place of toe-roll.
- Try the poop trench drill. In this, you first balance your weight on the left skate following a straight line and then you hop and switch on your right skate following a parallel straight line on the right.
- Practice the over-carving drill in which you carve more than usual during skating. As a result, each stride turns your foot, keeping your weight on your heels. This exercise helps in perfecting your heel carve control.
Some other balancing exercises to try include grass stops one-foot and two-foot slaloms. All these exercises will strengthen your core and leg muscles. Further, do not forget to warm up a bit before skating. You can try brisk walking or a five-minute jog to relieve your muscles. Always stretch your leg muscles before entering the rink. This little effort will eventually help in preventing muscle strain or severe injury during a fall. Again, there is no substitute for consistent practice and patience. Therefore, practice often. Learn to understand the correct form and acquire the techniques.
I am over 50. Can I still indulge in roller skating? Considering your age, you will be at a high risk of osteoporosis, which means having brittle bones that can easily break after an injury. If you want to try roller skating, you should exercise regularly, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, and get some supplements for Calcium and Vitamin D. Wear appropriate safety gears and stay cautious all the while. Keep a person nearby who can assist when required. Also, consult your physician for proper diet and further precautions, if any.
How to perform scissors? Stand straight with your arms held out on either side. Keep your heels together. Place your feet in a V-shape. Bend your knees and push your toes apart. Then, straighten your knees and bring your toes together. Repeat the motion as your tread forward.
I am a good skater. Do I need safety gear? Even professionals are advised to put on the safety gear while skating. A sudden fall may sometimes cause a severe head injury or break a bone for worse. Safety gear protects you from an unforeseen mishap.
How long does it take for an average person to learn the skill of balancing? Anybody can learn the basics in no time. However, being proficient in the craft takes time, patience, and practice. The more you practice, the earlier you learn to balance on the roller skates. There are no specific timelines for anyone. It depends on the individual and the efforts he/she puts in.
How can I recover quickly from a painful fall? You can always pick yourself up and keep moving after a scrape. The stinging will eventually ebb after some time. Apply a disinfectant and put a gauze if there is a cut or bleeding. Serious injuries often require immediate medical attention from a professional medical practitioner.