The following is something that I wrote about 10 years ago when I was the inline skating “guru” for a website called “My Sports Guru.” The post has been updated and edited.
Since I am pretty sure most of you missed it the first time around I figured it might be worth repeating for those who who are considering getting back to skating or giving it a try.
It has been said, “life begins beyond your comfort zone.” For inline skating this too is true. Though, skating beyond your comfort zone, in the beginning anyway, can lead to injury, not to mention a premature end to an otherwise promising cardio option.
It is likely that a majority of people reading this have tried inline skating at least once before. For those of you who have easily taken to skating, as well as those who are determine to keep skating as a fitness option despite the occasional fall, congratulations!
However, there are probably some of you who have had anything but a “comfortable” experience on inline skates. Some of you may have started out in your Comfort Zone, but after a few strides down the path, somehow found yourself grabbing hold of passers by and as well as other stationary objects. This article is for those of you who would like to find your Comfort Zone and for those of you who would like to go beyond to the Anxiety Zone steering or should I say “skating” completely clear of the Fear Zone.
The Comfort Zone
This zone is dedicated to feeling safe and confident about your skating and your surroundings. Beginners need to begin here, period. For the most part you can enjoy your skating time without having the overwhelming fear that you are going to come to an early demise. Most likely you will find yourself in full protective gear (helmet, knee pads, wrist, guards, brake). Your skating surface will be a relatively smooth, flat surface with little or no locomotive traffic to warrant apprehension. Your speed will be modest and your ability to control it will seem within your grasp. You are in your “groove” and you have little or no worries about your abilities to control your skating situation. This is a good place to be. It is a safe place. The Comfort Zone is the only place for beginners.
Anxiety vs. Fear
Just down the road from the comfort zone, you can find the Anxiety Zone. This zone, despite its name, is not an entirely bad place to be. However, you must be aware of your physical and emotional state while skating in this zone. The Anxiety Zone is a place that should challenge and excite, not a place that promotes dread and discomfort. If you at all feel scared, or if your body feels awkward and uncooperative, it is best to stop yourself before going any further. Feelings of uncertainty or doubt will most likely lead you straight into the Fear Zone.
The following two situations are examples of how a change in terrain or mind set while skating on a regular park path can lead you to two totally different overall skating experiences.
I preface these two examples by saying that if you are a beginner or intermediate skater, and you chose not to wear full protective gear or at the very least wear a helmet, you could already be heading for disaster. Regardless of your abilities to control yourself, one thing is for sure; you cannot control your surroundings. Skating “naked” sans protective gear, may have you starting with strikes against you. It is important to always consider your skating level and environment when choosing to wear or not to wear protective gear. Even if you make it through the outing unscathed, chances are, if you don’t consider your skill level and environment, your your luck will eventually run out and there is a chance of a big fall in the future. That fall could change your attitude about inline skating forever and take it off your list of “ways to exercise that are fun and don’t feel like exercise” list.
That being said…
The Fear Zone
The scenario for the Fear Zone begins with you skating on a path just as you begin to feel a slight decline happening beneath your wheels. Up to this point your leg muscles and reflexes have managed to recall your time spent at the ice rink as a kid, and your teen years on the high school ski club, so you are feeling pretty good about yourself. Remembering that your friend from college broke his leg while skating and that article you read about head traumas, you are extremely pleased that you invested in protective gear. While knowing gear was a great choice you are beginning to regret that you never found time to take that lesson advertised at the Y.
As your speed increases, you can feel your heart racing. Probably up to 155bpm by now. Naturally wanting to be as far away from the ground as possible, you begin to stand up. Knee bend would work here, but forget it, you’re scared.
Continuing on, you look down the path you think to yourself, “is that a crack, or is it a crater up ahead?” There isn’t much time to make an elaborate plan of action so you decide jumping over it is your best bet. Defying gravity you manage to land on all eight wheels.
Just as you settle back into your straight-legged Frankenstein pose you realize that there are now two sticks to contend with. Realizing that death is now imminent, you are resolved to the fact that you will be going out with wheels on your feet. Not at all what you imagined your last minutes on Earth to be like but unfortunately your reality.
Lucky for you, the old “ step over the sticks technique” worked just in time for a “boulder” to get stuck in your wheels. That’s it, you’ve become airborne. Time is passing slowly now, kindergarten, 6th grade, prom, and the flyer from the Y advertising lessons, all passing before your eyes… “Biff, buff, bump,” you are down for the count. Thankful to have finally stopped moving, heart racing at 220bpm, you realize how the protective gear was your saving grace. Unfortunately even protective gear couldn’t keep the asphalt cinders from the path out of your backside. Vowing never to skate again you take your skates off and rise slowly to your feet. “So that’s the meaning of Road Rash,” you think to yourself as you limp slowly back to your car.
The Anxiety Zone
Now for a slightly different scenario…
You are moving down a path at a good speed when out of nowhere… a slight decline. Remembering your lesson with “Joe” the certified instructor the words “Check the terrain before you go out and skate,” begins resonating in your ears. “Great,” you think to yourself, “forgot that rule.” Luckily, however, you did manage to retain a few things from the lesson. Without much hesitation you decide that the “Ready Position” should lend you some stability. After positioning yourself in this “most stable of all inline skating positions,” you remember that there is always that Grass Stop as a bail out option. Feeling slightly better about your situation, you continue on down the decline.
Your wheels are definitely rolling on their own accord and at this point your heart rate monitor is pushing 165bpm. There is grass to the right and grass to the left, perfect for a stop if necessary but you think to yourself “ hey, this really isn’t so bad, it’s kinda fun.” The speed you are going and the wind on your face is exhilarating. Although you know your are wearing gear you touch your kneepads just to be sure that they’re still on. Hands on knees, now you are really feeling stable. You scissor your feet just to be ready for the grass stop if necessary and it was just in time. The added stability helped you survive an encounter with a crack, two sticks, and a rock. No problem, you’re still rolling. Flat ground in view, forget bailing out, you are riding this baby to the bottom. You breathe a sigh of relief. “Unbelievable, you think to yourself as you continue smiling on your way.”
The question “does your inline skating life begin beyond your Comfort Zone?” can really only be answered by you. Safe skating practices such as gearing up and taking a lesson can help ensure an injury and fear free skating experience. Knowing your abilities and surroundings will allow you to make every parking lot an oasis and every asphalt path your road to exhilaration.
Looking to take a lesson? Try these two organizations:
Skate Instructors Association
Inline Certification Program