Roller skating grows in popularity during this pandemic, partly due to the quarantine, but more due to viral videos of roller skaters on TikTok and Instagram. I have to admit that those videos are very addictive, making me want to get a pair of skates and get myself rolling. Although if you do get on the wheels, you will find it is way easier to watch someone else do it than to do it yourself - as a beginner. For me the fear of not being able to fully control where I am going and falling is the most difficult part. That being said, practice makes perfect. Once you are familiar with those rolling boots, roller skating is really a fun way to hang around and work out at the same time. So, as a newbie, if you want to step in on the roller-skating trend before it’s too late, please keep reading.
What Type of Roller Skates Should I Get?
There are many different types of roller skating, such as dance skating, figure skating, ramp skating, derby skating and speed skating, to name a few. While each type of roller skating has its unique specs, in this article we are going to focus on the more general terms that will be used most when you look for a pair of roller skates that gets you rolling as a beginner.
Quad Skates vs. Inline Skates Quad skates are those that have four wheels – two in the front and two in the back – and are probably the type of skates that are seen most in videos that have gone viral on social media recently. The two-by-two arrangement of the wheels gives the skates more stability, making them perfect for artistic skating, i.e. dance skating and figure skating. Inline skates are those that have wheels arranged in a line, which are built for speed and agility and therefore used in speed skating.
Soft Wheels vs. Hard Wheels Skating indoor or outdoor will determine the type of wheels you need. If you are going to spend most of the time skating outdoors such as in the streets, you will need softer and larger wheels. These wheels absorb shock, making skating on bumpy surfaces safer and more stable. Softer wheels also slow down the speed, which is good for control. Hard wheels are used for indoor skating only, because they cannot absorb shock. They also go faster. Therefore, soft wheels are more beginner friendly. Another thing about wheels is to make sure that they spin smoothly before putting the skates on.
Heeled Boots vs. Flat Boots Boots with heels put the body weight more on the toes, which allows you to bend the knees less and relax the shoulders, preventing from falling backward. That and the shorter wheelbase together create more agility, making heeled boots better for artistic skating. On the other hand, flat boots require you to bend the knees more and lean the shoulders forward, which is good for speed skating or derby skating.
High Cut vs. Low Cut High cut boots provide more ankle support, which is important for artistic skating or ramp skating, for example. Low cut boots allow for more range of motion and flexibility, which is crucial for speed skating.
Metal Plates vs. Nylon Plates While metal plates are more rigid than nylon plates, they are not necessarily lighter. High grade aluminum plates are rigid and light, yet they are more expensive. As a beginner, or if you are on a budget, good nylon plates will be just fine. Good means, for example, when skating the plates won’t flex so much that the wheels touch the boots, which can be dangerous.
If you are vegan, you can choose skates that are made of vinyl or other synthetic materials. If you have wide feet, suede or leather skates are better since they are softer and more adaptable.
A pair of good quality roller skates can be costly. If you are on a budget, but still want decent quality, consider looking for secondhand roller skates from eBay or craigslist for example.
Other Accessories That You Should Get
Roller skating in a crowded street or rink can be scary, especially when hearing the sound of full speed rolling wheels approaching from behind, even if the skater is not going to crash into you, the fear and insecurity can still make you trip and go flying.
While experienced skaters fall controllably, landing on the sides of the body that have enough padding, and avoiding hitting the head, joints and bones, it is not the case for beginners. Therefore, helmets, knee pads and elbow pads are the most important items to protect yourself from irreversible and permanent damage when you can’t fully control the fall yet. Incidences such as skaters falling causing a concussion have happened before.
Have blisters on the feet? Toe gel and ankle sleeves can be useful. Thick roller-skating socks that are made of cotton can protect your feet better and provide more cushioning.
Roller Skating Works Great in Toning the Lower Body and Burning Calories
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Ever noticed the hourglass figure, well-shaped buttocks and toned legs of roller skaters? That’s because they use their quads, glutes and calves consistently while skating. Having a good posture on the wheels, i.e. engaging the core, knee bent as in a half squat position, head up, shoulders and hands relaxed and moving naturally lowers the center of gravity, provides more balance and keeps you from falling. Since the knee joints are the main shock absorbers, keeping the knees bent also reduces impact when landing.
Here are two videos that I found very useful for beginners:
This video shows the most basic stance, and some common mistakes beginners make while skating.
This video shows useful warm up drills and some beginner level roller skating techniques such as how to fall, how to stand up, how to parallel skate etc.
Since the quads and glutes are the two biggest muscle groups on the body, roller skating is also a great way to burn calories. It has been shown that an hour of skating can burn over 300 calories!
Now time to get rolling and have fun!