Wednesday, March 25, 2009

That's How We Roll

When one hears the word "cross-training," several others may come to mind, like "swimming," "biking," or "elliptical." If you're injured and looking for alternatives to running, or even just bored with your exercise routine, try adding this word into your cross-training vocabulary: "rollerblading."

How Did Rollerblades Originate?

Despite the associates many people have with rollerskating and the disco-ful seventies, in-line skates were first produced by a Dutchman in the early 1700s who attached wooden spools to strips of wood and nailed them to his shoes. How did he devise this strange plan? Who knows. Nevertheless, after the prototype of this seemingly odd man followed a more modern version of rollerblades in 1863.

Physical Benefits of the Sport

Although the scene of someone trudging through snow in a pair of rollerblades adorned with icicles is not one you're apt to experience, rollerblading is a great spring, summer, and fall sport. Of course, the sport is less aerobically demanding than running, but it is more so than that of biking due to the lesser amount of time spent coasting. To receive a more equivalent aerobic workout to running, multiply the time you would plan to run by approximately one-point-five. Rollerblading is certainly no walk in the park, and can be made more difficult by blading uphill or in intervals alternating between a fast pace in the tuck position and a slower, recovery pace in an upright position.

On the other hand, despite its inferiority to running's aerobic potential, rollerblading has been shown to have more anaerobic benefits than either running or biking. It's a good method of developing one's glutes and hamstrings, as well as muscles of the hips and thighs that running largely doesn't employ.
Pros of Rollerblading
  • Low-impact (causing roughly 50% less impact to joints in comparison to running, according to a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts)
  • Great aerobic and anaerobic exercise
  • Alternative to running when cross-training or injured
  • Like running, it can be performed with Fido alongside
  • Enjoyable
  • Moving quickly through the air, acting as a natural "air conditioner"

Cons of Rollerblading

  • Seasonally- and weather-limited
  • Somewhat motion-restrictive gear

As wonderful as rollerblading is, precautions should be taken and proper equipment worn to ensure one's safety. I highly recommend the following, even though skating is fairly safe for decently balanced and coordinated individuals who do not model their technique after Chazz Michael Michaels (AKA Will Farrell) in Blades of Glory. And remember, such gear is obviously not intended to make a fashion statement! It may feel excessive or "dumb," but you'll feel much dumber if you're scraped up like a zested lemon because of an overly self-conscious attitude.

Rollerblading Equipment
  • Helmet
  • Knee, elbow, and/or wrist pads
  • Properly fitted skates (Note: Aim for a mid-priced pair, as cheap, poorly-fitted skates could cause discomfort, rubbing, and blisters, making the experience much less enjoyable. Also, look for skates that include plastic molding support for your ankle.)
  • An even, smooth surface for skating
  • 76-78 mm wheels on the rollerblades

Keep in mind, if rollerblading becomes a regular exercise habit, it is recommended that you rotate the wheels on your skates every so often, clean and lubricate the wheel bearings, and check and tighten the wheel nuts as needed.

If you're looking for a good way to cross-train and want to have some fun while you're at it, try rollerblading! There's no need to disco; it's the 21st century and time to rock and roll!


  1. Rollerblading is super popular here - I suppose since it's so flat and the weather is always right for it.

    I don't have the balance though...

  2. I used to roller blade ALL THE TIME in my pre-running days. Maybe I should dust my wheels off...

  3. I want to be a sweet rollerblader, and I'm just NOT.