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How do I stay in shape for inline skating during the "off- season", winter months?

Many people think that wintertime is the time to put away the inline skates. Some have other activities that keep them fit, while others get lazy. First of all, there is no reason to pack your skates away, as there are many opportunities to skate at the local ice and roller rinks, ongoing inline fitness skating classes, and even outdoors on dry days.

Unless you are a competitive indoor inline racer, or are training for the Tahiti Marathon (which is in February), this is typically the time of year to broaden your activities to include cross-training with other forms of exercise. What you want to do is to maintain your fitness levels during the winter months and work on fine-tuning certain other aspects of skating such as agility, balance, coordination, and even flexibility. This is also a great time of year to focus on strengthening your "core", which is very important for supporting your back when skating.

What is cross-training and how does it benefit inline skaters? Cross-training really means "adding variety" to your exercise routine. It could be adding some cycling, running, swimming, aerobics classes, or even skiing. For some people, cross-training could mean having a different routine at the gym, such as 2-3 cardio workouts a week on the elliptical cross-trainer machine, rowing machine, stair stepper, or even taking indoor cycling classes. Others might add strength-training, yoga, or Pilates to their routine.

Reasons for cross-training include preventing overuse injuries, boredom, and burnout. Overuse injuries are the result of repeating the same pattern of movement and/or over training. Boredom and burnout go hand in hand. Some people need variety in their exercise routine to prevent boredom, while others can do the same 15 mile skate every day of the week. Burnout can be significant for someone coming off of a heavy skate training schedule, such as after a series of races.

Maintaining aerobic fitness levels year-round by cross-training during the
rainy months in the Pacific Northwest makes sense! Cycling is great cross-training for skating because it works the major muscles in the lower body, but in a different way (i.e. in a different plane of motion). The energy expenditure with cycling is also similar to skating. Running is
great cross-training because it keeps you aerobically fit in a relatively time-efficient manner and is easy to do almost anywhere. Swimming is a
great activity for giving tired skating muscles a break and still get a good whole-body workout. The elliptical cross-trainer is high on my list for applications to inline skating because it works the major muscles in the lower body, is weight-bearing, low-impact, and requires balance and coordination. Don't forget about the slide board as an indoor option! There are different styles available from the roll-up type to the industrial strength larger models.

Yoga and Pilates are very popular now and for good reasons. Yoga focuses on flexibility, strength, breathing techniques, and even balance. Pilates focuses on using your "core" while improving posture, strength, and flexibility. Since most avid skaters drop everything indoors when the sun comes out, the "off-season" might be a great time to concentrate on these other activities. Agility, coordination, and balance can also be improved by skiing, step aerobics classes, martial arts, fitness inline skating classes, or even by playing racquet sports or basketball. If you work with a personal trainer, you could focus specifically on exercises in the weight room or at home that will improve your agility, balance, and coordination and core strength. These will be the topic of next month's column.