If you enjoy workouts with a big fun factor, give inline skating a try. When you’re zooming along a sidewalk on a sunny day, you’ll be having so much fun you won’t even feel as if you’re working out.
Another bonus: inline skating helps build a strong, shapely lower body, strengthens the core muscles, and a 140-pound person can burn between 80 and 120 calories in 15 minutes of skating, depending on how intensely they’re working.
The downside to inline skating is that it does have a bit of a learning curve. You have to master a few techniques before you can even get started, the most important of which is stopping. To newbies, the stopping motion feels unnatural because it’s done by the front of the foot and not the heel, like roller skates.
But don’t let that stop you, because you don’t have to be an inline skating ace to get a good workout. Simply learning how to inline skate will burn lots of calories.
It’s important to begin on a flat, smooth surface and wear protective gear: a helmet and knee, wrist and elbow guards. Besides providing much-needed padding against the pavement, the protective gear might make you feel a little less vulnerable to road rash (and broken bones) during an inevitable fall. You also should avoid crowded parking lots and pathways during your first few inline skating forays.
Once you learn the fundamentals of inline skating, you can boost the fitness quotient by incorporating more of a squatting stance, pushing off in long, graceful strides. Those moves target the large muscles of your buttocks and thighs, which will increase the number of calories you’re burning. Likewise, the more you coast, the fewer calories you’ll burn. Even though inline skates are on wheels, the motion is more like speed skating on ice, rather than roller skating.
Before you buy a new pair of inline skates, make sure they fit correctly; otherwise, you’ll end up with blisters and sore feet — and likely very little desire to ever use them again. Go shopping for new skates late in the day, when your feet are their largest size, and make sure you’re wearing the same type of socks you’ll be wearing when skating (these are good rules for buying any athletic shoes). Also, make sure your heel doesn’t move around in the boot while you’re skating.
Here are a few exercises designed to strengthen muscles used while inline skating — they’re also good for skiing. As always, make sure you warm up with a few minutes of light cardio exercises before attempting these.
• Wall squats: This exercise will build strength in the big muscles of your lower body. Lean with your back against a sturdy wall. Scoot down so that your knees are at a 90-degree angle, just as if you’re sitting in a chair. Make sure your knees are not jutting past your toes. Stay in this position for 15 to 30 seconds, then rise up the wall slightly for 15 seconds (this will be a relief!), before lowering again for another 15 to 30 seconds. Gradually increase the amount of time you’re in the position. To make it even tougher, try lifting one foot slightly off the ground for 15 seconds at a time.
• Side jumps: Plyometric jumps like these help build strength and power as well as improve balance. Stand with your legs about hip width apart, knees slightly bent, feet pointing straight ahead. Crouch slightly, and then jump to the right, landing on your right foot. Your left thigh should be parallel to the floor. Hold for two seconds, and then jump to the other side, landing on your left foot, raising your right thigh. Make sure you wait two seconds between jumps so momentum doesn’t become a factor. Repeat for 20 repetitions.
• Situps on the stability ball: Sit on a stability ball, and then roll down so that it supports the small of your back. The higher up on the ball you are, the more difficult the exercise will be. Place your hands behind your head, chin pointing toward the ceiling, and then crunch up to about a 30- to 45-degree angle. Slowly lower to the starting position, and repeat. If you come up too high in the crunch, your ab muscles will disengage — the idea is to keep them working throughout the entire exercise.
— Wendy Watkins is a writer and personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.