Over the past month or so I’ve been focusing a lot on cleaning up my technique. I believe that from here on in, the remainder of my development will be in improving technically. Conditioning wise, I know how to train myself via weights, plyos, and on skate drills and exercises. But the simple fact is, you can’t win on strength alone. Even if you are uper strong, you can be out-muscled by a team of skaters, or by someone who is simply stronger.
So, I’ve really made an effort lately to do some sessions where I forget about going top speed and just focus on skating as low as I can for as long as I can. Trying to focus also on things like recovery, accelerating through to my set-down, keeping my body stable, not shoulder steering and not toe pushing.
While the intention is good, you don’t really know what the end result is. You can’t see yourself while skating, so there is no feedback to know if what feels good…actually is good.
The main cure for this is to either work with a coach (or someone experienced) and get feedback from them. But if like me you do a lot of training on your own, then you need to get your camcorder out.
Watching yourself on video is almost never fun, sometimes you’ll see things that are very encouraging and you know you got it right. But there are a lot of things you’ll see that you didn’t realize you were doing, or that you thought you were doing because it felt right…but wasn’t.
For me there are two categories of feedback, one is for classic skating, and the other is for double push. Double push is my favorite not just because its a fun way to skate, and now pretty much my natural mode of skating, but because its unique to inline skating. There are a couple of guys who can do it effectively on ice, but essentially double push has remained an inline only technique.
Classic: my classic skating pattern is pretty good, but there is still lots or room for improvement. I have a good start on it though, I can skate classic with a good outside edge (see below).
The biggest item is just getting lower more often. This is something that I’ve had to work a lot on but basically I’ve found that its a matter of getting you ass down, and getting your ankles bent as well.
Below you can see a shot from me skating where I was intentionally trying to skate as low as I can. I know what it feels like to skate that low, and I’ve been trying to do it a lot more often. Its not easy though. Skating that low really burns the legs.
But the pay off is big; when you are that low you can get a lot more power, your much more stable, and you suck up a lot less wind. I’m going to be working this position a LOT to try and skate much more regularly like this.
When you get low enough, your stomach will just touch your upper thighs and when you push you’ll feel it in your hip muscles as well as your quads when you push.
Unfortunately my double push has had some negative influence on my classic stride; My timing is cutting short my weight transfer. That is, when recovering my pushing foot I set it down too soon, before I’ve milked all of my fall and before I’ve completed my in progress push.
The result is that there is a short period of two foot skating, and when I naturally try to get my head over my toes on the support leg, my shoulders twist (steer) me over to catch up to where I should already be. Getting my shoulders to be quiet is an issue for me in both classic and double push. Sigh
Another big issue for me has been toe pushing. Its been with me for a long time, and I’m still seeing it crop up sometimes My plan now is to do some sessions with my front wheel replaced with a smaller wheel; forcing me to skate more completely with my rear three wheels.
I think this issue is also connected to my timing (mentioned above). Because My weight transfer is being cut short, my pushes are being cut short and hence I start recovering before my leg is anywhere close to fully extended.
Double push: (Video below) I’ve been trying to incorporate some improvements, staying lower with more knee bend, try to keep my shoulders “quiet”, and getting my knees together for a more complete push. Its not so easy though!
I’m still dogged with a lot of shoulder steering and when my leg extends, there is a fair amount of pushing my body up, instead of my leg moving under me. The result of that is carving instead of pushing, so less power than I could have. There are times when I can feel the movement under my body instead of my body coming up, but this video wasn’t one of them
So, for now the feedback is constructive, lots of of things to work on. In a way its good; if my technique was already 100% then I wouldn’t have much hope of getting faster…I’m pretty well conditioned physically after a summer of training, and being 38 years old, I’m really not expecting to get a lot better physically.
Generally your body starts to decline when you hit the 30s. Most athletes I’ve talked to say there is a noticeable decline when you hit 40 as well. So at this point my biggest hope for more speed is to get my technique cleaned up. I won’t let up on the physical stuff, but for sure, I’m going to be a lot more focused on skating with quality in mind