All Things Being Equal

After a late start to the season and a complete lack of training over the winter, I’ve finally buckled down and started getting back into the skating/training  groove.  Coming back from so much de-training is not so much fun :(    Fortunately my work ethic is alright, and once I get going things are a lot easier :)    So far this season (since April 1st) I’ve skated 500Km and I’ve lost over 10lbs.  Of course I need to lose a lot more, but things are heading in the right direction!

You might not think it to be the case, but there is a good dose of math implicit in skating.  Consider this simple equation:  A + B = 4.   What values of A and B can give you 4?  That’s easy! They can either be equal (2) or asymmetrical (1 and 3).  Of course they could be really unbalanced if you had values of 0 and 4.

Nothing to do with skating?  Maybe.  Lets say A is conditioning and B is technique.

If  4 is some level of skating ability, and we can get there by having both technique and conditioning, then its easy to see that you can have an equal amount of both, or you can rely more heavily on one then the other.  In our example  you could for instance have 1 unit of conditioning and 3 units of technique.  This would be good place to be in; you can skate well but don’t have to work so hard for it :)

If only things were so simple!  Skating involves many variables and these are two obvious ones.  Even with these two variables, its not an entirely linear relationship.  Remember our level of ability – 4?  What if you want to go to level 5?   Perhaps you would keep your technique at 3 and just just train harder to move your conditioning up to 2 (from 1)?  In theory that sounds great, but in practice it doesn’t quite work.   To move the next level up, the minimums for both variables increase, and you have to increase both.

Here minimum means that some technical skills can only be done with a certain amount of strength or a certain amount of speed, or a certain amount of balance.  Until you reach that minimum of physical conditioning, its not possible to do that particular technical skill.   It works in the other direction as well.

This means that while you don’t have to have the variables perfectly balanced, you can’t rely completely on one or the other either.

In this example moving to level 5 isn’t really that big a challenge but what if your aiming for level 7 or level 10?  Its no longer the case that you can just be really good at technique or really well conditioned.  Being a super technical skater or a super mileage skater will not help you.  You need to move both yard sticks forward.

In my case I have an added variable: A + B  + FLUBBER = 4.  Obviously I’m working hard to reduce FLUBBER to 0 :) But I’m also working equally hard to bring A and B into a balance.  When I’m skating (even just distance skating) I try to make a conscious effort work technique, weather its focusing on my recovery, compression, balance, weight transfer, etc, etc, I’m always consciously trying to sharpen the technique while I hack away at FLUBBER.

Another aspect of the asymmetry in skating arithmetic is sea of detail.  If you try to count off all the things that you can watch for while trying to skate clean, you will quickly run out of fingers and likely toes.  But of those 20 fleshy appendages, only two really, really matter.  Are you skating low, and are you pushing with all your wheels?

Yes its true everyone can improve a dozen different things about they’re skating, but those two things have more impact than just about everything else, and when you do those two things poorly…it can wash away any gains made be improving all the other little details.

So, skating has nothing to do with math.  Maybe.

You want to go faster, but the single biggest thing you can do to go faster is skate technically better by skating lower (compression, sternum down etc.)  But, to do this well, and over long distances (like say 42km), you need physical conditioning.  You can’t just decide to do it, you can’t just rely completely on technique (it won’t last long enough).   Plyometrics, weight lifting, cross training, and of course quality time on your skates are all ways to prepare your body to handle the technical task of skating lower.

In essence you have to advance yourself both physically and technically.  A + B = BALANCE. :)

With this in mind, I skate my distance to  burn calories, but I’m always trying to evolve my technique at the same time.  Just like being super technical won’t cut it, being super fit won’t either.  I have to sharpen my game on both fronts.  This is really my focus for this year.  Flubber aside, I hope to clean up several technical issues (more on that in future posts).

Time now to get some pavement under my wheels and do some theorem proving. Skating + Sun = Happy.  Math is good.

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Software Engineer and Inline Speedskater
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2 Responses to All Things Being Equal

  1. Greg says:

    “Getting low” tells you what to do, but does not tell you how to do it. It’s like saying go faster. It’s not a productive way of thinking. There are many ways of skating lower, but you have to do it properly in order to benefit from it.

    You should think of how you need to position each joint, in what amount and in what proportion to each other joint.

    So for example, a modern basic position has a bent ankle, knee and hip whereas the classic “air chair” has no ankle bend. The bend of each joint should be proportional, so no crazy trunk bend with straight knees. The amount should be adjusted only until you reach a limit of your body type, flexibility, or it causes something to go out of whack. For some people this might be very low, for other people it won’t be. If you skate outside of your optimal position — higher or lower — then it will compromise your performance.

    For example, on the ice I am too low. I need to actually come up a few inches to my back rounds out and my hips unlock from a forward position. When I skate inline, I can’t skate extremely low because the pavement doesn’t grip well enough.

  2. admin says:

    Agree, I’ve always felt that there is a unique style for every skater; still within the envelope of proper technique, but definitely unique to them. That said, what “feels” low (for example) is often very high :) So its important (I think) to push yourself beyond your perceptions and find the actual limits.

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