You might think the high speeds and black diamonds of alpine snow skiing would make a springtime transition to skating down asphalt-paved hills a cinch. Much to my shame and embarrassment, that's not at all true for me! And this year my familiar old fear was increased by the dread of humiliating myself in front of my fellow Zephyr guides at our annual "spring training" weekend. I knew it was going to take a lot of hill practice to bring back my speed tolerance by then!
So on a gorgeous Saturday in March, I headed out to recapture my courage by raising my personal "Terminal Velocity" level. I skated up and down my sloped neighborhood streets, analyzing the sources of my anxiety and how to relieve them. Tighten the boots, roll downhill in a tuck, relax more, practice deep-carving slaloms at speed, especially on the "bad side." Suddenly, something clicked. "Wow! Why haven't I discovered this hill technique before?" I wondered. And then another click: I was never afraid enough. From the perspective of those I teach and write about skating for, my fear was actually a good thing!
I've seen the tightness of fear prevent beginning skaters from gaining the stance that's required to make the heel brake work. On that sunny Saturday in March, I felt fear hampering my own stance for speed-controlling turns. But I've also witnessed and read about skaters who were severely injured or died because of their lack of fear. The following tips from from Get Rolling will help you find a healthy balance of rational fear as you progress in your skating skills.
Manage Your Fear
You will dramatically boost your confidence by wearing all of your protective gear every time you skate--that’s the easy part--and learning how stop with your heel brake as soon as possible--not quite so easy! Be sure to begin each learning session by reviewing what you have already mastered.
Feeling that you are in control eases debilitating thoughts. You can reduce your anxiety by taking charge of the following elements that affect your learning experience:
Variables. When you add new skating skills, continue to practice them at the same location where you learned them. The less variation in your learning environment, the better you can concentrate.
Repetition. Practice often. You'll find that in this sport, repetition is not boring. Working on recently learned techniques will provide a foundation for adding more advanced ones later. If possible, skate no less than twice a week to keep your learning curve in a strong upward arc.
Observation. You can learn faster by noticing how your skates and balance react to different pressures and angles. Experiment. Analyze. Watch and try to copy other skaters. Pay special attention to how your body moves when learning turning skills and then try to translate the exact moves to your weaker side.
Playfulness. Many skaters take themselves beyond the basics just by getting out on the pavement for hours of play. Once you’re comfortable with the rolling feeling and how to use your heel brake, you should make time to go out and fool around as often as possible.
Music. Try to make music a part of some practice sessions. Tempos and tunes can do wonders to promote spontaneous skating; a strong rhythmic beat will inspire you to perform repetitious drills more fluidly and with less conscious effort. If you’re someplace where it won’t disturb others, turn up the volume on a portable radio or tape player. But no headphones! They're too dangerous because they obstruct the sound of approaching vehicles, cyclists, and other potential dangers outside your view.
Fear is Why I'm Here
Instead of being ashamed of your fear, leverage it! It could be the source of some very inspired thinking, as it has been for me in the last twelve years. Without my fears, I never would have written Get Rolling, become an instructor or launched a web site to reach other fearful folk. Will my fear of speed be exposed to my admired peers at the upcoming guide training weekend? Very likely, but I will do my best to respect the undeniable fact that after all, this is who Liz is--today, anyway!