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An off-line talk about in-line skating.

After seeing an in-line skating daredevil slide effortlessly down a handrail on television in 1993, James Williams and a few of his friends marched straight to a sporting goods store in Rapid City, S.D., and bought their first pair of in-line skates.

"We were probably the first kids in the neighborhood to get into aggressive in-line skating," said now Staff Sgt. Williams, a still photographer stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. "At 15 years old, there wasn't much of a budget for protective gear so we just bought the skates and rode around the neighborhood looking for things to jump off."

Little did Sergeant Williams know that 11 years later, in-line skating would still be a big part of his life. No longer just for thrills and spills, skating would become part of his Air Force fitness regiment.

During his first tour of duty in Hawaii, Sergeant Williams was elated to find an indoor skate park at Hickam Air Force Base,

"The skate scene at the indoor park was pretty much a young dependant hangout," he said. "It wasn't as much fun as skating with my friends back home but it kept me in the sport and forced me to wear the right protective gear."

Having suffered "serious road rash," jammed fingers and a chipped elbow, Sergeant Williams was happy to comply with the base's mandate to wear knee and elbow pads and a helmet.

A few years later, assigned to Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., he temporarily traded in his in-line skates for ice skates. After a coworker introduced him to ice hockey, Sergeant Williams discovered ice-skating was an easy transition from in-line skating. Also, the intensity of hockey offered great cardio benefits.

It wasn't long before Sergeant Williams was blowing the dust off his in-line skates as a new indoor skating facility at the base was approaching completion. Having learned to enjoy the sport of hockey on ice, he wanted to try it on skates. Discovering it was great fun, he found it didn't sit well with the locals.

"The hockey mentality in North Dakota is that you're not doing it right if it's not on ice," said Sergeant Williams, who was happy to learn that roller hockey is hugely popular in California.

Now assigned to Vandenberg, Sergeant Williams estimates that 50 percent of his war-fit training comes from playing organized team roller hockey on the base's newly-constructed outdoor hockey rink.

If you want to try in-line skating as a workout routine without the threat of being body checked against the glass, give in-line fitness skating a try.

"It's low impact, offers a change of scenery and is loads of fun," says Sean Haworth, an exercise physiologist assigned to the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. "The key is to find local parks, bike paths, or even large parking lots--free of busy intersections--where you can maintain a steady pace without interruption."

Most people who try in-line skating for the first time expect standing and keeping their balance to be difficult because of the skates' wheel arrangement. While it's true they may need help getting to their feet for the first time, the skates' adequate ankle support make it easy to stand.

In fact, in-line skates are actually easier to skate in outdoors than quad (conventional) roller skates, because in-line skates are more forgiving of cracks in the pavement. Quad skates are more maneuverable for roller disco and artistic skating, but in-line skates are more suitable for fitness and speed skating.

The Art of Falling

* Falling backward is more dangerous than falling forward due to the lack of protection on your back, hips and tailbone. It's easier to prevent a serious injury by falling forward.

* You're likely to hit your head in most falls. Always wear a helmet when skating--in addition to wrist guards, elbow pads and kneepads.

* If falling is unavoidable, try landing in sand or grass while allowing your kneepads and wrist guards to make first contact with the ground.

* In a forward fall, slide on your kneepads and wrist guards by throwing your weight forward with arms out-stretched in front of you. Keep elbows slightly bent.

* If you can't avoid falling backward, try landing on your elbow pads, wrist guards and one side of your buttocks.

For more information visit inlineskating.about.com to learn more about in-line skating equipment, safety, techniques and culture.

The world of in-line skating defined

Aggressive in-line skating--Incorporates ramps, bowls and rail riding as well as aerial acrobatics.

Speed skating--Runs the gamut from 100-meter sprints to full-blown marathons. Also includes downhill in-line racing.

Artistic skating--Utilizes elements of dance and figure skating. More often performed with conventional roller skates or "quad" skates.

Fitness skating--skating far exercise and cardiovascular health. Can be performed an level or hilly roadways with varied intensities and distances.

Consumer tip

Some people quit in-line skating before they even get started due to purchasing inferior-quality skates that hurt their feet. Paying less than $100 for a pair of skates isn't recommended unless a good pair of skates is on sale. Top of the line skates run well aver $500, but one can expect to find good quality skates in the $200-$350 range.

Safety tip

Most Air Force bases require protective gear such as a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads while skating on base. Although Airmen are not required to wear this protective gear off-base, it's highly recommended.
COPYRIGHT 2004 U.S. Air Force, Air Force News Agency
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Airman Fitness
Author:Wagers, Scott
Publication:Airman
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2004
Words:907
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