I hate to be the bearer of harsh truths, but here goes: the be-all and end-all of all technique drills is simply to skate around without lacing or buckling up your skates. It’s something my original coach Dianne Holum made us do regularly in order to learn balance without relying on artificial support from our boots. The need to stay upright forced me to find what I like to call a neutral position. A neutral position is like a sweet spot, a comfortable place where you can glide or push without expending hardly any effort. When you don’t have to flex any secondary stabilizer muscles unnecessarily, you’ll stop
wasting fuel and have so much energy left over for when you actually need it: Lemon Drop Hill, the I-35 off-ramp, and the last two turns around the DECC!
No one liked this drill because it’s difficult at first and takes a while to get the hang of. I remember stepping out of my skates every time I pushed off my toe. Taking a tumble or two sure taught me how to sit back and focus the push off my heel! Collapsing or pronating while rolling got seriously aggravated as well with no support at all in an A-frame position. Untied skates made me realize how vital it is to keep one skate or the other well centered underneath my body weight. The more perpendicular I keep my wheels in relation to the ground surface, the less friction my wheels create and the more my shins can relax!
My coach would have us skate straightaways and turns without tying our skates. Then we would have little races to see how well we could keep it all together under pressure. I credit this exercise with giving me happy feet all these years. To this day, I never cinch down my skates very tightly, preferring instead a loose fit that allows blood to keep circulating. My friends and students are always asking “Why are your skates so floppy?”
Most people whose feet hurt will blame their skates instead of their technique. Unfortunately, though, devoting time to basic balance by skating with skates untied is literally a crash course in becoming a better skater!
Author’s note: attempting any of the exercises I suggest is purely an act of your own volition, and I can only take responsibility for meteoric improvements between now and NorthShore marathon race day!