As I write this my left wrist is a little sore and I can feel the scrape on my knee rubbing against my pants. I made the dumb mistake of leaving some of my roller blading safety gear at home.
And now I’m paying the piper!
Roller blading is a great way to get fit and stay fit as a family. Kids love it. And for adults, it’s a wonderful way to get a workout without too much wear and tear on your joints. Moms, worried about your tush? Roller blading will solidify your but and lower back like the most tyrannical trainer.
But it also can be a little treacherous. Unlike ice skating where you’re bundled up in fluffy winter gear, roller blading usually wheels you out in shorts or light pants and t-shirts. Add to this some varied terrain and the speed that you can hit on a hill . . . and you better think safety!
Exercise injury prevention is one of the keys for making exercise fun. Injuries are not fun! So here’s my roller blade safety tips so you and your kids can glide away and have fun while minimizing the cuts and bruises.
Roller Blading Safety Tip #1: Build Your Muscles
Your muscles are your body’s built-in safety gear. They not only keep you moving, but they hold your joints and bones in place and even offer some buffering upon impact.
For example, if you fall awkwardly in a way that would twist your knee and cause serious injury (like a broken bone) strong leg muscles can save you. They hold your knee joint in place with a sturdy grip and take the fall for you. Imagine wrapping your knee in a 1/2 inch thick ace bandage. That’s what your muscles do.
Better yet, the more you build your muscles, the denser you make your bones. The best way to build bone mass is to do strength-building exercises. So by building your muscles you’re not only creating a special suit to protect your bones, you’re making your bones stronger too!
For roller blading, I recommend legs exercise like squats, jumps and lunges as great exercises to build your leg muscles (add a weight vest for extra poundage). And don’t forget your arms since they will take the brunt of many a fall. Push ups and curls do wonders for strengthening your arms and wrists.
Roller Blading Safety Tip #2: Prepare Yourself Mentally
Mental preparation is one of your best defenses. This is not about being paranoid or getting so overwhelmed with fear of the possibilities that you can’t move an inch. No, this is about getting yourself in a frame of mind that puts you in high alert.
When you start off with an awareness of potential accidents, you’re telling yourself to be ready. Prompted by this message, your body starts doing small calculations of how to adjust if something happens. Often without you even knowing these calculations and adjustments are being made!
If you go a step further and practice falling a few times or go through a scenario in your mind, you’ve essentially rehearsed so your body will know just what to do when the real deal occurs.
But even better, this mental preparation will help you avoid accidents. When you make that mental note about accidents, your mind turns on all its safety radars. You may not even consciously notice, but you start to pick up sights, sounds and sensations that help you navigate around hazards.
You’re much more tuned in to those pebbles on the road, that car coming in from the left hand side at the intersection or feeling the shift in pavement texture underneath your blades.
Put your mind on alert and you’ll be amazed at how instincts kick in to keep you safe. And even if your kids say, "I know, Mom" with that annoyed tone, help them gear up mentally with a few reminders before and during your blading expedition as well.
Roller Blading Safety Tip #3: Protect Your Head With A Helmet
Nothing makes more sense than protecting your noggin. Get a helmet that fits right by covering your forehead enough so you can glance up and see it there. Make sure the strap is tight enough but not uncomfortable so you can’t turn your head easily.
And then wear it.
Roller Blading Safety Tip #4: Protect Your Wrists
This is what I neglected that fateful day. I left my wrist guards in the basement.
When we fall, our tendency is to put our hands out to catch ourselves as we fall. But few of us have wrists that are strong enough to take the weight of our body combined with the momentum of a fall.
Find a nice set of wrist guards and strap them on. Rolled up, they store nicely inside your rollerblades as well so you won’t have to go looking for them when you need them. (I’m taking note of this!)
Roller Blading Safety Tip#5: Check Your Blades
Good equipment is the key to safety. The hilly country roads we blade on really put a pounding on our blades. So we’re careful to look our blades over, especially the brakes. Your brakes are pretty much a lump of rubber that you lower to grind against the road surface to slow you down. Eventually you can wear it all away.
So each trip out , I look them over to make sure that I have lots of braking material left to donate to the pavement in exchange for a safe speed. Make sure that your brakes are on securely – no loose bolts or wiggles.
Also, periodically give your wheels an inspection. You may need to replace them if they are looking worn. And make sure you replace any that have cracks in them.
Finally, just pay close attention as you head out to how your blades feel. Is a wheel catching? Do you feel any wiggling as you brake. Spend the first couple minutes out noting how well your equipment is working so you can fix something before a problem occurs.
A Few Last Roller Blade Safety Tips
Knee and elbow pads, while not as essential as the other safety equipment mentioned can also give you added security. Especially as you’re starting out.
Wear clothing that’s easy to move around in.
And I recommend against wearing an ipod or listening to music if you’re on the road. It’s important to have all your senses on the alert for information about approaching cars.
When a car approaches, remember roller blading can take up a lot of room and make you a little unpredictable. So to stay on the safe side, I recommend stopping while the car passes. This is what I teach my kids.
Put these roller blading safety techniques into action and you can enjoy all the great low-impact exercising that roller blading has to offer. Without paying a heavy toll if things take a turn for the worse.
Believe me, next time out, I will make sure I retrieve my wrist guards from the basement and have them firmly strapped on before I head out.