Why can’t some people get on the outside edge? And why do some people get on the outside edge and then it doesn’t give them extra speed? Are you doing something every single day that is preventing you from learning to do it automatically at high speed? Or are you coaching people with this problem? If your skates (or someone you coach skates) look like this when you stand on them…
… then you have a problem.
If this is your default position on skates, if this is your ‘default’ position that your body thinks is the strongest and safest, if this is what you have taught your body to do, and this is what it does when you’re not concentrating, then you will have a really hard time going fast, and developing your speed. There are several causes of this position;
Your boots are unsupportive
You moved from fitness skates to speed skates too soon
Your wheels are too big, so you are too high off the ground for your skill level
You have developed this bad habit years ago and never corrected it
(Btw, the most common one is ‘wheels too big’, among both adults and kids)
The easy way to make your ankles stronger and to teach the necessary muscles (on the inside of your calf) to activate is to simply push your ankles out (or think of it as pushing your little toes down and under your skates). If you do this even when just standing around on your skates, when you’re listening to the coach, when you’re taking a drink, when you’re chatting with friends, then it soon becomes a habit, and then your body will have a new ‘default’ position.
This is how a skilled speedskater stands on their skates; this is their ‘default’ position:
They have the skills, stability, strength etc. to handle the extra height that big wheels and low boots give. They probably have a pretty supportive boot, despite it being low cut and they have trained (many years ago) to always stand like this, and always skate like this.
The video below shows how this ‘default’ position affects the way people skate and why this is so important to your skating:
In addition to this, your level of confidence in this basic position is vital. Are you 100% confident at high speed on the outside edge, leaning and then your skate rolls over a small stone, or a ‘man-hole-cover’ in the road? How confident is ‘confident’? And what drills and exercises are you doing to combat this?
I’m often asked; “At what age should kids move from 100mm wheels to 110’s?” or “… 90’s to 100’s?” or I am asked; “When should I move on to 125’s?”
My answer is always the same; “You should move when you are ready, and not before”. There is no age limit on when a person is ready to go to bigger wheels. It’s totally dependent on their skills to control the skate and their ankle stability. Last week I saw a 12 years old, on low cut speed boots and 3x125’s, he looked totally comfortable, had good form, secure on the outside edge and stood on his skates like the “skilled-speedskater-picture” above. It was a pleasure to watch him skate, especially on 125’s. …. Last week I also saw kids of the same age on 100’s who stood on their skates like the ‘problem picture’ above, and should have been on 90’s for a lot longer time. I also saw several adults that should not be on 110’s, but they were battling on with the extra height despite the obvious discomfort and awkwardness on skates. Most people around them could see it, except themselves.
There may be rules from the governing bodies about what age you are allowed to race on 110’s (at kids levels) but this doesn’t mean every kid is ready to race on 110’s at that age. And many parents, kids and coaches get it wrong, putting the kid on bigger wheels too early and abruptly halting the kids’ progression of learning skills. Sure, the kid is marginally faster on bigger wheels in the short-term, but their long-term chances have suffered a real set back.
The bottom line is that it is very rare that you see a REALLY skilled kid (or adult) and then you think, “They should be on bigger wheels”. However, every week (no exaggeration – I really mean every single week) I see at least 1 person on wheels too big for their skills (or a boot that it too low for their current ankle strength/stability).
So what’s the solution?
If you’re thinking of going to bigger wheels then you have two main options:
Do a lot more stability drills and exercises, outside edge drills, both on and off skate. Train your ankles to be stronger and stable. Acquire the necessary skills before you buy.
Buy a higher boot, or move to a semi-race boot, or a fitness boot for more support.
Don’t get me wrong, personally I really like bigger wheels, 110’s or 125’s, I skate on them myself, I hope they are coming in to mainstream racing next year. But they’re only faster if you can handle them efficiently, and it’s easy to see in some of the marathons this year that people coming across the line, skating the last 5km on their inside edges only, with their ankles bending inward is just even more proof that many people are on wheels that they can’t handle.