Feature – Skate your way into fitness

Feature – Skate your way into fitness

Are you a speed demon? Love to feel the wind in your hair? Explorer of the great outdoors? Then you just might be missing a trick in skating fitness. This fast track, thrill-seeking way to killer abs, and buns of steel is a popular mode of transport for some commuters, as well as a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy, says Jessica Ashby, aka Miss Cici Steele.

I'm a professional skater, aerialist and fitness teacher for Gymbox, Aircraft Circus, Flying Fantastic and CircusFit. My love for skating came at a very young age and started off on the ice. Fast-track 20-something years, and getting up everyday at 5am to train on a freezing cold ice rink has led me to skating on wheels. In this article I'm going to share with you all of the health and social benefits skating can have, and why we should all be rolling around in the name of fun and fitness.

Impact on the body

Skating is the kind of sport that has a win-win situation. It's fun, exciting and challenging, and because of this the physical benefits become an added bonus. So it's no surprise that skating is listed by the NHS as one of the top ten ways to get active. Primarily an aerobic form of exercise that is up there with jogging and cycling, skating also targets almost all of the body's muscle groups, including the abdomen, glutes, legs and arms. It also works the most important muscle of all – the heart.

Warm up, warm down

Much like any other form of physical exercise, it's important to prepare your body for skating. Because skating is seen as a recreational activity – which, of course, it is – many people fall into the trap of not preparing themselves for the large physical impact skating has on the body, and can therefore cause themselves injuries if not warmed up properly. Here is my three step, 15 minute, failsafe guide to preparing your body for skating:

1. Mobilise your joints, five minutes. Start from the feet and work your way up slowly circling, bending and rotating your joints.

2. Raise your heart rate, five minutes. A brisk walk, or jog/skip on the spot.

3. Stretch your muscles, five minutes. Lightly stretch your main muscle groups, especially you quads, hip flexors and hamstrings to reduce the risk pulling or straining your muscles when skating.

So we've warmed up the body, gone for a skate, and now we're exhausted and in need of a good hearty meal. But before we do, we must warm the body down to reduce the dreaded DOMS,(delayed onset muscle soreness) that may rear its ugly head approximately 24-72 hours after physical exercise. A good stretch, (held for at least 110 seconds each) of the core muscle groups not only lengthens the muscles after shortening them through exercise, but will also help alleviate any muscular pain in the days after your skate.

Play safe

As exciting and fun as skating may sound, there are obviously a number of factors you need to consider before strapping a set of wheels to your feet, and hurtling down the nearest high road. The mechanics of skating means that we're relying heavily on coordination and control of the muscles and joints, which often takes some concentration to master. But much like riding a bike, once you get into the swing of it, you're off!

Which skates?

As I'm from a figure skating background, the natural progression for me was into rollerblades. The particular brand I use are called Off-Ice Skates, and are made to mimic the ice blade, but on wheels. There are many types of skates to suit the needs of the skater, you may want to speed skate, do tricks and turns, skate on rougher terrain, or just skate recreationally.

Locoskates.com provides an easy to understand video on which skates to get for the type of skating you are planning on doing, so watch the video below.

Where to skate?

Parks are an obvious choice as there are often flat tarmac pathways that are a perfect surface to skate on. They are safe and scenic, and you'll fit right in with other skaters, cyclers, joggers and dog walkers.

Skating on the road is only advisable if you are an experienced skater, and although there are no laws against skating on public pathways and roads, the same legal rules apply to any cyclist using the roads. Wearing knee and elbow pads and a helmet is a must along with high-vis clothing and using hand signals to alert other road users are all necessities when skating on public roads and footpaths.

Finding local skating groups and clubs is a great way to socialise and get fit. It unites people from all walks of life and are safely run for everyone's enjoyment. Here are a couple of groups in the city worth checking out – London Friday Night Skate & Stroll, and London Skate.

So whether you're a parent, teenager, commuter, socialite, fitness fanatic, or dare devil, skating really is a unique and exciting way to get fit and healthy without even realising it. So go grab some skates and get those endorphins flowing!

Follow Jessica on Twitter and Facebook.

Catch her Gymbox classes:

Aerial Pilates (Tuesdays) at Farringdon 13:15-14:00

Aerial Hoop (Wednesdays) at Farringdon 19:00-20:00

Aerial Pilates (Thursdays) at Stratford 18:15-19:15

Circusfit (Saturdays) at Stratford 10:30-11:30