Nostalgia and TikTok might seem like strange bedfellows, but apparently they mix pretty well. Thanks to a combination of social media and quarantine, roller skating is back with a vengeance. As you lace up your brand-new blades and head out into the sun, you might consider retiring your running shoes in favor of a good roller skating workout.
"Roller skating is as fun as TikTok makes it look," says certified personal trainer Amy Fanella. Fun is more than enough reason to break out ye old skates (or order some new ones). But if you're wondering whether rolling it back to the '80s and '90s also counts as actual exercise, Fanella says that skating can make you stronger and improve your heart health.
"Roller skating or roller blading allows you to mix up your routine and still receive the cardiovascular benefits," Fanella tells Bustle. (Blades are the ones '90s kids played street hockey in, while skates are the more stable, retro, car-wheel-type situation.) Since your heart will be pumping along with your tunes, your skate session can definitely count as a heart-healthy workout.
Skating also means less repetitive, pounding strain compared to your typical cardio workout, and therefore possibly less pain. "Roller skating is lower impact compared to running, which makes it easier to go harder for longer distances," Fanella says.
Of course, when you take a spill on your skates, there's some high-impact pain potential right there. "Make sure to wear a helmet," Fanella says, no matter how much of an expert you think you are. Especially if you're just starting out, don't be afraid to embrace knee and elbow pads (they'll keep you safe and enhance the retro look). Once you're in your safety gear, you can blaze along as fast as your '80s playlist inspires you to.
You don't have to go for intense speed, though. "Think about a challenging but doable effort," Fanella tells Bustle. "You can alternate intensity levels in your workout easily." Think about pumping up the volume (in your headphones and your blades) during the chorus of your music, then going at a chiller pace during the verses. You'll be sneaking in interval training — which is excellent for your heart health — without really noticing you're exercising.
Whatever speed you're going, you'll be getting stronger along the way. "Roller skating works your upper leg muscles, glutes, hips, and core," Fanella says. She adds that the way you're constantly balancing makes it a full-body workout — even if you're totally that person clutching onto their quarantine buddy for stability while you awkwardly march instead of glide along the sidewalk.
Your first few skating sessions might not be the best time to discover new strolling routes in your neighborhood. From potholes to curbs and even little cracks in the street, you'll have to get used to feeling every hitch in the road. "Know your route," Fanella says. She tells Bustle that even navigating small ramps can be a challenge when you're first finding your roller-feet, so choose the smoothest, emptiest roads you can. Once you get used to the terrain, you might decide to ride at night. If you do, Fanella says, make sure you're visible — consider a light for your helmet and some reflective gear.
While you cruise, make sure to stay at least six feet away from people you're not quarantining with, because physical distancing is still important. Your mental health is also a priority, though, so let yourself use roller skating to unwind both your body and your brain. "Skating keeps you in the present moment," Fanella says. That might just be the daily dose of mindfulness your body and brain have been craving.
Amy Fanella, certified personal trainer