1) Get comfortable, especially if it’s been awhile
First time out this spring? Take a few moments to reintroduce yourself to your rollerskis. You’re likely going to get to know each other really well in the coming months, so you want to avoid just jumping in without testing the waters. Find a comfortable, flat parking lot or bike path chalet (or even a nice grassy area) and work on finding your balance while shifting weight from ski to ski.
2) Take time to warm up
It’s critical to get the blood flowing before you head out for a day on the road or path. Skipping a warm-up can sometimes be a foregone conclusion, but it increases the likelihood of injury, to yourself physically and to your relationship with rollerskiing. Starting the first 15 – 30 minutes of each session with either legs-only skiing or double poling can help get you into the groove, and pinpoint some technique areas to focus on during each session.
3) Remember your essentials
When I roll, I have a checklist to consult before I head out:
-Bike helmet – gotta protect your supercomputer!
-Fluids and nutrition – I usually bring my insulated drink belt with water and a variety of salt tablets for extra miserable days, energy gels, and occasionally a bar or some candy. This is all dependant on the distance I plan on going. Water is the one you do NOT want to forget.
-Protective gloves – You will definitely want to protect yourself from road rash. I wear the Bjorn Daehlie rollerski glove and they work great for all intents and purposes.
-Cell phone, credit card, identification – In the event you take a digger (happens to all of us) and need some assistance, it helps to have a cell phone and some form of money, if only for peace of mind. If you loathe the idea of carrying a phone, be sure to tell someone where you plan on being.
-Bright, reflective clothing – I know this will come as a shock, but there are distracted drivers out there. If you roll on roads with traffic (this is why bike paths are always preferable), bright and reflective clothing will help safeguard you.
-Eyewear and sunscreen – Eye protection will keep most bugs (this is Minnesota after all) out of your eyes and sunburn is fun for no one
4) Start Flat
I always take the first few weeks of rollerski training on flat terrain until I’m comfortable and confident enough to add some terrain. Not only does this help build confidence, it also allows me to test different speeds on my own accord.
5) Get out early
Get out early in the morning if you know you will be rolling in a high use area. The earlier you start, the less you need to worry about dodging fellow pedestrians. This sage advice especially holds true in variable terrain, as stopping on a dime is virtually impossible.
6) Make sure your ferrules are pointing in the correct direction.
Not speaking from experience or anything, making sure a friend knows….
7) Remember that double poling can actually be quite awesome.
This is especially true for classic style rollerskiing. You can conserve energy on flat sections, or get a great workout while refining technique by double poling uphill. Crunch those abs!
8) Find a training partner.
Having a workout partner greatly increases the effectiveness of your training. Obviously it’s nice to have someone to suffer with, but someone of similar or greater ability can take your fitness to the next level.
9) Learn how to slow down and practice, practice, practice.
This is usually the first question beginners ask, whether skiing on snow or on pavement. Stopping on roller skis is inherently more difficult than snow skis, but with practice you will be more effective and confident. I won’t go into immense detail on slowing down here, but the easiest way is to find a soft, inviting patch of grass and roll right onto it.
10) Embrace the challenge
Rollerskiing is hard, no way around it. Despite the obvious physical challenge and less-apparent-yet-always-present mental hurdles, keeping your focus on the end goal always wins out. Whether you’re gunning for the Elite wave at the Birkie or training for your first 12k, learning to master rollerskiing will bring you the results you’re ultimately striving for.