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InLine, In Shape, InSide

Cross-Training and Rehabilitation for Skaters

Hate the thought of not really skating, and using a 'machine' instead?  Whether you're interested in cross-training or injury rehabilitation, this skater's experience just might change your mind. 

Talk about the weather and cross-training

San Francisco bay-area weather is mild.  Mother Nature forces usClick To Download indoors only during the rainy season and even then, for just a few days here and there.   Cross-training both on and off-season kept me in decent physical and aerobic shape, but not to the extent that regular skating did.  While I enjoyed skiing and mountain biking, given the choice, inline skating usually won.Click To Download 




Machines aren't real exercise

Otherwise rejecting the thought that gym workouts or exercise machines canClick To Download be fun or worthwhileClick To Download I opted to be outdoors and just do the 'real thing'.  I strapped on my first pair of inline skates in the early 80's (while still in my early 20's).  From that moment, I remember just getting on my skates and going as far and as fast as I wanted without a thought.  That was, until 1994 when I sustained my first serious physical injury:  a broken, marbleized patella (kneecap) resulting from a rafting accident.

Rehabilitation Part I

Rehabilitation started after six weeks of immobility, taking two weeks to relearn how to walk.  Click To DownloadSubsequent physical therapy focused on bringing back range of motion and function to the knee and leg.  At about 12 weeks, the doctor gave me the "OK" to try moderation.


An otherwise avid recreational and distance skater, I had no idea how much skating strengthened my back, quads, hamstrings, balance and aerobic capacity.  Nor did I realize how the traditional rehabilitation approach to date, had left mClick To Downloady aerobic and skating-specific muscles far behind.   And lastly, how much more it takes for someone in their early 30's to recover, vs. someone in their 20's.  Not until this, the first time in my life I found myself sore, tired and sadly, very far from in shape.   I made it only a few blocks.  As it turns out, my knee wasn't quite ready for the vibration of the pavement nor the rest of me for the workout.

Rehabilitation Part II

Fortunately, the rehabilitation specialist was more than willing to respond to my request to get me back on track both skating-wise and aerobically.  With this, came my first exposure to a piece of seemingly low-tech equipment, called the Pro Fitter.   No noise, no batteries or electricity.  A small footprint, lightweight and low impact.  All I could think of was "How can this help me?".

Touted to simulate downhill skiing, I found the Pro Fitter akin to inline skating maneuvers by:

working my legs and body from left to right
working the inside & outside of the thighs
using the abdominals and back, and 
honing my balance skills. 


Okay, maybe this is exercise

More importantly, I finally got an aerobic workout! Something I'd severely lacked the months previous, as well as the weeks leading up to finally being introduced to this device.  While initial rehabilitation was effective in recovering knee function, I had yet to experience an aerobic workout.  For the first time in months, I finally was sweating and had my heart rate up (and not from pain, but from total body exertion!).

Although unable to actually ' street skate' as before for several months, the Pro Fitter enabled me to work up to my previous fitness level by providing a skating-like workout, while simultaneously working my heart, and with extremely low impact!

The smooth, quiet gliding motion left and right, slightly up and down over the curve of the board was more like floating rather than working against a machine's resistance.  The footpads rocking independently, made it feel more natural, very close to the true feeling of skating on a glassy-smooth surface, and without vibration.

Vibration from skating on surfaces other than a finely polished indoor rink, no matter how little or much it is felt during skating, does 'impact' knees and joints.   By using only balance and skating-related muscles, with only minor bending of the knee joint, I was ready to get back on the pavement that much sooner.  Once I was on pavement, vibrations were more readily absorbed by strong muscles rather than by the joints themselves. 

Sold on aerobics with low-impact & no noise

Rehabilitation aside, I was elated to have finally found a cross-training, exercise, I equate to my personal indoor SKATING NIRVANA!

A few months later, I participated in my first "Roll through the Wine Country" (30-mile recreational skating event with a 300-foot elevation gain).  Without the workout provided by the Pro Fitter, I'd have never been able to do it so soon, let alone finish.  Since then, I participated numerous Wine Country roll's, and became a regular at the San Francisco Friday Night Skate as a "Midnight Roller".

Fast forward

That lasted until I experienced my second ever  serious injury.  Two years ago I fell with knees bent, on the corner of a curb.  (I was told later than had it not been for the Kevlar kneepads with dense foam, I wouldn't have gotten up that night, let alone continue to skate for several more months. )  When the aching knees and icing after every skate got to be a bit much, I visited the orthopedic surgeon.

Arthroscopy on both knees last Fall revealed a chip the size of a nickel out of eachClick To Download femur (thigh bone below the kneecap, exposed only when bent as such).  The bad news is that I can't skate in the short-term due to the impact of the vibration.  The good news, is that it's fixable.  While I do have to have major surgery on both knees (one at a time over the next two years), to replace the cartilage, I have the luxury of time to strengthen and prepare my knees for surgery and the inevitable rehabilitation.

The plan

With my own Pro Fitter at home now, I'm able to stay and get in even better shape prior to surgery (stronger in, stronger out), to keep me in perfect skating-form until I can once again get back on 8 or 10 wheels.

A follow-up article on the Pro Fitter, it's use in action with photos and videos, is forthcoming with an additional follow-up, post-surgery rehabilitation.

In the meantime, you can get more information about Fitter here - please visit our:

Cross Training and Rehabilitation Store
Browse for & buy Fitter First InLine Skating Cross-Training & Rehab Equipment.  For sale, from THE Inline Skating Resource, in association with Fitter First International.

Related Articles & Links

Fitter First International
The manufacturer of the Pro Fitter-the equipment that helped to take me from offline back inline!  (Photos of the Pro Fitter reproduced with permission from Fitter First International.)

Genzyme Biology
Homepage for Carticel-the surgery I will undergo to replace my cartilage.

InLine Skating and it's Role in Conditioning
From the Stone Clinic-Orthopedic Surgery Sports medicine and Rehabilitation by Michael J. Mullin, ATC, PTA.

Whether you skate on paths, trails, back roads or city streets, please remember to do so safely, always wear protective gear, be courteous, Be Safe and and Be Seen.

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