Can Roller Skating Benefit Runners?

18 Jul.,2022

This TikTok craze can actually boost your speed and performance more than you might think. Here’s what you need to know about roller skating as a runner.


You can often find Izzy Seidel exercising along the Charles River Esplanade in Boston. But the accomplished collegiate runner and marketing and communications associate at Tracksmith is not always running. Her choice of cross-training? Rollerblading.

She picked up in-line skates to train alongside her sister, Olympic Marathon Trials silver medalist, Molly Seidel, she told Runner’s World. Izzy used to bike, but quickly noticed she wasn’t getting much of a workout. Soon, the sisters realized rollerblading could be a fun way for Izzy to get in some low-impact cross-training.

At first, it took some practice before she could blade next to Molly on double-digit runs. Though Izzy was a competitive ski racer for years, she had a hard time keeping her balance and forward momentum when she got back on blades. And while her experience with holding an athletic stance translated well to rollerblading, it still took a while to be able to pick up the pace on wheels.

After a few practices, she built up to 35-minute sessions, during which she covered around four miles. Now, she says she’s at a point where she can blade next to Molly while she runs easy, but Izzy also found she loves blading on her own, whether that be at a 7:30- or 10-minute pace.

Now, she runs about 70 to 75 miles a week, and rollerblades once or twice a week depending on the weather or how she’s feeling.

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But it’s not just Seidel jumping on this trend. Fitbit recently crunched the numbers on user-logged activity data and found that rollerblading nearly tripled in popularity in March to September of this year compared to the same time last year. Much of this blading boom can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, as many look for new ways to stay active safely.

But it may also be attributed to viral videos as people—runners and nonrunners alike—take to TikTok and other social media platforms to show off their roller skating and blading skills. Seidel adds that she knows of several others who head out for leisurely strolls on wheels as well.

Roller curious? Here’s everything you need to know about this fun cross-training method, how it fits into your regular routine, and if it can improve your performance over time.

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How Can Roller Skating or Blading Benefit Runners?

“Both roller skating and rollerblading would offer similar benefits in terms of reducing impact and adding cross-training. If someone prefers one activity over the other, they should pick what they enjoy more,” says Mike Thomson, CSCS and USATF certified coach at Life Time Overland Park.

While it comes with its own risks (such as falling), roller skating or blading can reduce your risk of high-impact injuries that are common for runners, such as shin splints and hip fractures, Thomson explains. Both, just like other cross-training modalities such as biking, swimming, using the elliptical, or rowing, can improve your cardio strength, which in turn, allows you to have a better engine on the run.

“Rollerblading is especially beneficial for those that can’t handle many miles or time on their legs,” Thomson says. “It can be a great form of cross-training and help prevent injuries by reducing the impact on your joints.”

Meaning, it’s a great activity for those who are prone to stress fractures, joint pain like arthritis, or those that may have degeneration to the spine due to compressive loads, explains Thomson.

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Seidel says the unique motion of blading works her quads, calves, and ankle stability—without the stress of feeling like she needs to be hitting a specific pace or going a certain distance. “I do think that it can help you become a better runner as long as you’re careful not to overdo it or lose control and fall,” she says.

As a bonus, both roller skating and rollerblading works your hip abductors, hamstrings, quads, and ankle stabilizers without the excess joint compression at the knees and hips like you would feel with landing and push-off with running, explains Jess Mena D.P.T., CSCS.

Is Roller Skating or Blading as Good as Running?

If your goals are running specific, then—in short—no.

For beginner and intermediate or recreational runners, roller skating or rollerblading can improve your cardio fitness. And, if you’re prone to injury, this can be a great cross-training method to reduce impact on the shins, knees, and hips, says Thomson. And since both activities increase the time on the legs, doing so can help build the aerobic base.

But, the more serious you are about running, the more you need to run. Running is a skill, and that skill needs to be done frequently to achieve high levels of mastery.

“Cross-training can improve the heart, running can improve the coordination and skill of the movement,” Thomson says.

Both running and skating are similar in that they both challenge your lower body without the excess joint compression or impact of running, Mena says. But roller skating or rollerblading is best suited as a cross-training activity to add on your recovery days or if you’re looking for a fun new recovery method. Especially if you were a former skater and feel confident on wheels.

Can Roller Skating or Blading Make You a Faster Runner?

Both roller activities are low-impact ways to maintain cardio fitness, build up time on your feet, and work complimentary muscle groups to running.

Recently, Thomson trained an athlete to run a sub 6-minute mile by using rollerblading multiple times a week a part of his cross-training routine.

That runner, who was a former hockey player with extensive skating experience and who liked roller blading, incorporated a 30- to 40-minute rollerblading session during the week and a 60-minute session on the weekends for eight weeks.

“We ended up getting him to drop 45 seconds off his mile through running three to four days a week, three strength-training sessions a week, and two rollerblading sessions a week,” Thomson said.

So while roller skating or rollerblading can make you a faster runner, it’s not the only way to do so.

When Should You Roller Skate or Blade Instead of Run?

Similar to cycling, both options make a great recovery method. “The heart doesn’t know the difference between running, biking, swimming or rollerblading,” Thomson says. So, you can swap an easy recovery run for two feet on wheels if you want to mix it up.

Keep in mind, it’s difficult to perform intervals and even tempo workouts on skates or blades, but they are especially good for heart rate zone 1 (recovery) workouts and zone 2 (easy aerobic) work, explains Thomson.

If your coordination isn’t cut out for rollerblading, a fall could sideline your training or cause serious injury. So, if you don’t like it, sticking to speedwork and strength training is a great way to work toward a PR.

Seidel’s Tips for Getting Started
- Finding your balance can be challenging at first, so start out with 15- to 20-minute strolls on quiet neighborhood streets.
- Find a smooth path and avoid hills when you’re just getting started.
- Focus on keeping your balance and momentum forward, slowly at first.
- Build up speed as you get more comfortable.

“The gliding nature of roller blading won’t get the heart rate up as much as running, so use it for what it is, a form of recovery, easy aerobic training and a great way of seeing more of your city,” Thomson said.

Which is what Seidel is doing, too.

“Sometimes as runners, we can get fixated on following very rigid training plans that don’t leave much room for improvisation or spontaneity, but rollerblading has brought that element into my own training,” Seidel says. “I’m also probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in, and although I wouldn’t credit that all to the blading, it obviously shows that it can’t hurt to incorporate it into your weeks if you’re interested in trying something new.”

Digital Editor

Jordan Smith is a writer and editor with over 5 years of experience reporting on health and fitness news and trends.

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