Working out at home sucks. I tip my hat off to anyone who successfully manages to stay in shape without a gym or equipment. I do not have the discipline or the attention span to commit to a workout with just myself and whatever video I can find online. In a desperate hunt to maintain some level of personal fitness while sheltering in place, my mind has gone to dark and desperate places. For a week, I stared at a single corner of my apartment and wondered if it could fit a Peloton bike—if by some miracle I could afford to buy one. In my darkest hour, I turned to YouTube to pursue my favorite activity, watching other people work out. There, a wild idea sunk its claws into me: What if I learned how to roller skate?
In reality, I’d been thinking about rollerskating for a while; the seed was planted by a group chat when someone joked that my friend group should form a roller-skating gang. At first, it was just a funny joke about how I had great levels of aggression for roller derby but soon targeted ads started popping up on Instagram. The skates were so pretty, made from vegan leather in a neutral yet still eye-catching shade of pink, offset by purple laces and wheels. The skaters in the ads looked like they were having the time of their lives, it was all so seductive. They also had really nice muscular legs and it just so happens I’m ready to sell my soul to get back my lost leg definition. It was a four-wheeled siren song.
What I knew about skating and skate culture was limited to what I’d picked up from Brink and Whip It, so I expected to find a lot of white California dudes using skate jargon I couldn’t understand. I did find some of that (it took me four videos to understand what a “truck” was) but the culture itself wasn’t the grungy white boy band I was anticipating. I came across so many women and gender non-conforming people of different ethnic backgrounds who absolutely killed it in skating and who promoted inclusion. Veteran skaters had content specifically for newbies, there was no sense of roller skating being an exclusive club for the gifted. Indy Jamma Jones, a joyful ambassador to the world of skating with a YouTube channel, was the gateway drug. In her videos, basic skating seems less intimidating to pick up on my own. I’m certainly not delusional enough to believe it would be easy to start skating backward, but Indy’s virtual encouragement makes the attempt feel possible. She also had displayed some fantastic skating fashion.
I’d decided that with zero knowledge of skating and zero coordination in general, I could make roller skating my go-to outdoor social distancing exercise. Sure, running is also a viable outdoor option for exercise but running doesn’t require equipment. Quarantine has taught me that it isn’t just the intensity or camaraderie that I miss from going to the gym; it’s the feeling of touching heavy shiny things. There’s something about gym equipment like rowers, or kettlebells that make the workout feel more productive. It’s also a tangible way to track progress. Getting better with pushups at home is subjective to how my body feels on a given day, but going from a 90lb leg press to a 125lb leg press is advancement I can see. Short of installing a squat rack in my bedroom, roller skating seems like the next best thing.
While a roller skate isn’t the same thing as a barbell it is an exercise that requires me to get some equipment and learn something new. What I did not know is that beginner safe roller skates are not exactly inexpensive. An “entry-level” skate can cost anywhere from $99 - $200, protective gear is another $100 depending on how much you need. While I have spent quite a few pretty pennies on skates, pads, and a cute ass helmet I’ve chosen to justify these purchases by chanting “at least it wasn’t a Peloton” to myself over and over again.