header photo

Lori Duffy Foster

... write to think; think to write.

The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)

The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)



July 11, 1995


By Lori Duffy


Runners: Make peace with those in-line skaters who weave in and out of your path at Onondaga Lake Park. They are working just as hard as you are.

Better yet, buy a pair and join them.A study out of the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse found in-line skating can be as demanding on the heart as running. If in-line skaters feel like they are exercising just as hard as they do when they run, they are.

"You have to pick it up a bit," said John Porcari, executive director of the exercise and health program at La Crosse. "You can't just go out and lollygag around."

Porcari supervised the study, which was the thesis of graduate student Mark Wallick. Wallick was interested in in-line skating. He and Porcari had read another study that claimed in-line skating burned fewer calories than running, even at the same heart rate.

"We questioned that," Porcari said.

For their study, Porcari and Wallick used 16 men. They found a stretch of roadway and then found an engineer who certified its flatness. They also got a reliable treadmill.

Each volunteer warmed up for five minutes before in-line skating. The volunteers wore gas collection gear on their heads so their oxygen use could be measured. A special wristwatch kept track of their heart rates.

The volunteers skated for three minutes at a time with five minutes of rest in between. They had to keep pace with a car. Porcari and Wallick started the skaters at 9 mph. They increased the speed by 2 mph for each set. Volunteers skated separately.

The experiment ended when skaters were either too tired to continue or could no longer keep pace with the car. Porcari and Wallick observed the volunteers after each set to find out how tired they felt or, in technical terms, to measure their perceived exertion.

The time intervals were the same for the treadmill test, three minutes of running with five minutes of rest. The runners started at 6 mph and ran 1 mph faster for each set. Again, they wore the heart and oxygen gear. Again, they quit when they were too tired or too slow.

The data confirmed what Porcari and Wallick suspected. The results showed the men's hearts pounded just as hard when they ran at 7.5 to 8 minutes per mile as when they skated at 10 to 12 mph.

They also appeared to be just as breathless, just as sweaty and just as tired when they reached a particular heart rate whether they were running or in-line skating.

That makes it easy for runners who want to cross-train on in-line skates to ensure workouts are equal. For a person who runs an eight-minute-mile pace, every eight minutes of skating should feel just as challenging as each mile of running, provided they skate at the faster speed.

For elite runners, the only obstacle is mechanical, Porcari said. To equal a training pace of six minutes per mile, a runner would have to skate at about 15 to 16 mph, he said. That speed is difficult to achieve without danger.

Part of the problem is the improving quality of in-line skates, Porcari said. The newer wheels are so smooth and so durable, they offer little resistance.

These elite runners have two options: They can skate uphill or buy skates with lousy wheels, Porcari said.


This column appears on alternating Tuesdays. Lori Duffy belongs to the Syracuse Track Club and the Syracuse Chargers. To contact her, call 470-2134, send faxes to 470-3081, send e-mail to LADuffy aol.com or write The Post-Standard, P.O. Box 4818, Syracuse, 13221.