Falling while roller skiing

This is about falling while roller skiing – some history first.

I started swimming when I was injured by my positioning approach to dance and theatre in my performing career. I could no longer run. Pools in Montreal were mostly free and uncrowded. The long winters in Quebec did not tend to produce many swimmers. Moving to New York and beginning my Alexander Technique training, I continued my swimming, which was a great way of allowing my body to open out while exercising. I actually lived in Hoboken, New Jersey during the four years of my training where there was a YMCA pool accessible for $30 a year. One often had to wait for a lane to become available, but it was not over-crowded. Swimming a mile several times a week while trying to apply what I was learning in the Alexander Technique was terrific. Then I moved to New York City to begin teaching.

Access to an over-crowded, over-chlorinated pool in Manhattan cost hundreds of dollars a year, money I simply did not make as a beginning teacher. I had been able to return to running and lived a block from Central Park. I started racing and winning my age group in races and was encouraged to do increasingly long runs to build endurance towards completing a marathon. It was fun to train with friends on Sunday 30k runs, but, when my son was born, exhausting myself every Sunday lost its appeal. I good friend roller skied – essentially cross-country skiing on wheels – and this seemed to be what I was looking for. I could ski 30k without exhausting myself, with the added benefit of getting a more complete, whole-body workout. I fell in love with cross-country skiing and continued to roller ski on Mt. Royal (photo) when we moved there.

Like running, it is possible to use oneself very naturally while cross county skiing. Leading from the head while extending the arms and legs takes continued awareness, as does lengthening and allowing the diaphragm to lift the ribs – rather than collapsing and forcing it to descend. Like swimming, where one needs to overcome fear of the water, in roller skiing, one needs to overcome fear of falling, which is inevitable. I have fallen rarely, but every couple of years I’d hit the ground while skiing. I’ve never been badly hurt. I think that the mobility I’ve acquired through the practice of the Alexander Technique has helped.

Last week, I fell on the asphalt while roller skiing – I caught I pebble in a front wheel and pitched forward, landing on my ribs. I landed very fast and hard, evidenced by the imprint my heart rate monitor left on my chest. However, other than a minor scrape on a knee and mild soreness around my sternum, I’m fine. In fact, I roller skied the following day, just to keep things moving.

I could easily have broken a rib, but I think that the open, mobile rib cage the Alexander Technique has given me allowed the rib cage to act like an airbag, moving to absorb the shock of falling hard on the asphalt. The fall was so fast I’d have had no time to harden my muscles, but I’m sure that any habitual fixity could have resulted in muscle or bone damage. Well, I didn’t break any bones, and I have no muscle soreness – except minor discomfort around the ribs. I’m willing to thank the Alexander Technique for that, having broken bones in pre-Alexander Technique falls.