Training for a long-distance skating event like a half or full marathon is pretty straightforward. The first step is to get out there on your skates! Building your comfort level by skating longer and longer is the best strategy.
Types of workouts:
“Daily” Skate: It’s important to put time on the blades, but there is no need to beat yourself up every day! In fact, if you push your limits too much you will find yourself burnt out and injured. Use the “daily” skate as your active recovery. Make it pretty easy and not too far where you get sore. It is suggested that 60-80% of your time training should be this sort of effort
Speed Work: To build your top-end speed, spend time out of your comfort zone (physically and mentally) and GO FAST! This is fun to do in a group… get in a paceline and push your lungs and legs to the max. Two types of speed work are intervals and tempo workouts. Intervals are short bursts (0:30 to 5 minutes) of very high intensity. Tempo workouts are designed to simulate a race and can range from 20 minutes up to several hours at a sustained intensity.
Long Skate: 26.2 miles is a long way. Slowly build up your mileage and try to increase your long skate distance and/or time by 10% per week. It is OK if your longest training skate is less than a marathon! Focus on maintaining an even effort and pace, and don’t push too hard on the long skate. Keep it easy.
How long do you need to train for?
A good rule of thumb is to build slowly, without increasing weekly time or mileage more than 10% week over week. Try plotting out a training plan over the course of 12, 16, or 20 weeks, building volume (the amount of skating you are doing, either mileage or time), and intensity week by week. The key is the “build”–if you don’t practice bench press you can’t expect to put up 15 reps of 500 pounds, right?? But if you start light, start low volume, and build slowly over time, eventually you CAN bench press much, much more than at the beginning of training. The same concept, of course, exists with endurance sports. Finally, spend one or two weeks tapering down volume and intensity right before NorthShore to make sure you get to the start line healthy and energized.
How often should you train?
Luckily, skating is a pretty low-impact activity. The injury potential from “overtraining” is generally low, but it is still possible to develop an overtraining injury from too much time on your skates! That usually isn’t an issue for most of us, however! The key is to build up slowly over time. Skating every day is definitely not out of the question! Cross-training and strength training are other options for enhancing your abilities. For instance, using weights to increase specific strength, or running/cycling/skiing to work different muscles while working your aerobic systems are excellent supplementary options. If you want to get better at skating faster, though, skating is probably the best thing you can do.
Skating equipment to consider:
One can spend as little as $100 or as much as $3,000 on a complete inline skating setup. The difference between the low-end and high-end is going to be speed, comfort, and quality. Here are the key pieces of gear:
Skates: The main components of a skate is the boot (what your foot goes into), the frame (that connects the boot to the wheels), the wheels, and bearings. It is important to try on the skates before you buy them. Each foot is shaped differently and each boot is shaped differently. Larger wheel sizes are generally faster but require more skill to feel comfortable. Wheel sizes are typically anywhere from 80 millimeters in diameter to 125mm. Until you get into the high-end setups, the boot, frame, and wheels come pre-assembled. Higher-end equipment allows for more customization.
Helmet: We recommend a bike helmet style that is CPSC-certified, which is the United States standard, and law, for helmet manufacturers specializing in bike/skating helmets. Some high-end helmets offer aerodynamic benefits, but the key is comfort and fit. If your helmet is constantly bugging you for 26 miles, it makes for a long couple of hours!
Wrist guards: Hand protection is not required to participate in the NorthShore Inline Marathon, but it is highly recommended. Most seasoned skaters will tell you that it is pretty crucial to be able to fall correctly because it will inevitably happen! Guards on your hand/wrist allow you to fall onto your hands and slide across the ground without causing any harm to your body.
Pads: Most competitive skaters will not use pads like elbow pads or knee pads, but it doesn’t hurt to have a pair for training runs. Pads can be bulky and prohibit your natural range of motion.
Clothing: Look at cycling to determine the best outfit for skating. Wind resistance can play a big role, so tight-fitting clothes are best. Consider spandex/compression shorts and a bike jersey. If you skate on the roads, strongly consider reflective, high-visibility gear.
Accessories: Most skaters use booties, which go around your ankle to provide compression, stability, and blister prevention. Sweat-wicking socks are crucial–stay away from cotton and try high socks that go above your skate boot. Carry your phone or an ID with you. Skating is a dangerous sport and you want to have resources available to you in the case of an emergency. A GPS watch is a great training tool to track your workouts. Hydration belts are designed to fit comfortably around your waist to hold water, food, and anything else you may need to carry. The list goes on…
Do some other races:
Doing some other races is one of the easiest ways you can get ready for the NorthShore Inline Marathon. We have enclosed our favorite training races below.
May One Sk8 - Half Marathon - May 1st: The May One Sk8 is a newer race starting only this year, but with the early race date and the shorter distance this race is perfect to test your baseline for training. The racecourse is gorgeous and overlooks the St. Paul waterfronts. Learn more about the event at https://www.stpaulinlinehalf.com/
Apostle Islands Inline Marathon - Full Marathon - Middle of June: The Apostle Island Inline Marathon is another great baseline race for training for the NorthShore Inline Marathon. This event, which takes place in the middle of June can give racers a sense of how their training is going. Additionally, this race offers fantastic views and a great race route. To learn more about this event check out their website: https://www.apostleislandsinline.com/
Rolling on the River - Half and Full Marathon - Middle of August: Known as the training run for the NorthShore Inline Marathon, Rolling on the River offers a great option for those looking at getting a sense of their marathon time. The event happens in the middle of August every year and is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota riding along the river (hence the name). To learn more about Rolling on the River check them out here: https://gfinline.com/
Where to skate in Minnesota:
Munger Trail – A 70-mile smooth and wide paved trail from Duluth south to Hinckley. Great for skating fast and for long distances
Duluth Lakewalk – A paved trail that stretches nearly the whole city of Duluth, this is a classic route of over 7 miles from end to end. Note: the Lakewalk in Canal Park can be congested in the summer months.
Scenic Highway 61 – Skate on the NSIM race course! This is a classic skating destination and for good reason–follow the iconic North Shore of Lake Superior for many, many miles! Just be aware of traffic. Skate with traffic and wear high-visibility gear.
Midtown Greenway, Minneapolis – Skate along the 5.5-mile former railroad corridor that is barrier-free, lit at night, and open 24/7. This is an awesome trail that is great for commuting from one side of Minneapolis to the other.
Roseville Oval – Got the need for speed? Check out the Oval for some interval and track work. There are many group skate and racing events at the Oval, visit their website for more information.