Rolling right into shape

Steve Rouse started roller skating in the 1980s, when the film Xanadu and indoor skating rinks were all the rage.

But it was about 10 years ago that he was inspired to get back on his skates to add to his fitness routine that included running and cycling.

"It's a great way to unwind - I like to get out and relax after work," Rouse says.

Up to three times a week during daylight savings, Rouse will rollerskate along the cycleway from Bulli to Wollongong and back, a journey that takes about an hour.

"I like the fact that it's a decent distance on the cycleway - it really makes it a worthwhile exercise," he says. "It's nice to get out rollerblading and looking at the beaches. I appreciate living on the coast and having the beaches - nobody's stressed at the beach."

The 47-year-old from Bulli ranks running as the most physically demanding of his three pursuits, with in-line skating coming in at a close second.

The health benefits of in-line skating include improved cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, flexibility and stability. It has also been found to cause less impact shock to the joints than running.

"I find it really hard going into the wind," Rouse says.

Rouse has three sets of blades - one for the cycleway, another he uses at the Oak Flats indoor rink, and one for city skating with the Sydney Bladers.

He joins the Bladers for events such as the annual skate around Darling Harbour and a Christmas skate along George Street in Sydney.

"If you go every few days on the cycleways, after every few months you need to change the wheels," Rouse says.

He dons kneepads and a helmet when skating through Sydney but stresses that the most important safety equipment for skaters is the wrist guard.

"The first thing that happens when you fall is you're going to try and save yourself by putting your hands out," Rouse says, recalling the time he broke a finger.

Another hazard of the cycleway, he says, are the pedestrians who don't keep a lookout for cyclists and in-line skaters.

He has had one incident where he was unable to prevent crashing into a woman who had stepped out in front of him.

"It's not so bad on a bike but on rollerblades it's difficult to stop," Rouse says.

Although the wheels are smaller, Rouse assures that in-line skating is actually safer than the old-fashioned roller skates.

"It's harder with roller skates because every rock on the cycleway can potentially land you on your face," he says.

Once a week, Rouse spends an afternoon at the Oak Flats Roller Skating Rink and he says the socialising is another appealing aspect of the sport.

"It's more the social aspect of it - it's a chance to meet up with friends," he says. "It's important to exercise as you get older."

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