Rollerblading Hysteria

Return of the Mac

Most people approach exercise with the idea that it has to hurt to be effective. Inspiring Nike ads of Emmitt Smith sweating through his rigorous preseason training program or Brett Favre taking a massive hit from a defenseman instead of sliding safely to the ground, hammer into our minds that "no pain, no gain" is the only way physical exertion pays off.

Pain is a necessary part of any athlete's training regimen, but it is self-defeating if it prevents you from making exercise an integral part of your lifestyle. If you change your attitude about exercise from a drill that is painful and loathsome to an activity that can be fun and extremely fulfilling, chances are you'll be more successful in making it a permanent part of your routine.

One of the reasons why rollerblading has become so popular in the past several years is because people have finally discovered a sport that is enjoyable, easy to do and gives you a great work-out all at the same time. I used to think rollerbladers had a certain smug, content look about them, and now, after trying rollerblading myself, I realize why. Anyone who hasn't given rollerblading a test is missing out big time.

Some people are off racing the first time they get on a pair of blades and it probably helps if you know how to skate beforehand, but rollerblading is not rocket science. Anyone can do it with a minimal amount of practice.

If you're one of those skeptics who can't see how it's possible to stop yourself from racing down a hill on a pair of wheels without serious bodily damage--I feel the same way. All you have to do is avoid the hills in the first place and you're golden.

Choose smooth, flat areas and avoid busy roads or congested city areas. As in most sports which require maintaining your balance, you might have a fair share of falls the first day--that's where the pads come in. Don't forget to wear kneepads, elbow pads and a helmet if you're a beginner.

If you want to rent rollerblades, Eric Flaim's Motion Sports is the place to go. It is the only in-line specialty store in the Boston area. In addition to renting rollerblades, Eric Flaim's also gives both private and group lessons. A private lesson is $40 an hour and a group lesson (three or more people) is $25 an hour. Rentals are $15 for a full day, and if you rent and decide to buy skates later, you get $15 off the purchase price.

If you're looking for a place to rollerblade when you leave Eric Flaim's, the Charles River bike path near the Esplanade (not recommended for beginners) is within walking distance. There is also a wide-open brick area for beginners to practice only 2-3 blocks away behind the Christian Science Center. Make sure to ask the people at Eric Flaim's for directions.

Eric Flaim's Motion Sports is located on 349 Newbury St. in Boston and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. If the weather is really nice (which is highly unlikely in the upcoming months) it might be worth it to call the store ahead of time (247-3284); otherwise just show up. Getting to the store from Harvard Square couldn't be easier. Simply take the inbound Red Line to Park Street. At Park St., take any outbound Green Line train to the Hynes Convention Center. Eric Flaim's Motion Sports is right across the street from Tower Records at the subway stop.

So forget plodding up steps on a Stair-master or pedaling furiously in place on a stationary bike. Picture yourself flying along the Charles River with the wind in your face and a pair of sleek blades beneath your feet.

Give it a shot and you'll soon realize why rollerblading is fast becoming one of the most popular recreational activities in America.