To be completely honest with you, I have never felt a desire to rollerskate. Like a lot of people during lockdown, I sat and watched videos of amazing rollerskaters who brought me a lot of joy (shout out to @oumi_janta on Instagram), but ultimately it’s something I was happy to just watch. I hadn’t skated since I was 8 years old and I was content for things to stay that way.
Fast forward to October 2021 and Gymbox had other plans. I was asked to review Watch My Wheels, a rollerskating class. Needless to say, the prospect of lacing up my own skates filled me with terror, but I decided it would be a good opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone.
Watch My Wheels is suitable for all levels, including beginners. The skates and safety pads are also provided for you, so there’s no need to go forking out on your own. When I rocked up on Saturday, I found a gorgeous pair of new, black sparkly skates waiting for me which I quickly claimed as my own. It was some comfort to know that regardless of how good I was, I would at least look the part.
While I was sitting on the floor sorting out my skates and knee pads, I got chatting to some other Watch My Wheels virgins. They also hadn’t skated since they were kids and it was really comforting to know I wasn’t the only complete beginner. When I was faced with the daunting task of figuring out how to stand up, another member was by my side within seconds helping me get on my feet. That the class was so welcoming and friendly from the get-go really helped put me at ease. I knew I would at least spend the next hour having a laugh.
Watch My Wheels is led by Sensei, a skating aficionado who made the smoothest entrance I’ve ever seen a teacher make to a Gymbox class. He glided through the door on his skates, swivelling seamlessly to close it behind him, before practically floating to the other end of the classroom. There is no doubting the man's skills. Having gingerly stood up and moved a few paces I felt humbled to say the least.
Sensei started the class with a warm up. Unlike other Gymbox classes, this (thankfully) included no burpees. It instead focused on warming up our knees and glutes. This basically involved lots of squating and practising moving our weight between one foot and the other. After this, Sensei instructed us to move to the side of the class so we could run through the basics.
I was still feeling like bambi on ice at this point, so I was pleased that we wouldn’t be jumping into tricks just yet. Sensei showed us correct form and how we should be skating with our feet in a V shape. As a group, we began skating from one side of the room to the other. Once I had gotten over my intense fear of falling over and relaxed a bit, I found myself getting the hang of it.
Then Sensei went through a drag stop. I’ll admit this was too much for me. Every time I tried to drag my foot to bring myself to a slow stop, I felt like I was going to fall over. I decided to stick to manoeuvring my way around the room without face-planting until I was feeling more confident, though my new friends were soon getting the hang of it.
Once we’d all spent some time getting comfortable moving around, Sensei took us back into the centre of the room and ran us through some footwork. I couldn’t get my feet to do one of the moves, but after about 10 minutes I did manage to slowly get the hang of one Charleston-esque shuffle. It was really cool watching other, more proficient skaters getting fully into the swing of it. Once again, Sensei’s moves were impressive and showed what can be achieved with consistent practise.
We worked on footwork for a while before Sensei announced we would be spending the remainder of the class practicing whatever we wanted. I used this opportunity to carry on skating around the room and getting the hang of the basics. Others began to try skating backwards, while a few more savvy skaters practised their footwork with Sensei. A lot of other members were also working on the basic steps so at no point did I feel behind or pressured to move at a different pace. In this sense, the class really did work well for a variety of different levels.
One thing that did hinder my skating progress was, ironically, my footwear. My skates were pretty...but they were deadly too. The top of the boot rubbed my shins pretty badly. For this reason, I would really recommend wearing long, thick socks if you decide to take this class.
Before I knew it, the hour was up. It had absolutely flown by and I was pleased by how much I had progressed. I had gone from a stumbling bambi to an elegant gazelle. Well, not quite, but the fact I was able to skate confidently around the room was a pleasant surprise. I was also aware of soreness creeping into my glutes. While not my usual type of workout, skating had definitely exercised my muscles in ways I hadn’t expected.
Having been initially apprehensive, I left Watch My Wheels very glad that I’d gone. If even I managed to enjoy myself and make some clear progress, the class will be great for those with their heart set on becoming a skating semi-pro. I also had the most fun I think I’ve ever had in a Gymbox class. If you’re a skating beginner, it doesn’t matter how strong you are in other areas of the gym; whether you’re an Olympic lifting champ or an aerial yoga queen, those skates will humble you. This brought everyone together and created a really sociable setting where everyone supported each other. After so long being forced to isolate and avoid other people, this made a nice change.