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In-Line Skater Indulges in 'Roller Karate'

December 8, 2005 By:
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Jen Goldstein
When Jen Goldstein heard Monday night's winter storm warning, she knew exactly what she had to do. The Art Museum-area resident strapped on her in-line skates and headed straight for Fairmont Park.

After all, significant snowfall - which at least on Monday proved fleeting - could keep the skate-instructor off the river paths for days. She just had to get out there, even if the temperature hovered ever so slightly above the freezing mark.

"It's just like skiing," she assures, claiming that constant movement makes it feel 30 degrees warmer. "[When I skate], I like to do aerobics. I kind of do a whole body workout, including punches, blocks and kicks.

"I just put my music on and I'm the happiest girl in the world," adds Goldstein, 40, a full-time in-line skate instructor.

But she doesn't dare teach her brand of "roller karate" to her students at Skate 101, her indoor teaching studio near the Art Museum. Many are at first terrified of stepping into in-line skates, and she starts by showing the proper ways to move while they are still in sneakers.

The main point she stresses is that there's a basic position and motion for every action. "You need to know how to stop. And when you go forward, you need to know where your weight is."

Goldstein grew up in Gainesville, Fla., where she says her father was one of the few Jewish mayors in the city's history. Although her family didn't belong to a synagogue, she notes that on her mother's side they were "very religious" and that Judaism was practiced in the home.

During her childhood, Goldstein used to dread roller birthday parties because she could barely skate, and sometimes fell in front of her friends. But as a student at the University of Pennsylvania in 1989, she was forced to consider alternate ways of getting to class after talk of a possible transit strike.

Calling herself "the world's worst athlete," Goldstein says she stayed away from bicycles but figured that in-line skating was easier and safer. She fell in love with the sport - Goldstein, who is single, jokes that she's married to her roller blades - and then the Wharton School of Business grad banked on the popularity of the sport growing.

It did. By the mid-'90s, it often seemed as if parks and paths were filled with as many people on roller blades as on bikes - or on foot, for that matter.

"I get a lot of people who used to run who can't run anymore," asserts Goldstein. "[Skating] develops the muscles because there's no impact."

However, she views skating as more than just a way to pump up the heart; she also sees it as a form of dancing. She loves the roller rink scene because people skate to music.

In fact, she likes the combination so much that she writes songs of her own - about skating, of course. Along with Canadian musician Peter Panagakos, Goldstein has written several rap songs, including "You Can Stop," in which she chants, "glide, slide, save your hide," and "Boogie Back Rap," which made the 2004 top 10 list of Chuck Eddy, a music critic at the Village Voice. Goldstein's duo goes by the name Phat Sk8trax.

According to Goldstein, roller rinks around the country have been playing her songs, but a record label has yet to pick up her compact disc. She thinks her songs are far hipper than such outdated classics as the "Hokey Pokey" or "Chicken Dance."

Goldstein says she's very happy acting as a teacher and cheerleader for the sport.

"The more people have the opportunity to learn, the more people are going to do it."

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