Skills Testing and Kiddy-Training!

I haven’t written a post about Bootcamp, because I am now finding it hard to put my thoughts and feelings into words. I’ll say a few short words about it now – it was an amazing experience. Harder than anything I’ve ever done before, being in the recreational league for Kent Roller Girls, we’re not overly used to doing drill after drill after drill, and the skills we were practicing were almost all completely new and almost all above our current skill level, so it was a real challenge. One that I wasn’t certain I’d overcome even in the last hour, but one I am glad I did. Two hours in, I was ready to give up, and I mean on everything. The Bootcamp, the sport, any attempt of exercise I’d ever make. I think that was a combination of physical exhaustion, lack of sugar, actual tired exhaustion (it was 2pm and I’d been up from 3:30, so almost twelve hours by that point) and being slaughtered during two hours of positional blocking, potentially my worst skill. My team picked me up, I filled myself full of sports drink and healthy sugars, and went back for wall and pack drills, and I loved every minute of it. It turns out every one of our league members at this Bootcamp went through the exact same thing I did. Physically and emotionally exhausting (we all admitted to having a bit of a sob Sunday night) but absolutely worth it.

So on to this week! Our league have decided that we’re training in levels – first to pass the old minimum skills, so we can full contact scrimmage, and then the 2013 minimums in a tryout to get on to the team. I’m pretty confident with my 2009 minimums, I think I’ve got almost everything down, except for my laps. I’m currently on 20.5, which is by no means a bad level to be at, but it is irritating me that I haven’t managed to improve since my last attempt. There were a lot of different factors – a lot more people on track, and I have a cold which is playing havoc with my asthma. I also didn’t seem to warm up enough before we started and my legs were still stiff before we’d even started our laps. After, I felt like I could go again and perhaps even done better, my legs felt stronger and my chest clearer. I’m possibly going to have to warm up a bit more vigorously in the future! Luckily, we’re doing it every week until everyone that could get it does, so I get plenty of opportunities to go again and hopefully with that much experience my stamina and strength will have no choice but to improve. My other skills went totally fine – this week, we went over stride, sticky skating, one foot glide squat and coast, stops and lateral cuts, and I think I passed all of them. Hopefully I’ll carry on like this and the one thing I’ll really have to work on will be my laps!

Today (Monday 17th February) was the first day of half term, so we took my niece and two nephews to Herne Bay to an open skate session. I mentioned in an earlier post that my niece received roller skates for her birthday and was meant to go to a disco with her friends, but they ran out of rental skates for the friends, so this was to make up for it. They all absolutely loved it, and my two nephews now want their own skates – I’ve got my own miniature junior league! My niece is a good skater bit for some reason lacks the confidence to come away from the side/skate without clinging on to me. She’s also developed a bad habit of using her toestop to push. On every single push. So I spent the majority of the two and a half hours we spent there teaching her not to do that, and to push outwards instead. It helps that I have always stood with my feet turned out, and that this has always amused my family so they drew attention to it, so I can tell her “stand like auntie Frances and push off one foot.” She could do it just fine, but kept forgetting; eventually, I made her stop every time she put her toe stop down and start going again, “this time, properly!” And she did, eventually, learn. She’s odd in that she kept coming up with justifications for herself – ” I need to put my toe down to move” (after she’d already pushed off without it a dozen times) and “I need you with me to start off” (after she’d skated half a dozen laps without me anywhere near her) – and I kept telling her that no, she didn’t need either of those things, she was just fine on her own. I fixed the toestop business for now, though I feel like it’ll still be a problem next time we go out, and I got her to spend the majority of her time not holding on to the side or to me, which is progress.

My eldest nephew is also an interesting case. He has Aspergers, and that, along with the medication he’s on makes it really hard to know how he’s feeling. Not today though, he was laughing as he went around, which was wonderful to see. One aspect of his Aspergers is that he doesn’t pick up verbal instructions so well, and learns more from observing. When we were about to start, he asked me how to do it. I told him firstly to keep his knees bent, as you are more balanced and, if you do fall, you’re closer to the floor, and secondly to push his feet out to the side. He did neither, but was making a good go at it, so I decided to leave him to it for a while. When I returned to him about fifteen minutes later, he said to me “I’ve found something useful out. If you bend your knees, its way easier to balance. And it’s safer because you don’t fall so far!” I had a bit of a chuckle, because I’d already told him this, but encouraged him, “yeah mate, absolutely!” Later, I found out that he’d informed my mum he’d worked out that if he pushed his feet out, it’s easier to move. He’s a super quick learner, by the end of the session he was moving at a decent speed and staying away from the sides, he just had to come to it on his own terms!

My other nephew made loads of progress, too. I knew from experience that he doesn’t want and will not accept help, so I left him to it, occasionally checking in in him and skating with him. He fell a lot, and always got back up like nothing had even happened, and I think that’s just how he learns – not afraid to throw himself in head first! Once he’d found his feet again, he spent most of the session attempting to skate as fast as he could in the middle of the derby track lines on the sports floor. As you may guess, that resulted in a lot of tumbles, and he proudly showed off the bruises on his knees at the end of the day.

I learnt a lot about kids that day. The best part came after we’d dropped them home- my eldest nephew started looking through and liking all my Instagram photos related to derby, commenting one my friend had put up of Bootcamp that he loves rollerskating and that his Auntie Frances (me) can skate really well. It was really touching, and if you’ve ever known a kid with Aspergers, you’ll understand just how significant it was to see him show so much enthusiasm.


How to Start Enjoying Exercise (by someone who hated it)

I’ve always disliked exercise – it was boring, hard work and never really seemed to have any effect on me. I never lost weight, my body didn’t change shape, it seemed to be like I was wasting an hour or so every day doing something I hated for absolutely no reason. Recently, however, I’ve been won over. This morning, when I got out of bed, I did half an hour of pilates before I went for a shower, and not only did I enjoy doing it, I felt absolutely awesome after! It’s occured to me that what I hated wasn’t exercise in general, but the way I was going about it. So I’ve got some tips for anyone who wants to be more active but is struggling with it

1) Find motivation

Motivation is a personal thing. Before now, I was trying to exercise because I was told I needed to lose weight. The biggest problem was I just wasn’t interested; Other people cared a hell of a lot more about my weight than I ever did, and weight loss really wasn’t enough reason for me to get up and do something I knew I didn’t like. I did get upset about my size, but what’s struck me recently is that I wasn’t upset about my weight itself as much as I was about other people’s (read: my doctors’) reactions to it. As far as I was concerned, I looked fine, I didn’t struggle with any ordinary tasks, I ate healthy and I was active, and as long as nothing was wrong with my health, why would I change anything?

That’s still the same. I’m not at all concerned with the numbers on the scale (I am faintly aware they are going up, mostly because my fat is being transformed directly into muscle), but I’ve found my motivation. I want to be a better skater. I want to skate faster for longer, hit harder, basically be an unstoppable force. This has been the first step to transforming my attitude towards exercise – now, I have a clear reason to do it with measurable effects, and because it’s working towards something I want I am enjoying it a whole lot more and finding myself wanting to exercise almost every day.

So find your motivation. If your only motivation now is to lose weight and you still can’t exercise, it’s probably not enough of a motivation for you. Besides, I’d advise against goals like that anyway, because exercise does crazy things to your weight – I know a lady who is fit, gorgeous, and last week squatted 95kg, but in the past three months has also put on a stone. Lots of stress is put on weight in our society, but in honesty the important things are health and fitness. So instead, perhaps aim to get fitter or more toned. Find something you like and set goals towards that. Perhaps you want to run a marathon, or just be able to ride your bike all Sunday with your kids. Even if you’re not likely to be able to achieve it, work towards it – Want to climb Kilimanjaro? Hike across New Zealand? Row across the British channel? Perhaps you will never have the money or resources to do that kind of thing, but why not train towards it, get to a level where you could, if the opportunity arose. Perhaps it would, one day.

2) Don’t do anything you don’t enjoy

I hate running. I have flat feet that turn out like a penguin and make my legs hurt just walking around a shopping centre, and that’s not even talking about the hassle trying to run with breasts is, even with the best sports bra money could buy. But what exercise machine do I own? A treadmill. What would I do when I went to the gym in my first year? Go running. And I’d get bored, lose interest and give up.

For some reason, I thought that was the only way to get fit. Especially because, at that point, I wasn’t concerned with building muscle, just burning fat, which I was convinced was best done through cardio. This is all entirely ridiculous, of course. My point is, if you don’t like it, don’t do it. There’s plenty of alternatives – if you’re looking to improve cardio, there’s more you can do than running. Skating, riding a bike, swimming, even dancing. And for every muscle, there’s more than one way to develop them. Don’t like crunches or sit ups? Pilates roll ups are 30% more effective anyway, which means you can do fewer! Try different things until you find something that works for you, sticking with things you don’t like is just going to make you hate them more

3) Tailor your exercises towards your goals

On top of there being more than one exercise for every means, there’s more than one way to do them! You don’t have to get on a treadmill and run for an hour a day. You don’t have to sit for half an hour straight doing high intensity workouts.And in some cases, it’s not productive to do it this way.

In my case, I’m training to play roller derby. Being on skates as much as possible is always good because the more comfortable you are on four wheels, the better you will be. However, for every other exercise, I want pretty specific things out of them. I need my legs and my core to be strong, so I can focus on things that build them up. My arms aren’t so important and I don’t really need to work on them except for the reason that I want more toned arms and I don’t want them to look out of place, but things like push-ups work well for abs too, so I don’t mind doing them. In terms of cardio and endurance, plodding along at a medium speed on a treadmill isn’t going to be any good for me – Roller Derby bouts are split into jams, which last up to two minutes at a time. This means that rather than needing to keep going for hours straight, what I need more is to be able to access a two-minute burst of intense energy and recover from that quickly. Sure, I need endurance, but not the same way that a marathon runner needs endurance.

So look at ways to train that suit your purposes, or if you don’t have any, that suit you. There’s HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which is combining bursts of high intensity workouts with periods of low intensity exercises. There’s circuits. You can even invent your own way of training – Disasteroid from Tyne and Fear recently told me to do one single push up several times throughout the day because I was complaining about doing 15 in a row. There’s no right or wrong way to organise your exercises, only right or wrong for you.

4) Tailor your exercise to you

This ties in to what I said above – If you hate doing exercises in one burst, break them down and do them through the day. If you haven’t got much time, find exercises that are intense but don’t take a long time – I started off with Roller Derby Athletics’ 8 Minute Method, which kicked my arse surprisingly effectively for something that only takes 8 minutes a day. If, like me, you give up easily on things, look for classes or find plans with detailed videos that you can stick to with a bit of determination. If you lose attention quickly, mix up your routines. I’ve switched from the RDA one I mentioned to the Blogilates beginners workout calendar, because I have a very short attention span and sticking to one thing makes it more likely that I’ll give up!

You know how you work, so adjust to that. Exercise isn’t one-size-fits-all.

5) Find support

Some people can get on pretty well on their own, but for most of us building a support network can work wonders. I have my league to motivate me, and we even have a specific Fitness page to discuss what we’re doing and support each other in it. I blog a lot, and I’ve got a number of people who I can talk to and will give me all the support in the world if I seem like I need it. I’ve also joined Fitocracy recently, which I love. I used to use MyFitnessPal purely to track my exercise, but Fitocracy is more appropriate – you log your exercises and reps or how long you spend doing them, and rather than measuring it through calories it rewards you with points. You level up, people can congratulate you, it’s great (especially for me, because I love games, and levelling up is one thing I can appreciate!)

So find people who share your interests , who you can talk to about exercise, new ways to do things and generally draw motivation from. If people have your back, you’re more likely to do it

6) Remember – it’s alright to suck a bit

You’re trying to make a change in your life that you want to do, which automatically makes you awesome, good job! One thing I hear a lot from people who want to start roller derby is a concern that they’re going to be bad, fall over a lot and generally suck. Well… yeah. You’re pretty much guaranteed to do all those things. The good news is that everyone did at some point, and no one’s going to judge you for it. That’s true for almost all sports – everyone has sucked at it at some point. In some cases, they might’ve been a child when they were bad at it, but no one was with talent in a sport, and you can’t expect to go in to something and be awesome at it immediately, or even after a few weeks. It takes practice and hard work.

Consider this when you start exercising. You’re probably going to suck at it to start off with. When I started the RDA workouts, I spent the majority of the 8 minutes for Wednesday on the floor, having only managed perhaps three push ups. a couple of weeks later, I managed 15. You might discover that you’re absolutely amazing at this exercise thing (in which case, go you, you super-being!) but in most cases, you’re going to have to be patient and not afraid to fail dismally for a while before you start seeing results.

Overall, I am simply saying that I found I’m a lot happier to exercise if I do things I enjoy, and don’t force myself to do things I don’t like to do. It’s the same concept with everything, like work. If you’re doing a job you don’t like you’ll hate even the thought of going, but if you find something that really engages you, its a whole lot easier to get up in the morning.

Going easy?

Yesterday, I went to a Bootcamp in Leeds ran by Ruby and Chuck from Victorian Roller Derby League, and it was excellent. I’ll definitely write more about it later, when I’m not so exhausted and aching, but this one point deserves its own post and I think its best written when I’m emotional.

There’s an attitude in roller derby that you should never go easy on people, because the other team never would and by giving them all you’ve got, you’re preparing them for that. I agree with this to an extent – sure, if you pull punches when hitting your teammates, they’re not going to a adjust to harder hitting opponents, but at the same time you’re not there to demoralise your teammates.

Around the two hour mark at Bootcamp, I was exhausted. My legs were refusing to move, and despite trying my hardest I couldn’t get anything to go right for myself. I got my arse kicked over and over again in most of the drills because I couldn’t plow, I couldn’t pick my feet up, I couldn’t get my muscles to do anything I wanted. It left me close to tears, doubting my decision to go to bootcamp or even take up the sport in the first place. It’s absolutely my fault, I do realise. I didn’t have the stamina to keep up, but I can’t help but think about my partners, how they reacted to it, and whether I would have done differently.

What I’ve concluded is that there’s a fine line between challenging someone to be better and push themselves, and thrashing them just because you can. There are very few people who will respond well to the latter. Going all out might be alright in some situations, where you could destroy a person on that drill and then take them aside and give them feedback. Otherwise, it’s just likely to make them feel hopeless – chances are, especially in your own league, that skater already knows you can kick their arse and doesn’t particularly need reminding of it. But I feel it would be a hell of a lot more constructive to adjust yourself to the other persons skill level to an extent. It’s not hard to tell – if you’re practicing one v one positional blocking and you whip past the person two or three times in a row, you know this person isn’t so good at this. It’s no use to carry on breezing past these people because they’re not going to learn anything, and the likelihood is the entire reason you’re doing this drill is to improve their skill as a blocker.

To switch the perspective, imagine the person is absolutely amazing at it. It’s like hitting a brick wall covered in glue- you can’t push this person anywhere and they stick to you wherever you move. You wouldn’t carry on at 100%, you’d go harder. You’d push harder, move more, do anything you can to get past them, for their benefit as well as yours – if they’re not being challenged, they’re not going to learn. I feel like its the same the other way – if you’re challenging someone way beyond their skill level, you’re not really challenging them, you’re just beating them. I’m not saying not to go hard on them, but just to recognise that your hard isn’t the same as their hard., and you’re much more productive if you adjust to what is hard for them, rather than sticking at what you consider to be hard

I realise some people would completely disagree with this, and that’s absolutely fine – I’m not certain I entirely agree with it, either. I just know that personally, I couldn’t stand to go all out on a person in drills where the intention is to develop their skills if I knew what I was doing was beyond their level. Of course scrimmage is a totally different situation as a simulation of bout conditions, and its in everyone’s best interest for every individual to give it their best. But in terms of drills, I think it’s important to consider what the drill is for, who in my partnership/group it’s meant to be benefitting, and, if that’s not me, whether or not what I am doing is helpful.

Roller derby is a sport with an interesting set up, and in training you are learning from and teaching each other. It’s important to remember that as much as you are there to learn, so is everyone else, and in order to be a good teammate you might want to consider going easy on someone who is weaker at the skill you’re practicing. You’re not there to hold their hand, but you’re not there to make them feel hopeless either, and what is “going easy” for you may not be easy for them.

Ramp Skating and Accidental Derby Wives

I’ve been so excited this week preparing for my bootcamp with Victorian Roller Derby League on Saturday that putting my weekend into words has been hard, but it was an excellent weekend. I tried (and failed dramatically, but not dismally, at) new things, and it was great!

My Saturday evening was meant to be spent with my ten year old niece and a couple of her friends at the local leisure centre which has recently started hosting roller discos every other weekend. It was her birthday party, and she’d received roller skates as a present and wanted to use them. After queuing for half an hour, it turned out the place didn’t have enough skates for her friends, so we had to go home. She was devestated, I still feel bad for her, but we’ve promised to take her to a proper skating rink in the near future to make up for it.

My league had booked out an indoor skatepark called Unit One relatively close to me for the same hours and on the same night as my niece’s party, which I’d resigned to not being able to go to. Disappointing, but my family we had priority – at least I’d still be on skates! Once we took the small party home to have popcorn and watch movies instead, I hopped in my car and made it over there for the last hour of the session. It didn’t go amazingly for me, but I was assured by everyone, my fellow fresh meat and league veterans alike, that they’d been the same for the first half hour or so. Naturally, I had to go one step further. After attempting to go down a small ramp three times only to fall flat on my butt (and once wiping out hard on my hip – I didn’t realise at the time, but my newly found derby wife informed me the next day when I kept complaining that my hips hurt for no apparent reason), I made it successfully down the ramp, and half way around the quarter pipe opposite to it. At which point, failing to turn enough, I slam,,ed straight in to the wall.

And straight in to the fire alarm.

It took them a good 10-15 minutes to turn it of. Rosa Lethal and I agreed that it was because not enough people paid attention to me when I arrived, and I was simply trying to make my presence known. Thankfully, everyone found it hilarious! I was pretty mortified for the rest of the night, and terrified to try it again for a long time! I managed one more attempt, and fell on my butt again (“you stood up! Why did you do that! You were so low then you stood up just stay down!”- aforementioned derby wife) and then retired to a corner, practicing going up and down ramps. Even though it didn’t go so well for me, I loved it. I feel that if I had been there for the whole two hours, I would’ve improved, and it’s a total different experience to skating on a flat track. It’s something I definitely want to keep trying and get better at.

Practice on Sunday was, therefore, a lot more painful than usual! Less so for me than the rest who’d been there for two hours – Rosa was dying from muscle ache after the skatepark session and crossfit in the past two days. We’ve recently attracted a handful of new skaters, who are still learning some basics and building up their confidence in one end of our hall. They’ve had three sessions now, and I can’t help but keep an eye on them and notice how insanely well they’re doing! A couple of weeks ago they could barely stand, and this week they were working on the basics of weaving and leaning, and picking up some speed too! I’m totally proud of them (since one of them told me she admires us quite a bit, I feel almost maternal over them!)

While they were doing that, we were practicing for our minimums assessments, which they are planning to start in the next few weeks. For those of you who don’t know, I am in a Recreational League – where normal recruitment for roller derby teams is done through a “fresh meat” course, which lasts a few months and is intended to have you ready to pass your skill assessment at the end of that, ours are ongoing sessions, somewhat more relaxed and intended as both a route into the league and a place for people who want to play but not competitively. Our league is assessing us on the old minimum skills, which were a lot simpler and less demanding, so we can scrimmage, then we have to pass the 2013 minimums to make it into the league. We went over weaving through cones, hops, hits, and topped it all off with a light contact scrimmage. It was potentially a bad idea doing this straight after hitting drills, as some people… forgot we weren’t doing full contact and caused some issues! We did pretty good in our scrimmage, I think. As a jammer I did a pretty sneaky move, I dropped down really low and attempted to follow the other team’s jammer through her own team. It almost worked, they caught me at the last moment, but it left me with only two blockers to deal with and I sidestepped past them pretty easily!

Cone weaving, however, was a nightmare. For the skills we’re doing, the cones have to be 6ft apart. However, my league have decided to do them 5ft apart, which is the new requirement, to get us used to it. On my first attempt, I glided past the majority of them – so did almost everyone in front of me, so that’s not so bad. On my second attempt, I slowed down and a started off well, but missed one cone and from then on out I was totally out. I was told later by one of the vets that my weaving was good, and by the rest of my group that it looked good, but I wasn’t actually weaving between the cones – I was sort of weaving out in the spaces in between, and in over the cones! It bugged me for a while that I couldn’t get this. I need to sort my laterals out, which’ll hopefully help a lot. Hitting was great. Paired up with my wife, we gave it our best. After practice, we go for cake, and a couple of the ladies there said they were going easy n each other because they hadn’t done it in so long. We laughed – not us! I almost knocked her into an open cupboard door.

Finally, regarding the wife. I’ve never totally bought in to the idea of a derby wife – it reminded me of those years around year ten where everyone referred to each other as their “wifeys”, which wasn’t a bad thing, just nothing I ever found applicable. I have since gained a derby wife, almost accidentally, and I understand it now. For those not in the know, a derby wife isn’t anything more than a good friend, one you click with really well, talk to a lot of the time and just find yourself gelling with. Over time they become the person you’d do practically anything for. It’s a derby equivalent of a bestie, but in a situation like derby which is pretty intimate and where you are literally sharing sweat, “wife” makes sense. Most people get derby hitched, mine just happened! We got on well from the first week, NSO together, talk all the time (spend most of our time on track talking!) After out first bout NSOing we went and had a totally romantic fluorescent lit KFC dinner and then went to the after party together. Eventually, everyone else decided we were derby wives, and then we just supposed we were. So we are, and that’s totally cool!

I’m meant to be sleeping now. Getting up for our bootcamp in Leeds at 5am! I woke up in a panic because something in my mind told me it was 8:20am (how very precise, you misleading rascal) and, obviously, decided now would be the perfect time to blog. This weekend is going to be exhausting but so exciting, and I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk about next time!

Wheely Painful!

It’s a new year. I’ve been skating for six months now, but I, and the rest of my Recreational League group, have had a month off-skates, and it’s safe to say we are all a tiny bit rusty after the Christmas break. Slightly sluggish, due to all the food we’ve eaten in the holidays; wobbly on wheels again, having neglected them for a month; My muscles definitely enjoyed the break, a bit too much I think, judging by their reluctance to start working again. It’s remarkable how quickly you lose it all, the muscle memory, the endurance, but it’s also amazing how quickly you pick it back up.

ImagePictured: Me getting through the pace line. Zoooom!

I was dying to get back on my skates, as were all my fellow Reccies, so we rented the hall we normally practice in out for ourselves a week before our first session back to get back some of what had faded away. There are no words that can express how glad I am for that decision – We worked on skills on our own, and at the end attempted our 25 laps in 5 minutes with a track marked out by post-it notes (we’re innovative, us derby girls! For the curious, I managed 20.75 laps after falling twice and I am super proud), not at all as challenging as our normal training, but my muscles were aching after and my lungs didn’t recover until Wednesday! But it was so good to be back on wheels again, and it certainly made a difference next Sunday.

DSCF4243Pictured: New Rec Leaguers practising falls

On our first session back, we had more people than ever before – People we hadn’t seen for a few months, and a dozen brand new skaters! It was weird, seeing them all standing around looking terrified, it took me back to July when I was in the exact same situation. While they were taken through falling safely, off-skates to start off but on skates later, we went though the same thing ourselves, as well as backwards skating, laterals and transitions. Refreshing the basics! I have to say, I don’t envy the new people. Falling drills suck so bad, especially when you haven’t yet got the muscles that they make you develop. Important, helpful in the long run, but painful!

Pictured: Older Rec Leaguers, also practising falls!

This week, we went back over contact again. Lateral sweeping one person, then a wall, then sprinting out of a pack to lateral sweep one of the Vets. For those not in the know, lateral cuts are exactly what the name suggests – cutting across the track, from side to side. Lateral sweeping is, surprisingly, doing a lateral cut to push another skater off the track. My laterals aren’t great when I’m practising them, and I’m having to go over my form again because, while whatever I am doing gets me from side to side, it’s not very fast about it, and it is definitely not a lateral. Doing lateral sweeps, however, and I’m totally on point. You really do feel awesome when you manage to push another skater out of the way, especially when they’re a lot more experienced than you! We practiced apex jumping (jumping the inside corner of the track), which was daunting to think about but surprisingly not that hard to execute when you got to it, unless, like me, you occasionally forgot to jump. After that, we did a drill focusing on positioning and getting through the pack where as part of a team you either have to get to the front of the pack, or stop the other team doing that. That’s where things went slightly bad for me.

Snapshot_20140128_2Pictured: A recreation of my face when things went wrong for me

To be fair, they were worse for my team mate, who got an elbow to the face (She’s okay!) and fell to the floor, knocking over two other skaters, who also fell to the floor. Switch to me, innocently minding my own business, skating away from the scene of the incident, when suddenly my feet are no longer underneath me – one of the downed skaters accidentally kicked my skates out from under me as she fell, making me fall backwards onto by butt

Which landed on someone else’s wheel.

Definitely not pictured: my butt bruise.

Everyone’s got a story about their first butt bruise, so it was inevitable, but I underestimated how much of a big deal it actually is. I have the most impressive bruise forming in a great shade of purple, and it’s super painful, especially if you do something like, say, forget it happened and flop into a seat, or try to do sit ups (note to self – give sit ups a miss until this thing heals!). It makes my favourite thing (sitting down!) the most uncomfortable thing to do. Occasionally it starts throbbing – who knew a bruise could throb?!

I’m being overdramatic, of course, for the sake of entertainment. It’s not that bad most of the time, just mildly inconvenient. I’m dreading the possibility of falling on it again, I might cry if that happens, but hopefully it’ll be healed by this time next week! Overall, I’m super glad to be back to training again, and looking forward to the following weeks – We’re going to start testing for our minimum skills assessments so we can start to scrimmage, I’m taking my niece to a roller disco for her birthday, and on the 8th we’re off to Leeds for a bootcamp with Australia’s top team, Victorian Roller Derby League!

Derby Diaries Week 13: Leaning, Positional Blocking and Lateral Sweeps

I’ve managed to make… absolutely no posts about roller derby since my first. I’m not certain why – I think I’ve been reluctant to post anything simple, that just said “we did this and then that”, and I’ve been trying to find a way to make it more sophisticated which leads to me writing nothing at all. I’ve realised now that that’s not always possible, and as they say, it’s never too late. So let’s start with week 13, which also, coincidentally, is where things start to get interesting – We’ve started contact!

I missed last week’s session. Actually, that statement isn’t entirely true; I was at the session but, to the relief of the coach, I chose to sit out on skating because I’d had a car accident the day before. I’d turned up believing myself to be fine, strapped on my skates, and promptly found myself horribly unbalanced, weak and shaky. Thankfully, it was a bit of a revision session to allow people to go over any of the basic skills they weren’t entirely comfortable with before we moved on to “proper Derby stuff”, so I didn’t miss too much.

This week I returned feeling pretty much back to my normal self, albeit slightly shaky, but I definitely felt that week I had off. The pace line warm up had my thighs burning after about a minute and I was having a hell of a time recovering from falls, which was frustrating as I’d only recently managed to get my fitness up to a level where I could make it through both of those with minimum pain. Perhaps it was more a psychological issue than physical – I don’t think I could have deconditioned that quickly!  To top it all off, I started the session by sliding half way across the hall on my ribs after another skater decided to leisurely skate across my path in the middle of sprint laps and my attempt at t-stopping to avoid her went horribly wrong. Winded before we even started training! Still, I did manage to avoid her, and there was no real damage done.

We practiced leaning. Lots of leaning. I’m not so good at sticky skating with only one foot, and I told the captain that when I practiced with her, so we ended up practicing that too. I’m still not terribly good at it, especially while leaning on other people – I keep accidentally shifting my weight back to the other foot and losing control of my pushing foot slightly. It started to come together a bit when one of the league ladies explained to us that they often use leaning as a simple way of pushing other players off the track and told us to try that, and we found ourselves doing a lot better. We focused on leaning for a long time, and I can understand why, but it was painful and became a bit dull.

After that we tried positional blocking, and I started to almost fall apart. My back was aching, my knees were constantly shaking, and I felt like I had no control over my legs. We started off stationary and just leaning and moving our hips to where our partner was stepping – I couldn’t lean and keep myself still, for some reason I couldn’t even sidestep at any speed. After doing that for a while we attempted it while moving around the track, and I couldn’t stop falling over constantly. At one point I was close to tears with frustration at myself and probably would have broken down if my blocking buddy hadn’t been so supportive. Definitely going to need a lot of work on that

After a little break, we started to learn lateral sweeps. For some reason I started to get my strength back, and I absolutely loved these. You have to move your leg in front of one your partner’s, ideally in the same motion you’d use to do a lateral cut, and then more or less sit on their leg so you take control of their muscle and their movement, which you can then use to push them off the track. It took a bit of time to get right – there was a lot of gliding smoothly past in front of the other person because you overestimated the space, and accidental tripping because you underestimated and caught your wheels together – but once I got it, I loved it. It’s definitely one of those things that you know you’ve done it right because you can feel it. I’ve got a bit of an issue with my foot positioning, which meant I never managed to push my partner about, but I managed to get her to stop and held her pretty well, which is a start!

And that was all! Everything ached on Monday, including, for some reason, my left arm, and I’m not entirely recovered today. All in all, it was a bit of a wobbly session, but I’m really excited to have started proper contact sessions and I’m really looking forward to next week.


Edit: I almost missed the best part! Having survived the session, I took all my gear off, attempted to stand up, and promptly collapsed in the corner. Had to drive home with what I thought was a broken pinky finger, but just turned out to be horribly swollen. My family questioned my choice in sport and asked how I’m even going to get on while being this clumsy. I said by choosing the right moments.

What University Has Done For Me, or, Why I Don’t Trust Anything Anymore

University’s done a lot for me as a person – Since moving away from home I’ve been forced into situations where I had to go out of my comfort zone, meet new people and deal with my own problems, and that’s lead to me developing as a person and learning to have confidence in myself and in who I am. I could happily sing the benefits of university for days, but there’s one distinctive change in myself that has affected me since my first year.

In my first year, I was forced, due to my choice to take a History and Literature joint course, to take a module on the Enlightenment. They said it was designed to widen our minds –because all through primary, secondary and sixth form we’d been taught to think firmly inside the box, accept everything we were told as fact and produce answers that fulfil certain criteria in the examiner’s mark schemes, the university needed to undo all of that and make us think in a broader way, teach us that nothing is truly right or wrong, nothing is absolute and we should challenge pretty much everything we come across. I absolutely hated it. I wasn’t the type to ponder philosophy, wonder why we are here and how humanity got to the stage it is now. Even worse, the philosophers of the enlightenment era had an odd way of talking; it was all very “what if” and the situation they were writing in – trying to challenge accepted thinking under an absolutist king and a church that executed or exiled anyone that disagreed with them – meant that they were never completely clear about what they were saying. It was a weird experience for me – I’m used to reading history books, and I’m used to interpreting works of fiction, but these were neither here nor there. Needless to say, I was relieved when I could put the whole thing behind me.

But the module did its job, and now I’ve realised it’ll never be behind me. The whole point of the enlightenment was the deconstruction of old, established “knowledge” and the reworking of how “knowledge” should be developed. For any of my readers who aren’t quite up to date on the pre-17th century, knowledge then was built on other accepted knowledge. In general, people did not challenge existing theories on anything, and if they did – well, think of Copernicus. Rather, individuals would expand on the work of other people. The Enlightenment, and those that lead it, argued that this was wrong for a number of reasons, one being that if knowledge is built on uncertain foundations, it too is uncertain (ie. If the knowledge they were working off was wrong to begin with, their knowledge will be wrong too) and that instead we should develop knowledge using scientific method – being able to prove that something exists rather than saying “this is true because that is true.”

Apologies if that went over anyone’s head or talked itself in loops – I had trouble grasping it then, and I have trouble explaining it now. In short, the Enlightenment era argued that you should never blindly accept anything as fact. Colin Blythe, in Subjective vs. Objective Methods in Statistics, states that “knowledge is at best an approximate description of reality, and in the course of progress it gets repeatedly modified and replaced”, that knowledge is simple what the largest number of people agree on at the time. It is never an objective thing, and it is socially constructed, therefore it is never necessarily, objectively true. Because of all this, I’ve learnt never to accept anything as absolutely true, regardless of how qualified the people giving me these ‘facts’ are, because I know that they could easily be wrong. It’s wonderful for me as a person, because I know to constantly challenge what I’ve been told, but it means I’m never entirely satisfied with things, and I end up getting quite angry about certain issues.

A good example of this is weight. Today, our society is obsessed with weight. A massive emphasis is placed on the importance of not being “fat” or obese by everyone from the medical community, to advertisers looking to abuse peoples’ paranoia on the issue, to family and friends who are concerned about their loved ones and their apparent health. Fat is treated as if it’s as deadly as poison and people take it upon themselves to inform absolute strangers, knowing nothing about their lifestyle, that they’re unhealthy and unappealing. But if you look at facts, the dangers of being overweight become questionable – there’s the doubtful usefulness of BMI as a measurement of health and obesity, studies that found it’s more dangerous to be underweight than overweight (and that those who were overweight actually had significantly reduced mortality rates compared to those of ideal BMI), and studies showing that it is absolutely possible to be overweight and perfectly healthy. Why, then, is there such a focus on how bad it is to be overweight, to the point where people with no medical training think it’s acceptable to tell those who are that they are unhealthy? To the point where parents put their children on outrageous diets to make sure they’re not? Why is being overweight treated so bad that people are willing and encouraged to act in incredibly unhealthy ways, despite the evidence that they could be perfectly fine?

To put it simply, university has taught me to doubt everything. Whether they intended to or not, I now question any knowledge I’m presented with, even if everyone else seems to agree with it and especially if it seems to me that there’s something not quite right about what I’m being told. Knowledge isn’t certain, it can be influenced by the opinions of society at the time, by industries with agendas, by individuals wanting to prove a point, and therefore isn’t objectively true. In addition to that, looking back over the years, what is accepted as “knowledge” has changed so much, it’s impossible to accept that what we “know” now is right – Sure, we know that humorism wasn’t right because we understand how the body works a bit more, but who’s to say that the medical information we have now is any more right? That in twenty, fifty, a hundred years in the future, we won’t discover that actually our entire body is operated by alien nanobots, and we get ill because they break down? The knowledge we have now is our best attempt we have at the truth, so we shouldn’t ignore it, but we should never accept it as entirely true, and if something seems wrong or outdated it needs to be challenged.

Of course, this is my opinion based on what I’ve read and accepted. I’m interested in how other people think – personally, I can’t see anything as objective because my education, training as a historian and sources I’ve read have repeatedly told me not to. I’d like to see your opinions in the comments!