Mental Game

Sundays training was an interesting one. I had my first exam of my final year yesterday, and it was the one I was most worried about. Partly because it was on Maoist China, and I’m of the firm belief that no one really understands what happened – most of the official records are heavily locked down still, and even then, a lot of them are falsified or just simply not the full story, the people who lived through it barely seem to understand what went down and why, and a lot of the explanations for why things happened comes back to “because Mao wanted it”. And partly because it was our “special subject”; in my university, third year history students have to pick one module that goes super in depth into one topic, looking at primary sources and so on, so I had no idea what would be on it, or if I’d read enough to be able to answer any of the questions. I spent last week revising everything I could, but by Friday my brain was mush and I physically couldn’t read any more (no, really, I couldn’t read words), so I took the weekend off. Saturday, I hopped in a car with a few of my fellow skaters and went to High Wycombe for Big Bucks High Rollers’ B Team tournament ‘Diamonds are Forever’. That was super fun, and so interesting to watch! And Sunday, I went off to training.

My mind definitely wasn’t in it. There was a lot of focus on working on personal skills, rather than in partners or packs, and I think that allowed me to get too far into my own head. I started strong, but as the session went on I felt increasingly worse, and ended up having to take myself out to have a little sob in a corner. Luckily, I have wonderful team mates, who were full of hugs and encouraging words and were generally really comforting. Turns out they were right, I didn’t really have much to worry about and the exam went fine, but I couldn’t get out of my own head at that point in time, and everything I did was just reassuring me that I sucked at everything.

It’s funny what effect your brain can have on your physical performance – the more negative I felt about myself and the upcoming week, the more things went wrong for me. I couldn’t do an underpush (something I’ve always struggled with) and then my crossovers wouldn’t work at all, I couldn’t feel either push. My laterals were getting better, and then all of a sudden I could barely turn. Transitions got slower on my good side, and didn’t even exist on my bad one. That was around the time I burst into tears. It’s odd how, when you feel bad about yourself, your brain finds things to confirm that yep, you definitely suck.

However, now the stress cloud has cleared, I can see the positives. Something clicked Sunday that made my laterals so much better than they had been (I think that something is called weight distribution) and I ticked off positional blocking from my minimums. Which means all I need to get scrimmaging is my 25 laps. 3.25 to go!

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I Shouldn’t Play Roller Derby Because… Part 1 – Danger

“I’d like to try roller derby, but it’s so dangerous!”

Our sport has as many safety precautions as your average building site.

Alright, so that’s not true. But there’s a heck of a lot you don’t know about roller derby, because it all goes on behind the scenes. In this post, and any other in the series, I’m going to assume that my audience knows as much about derby as the average person off the street. At most, Hypothetical You has seen a bout once or knows a derby skated. At least, they’ve never even heard of it. In between are the Yous who have watched Whip It, have heard about it from your parents, or asks every derby skater if its anything like Rollerball (no, it’s not). So it might surprise you that safety is a huge thing in roller derby. Skaters train a lot, and new skaters often train for months before they even get near the track to play competitively. The rules that govern the sport are heavily centred on the safety of the skaters – most of the penalties skaters can be given are related to accidental but dangerous actions, and theres limits on where you can hit people and what with to stop people getting hurt. Protective padding, helmets and mouthguards are required and checked by the referees, not only at the start of each game, but even at the end of half time. If your safety gear isn’t up to scratch, you’re not allowed to play.

So first, training. I think a lot of people’s concern of the “danger” of roller derby comes from the thought that they’re just going to be chucked into the type of thing they’ve seen on Whip It or in real bouts and expected to deal with it. In reality, before you even get near competitive derby, you have to pass Minimum Skills Requirements. These are a list of skills set out by WFTDA that new skaters have to be able to do before they are allowed to play, partly in order to keep them safe, and partly so they can keep up with the other skaters. So if you decide to start roller derby, you’ll find yourself starting either what many refer to as a “fresh meat” course – a series of sessions intended to teach you everything you need to know – or a recreational league. Either way, for the first few weeks, you’ll be learning how to skate, fall, turn, stop, and so on. To cut a long story short, your league won’t allow you to start the contact part of this sport until they’re absolutely certain you are comfortable with the non-contact aspects. You’re taught how to fall safely, how to safely take and give hits. You’re taught how to stand properly in order to keep your balance and minimise the risk to yourself and all other skaters if you do fall. You are trained to do everything safely and minimise risk to yourself.

Alongside this, there’s the rules. You may have watched Whip It, and you may have heard many a derby skater complaining that the one legal move in the entire film wasn’t even made on track (Bliss’ hip heck on the girl on the staircase is wonderfully executed with perfect form.) The majority of WFTDA rules are there to make sure gameplay is as safe as possible, and the rest are there to make the game more interesting or clarify loopholes skaters and coaches have worked out along the way. For example, they define legal blocking and target zones – ie, what areas of your body you can hit with and where you can hit other people with it. They look like this

Atlanta Roller Girls’ illustration of legal target and blocking zones – ie. Where I can hit you, and with what part of my body!

Basically, I can’t elbow you in the ribs (illegal blocking zone to legal target zone) and I can’t hip check you in the back (legal blocking zone to illegal target zone). I certainly can’t punch you in the face or kick you in the shin. And I certainly couldn’t, say, turn around and stick my elbow out so you skate your face straight into it, regardless of what my bench coach told me to do. All three of those last examples would be full on expulsions.
Of course, accidents do happen – you come in too hot to the back of an opposing skater and hit them in the back, or you fall and accidentally kick an opposing skaters legs out from under them, or you try to shoulder check a particularly small skater and accidentally catch them in the face instead. These are all penalty worthy actions. In short – if you do something dangerous accidentally, it’s a penalty (7 penalties and you’re out for the rest of the bout). If you do it purposefully, it’s an expulsion. If you regularly do it, you’ll be suspended for a certain number of games. Smashley Simpson was a total liability and, if she hadn’t already been suspended from bouting, her coach never would have even rostered her because of her attitude.

I don’t think I need to go through safety equipment in any real detail – helmet, mouthguard elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads are the minimum requirements for derby, even during training. People also wear padded shorts, shin guards, nose protectors and so on, depending on how concerned they are that they might get broken. If your safety equipment is not acceptable, you are not allowed to skate. Even if you’re sat in the penalty box, the only equipment you are allowed to remove is your mouth guard.

I’m not saying injuries don’t happen, or that there isn’t an element of risk to the sport – as I’m typing this, I’ve read that one of my Facebook friends got a spiral fracture during her bout today. I’m just saying that the risk shouldn’t be overstated – everything in roller derby is designed to keep you as safe as physically possible. There’s no more danger than there is in any other full contact sport, but you wouldn’t tell anyone not to take up rugby, or American football, or any other sport because it could be dangerous, would you?

And at the end of the day, everything comes at a risk. I once knew a girl who tripped over uneven paving slabs and broke her collarbone. You could get injured doing anything, so you might as well take the risk and do something awesome.

5 Ways to Make Girls Interested in Sport

For those of you who are not up to date with British news and politics, there’s been concern lately over the lack of girls and women interested in sport, and brainstorming over how that can be corrected. Inspired by one local MP’s suggestion that girls should be encouraged to try ‘feminine sports’, I thought I’d expand and elaborate on her points, and come up with some more advice on how to get girls interested in sport.

1) Try feminine activities

Helen Grant advises that girls try feminine sports like ballet, cheerleading and rollerskating so they can still look “radiant” whilst doing them (I know that, after two hours on skates, I’m still fresh as a daisy!) I would like to suggest some other feminine activities that girls should try, such as Pram/Trolley Races, Shopping Bag Relay and the Five Metre High Heel Sprint.

If you want to do an activity but aren’t sure whether or not it’s ‘feminine’ enough, keep in mind this simple rule: if you’ve read it in any Jane Austen novel, its acceptably feminine for you. Such activities include taking a turn around the parlour, a stroll in the garden, or a hike across the Cotswalds.

And finally, if you absolutely have to do any more “masculine” activities, you should only do so if you can do it side saddle. Take up side-saddle horse riding. Work out how to ride a bike side-saddle. It’s the perfect way to get fit and look graceful and feminine while doing it!

2)Avoid sweat at all costs

Of course, no one has ever broken a sweat while doing ballet or cheerleading. It’s not as if they are high energy, physically demanding activities. My second piece of advice is to absolutely avoid asking girls to do any activity that might possibly make them sweaty, because they will refuse to do it – as everyone knows, even a drop of sweat turns the prettiest girl into a drooling ogre. Perhaps schedule activities such as car or motorbike racing, as long as you’re not asking them to put on hot and heavy leathers or helmets that’ll mess up their hair. For a less intense experience, why not try wheelchair sports, but get men to push the girls around so they don’t have to move at all. Alternatively, make sure every activity takes place either in water or out in the rain. That way, absolutely no sweat will stay on their skin, and that’ll make all the girls happy.

3)Make all sports co-ed

This one will make you look good on all fronts. It’ll look like a completely modern, revolutionary idea, a true step towards equality – breaking down those gender barriers that have long declared that girls aren’t fit to play alongside the big boys and allowing, nay, demanding that society changes its colours and makes way for the rise of the female. Good job! You’re the saviour of womankind!

Of course, this is just a face. In reality, the idea behind this one is to play on what motivates girls. And why do women do anything? For the men, of course! Introduce co-ed sport and girls will get involved with every and all sports as a chance to meet and impress men. Its a simple solution, really.

Or you could go the other way and….

4)Separate men and women entirely

Girls are afraid of looking sweaty, and as we’ve just discussed, the only possible reason behind this is they’re afraid the males, aka. Potential mates, will be utterly repelled by the sight of them. So if you don’t want to limit your girls to “feminine” activities, the only option is to eliminate the male factor altogether. Of course, we couldn’t get rid of the men (how would we womenfolk cope without men to run the country?), so I propose splitting the UK into three sections, separated by big, berlin-style walls. The men will live in one section, the women in another, and the third section in between for designated Breeding Periods. This way, women can do whatever they want, including sport, without the fear of men being repulsed by their actions, and ensure that the men only see them at their very best.

5) Give up on sport altogether

Alright, so that solution makes no sense, and if we’re honest, none of this advice is practical at all. I suppose our only option is to give up on sport altogether. Not just the women, either. The entire planet. We’ve all seen Wall-e, and frankly, I don’t think life on that ship looked too bad. If we can’t get women to exercise in a feminine, non-sweaty way, we might as well resign ourselves to that lifestyle. I’m booking my moving chair now.

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.

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!

DSCF4246
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.