It’s that time of year: we are less than a week away from the MRDA Championship in St. Louis: River City Rumble. I have taken on the task again of giving the derby world a look at what the can expect this weekend. With the expansion of the tournament to 10 teams, my task this year is more daunting than ever before. I will do my best to keep each article even in length. It will depend on how much I know about each team, though. You have been warned.
Your 10 seed is here by (for them) fortuitous circumstances. The Twin City Terrors are actually ranked #14, but due to a variety of reasons the #10-#13 declined the invitation to Champs. Having done a lot of research for predictions before the rankings were released, I can say that (according to math) TC is as good of an opponent as any that declined. I do not think they will be a dull team to watch.
This team is no stranger to tournaments, having played in two every year for at least the last three years. This year they had a particularly daunting tournament schedule: 3 tournaments: Midwest Brewhaha, Rolling Along the River, and River City Warm-Up. They lined up 7 times this year against top 8 teams including playing the Gatekeepers and Texas Outlaws twice, and also Bridgetown Menace, Puget Sound, and Your Mom on top of an additional 5 sanctioned games. Since TC obviously has had Champs on their mind, this highly challenging season had to be chosen by design for solidification of team work and to test nerves under pressure. They’ll need that experience for champs: they meet the Bridgetown Menace again in the first round, and the winner will play the Gatekeepers. The loser will play the loser of the Magic City/Aftershocks bout.
But who ARE the Twin City Terrors?
They are a team that has the potential to play like Shock Exchange, as long as they keep up their training and focus. Their walls can grind down jammers when the game is slow, they have far better bracing and positional blocking than I was expecting when I sat down to watch Brewhaha footage. In a sport where players love looking jammers in the eye, Twin City looked as comfortable plowing a jammer to stop as they did tossing a backwards block at them. If there is anything I have learned from watching the WFTDA playoffs this year is that the difference between a good team and a great team comes down to their ability to plow stop. If Twin City can take a note from their WFTDA counterparts and begin to really ratchet down their speed control and recycling, they’ll be in good shape.
In both their Texas and Puget games at Brewhaha, Twin City came out strong with slow walls, coordinated offense, and a protection of the lines that slowed down Scott Slamilton and Dr. Feelgood. Steve Sweat #808 and Egon Strangler #42 are impossibly fast at the top of the pack. Often they can catch jammers who have a head start, and knock them out of bounds before the end of the engagement zone. At the same time, Timchilla #3 (whether as pivot or jammer) has ridiculous fast feet, and was able to take advantage of the offense given. Derby Monster #00 and Freight Train are the bruisers of this team that also moonlight as seriously effective jammers. In the tournament I watched, jammer penalties (cuts primarily) killed the momentum of a team with many weapons in their tool belt.
If Twin City can keep calm and keep their packs together, they’ll do well this weekend. Their blockers are strong, they just have a tendency to get split up when the game gets fast. If they can use what they learned from playing Puget Sound at Brewhaha and apply a pack definition strategy to keep the game slow and at their pace, they will do well. “The Great Wall of St Paul” is what coach Betsy Wrecksie calls it: working together to remove speed from the game and control the other team’s position. Twin City has had the advantage of Wreckie’s experience this season, she was formerly Minnesota All-Star’s head coach in 2014. She knows how to help a team gel.
Baron von Bean #609, Luce Wheel #103, Jamnit Dim #31, and Sampson #66 are the guys you put out to glue the walls together. You may not always notice them, because they are quietly holding their team mates use them as the rock to form around. Recent transfer Ogden Smash #64 will only add to the solidity of walls, being a very smart strategist and very effective at getting in the opposition’s way.
Bridgetown is also a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of team, so it will be fun to watch these two trade blows in the first round. If Twin City can stay focused and engaged the Great Wall and not allow the bruisers of Bridgetown to split them apart for too long, they’ll put up an excellent fight. Where Bridgetown will have a solid jammer rotation, Twin City seems to come into games a little looser. They have a deep jammer pool and tend to throw in a variety of people ‘to see who sticks’. They may need to call on the power of Freight Train to push through the likes of Cozmo Damage, but keep an eye out for rookie N8s Gonna Nate who made a big impact at Brewhaha.
Coach says of Twin City’s attitude going into Champs:
We’re pretty sure we’re not heading home with a first place medal as we’ve already played the one and two seeds and while it was a welcome challenge – they were pretty one sided games… If we can go as far as to beat [the Aftershocks], I think it says we were supposed to be here at champs even if we weren’t the first choice. Win or lose; we are all extremely excited to be taking part in MRDA Champs and proud to be the first Terrors squad to do so.
There’s been a “12 Reasons you should watch roller derby” buzzfeed article floating around. Guess what, folks? Some of it they got right! Some of it they got eeeehhhhh…..
So I’m rebooting this blog! It was one my first popular article on Examiner.I’ve re-written some of the explanations, but I’ve kept the headlines the same. 2010 derby or 2015 derby, these are still the 10 reasons you should watch roller derby. (PS Most derby leagues still don’t have seating, so you may want to pick up a Coleman Stadium Seat for your comfort at the game.)
The WOW factor How many of your friends watch roller derby? If the answer is “many”, then maybe there is something to this. Maybe they have an in on something. If your answer is “none”, you can introduce your circle to the fast-growing sport on the planet. How cool does that make you look? Roller derby is a completely unique, high-impact sport that is totally inclusive of age, gender, nationality, etc. It is an international phenomenon that grows every year. In 2018, the third Roller Derby World Cup took place in Manchester, England, hosting 38 countries, including the Czech Republic, Korea, and West Indies. Barcelona is the stage for the third Men’s Roller Derby World Cup in April 2018, where 24 teams, including Japan, Chile, and Denmark will compete. The speed, power, and finesse on 8 wheels is enough to keep you entertained, even if your local team isn’t allowed to sell beer!
The social works of derby teams Roller derby teams are often non-profit organizations themselves; regardless you will find your local teams out at charity events and raising money for good causes at their home bouts. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised worldwide for charities. Whether promoting suicide prevention, helping wounded animals, collecting for homeless shelters, promoting love as love, or helping a city rebuild after tragedy, derby has covered the spectrum of charitable causes. The Girls on Track Foundation was founded to keep young girls involved in the sport of roller derby, thus building their confidence, courage, and leadership skills. Locally, our own Tampa Roller Derby is involved with Big Cat Rescue and Girls on the Run,
Athletic prowess These are athletes. Teams practice between two and six times a week, and the participants work out beyond their practice limits. Yoga, crossfit, powerlifting, Spartan Races, aerial silks… the cross-training of roller derby knows no limits.
Impressed by your favorite hockey player doing fancy footwork and scoring points? Wait until you see Lil Slinky of Stockholm duck and dance through the pack effortlessly. Get hyped up by your favorite safety playing all over the field defense? You will love seeing Alli Kat Scratch of the Tampa Tantrums crush the hopes and dreams of her opponents. The feats of agility and pure strength are display at any game (whether it’s the 500-person strong Rose City Rollers or 20 strong Twin City Terrors).
“Any Given Sunday” Just like in any other mainstream sport, roller derby has the “any given Sunday” mantra. The Oly Rollers came out of nowhere in their first season as a WFTDA* team, and took the Hydra as the underdog. It is possible for any team to sweat and bleed their way to beating a giant of roller derby. Tournament play has seen a lot of international teams come in and shock the world with their undeniable strength. Teams from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia have been doing damage in WFTDA and MRDA** rankings the past few years.
Less expensive than a movie date
An American movie date can easily breach $75 (IMAX anyone?), and if you’re counting dinner, you can bet on a night breaking $100. Yes, there are some games that offer beer or full entrees (thank you Charm City). Yes, buying merch from Tampa’s Wrecking Mall might up your final cost for the night. However, most teams still play in roller rinks with small concessions and bake sales. A derby date can easily stay under $30! Derby encourages interaction and conversation, whether you are with one person or a group, and it’s way better than sitting awkwardly in a dark theatre with your Tinder date. Bring them to derby!
Community! The roller derby community is a very inclusive place; if it’s a tailgate kind of game (you can check with the league on their event page ahead of time), get a group together and hang out in the parking lot. My first team was notorious for cookouts and beer trading in the parking lot of the Olympic Skating Center before games. Groups often mix and mingle. Don’t know what’s going on during the game? Ask the people beside you (or look for someone with a “Ask me about derby” sign). Regardless of the side you are rooting for, everyone is super friendly and inclusive. You will make friends in the fans, the refs, and the league members themselves. Labels and judgement have no place in our house, so come one, come all!
Direct interaction with athletes
How many sports teams offer one-on-one time with their athletes? Every game and after party is a meet and greet, and leagues host events throughout the year where you can meet your favorite skaters. You can catch up with league scores from those directly involved, and can really feel like a part of the organization even as a fan. Websites like Flat Track Stats even gives you chance to follow how your favorite travel teams are doing, even if the team hasn’t received official sanctioning ranking. With the popularity of tournaments growing in roller derby, keep your eyes peeled to your team’s social media, it’s likely their travel games will be live streamed at some point. Then you can even watch them from home.
Unique characters Mainstream sports are chuck full of big characters, and roller derby does not disappoint. Be warned: It is not make-up and fishnets. It is the heart, soul, blood and tears that they pour into their work that make these athletes into giants and idols. Big characters in derby are the big hits, the big jams, and acrobats on skates. Whether your team matches in black compression pants, or dons old school mis-matched DerbySkinz and stickers on helmets, you will see the personalities on and off skates. It’s not just the skaters that make the game exciting: The announcers of roller derby are some of the most colorful characters you can imagine. Plus they are super knowledgeable about the game, so make friends with them.
You might find a new love Skaters, refs, NSOs***, announcers, medics, and coaches have to come from somewhere. Often, they come from the audience. Fans, friends of the fans, and the munchkins of fans are the future of roller derby. Even if you never end up skating, your support is vital to your league. Being a fan and posting about the games, inviting your friends to the events, watching WFTDA.tv, watching the YouTube archives of bouts… it spreads the goodwill of derby to people outside of the community who may never have heard of derby before. Or, maybe they went to a game three years ago and “have been meaning to return”. Maybe you can be the one to remind them to spend a Saturday night at the rink.
It’s just plain FUN The excitement is infectious. Regardless of your familiarity with the sport, the skill and strength of roller derby pulls you in. It is impossible to resist cheering as your jammer breaks through the pack. Try not to flinch when your team knocks an apex jump out of the air. The more you learn about your league, the more fun you will have each game. BUT the only way to learn more is to actually go!
If you have been pushing off attending a roller derby bout, it’s time to get off of Facebook and head to the rink. Friends, excitement, and real social networks await you. Youtube offers some great fan tutorials, or wait until you get there and inquirein person. Spend some time at your local games. You’ll be cheering more than at a Marvel movie, you’ll get closer to the action than nosebleed seats at Lincoln Financial, and you will build relationships unlike anything else you have experienced before.
*Women’s Flat Track Derby Association
**Men’s Roller Derby Association
Support Khaos Theory by making a donation to the blog today:
What makes us want to be on a roller derby team?
I’ve been thinking about this topic for months. Tried writing a blog a few weeks ago and I couldn’t actually translate my feels into a coherent written structure. I’m not talking, “Why do we love the sport?” or “Why do we join a league?” But rather, what drives us all to make a travel team? Or be drafted to a home team?
Before my home league’s travel team votes on the charter, each skater gets to talk about what they had to offer, and why they wanted to be a part of the team. It was interesting to hear the answers from those dropping their name in the hat for the all-stars versus the b team. There was quite the difference in theme of statement from one team to the other. I realized that those going for the the all-stars had a much different theme of answer than those wanting to be on our b-team. It got me thinking more and more about WHY we want to play on teams so badly.
If you ask a derby skater why they want to be on a team, the most common answer you’ll probably get is: “I want to play in bouts!” (Or do I call them games in the blog now?) **winky face**
They want to travel. They want to play other opponents. They want to prove themselves. Playing in bouts is a bit about the attention of everyone watching you, but should also be about the practical applications of skills and drills. Bouts are the place we test ourselves against an opponent to see if we have improved. I have been on many teams at this point, and I can say that being in a bout means different things based on the culture your team builds.
Some teams value bouts strictly as ranking potential.
Some teams just want to enjoy the fun of the sport; including all that boutfitting, production shenanigans, and after parties offer up as they play against your family from a different city.
Some teams want to try out what they have been drilling in practice, to see how their strength and mobility have improved.
Some teams play bouts just to raise money in their home venue and have their friends and family come and watch them do the thing that they love.
Some teams work really well together on bout day, and everything is low stress and fun.
Some teams may work together, but tension runs so high that benches become explosive.
Maybe a team just has that one player that yells at refs or complains about calls, and because they’re a “superstar”, the behavior isn’t squashed. That behavior spreads to the rest of the team, and the bench becomes a 3 headed monster.
Maybe the bench coach is that one superstar yelling.
Or maybe everyone loves each other and the sport so much that everyone is just focused on the fun of the game.
I should mention that teams don’t always take the time to create a culture. Some are self-aware enough to create a mission statement of culture to promote and strive for. Most derby teams, I have seen, do not even understand that a culture has manifested through coaching habits, attendance enforcement, and superstar treatments. Sometimes an awesome derby culture of fun and support is born organically through individuals gathering for a common purpose. Too often, I have seen leagues succumb to the expectation that certain players get praise and playtime, and those players can do and say no wrong. Everyone else are plebeians and must fall in line and teach themselves.
If you just had an ‘ah-ha’ moment, recognizing that your team has not given itself a Culture Goal (or worse, you’re in one of those cancerous league situations!), maybe it’s time to sit with your steering committee and decide on some core values for the league and individual teams.
Many cultures have this idea rooted into their core values without realizing it: “You will play bouts when you are on the travel team, and we do this to play in bouts.” So the skater immediately begins lobbying for a spot on the travel team, despite dedication. Despite training. Despite safety. Despite their willingness to play on a team. Endgame, we are taught, is: PLAY IN BOUTS.
I have a radical suggestion for you, Roller Derby:
You should not want to be on a team to play bouts. You should want to be on a team to practice roller derby.
You should want to be on a team to PRACTICE roller derby.
What do I mean?
I mean we need to adjust our mindset.
Bouts are fun, yes. Bouts are what count towards our ranking, absolutely. Bouts are the culmination of our practice time and work together, yes. But it’s just 60 minutes on the clock.
I am not saying we should undervalue bouts, or want to play in them less. Rather, I think we all need to shift focus to being excited for practice time. Most of Roller Derby practices at least twice a week. You are spending far more time with your team in drill, skill, and endurance situations than you are in bout situations.
I do my best to not even worry when my next bout is, because my intensity does not change from practice to practice. I do not show up with different intentions or drive when I know a roster is being decided that night. Every practice is 110%. I pay for this time on the track, so I am going to love it and use it. If I am put on a roster, great! If I’m not, it’s OK because I have practice again Sunday night. I know I won’t be short on derby for the weekend.
Too often skaters put so high a priority on bout day that all they think about is making the roster. They show up just in time, and with just enough intensity to play in the bout. If we could shift the prevailing thought in roller derby to be less “BOUT DAY!!!” and more “PRACTICE DAY!!” think of how many people would value their drill time more? How much would attendance change?
Bout day is a priority because Roller Derby puts an emphasis on it.
To me it is just as fun and invigorating to stop Tazmaniac in a wall drill in practice, as it is to stop her in a bout day situation. Putting our focus on the awesome of practice means more excitement, which means more bodies, which means more opportunities for strategy and teamwork. Which will, unsurprisingly, lead to MORE SUCCESS ON BOUT DAY.
When practice time is the center of attention, you can focus on goals as an individual and as a team mate. You can put your energy into what is being practiced instead of worrying about making the next roster.
When your focus is practice, not bout day, you think about your daily cross training differently, and with the mind of making practice better. You know you’re going to be doing five minute jams at practice on Monday, so what can you do on your off day, Saturday, to improve your conditioning for it? Thinking about that every week builds into months and then years of cross training, almost by accident!
When you focus on practice, you get to struggle and laugh with all of your team mates in all the different situations. You get to love the sport and the nuance of the sport.
When our focus is bout day, we get caught up in the spotlight of it. We get caught up in the pressure of performance, but when we focus on practice day, we are all Superstars, and egos are left at the door because no one is watching. When our focus is practice, we work hard for two hours at a time. If we can work hard for two hours, we can definitely work hard for our piece of 60 minutes.
Practice is the proving ground for bout day.
Practice is where we get to push ourselves and learn.
Practice is where we get to high five our family and celebrate victories.
Practice is where we get to tell our friends that bad days happen, and that one bad practice will not equate to a lifetime of failure in the sport.
Practice is where we get to put our head down and do work.
If your heart doesn’t beat with excitement when prepping for training (sometimes up to 5 in a week), why are you in the sport?
Glory should come from within. Achievement should be felt when doing something awesome with your team mates. This is no longer an individual sport. No longer should we put the spotlight on those who have talent, who don’t come to practice or fundraisers or do committee work.The spotlight should be on the weekly warriors who sweat with each other and create the bonds that only practice time can.
Practice IS our sport. I feel like the leagues that recognize and promote that in their culture, have the most success over the long term.
Stop counting down to bout day. Start counting down to Monday.
For coaching and nutrition help for all athletes, or to ask questions, propose blog ideas, or just give feedback, leave me a comment, or drop me a line at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com. I’m always booking league coaching for all levels.
When talking to derby folk about nutrition I hear the same things over and over:
“I don’t know what to eat.”
“I don’t know when to eat”
“I try to eat healthy” OR “I eat terribly and I know it”
“I drink plenty of water” OR “I don’t drink water and I know it’s bad”
I’ve been doing this health coaching thing for a little while now and I can almost predict what people are going to say before they say it. It is part of why I’m so passionate about Derbalife – I want to help my friends answer questions.
Because honestly, it can be really confusing when you’re trying to figure all this out on your own! There are a billion fad diets and trends, and everyone has a different idea of how much you should eat and what you should eat. And then the SCHEDULING? WOOF. That can be rough.
So, while my method isn’t perfect by any means, and there is still some trial and error that goes along with creating plans for yourself, I wanted to share with you what I have created for myself.
1) This is my 90 day plan. As I approach the end of 90 days, I will re-evaluate, tweak, and create a new 90 day plan (that won’t look too far off of this one, probably).
2) Bout weeks will change up my schedule. I will do a deload leg day on Thursday, and will rest at least a day and a half before a bout; more than that for a more competitive game, or for a weekend competition.
3) I have eased into this schedule. I did not just decide one day to work out this much. This has been a two and a half year process. Do not just try and hop into a two a day program. Work with a sports trainer if you’re unsure of how to plan out your cross training.
4) I have nothing to do other than work, train, and play/ref/watch derby. Do not look at my schedule and think “Wow. I could never do that.” **kick stones** “I guess I just won’t do anything”. No. That is not the point here. The point is to show you how you can break down every day of your week into an intentional plan.
So the first thing I did was color coding. I broke my day into half hour bite sized increments. Then I went through and blocked out the scheduled pieces: work time, drive time, practice time is all set. I can’t change them, so they go in first. From there, I could build my cross-training schedule. After that, my extra stuff could go in.
Once I could see what my days look like, I could build my meal plan. I know that when I work at Taco Bus I can only eat meals during certain times. I also know that I get employee meals. The goal is to eat every 2-3 hours, starting with eating within 30 minutes of waking up. I walked through my day, and found times that I thought I’d be able to eat. I typed in what I thought would be good snacks and meals. I put in as many snacks and meals as I thought would hit my desired calorie count… which… originally… I thought was 2000 calories. As you can see, below, it is NOT 2000 calories.
So after I planned out Monday, then I went onto a calculator program on If It Fits Your Macros. When you walk through the calculator, I always encourage people to use the athlete formula (since it factors in your exercise amount, not just your body fat). I, personally, am on a plan to help me gain conservatively. Everyone’s goals are different, and that’s ok! I would recommend, for derby athletes that you choose either the “Recommended” for WEIGHT LOSS, the MAINTAIN, or “Cautious” for WEIGHT GAIN.
PS Macros are : Fat/Protein/Carbs/Fiber. How I got my numbers? I’m 32 years old, 5’4”, and 145#, looking to GAIN CONSERVATIVELY and working out “everyday”. I also did the formula where I eat 1g of protein per 1# of body weight, .4g of fat per 1# of body weight, and I had it calculate for 7 meals a day.
Right, so it gave me numbers listed just below this paragraph. Next I went into FatSecret.com and plugged in the day I had planned out to see what it gave me. I found out that not only was I about 600 calories short, but I was 25g of fat short! Good fats are super critical for muscle creation and is also awesome for your joints and your brain. Once I saw that, I could go back through my Monday and adjust my meals! I had them broken down in my tracking program, so I could see that a snack only had 11g of protein and I could add some jerky to it to improve that. Or that a meal was only 150 calories, so I needed to add some avocado. 😀
I want everyone to know that while I am super excited about the above schedule of cross-training … I also get a little vomity looking at it. I am not a cardio kind of girl. If you know me, or have been keeping up with this blog, than you know that I would rather deadlift every day than run. EVAR. However, too high of a focus on weight training for too long can weigh someone like me down (especially since I cameo jam now and again). So I’m moving my focus to some explosiveness. On my lift days, I’m using a modified 5×5 program, that I have preached about in the past! More about lifting and 5×5 here.
You may look at this schedule and say, “But Khaos! You said that running for long distances doesn’t do much for derby!” And it is true. It doesn’t. However, my long endurance has been slipping since I am on a team that doesn’t do endurance practices. Since I am not doing a speed practice, I am utilizing my conditioning training to help keep my long distance endurance strong, which is linked to recovery over the course of a bout. (So it may not help me from jam to jam, but over the course of a whole game, I want my large muscles to still be able to respond.)
How to build your meals?
Look at your macros, use your tracking devices to understand the compositions of your food. Whenever I eat, I make sure there is at least 10g of protein in what I’m eating. Otherwise I pick something else, or add protein to the thing I’m already eating. I also drink a gallon of water a day. I also take vitamins 3x a day. Doing those things helps to keep the metabolism running and helps your body absorb all the things you’re giving it!
Feel free to use my meals as a starting point! If you want specific help please feel free to message me at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com. I have a good bit of Herbalife in my personal plan, but I can help you figure things out for you with or without the Herbalifle. ^_^
It’s a lot. It’s confusing. It’s overwhelming. Break it down piece by piece. Map it out. Then, all you have to do it is follow it and be awesome! The nice side effect of mapping out your nutrition and fitness this way? You’ve just made a road map for your daily schedule. Watch your productivity go through the roof!! And don’t be afraid to schedule in “FUN TIME” or “TRAVEL TIME” or “READING”. Do it up! It’s your plan.
Like my EAT BIG PLAY BIG notes, this is not going to be a verbatim dissertation of what we went over, but more the bullet points of things we talked about and maybe some WHYs involved. We talked about nutrition too, but because I have my notes posted from EBPB up and running, why don’t you just check them out and get the full picture of the athletic nutrition.
WHAT I MEAN BY LIFTING WEIGHTS
Big lifts – Build all over strength and power, utilizes the full bar
Barbells – Build stabilization muscles and helps support big lifts, small movements, and quick twitch.
Free Weights – Barbells and bars; your body must do the work to keep things in place
Plate/Smith Machine – Training wheels; no real accurate measure of weight. Some plate machines are useful (like the leg extension) but usually you can pass by these.
Cable Machines – The baby of free weights and plate-loaded; there is some stabilization work done here.
Free weights and cables should be used as your supplemental workouts. Like your vitamin and protein supplements, they are the extra stuff you do to support the mainline of work. They should not be your primary form of ‘weight lifting’. Mostly because you’re not really lifting weights when you do them.
WHY SHOULD YOU WEIGHT LIFT?
The easy answer is: Because you play a contact sport.
Show me one contact sport that does not require their athletes to weight lift. If your coach tells you to do dry land drills, do you question? No. You question weight lifting because it’s different and new and super difficult. The resistance to lifting in roller derby is not because it’s not helpful or proven to advance skaters – it’s because it takes more effort to do it. And, honestly, it can be intimidating.
From the physics standpoint think of this reason why you should weight lift:
If you can only squat 130 pounds, that means you can only push that much weight (approximately) into your wheels. If you have someone who is 170 pounds hitting you, but you can only respond with 130 pounds – who is going to win?
This is a very basic, crude example, but hopefully you get the point.
Why bench press? I learned during Beat Me Halfway that if you have Magnum PIMP doing truck-and-trailer with you, your arms and core better be able to hold up to the resistance he’s giving you. If he then directs you into a full-speed Screecharound, your arms and body have to be able to deal with as much power as he’s putting into you to transfer to your skates, to transfer to Screecharound to take him all the way to the line.
(and also, I was so sore the next day)
If you can push a sled with 150 pounds on it, you can push through a link giving you 100 pounds of resistance.
WHAT IS CONDITIONING?
We talked a lot about lift days verse conditioning days.
Your lift days are just that. You’re picking up heavy weight. Your conditioning days involve cardio work, particularly HIIT. This is your tire flips, your hill runs, your wind sprints, your heavy plyometrics. If you do Crossfit, those WoDs should be your conditioning days … so the extra days. WoDs every day will not build your strength the way lift days will.
WHAT DOES THIS FEEL LIKE?
Like with derby, we have to adjust to a new feeling when we start weightlifting. If you’ve done plate machines in the past, then you are not used to what it feels like to have 180# on your back, or to pick up 200#.
It feels heavy. It feels miserable sometimes. It feels like you might hurt yourself. Just like it feels when you’re doing a new advanced skill on roller skates. Like those one foot “chomps” or one foot plows.. Picking your foot up and putting it down in front of you, with your toes turned in and your knees touching? That’s terrifying! I was sure I was going to break my leg. I didn’t. And you won’t break your shit just because it feels heavy.
It’s supposed to feel heavy. That’s the point.
DO I NEED SPECIAL GEAR?
I wear knee wraps because I can feel things shift around in my right knee when I squat and it’s weird and I don’t like it. With lighter weight, you don’t need belts, wraps, wrist grips. As you start lifting, talk to people around you about the gear they have. You’ll learn when you’ll need to get a belt, or if you want to get gloves.
Wear flat shoes or no shoes. Those weird toe shoes? They actually work really well for lifting. So do Chuck Taylors. So does nothing. Just like you wouldn’t buy Bonts for your first pair of skates, you shouldn’t go buy the special fit lifting shoes before you start lifting.
WHAT ARE THE LIFTS I SHOULD DO?
No questions asked you need to do:
Lifts that I think you should incorporate:
Sumo Deadlifts (or Sumo/Russian)
WHAT SUPPLEMENTAL LIFTS SHOULD I DO?
This one is tough. It depends on your programming. Ones that I make sure I incorporate:
Hanging Leg Raise
Bent Over Row
Lat Pull Down
WAIT – HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TO DO?
Guess what? More reading for you!! What I recommend to EVERYONE is to pick up Mark Rippietoe’s “STARTING STRENGTH”. There is an app you can download called 5x5Stronglifts that will help you through the whole process.
Here’s the idea that I can pass on to you that I started with… 5×5. So you’re doing 3 lifts each day, 5 times, 5 reps. This does not include your 5 rep warm-up. When my plan was set for me, we did one lift for the upper body, one for the back, one for the legs.
I then did 1 or 2 supplemental lists each day (unless I was crazy spent). Getting someone to help you set up a training plan around your skating schedule is awesome. I had a couple people helping me along the way. And don’t be afraid to tweak your schedule as you progress. After your first four weeks, you should be in a routine, but before that it’s ok to move things around and figure out what works best for you!
Learn form on your own through the BUFF DUDES series. They’re really a great, short series of tutorials.
HOW DO I KNOW HOW MUCH TO LIFT?
Again, having a friend that knows lifting is helpful here. If you don’t, go to your gym and find the biggest dude or lady who is both strong in the upper and lower body (or ask someone at the desk of who to ask), and humbly request help.
Think of it this way: If someone came up to you at an open skate and said, “Hey you look like you know what you’re doing. I’m trying to get into roller derby, but I don’t know how to plow stop, can you watch me real quick to help me?” You’re not going to tell them to fuck off. Lifters feel the same way about their sport. I promise they’ll be nice to you.
Step one is to find your personal record (PR), also known as your one rep max (1RM).
Do not plan on doing your 5×5 during max days. You also shouldn’t try to max out multiple workouts for the same body part. For example, don’t try to max out back squat and front squat on the same day.
To max out, do your warm up weight (people can help you figure out what that would be… for me, my deadlift warm up has ALWAYS been 135#, and my squat started at 100#, bench was 45# … these are good starting points). Do 5 reps. Your buddy can help you go up in weight. Do 3 reps. Then up in weight and do 1 rep until you can’t move it. Boom. 1RM.
Plugging these maxes into your 5×5 Stronglift app will create a nice little “oh this is what I lift today” guide for you. You can contact me if you want something more specific.
SO I JUST LIFT FOREVER NOW?
Things can change up, but yes, now you just lift. In a 5×5 program, I do like incorporating a deload week either on week 5 or 6. A deload week is when you do your lifts, but at 50% of your max. It gives your body a chance to recoup.
When I first started this program, I was going up in weight for some of my lifts each week, not up for others. The stronglift app helps you with that.
Setting goals will help keep you focused and your training tight so that way you don’t get bored.
You will plateau. You will have bad days at the bar. It happens. Just like derby. Sometimes you have enough sleep, you’re hydrated, you’ve eaten enough, and you just can’t squat the bar the way you did the week before. It’s ok. It happens. Seriously.
This can be new and can be scary. Just like derby. Don’t be put off from lifting by yourself because “You don’t want to hurt yourself”. There is just as much risk for injury in this sport as others. If you play derby, you know that you can have someone there with you, you can be in the process of being coached, and you can do one thing and still hurt yourself. Don’t fear injury for the sake of fearing injury.
You are probably not going parallel on your squats. If you have never squatted before, start with BOX SQUATS. Your new gym bro can find a good box for you. It should be low enough that when you sit on it, your legs create an angle lower than 90 degrees.
Your back is going to hurt. That’s because this will be the first time you’re fully using your back for a lift. All the time I hear “Oh man, my low back hurts! I must not be deadlifting right.” Or you’re deadlifting exactly right and you’re using muscles you never have before. Your back is going to hurt.
If your back is weak, your squats will suffer. “What?? But squats are a leg lift!” Yes, but the bar is on your back. So if you can’t support the bar, you can’t squat it. It’s possible that your squats may be lighter than what your legs can handle at first, because your back is not strong enough.
RECORD YOURSELF SO YOU CAN SELF-CRITIQUE AND GET NOTES FROM FRIENDS. It seems super narcissistic, but you can correct between sets sometimes! You can send the video to your friends from around the country and say “Hey is this parallel?” or “what am I doing wrong?”
When you’re lifting, EYES UP HIGH! Pick a spot towards the ceiling, look at it. Do not look side to side. Keep your weight on your heels, you should be able to wiggle your toes.
I think that’s about it!
Drop me a line if you want some extra help or have other questions about setting up your program. Your offseason program is going to be different than your in-season program, so I can help you with that stuff too. When in doubt, read books! 531, Beyond 531, and Starting Strength are the ones that have been recommended to me. Drop me a message at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com with questions or if you have anything you want me to address.
How the hell do you run practices when your league has practicing membership from Level CobraSnake to Level NewbornFoal? THIS is the biggest question asked across the world by coaching committees in roller derby right now. How can we keep our vet skaters challenged and satisfied with the training process [so they don’t transfer out] while bringing new skaters up [quickly] to a level to be able to play with those vets?
I had such a huge response to the blog I posted two days ago, about League Rebuilding that I wanted to make sure that my blog about training the leagues that are rebuilding went up quick!
There are fundamental corners to The House that Derby Built: Skills, Teamwork, Strategy, and Health. Without one of the corners, the house will not fall, but it will lean a little funny. Without two of the corners, you don’t have much of a house.
TESTING THE FOUNDATION
First you need to understand where your league is at with each of these fundamental pillars. The first step is to take an honest look at where each skater is individually and as a league. For Skills and Health you can actually do measurable tests to help you with your mapping process.
Set up a practice to set benchmarks and test skills, and I would recommend asking coaches from nearby leagues to come in and help with the ranking process, since the will be more impartial in the process. Create a list of skills (crossovers, one foot glides, lateral motion, hip checks while moving, jumping, counter blocking, 180 toe stops, blocking to the line, etc) and have them ratable 1-10. Move your way through drills, as you would when doing a certification, but make sure you have more advanced skills on the list than a strict certification process.
For Health, you simply create a list of ‘events’ like a football combine. You can test squat strength, bench strength, 100 yard dash, 400 yard dash easily. You can create short ‘obstacle courses’ and time each player through it while rating their cuts, bursts of speed, jumping, and footwork. You can do one foot balance, long jumps, pull-ups, or anything else you think would be applicable to strength and endurance needed for derby.
Once you have your 1-10 data points you can put them into a spreadsheet and simply create a point chart! Boom. You now know where people are. This is not to make anyone feel bad. This is simply a way to benchmark individuals so that the training staff can develop upcoming practices and make recommendations about cross-training. This information is also a great starting point for goal setting! Part of setting goals is that they have to be MEASURABLE. With benchmarks in hand, captains can meet with skaters to create a real list of SMART goals for the skater to focus on in upcoming months.
To benchmark Teamwork and Strategy is harder. Teamwork, though very easy to see the presence (or lack of) teamwork, it is not easy to quantify. You may want to ask those coaches to come and observe your team in a scrimmage against another league to rate overall Teamwork and Strategy. When you map, you will not be mapping for your team, but you will be mapping for groups of skaters, or the team as a whole.
Things to rate from 1-10 in Teamwork could be: Proximity of skaters, holding lanes, communication, mobility of walls, awareness, recycling, and protecting edges.
Things to rate in strategy could be: Offense, O to D/D to O switch speed, Bridging, Jam line start, power jam defense, preventing recycling. Watch some bouts and make notes of how to describe strategy and teamwork and create your list to test (use the words and ideas that I listed as your example).
CREATING THE PLAN
After you map the data, you can analyze it with your training staff. You’ll be able to see weaknesses very easily. Data doesn’t lie. Create the charts however your brain can deal with the data. After playing around a bit, I decided that I like the bar graph, since I can see distinct lines across. I just made up a mock chart for an example (I picked derby names at random, I didn’t actually rate people on things).
From looking at the chart, you can see that some people have strengths, and some have extreme weaknesses. You do not want to use those as your focus. You want to teach to the median weaknesses. Note: This does not mean ignore the strengths, it just means you now know where to focus more of your training energy. Looking at this chart, I immediately notice that NO ONE has even a 7 on narrow plows. Next thing I see is that while we have a few people strong at left foot plows, the rest are not, and no one is strong at right foot plows.
If you have a team that is primarily new skaters, and you are noticing that in the corners of your house, the median score is 1-5 in most areas, than grade on the curve. So you can’t look at the data and go, “Oh man, there are only a couple 7s. WE MUST FOCUS ON EVERYTHING.” Right, ok, so, bring the top grade to 7 and look at the skills from there. If 7 is the top and you’re noticing some skills have more 4/5s and others have more 2/3s, focus on the 2/3s.
You do this with all four of your pillars. Identify your team’s overall weaknesses.
“But we have too many new skaters to do this!” No. No such thing. If your skaters can’t complete skills they get a 1 on the scale. That’s it. Everyone can run, lift, jump on sneakers.
“But we don’t have any place to do the off skates benchmarks!” Really? You know that? I just suggested it and you’re already coming up with an excuse to not do it? Have you called the gyms in your area and asked about it? Tell them what you want to do. Offer them advertisement in exchange for use of their gym to do benchmarks. They can be the “Official Combine Location of the Blankety Blank Roller Vixens”. Local, privately owned gyms or franchises are the best place to start. You may want to approach CrossFit gyms about it, because they’ll usually have sprinting space too, and some of those coaches have experience in combines.
“But we already spend so much time at derby, we don’t have the time for this! We know how our skaters are, can’t we just use what we know?” Cancel practice for a week and do this. If you want to improve and you’re serious about focusing your training program, you need to know what you’re working with and you need to have an OBJECTIVE view of where you are starting. Without data, provided with the help of people who don’t know you from Adam, all you are doing is continuing old habits. Your current training is based on what you think you know about your skaters. Chances are your advanced skaters are not advanced. Chances are your fresh meat have skills you didn’t realize.
“But we’re not Gotham or Bay Area. We don’t need to train like a D1 WFTDA team.” Well I will respond with a Vince Lombardi quote:
“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?” You don’t have to be a D1 team to want to be successful or to train to be successful.
What it comes down to is that this is new, and new is scary. What it also comes down to is exposure. Exposure is scary. Skaters (especially self-proclaimed ‘vets’ and those who like to pop into practice when convenient) do not like being told that they need to improve at something, or that the ‘lowly fresh meat’ is actually better than them at a skill. This is not about belittlement. This is about recognition and understanding. Without it, you cannot move forward.
DON’T FEAR TO START AT THE START
If you have to grade on the curve, and you have noticed that you have that moment of “We have to work on everything”, then step one is take it back to the beginning. Begin training the TRUE fundamentals for individuals and teamwork: The mechanics of roller skating & speed skating New derby position (tailbone tucked, feet shoulder width)
Toe stop & duck runs
Holding a lane
Skating without using your arms or looking at the floor
Skating in a pack
Pace lines & Speed control
Lateral motion/Laterals using edges & leading with your knees Carves (short and long)
Narrow & One foot Plows
Stopping with edges
Making a wall
Moving as a wall
Anatomy of hitting Sticky blocking
Transitions both directions
Communication & awareness while in motion
This is the start. These are the building blocks. You cannot do a box drill if skaters don’t know how to control their speed and skate close to other people. You cannot do a weaving pace line if your team doesn’t know how to do a basic pace line. This is your first check list. And honestly? I probably missed things. (I have walked away from this list and come back to it several times.)
“But my vets will be bored!” No, they won’t be. In any drill that involves team play, the vets should be focused on helping their team mates cover lanes, maintain position, and work on speed change. The vets need to be the coaches through the drills with the new skaters. For any individual skill, the vets need to be focused on cleaning up their own abilities. Encourage the vets to work on precision, quickness, reaction, depth of skill, and visualizing they’re in a game situation.
Your vets can plow? They should work on plowing narrower, sharper, stopping quicker, keeping their hips more square, their back stronger, and their head up and looking around while doing it. Your vets ‘know how to roller skate’? Encourage them to make their stride deeper, lengthen their pushes, and focus on breathe work and mental tricks as they go around the track that they can access during game play to calm themselves.
***THERE IS NO PERFECTION IN ROLLER DERBY***
Every skater needs to review and practice these fundamentals. These building blocks are not things to check off a list and never visit again. I recommend revisiting these fundamentals often, even after every skater on your crew can rank at an 8+ with them.
NOTE: Every skater is responsible for their own progress and should be empowered by their team and coaching to take responsibility for practicing fundamentals on their own time as well as whatever happens in practice. Just like with the health section at the end of the blog, it is not the coach’s responsibility to mother each skater to make sure they are keeping sharp on their skills on their own time.
DO NOT COACH DOWN
Just because you are working on fundamentals, it does not mean that you need to treat your skaters like 5 year olds, or offer them drills that do not challenge them. Create drills that push your new skaters. Do not assume that because they are fresh, that means they are incapable. Keep your pace lines challenging. Do not skip a drill that works on something that needs to be addressed because someone thinks the fresh meat won’t be able to do it.
You do not get better unless there is a challenge. Making drills JUST above the median level or intensity will push your largest faction of skaters. Dotting in more advanced drills or more basic drills, will keep everyone confident and working hard.
Let’s say you are working on edgework! You can start with carving long and slow and then short and sharp. Time these for about three minutes, with all skaters moving around the track.
Next, put dummy blockers around the track, facing proper derby direction, near the inside and outside lines. Have them stand NEAR the line, but with some space. Have your skaters carve between the blockers and the line, showing their back to the blocker as they go through (they’ll have to twist their body). After everyone has done it for a few laps, have the dummies take an extra step away from the line, and have skaters get by them by bursting past with a 3 step duck run (which utilizes edges).
Then put obstacles in the track – one in the middle of each straightaway, one at either end (trashcans or chairs work great). Have skaters rolling and approaching the object, then bursting around the object with the 3 step duck run. They can challenge themselves to get as close to the object (without touching it) as they can before they burst around it.
After this, bring the practice back down by practicing lateral motion, leading with the knees, from line to line across the track. You have started with something very basic, upped the intensity a few times, and then brought it back down to a lower intensity, more precision-based drill.
So the moral of the story is – don’t think that your new skaters can’t do it just because it’s harder. You can always offer ways to adjust a drill harder and softer to accommodate for all skaters.
MIXING LEVELS IN PACKS
“Do we have levels mix together in drills?” Yes and no. I will define who skaters should get with as we progress through a coaching plan. This is something that the coaches need to decide. I will say “vets with tots” or “Get with someone of your skill level” or “find someone on your home team” to define who I want them to work with.
You may want to rotate skater partners too, so that way the newer skaters get the advantage of in-drill coaching. Don’t be afraid to spend a longer amount of time on drills and skills. You do not have to rush through practicing; it’s through repetition, repetition that our bodies learn. It takes 5000 SUCCESSFUL repetitions to establish muscle memory. Let them practice in mixed levels, then switch them to equal levels to allow themselves to push and challenge each other.
LESS IS MORE
Less talking, less complication, less spending of energy: in roller derby, less is more.
Do not spend 30 minutes talking about a drill. Do not spend 30 minutes arguing about a better way to do the drill. Do not allow other skaters to try to bully the coach into doing the drill a different way. Explain the drill, demonstrate, try it, observe it, correct misconceptions, do it again, observe it, tell everyone what you’re noticing, do it again, bring everyone to the center, talk about what you observed, take quick questions, move on.
Do not think that you have to bring drills to practice that have 15 steps. Simplification is critical. One piece at a time, and build your blocks. Practice your one foot plows/chomps. Then practice stopping in a two wall. Then practice stopping in a three wall. The practice stopping a jammer in the three wall. Then practice stopping a jammer in the three wall, and having the wall step in front of the person blocking. Build.
Do not think you have to be good at every strategy. Vince Lombardi is one of the most decorated NFL coaches of all time not because his Green Bay Packers could do ALL the plays. It was because they did a handful of plays SO WELL that no one could defeat them. By keeping things more concise, you will give your skater tots less to learn (less overwhelming), meaning they’ll be able to advance quicker and get to the level of working with the vets and having everyone be successful.
Teamwork, communication, being on the same page, and focus. Less is more.
3 FAVORITE PRACTICE THINGS FOR ALL LEVELS
Boxes: Everyone is in a tight box, on the whistle the box completes an action. You can either pick actions before the drill starts, or coach can shout the action before the whistle. Actions can be: rotate right, rotate left, inside line, outside line, hop, front to back, back to front, make a wall, make a line, make a box, speed up, slow down, 180 stop, etc etc etc. Start basic. Work up from there.
Double Pace Lines: Especially if your league needs some long endurance work, double pace lines can be beneficial to teach speed control, footwork, skating proximity, and awareness. You can have individuals weave, teams weave and lead, teams race, individuals block, teams weave and hit between the pace line, and more.
Games: Soccer (use an empty water jug instead of a ball), dodgeball, tag, and more! Get your team distracted from what they are doing by making them do something that isn’t roller derby. It’s amazing how the footwork, stops, awareness, avoidance, cuts, spins, toe stops, and communication improve after just one session. Plus – it’s really really fun!
So that “health” corner of the house? Here’s the tough thing: You cannot make people do anything outside of practice time. If a skater wants to live on McDonalds and potato chips and watch 5 hours of television on their non-practice nights, that is their prerogative. Doing the benchmark combine may be the shock some people need to start developing some outside healthy habits, but you cannot count on that (You would think being winded after a lap and dreading the 27 in 5 would be enough motivation, but not everyone motivates the same).
YOU CANNOT WANT IT FOR THEM.
You can give all the Braveheart speeches you want, but each person makes their own decision of what to do with their body. If you are a decided rec team, what you can do is make recommendations as a training committee of how people can train for roller derby outside of practice. If this blog hasn’t tired you out completely, check out my SHIFTING PERSPECTIVE blog about training for our sport.
Some leagues I have come in contact with have an ‘extra practice’ that they must complete each week on their own – it’s a set of workouts that they can do at home or in a gym. More serious leagues (or leagues that want to become more serious) are requiring their all-stars to have gym memberships (these leagues usually also have some kind of agreement with their local gym for discounted rates). In the future, some may require a level of baseline fitness in order to qualify for all-star rosters.
Every league is different. Do not be afraid to adopt these health requirements for your league, simply because it is unprecedented in your area. Do not be afraid to not adopt such policies because you do not believe it would be right for your league. Either way, it’s a discussion that the league as a whole may want to have.
My first league was not a D1 level of play, but it was understood that we did NOT drink alcohol the week of a bout.
Nutrition is as critical a part of fitness as the weight lifting, yoga, land drills, sprints, etc. As a Derbalife coach, I spend a lot of time simply teaching skaters what is and is not good fuel for the body. Creating a voluntary fitness challenge with rewards within your league could be a great way to get your skaters to do something good for them (and their skating) without the league instating rules and policies. It can be something people ELECT to do.
I guarantee the people who lift weights and do extra conditioning work outside of practice will, in the long run, excel past those who do not.
PROTEIN! HYDRATION! VITAMINS! EATING BEFORE PRACTICE! EATING PROTEIN AFTER PRACTICE! CUTTING DOWN ON SUGAR! These are things that can play a huge role in a skater’s success on the track.
Wow you’re still here? Well done!! I hope I have addressed your questions, concerns, and issues at least a little bit. This is a difficult problem for a league to have.
If your league is looking for bodies all the time, then you will continually have to rotate in fresh skaters into your tots. It’s imperative that you develop a new skater check list for each player to practice and complete and be tested on before they make their way onto the track with the vets. This way you can be sure that each player that is introduced to your team have spent time building up each corner of their house before they mix it up with more advanced skaters.
Remember that you are not the only league going through this training process. Pick goals, plan out your trainings a few weeks at a time, keep communication open, and evaluate and adjust after each chunk of training plans.
Skate hard, skate fast, be excellent to each other and do it for THE LOVE OF DERBY!!
Like me, Merry Khaos, on Facebook! Like DNA Coaching on Facebook! Want me to come out to your league to help with this stuff? Need nutrition and fitness help for you or your league? Drop me a line at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com and let’s chat about Derbalife.
Living in a house with powerlifters and bodybuilders, and going to a ‘sweat on the walls’ gym has opened my eyes about training in the last eight months. Not just training for personal gains, but the way roller derby, as a sport trains itself on the track and off. There have been many conversations breaking down the conventions of training in roller derby, and comparing to the conventions of other sports.
Along with rhetoric, I have seen my own progress jump dramatically since beginning a 5×5 powerlifting scheme. I was able to track a noticeable difference in a new league from January (first practices) to May (home team champs), and for me the proof is in the pudding.
We are a new sport. We’re still trying to figure out how to play the game, much less how to train for it. I’ve noticed some habits and some structure about our training process that is not helping us improve ourselves and will not help the sport as we pass it on to our daughters and sons. I wanted to share some things, quickly, that I have been pondering. I’ll be doing expanded writings and I am restructuring the training book I was writing to reflect these new insights.
I think I’m going to get a lot of finger waving at the end of this article. We, as a community, have not be super stoked to hear that we may need to change things. We certainly don’t like hearing that there are ways outside of our league to look at training, business, or the basics of derby. Trust me. I have seen the wrath of derby girls faced with change. However, here I go again, putting my ‘radical’ ideas out there. Feel free to post at the bottom how much you disagree with everything. 😀
When looking at our history, I believe the protocol of training today is largely based on what the women of 2008-2010 did for their own training. Stick with me on this one: This is when the sport started to boom. Suddenly, women of all ages and skills were coming into a rapidly evolving sport. At this time, the average age of the derby skater was PROBABLY between 28-32 years old.
Many of these women had never played a sport before; their way to train to improve was to simply skate more (and that definitely has to be considered in a training plan when you have no experience on roller skates). Some of us caught on that we needed better fitness in order to compete with the women who already had a few years jump on us. This led many of skaters to begin using that derby buzz word: Cross training.
Most of us didn’t know what cross training really meant, or how to approach off skates training for roller derby. So this misconstrued system of Insanity training, land drills, and long distance running started cropping up as part of our system of preparation for bouts.
This brings up my first point:
We need to stop training for fitness
Most of the derby skaters I meet do their ‘cross training’ in the form of high fitness workouts (CrossFit WoDs 4x a week, P90X, elliptical training, Zumba, hours of yoga). Ok, before you get angry let me explain where I’m coming from:
If you are skating 3 times a week at practice, and then going to the gym and doing 2-4 days a week of high cardio work, you are really just burning muscle (and some fat) and [if you’re eating right] getting cut muscles. To look cut is rad, but does not help your explosive power or your recovery from one burst of power in a jam to the next (and it certainly does not help when you get slammed by that 200# blocker looking to take your legs out). Elliptical training does not help prevent bone injury. P90X won’t help you break a wall.
Training like you’re trying to lose the Freshman Forty is not the way you should train for roller derby to be successful in the long term. Training in a way that is purely fun or aligns with your social conventions does not make you better at any sport. These workouts that we’re talking about should be done as secondary conditioning and accessory work. They should not be your primary source of training off skates.
We need to redefine ‘beauty’ within our sport
Oh yea, roller derby loves say that “every shape is beautiful.” Our at home ‘lose weight’ training mentality shows that we are more generally more concerned with 6 pack abs and long, lean limbs than any of us realize. We are fighting the conventions of beauty, especially those of us over 30; we get easily concerned with the myth of a slowing metabolism and how our younger team mates, or the folks at the pool of ECDX will view us. We are more concerned with society’s vision of beauty than we are with what it means to be strong and at low risk for injury in a contact sport (ie having some cushion and mass).
And it’s not just women. Men are not safe from these social norms of beauty and sex, and I have many friends that end up questioning themselves over it, regardless of their strength or abilities.
At RollerCon, there was a very short challenge bout with shirtless men: Magic Mike v Chippendales. On social media sites, admittedly, I was part of the sexist storm of commenters. (One, it’s fun. Two, men in our sport is still pretty new. As a derby-obsessed, straight, single woman of not as many years – it’s nice to be able to turn the male gaze away from the sexy derby girls in fishnets and pigtails and put the female gaze on the shirtless men sweating and hitting each other.)
Side note: I was just excited to see an all-male challenge bout. The shirt off thing was just an added bonus.
Leading up to it, I had several men contact me asking if there was any way to adjust their fitness or nutrition to get better abs in the couple weeks leading up to RC. (I had to disappoint them and say, “unless you want to do some drastic changes and not drink before the bout, there’s no magic pill to shed all the fat in a week”) After the bout, I was asked a question by a skater who is arguably one of the top 5 male skaters in the world: “Did I look gross out there? You know, with my shirt off.”
**Mouth Gaping Open**
First of all – do you know who you are? Are you sure? Secondly, yes, you look great! (I was trying NOT to look too much, actually. I know many women who did NOT restrain themselves.) I wanted to yell at him: “You may not have the photoshop-crafted abs of an Ambercrombie ad, but that’s ok. Know why? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?” Seriously! That bout was sexy in every way, but mostly because highly skilled men were playing roller derby. They could have been playing in parkas and it would have been an amazing bout (though you’d probably have to burn the parkas afterwards due to all the sweat).
We need to release the ideals of Western beauty and embrace the awesome of each of us. If you’re skinny: fantastic! If you’re not: fantastic! If you’re jacked naturally: great! If you have skinny arms: that’s cool! Now let’s lift some heavy shit, flip some tires, put on our skates, and hit each other without worrying about being judged by our team mates about our body.
I have written about this before. It’s a struggle for me big time. I’m single in a growingly co-ed sport. I also powerlift. I am trying to be highly competitive at roller derby. I had the internal conflict months before RollerCon: do I want to look awesome in my bathing suit, or do I want to be able to get past Tink on the track?
There was a moment where I thought to myself, “Oh wait.. it is hella sexy to be able to get past Tink on the track. So, in theory, if I accomplish THAT, I will look AMAZING in my two piece, because it’ll be ME.” (At least that’s what I keep telling myself)
When I really think about it, beauty conventions vs training modes may be our biggest adversary.
We need to start training for a contact sport
No football player is doing 5000 burpees to prep for the season. No rugby player is only doing yoga to prepare for the pitch. No hockey player is trying to cut to a ridiculous body fat percentage mid-season. Roller derby is a brutal, physical sport. We need our training to reflect that physicality and hardness.
Like any other sport, there are a variety of pieces to the training puzzle. I am not implying that anyone should cut their WoDs, or their yoga, or their P90X completely. To be successful, the incorporation of weight training and conditioning must be included in our system of norms as the primary ‘cross training’ piece, with the other stuff as accessory work. We need to train for strength, not weight loss.
Side note: Many skaters come in, as I had said, with no athletic background. Many come in overweight and out of shape. For many skaters, fat loss does need to be a part of their training consideration. Too much weight in a roller sport means extra strain on knees and hips, and the higher probability of injury. However, let’s not get obsessed with getting from 23% body fat to 19% body fat [like I was].
“The improvement of performance in athletics over the past few years has been phenomenal. For example, twenty years ago the average football lineman weighed 250 pounds and ran a 5.2-second 40-yard dash. This was considered to be nearing the genetic limit for a player. Now running backs that weigh what the lineman used to weigh are running 4.4-second 40-yard dashes! Strength training has made the single, most positive contribution to this type of improvement. Today strength training influences every athletic program in the country, no matter what the sport – male or female. Athletes now find it necessary to lift weights and participate in conditioning programs to better prepare themselves for the competitive rigors of the athletic season.
Just a short time ago, most coaches thought that strength training would cause athletes to become muscle-bound and would be counterproductive to good technique. Now it has been proven that athletic performance depends either directly or indirectly on qualities of muscular strength. We must remember that strength builds the foundation for ALL other athletic qualities. For example, if you do not possess great relative body strength (strength in relation to your body weight), you will never be able to run fast. This is due to the fact that all aspects of proper running technique require high levels of muscular strength. In other words, if you can’t achieve the proper knee drive, arm swing, posture and push-off, you can’t be fast.” (DeFranco)
You call it extreme, I call it “what it feels like 185# on my back”
Let’s be real honest here: Weight training isn’t fun. It’s fun when it’s over. It’s fun when you successfully lock out twice your body weight on deadlift the first time. It is fun when your friends tell you that your arms are awesome (Your derby friends will say this, of course. Your lifter friends will comment about the improvement, but will never imply that you are at the pinnacle of your journey). Not every hockey player likes to lift weights, but they do it because it is necessary for improvement. Every player of every competitive sport lifts weights because it is necessary.
“But Khaos! We’re on roller skates. Look at how successful all the speed skaters are in our game. They don’t lift weights. If we just spend more time on our skates, we’ll be successful.”
“Weight training for speed skaters is not all that different from what you see in other athlete strength programs. The key for skaters is to build up strong legs and core. They also put quite a bit of emphasis on balance.As for the legs, squats of several varieties are important, as are leg extensions and hamstring curls (and so much more). The upper body work is also important and typically includes a tremendous amount of midline work. It is typical to see these athletes utilize some basic strength programming including supersets and dropsets in different capacities and arrangements.” Read the whole article here (it’s got a lot of good training tips in it!!) (Chasey)
Also, can I make a note that the top men’s team in the world, Your Mom, does not spend all THAT much time on their skates? They don’t have to train their skaters how to do crossovers, they can do that on their own time (and I’m talking the none speed skaters too, folks). And Gotham? They have weights in their warehouse so they can make weight training part of the weekly program. The focus is more on the strategy, the training, the understanding of the game than it is on using practice time to go over 360 turns.
We need to properly warm-up and cool down for practice time
A 2 minute dynamic stretch is not enough to get our bodies primed for the hell we put it through on roller skates. We are not teaching our new skaters how properly warm up before activity and subjecting all of us to the probability of injury. On the other side, it is rare that I have been a part of a practice of any league that has a proper cool down.
When I was with Harrisburg Area Roller Derby, we had an amazing volunteer who was dubbed Full Commando. He was our Yogi. At the end of each practice, we would spend 15 minutes doing yoga designed to bring down our heart rate, stretch us out, prep us for bed (Harrisburg practices ended at 11:30p), and prevented future injury. When our sister-in-arms, Stella Stitc’Her broke just above her ankle, she had minimal ligament damage. She told us that the doctor had attributed to the flexibility developed through skating and yoga at the end of practice.
We need to understand that sometimes, less is more
I came from the P90X-obsessed mentality of “If I’m not wasted at the end of my workout than it wasn’t a good workout”. I have come to learn that you can put in excellent work, and an appropriate amount of excellent, hard, teeth-grinding work … and sometimes you feel like you have more to give at the end of the workout. And that’s ok. In theory, everyone should be running a specific program (do what the numbers on the sheet tell you – don’t make it up as you go). Programs are designed for certain things on certain days. Deload weeks in weight training may be boring, but they allow your body to rest so that you can perform stronger the following week.
This also touches on the subject of CrossFit. Those of us who have done work in a CF box may have the thought ingrained that you have to go until failure. True progress does not [always] require that. Look, imam just leave this editorial (written by a certified CrossFit coach) RIGHT HERE about the “keep going” culture created in CF gyms. There should be pain and struggle and a question as to whether you’ll finish your rep, but having been lifting for a while now – that last set of 10 pause squats feels SIGNIFICANTLY different than that last 5 minutes of “Super” Angie.
If I didn’t get enough people riled with that section, let’s see if I can stir the pot with:
We need to restructure our season
And in turn, how our rankings are created. Have you ever encountered any sport where athletes train 11 months out of the year?
Roller derby athletes do not have the benefit of the pre-season/season/post-season/off-season structure that other sports have firmly in place, that determine their intensity and type of training. Derby is forced to ignore the season and mash all of their training, as best as possible, into each week of the year.
Strictly home team players are the only ones that [seem] to get any kind of break from gameplay, but it is the travel team skaters that you want to be fresh. January through June is when most travel teams smush most of their game play into, right?
But now with the new WFTDA rankings, more all-star teams are pushing their seasons later into the fall to be sure they maximize the equation in place currently. Plus, if you do make a divisional tournament, your now have an extra 3 game week of intense play put onto the end of your season [a month or two later]. If you make champs, you again have another intense weekend ahead. If you play on a home team (which most leagues require of their travel teams), then you have extra competitions layered into your already intense season.
Men are running into this too. The MRDA ranking system is still shaking out its bugs, and as of right now the majority of rankings come from the January – June season. However, July and August are the months where you get your final shot to break that Top 8 for champs. There are teams playing tournaments into these months for a shot to increase their rank. Then? They won’t play until October.
From what I understand, USARS has a similar schedule for their championships. Oh, which some flat track teams have been participating in. Add one more piece of your season in. Then there are also the extra tournaments…
The last couple years we have another element to think about: mash-up teams. All-Star mash-up games and tournaments are being placed in the only off season that organizers can find: the winter. This means that players on your top tier are never resting. Their only chance for a recovery period is if they actually injure themselves.
This is a real problem. This is seriously going to hinder our sport from achieving maximum levels of top competition. We are destroying our athletes. This needs to seriously be taken into consideration. We are the only sport I have found where ranking competition can (and does) take place in any month of the year.
Recently, I took a couple weeks off to start to heal up my ankle. I skated a scrimmage here or there, but really nothing major. I was concerned about getting to RollerCon and having no idea what I was doing. They say you lose it a bit as you stay away from the sport. You know what actually happened? 7 out 9 bouts I felt on top of my game like never before. Coincidence? Maybe. Rested? Definitely.
SUBTOPIC: Rest is cool
In general, derby doesn’t like to rest. #NoRest. But recovery in your weekly routine is critical for healing, progress, and injury prevention. Teams that play a 4 game event on Saturday/Sunday and then turn up for practice on Monday BECAUSE IT’S REQUIRED are at a greater risk for injury. Your muscles need to a chance to rebuild after a game. Teams really need to look at their practice schedule and include ‘deload’ time before a game (like not scrimmaging), and recovery time right after a game (like canceling practice or doing a couple days of non-contact, lighter skills, and team work basics).
We need to stop encouraging a culture where unhealthy eating is cool
That’s great that you got cheese fries and a beer after practice. It won’t help you recover. That’s awesome that you’re taunting your friend who is drinking her shake for the first time that you’re eating a burger while they’re trying to limit saturated fat. You’re making her feel bad for a healthy decision just because you don’t want to make it.
Not everyone is going to be into eating like an athlete, and I understand that. But can we please stop this culture of “Doesn’t bending over for a cupcake count as a squat?” No. It doesn’t. It’s fine that you don’t want to be at the peak of your game, but don’t mock others for their athletic nutrition. And if you do mock? Don’t be offended when they lap you during cardio, start getting more play time on the team, or transfer to a better league because the current league has encouraged the bully culture.
The sad thing is that it’s usually our friends making the jokes. They think their being funny. It’s not funny.
One more thing to make me unpopular… our AFTER PARTIES. Can we please talk about not encouraging our athletes to drink copious amounts of alcohol, while providing fried bits of vegetable-like substances, and dinner rolls? Can we talk about an after party that is for the fans, not for the athletes so much? You can try and tell me (and yourself) all you want that beer is a fine post recovery drink, but guess what? It isn’t. Plain. Simple. It doesn’t count. Here’s a short read for you.
Ok, this blog ended up being WAY longer than intended, but I needed to start putting these things out to the universe. I feel very strongly about starting this health and strength revolution, and I’m glad to know I do have some other people on my side. For our sport to get to the next level of athleticism, and to be one step closer to professional play, we must take a hard look at our training: How it is structured, why it is structured that way, the culture that supports/negates it, and our behavior to our fellow skaters. We need to put these things on the table within each league so that, one by one, we can revolutionize roller derby for the betterment of the sport and our athletes.
My name is Merry Khaos, I am a member of DNA Coaching and a health and wellness coach with Derbalife. We are currently booking boot camps for the next 15 months. Send me an e-mail at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com to get the ball rolling on having us come to your league. Want to incorporate a “how to train for roller derby” day? Let’s do it! I am also available to help you piece together a nutrition plan and training schedule so you can smash through your goals. Let’s work hard together!
It has given us the power to stay behind a keyboard and throw hurtful words and opinions without the repercussion of seeing the emotion of the receiving end. Then we have our mainstream media, who like to shove images down our throats of ‘perfection’.
Ok, so let’s think this through. Mainstream media wants us all to be thin and encourages a culture of FAT SHAMING – if someone is overweight then they are looked on differently than others and even the media eye captures them differently. Think of the plot points of “The Truth About Cats and Dogs” or “Drop Dead Diva”. The ‘unattractive’ character was slightly heavier than her counterpoint. (That being said, media seems to equate weight with intelligence – especially based on these two examples so I guess it’s not possible to be thin and smart).
Right, so Fat Shaming on social media has been huge over the years; especially when it comes to the faceless, uneducated masses taking on celebrities or athletes that are not their vision of ideal. Need examples? Go search #FatShamingWeek to see a hodgepodge of the satire and serious.
Recently I have noticed a shift.
We are so over-reactionary now about someone who might possibly be “fat shaming” someone else, that social media has taken another ugly turn into FIT SHAMING.
What is Fit Shaming?
Ever had a friend make a declaration of positive change on Facebook only to be met with their ‘friends’ telling them they’re doing things wrong, they look fine, or not to worry about what the scale says? This is the surface.
Remember this controversy?
The internet went ablaze at this physically fit woman who was making a point. The blasted her for fat shaming, and, in turn, they were FIT shaming. “How dare you exercise when you have three kids?” But that was her point – anyone can find an excuse to not be fit and healthy. She did not find excuses and, despite having three children, here she is: trim, healthy and able to fully enjoy the lives of her sons.
Since I’m on a roll of past media explosions of fit shaming, let’s go with this one:
Watch out. Here is another irresponsible woman who is lifting weights. (Oh and she happens to be pregnant.) “Crossfit Mom” stirred the waters of Fit Shaming when photos of her clean and jerk started circulating the amongst the trolls of the internet. Though she stated that she was cleared by her doctor for exercise, and her weights were low, the fit shamers needed to let her know that she was a horrible person. Let’s also remember that she had been on a Crossfit routine for a long time before her pregnancy. She didn’t take up lifting when she found herself 7months pregnant.
Alright, now let’s move into some personal experiences I’ve had.
Everyone knows that I’m an Herbalife Health Coach. I have a lot of friends that utilize healthy eating programs like I do, in combination with exercise. Do things go astray sometimes? Yes. Do we have to recommit once in a while? Yes.
In the past 2 days I have seen 3 separate instances of good friends of mine (some on Herbalife, some not) being shamed about their decision to become healthier.
I understand that the friends who were commenting thought they were coming from a good place. When looking deeper at some of the comments, I realized there was a lot of projection going on.
“Don’t do that. It’s a diet. It’s a fad. You’re just going to fail.”
“I used to be an athlete and I know you’re doing it wrong.”
“You look fine. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
“Herbalife is a hoax, you’re going to get fat.”
“You work out a lot. You don’t need to change your eating.”
Right, so those comments are just abridged versions of what I have gotten from a handful of social media sites from my friends’ pages. I also had a friend from Philly post a status about the negativity she’s been feeling ever since she rebooted her program. Not cool. I have been on my journey for over 10 years now. I have endured a lot of hurt and anger over what people have said to me. Here’s a sampling:
“You workout too much.”
“You’re obviously anorexic.”
“Stop exercising. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“It’s weird that you take that many vitamins”
“You’re being selfish.”
[on a picture of a healthy meal] “Gross. Can’t you put chocolate on that to make it taste good?”
“Muscles are ugly”
“No one will marry you if you lift weights, they’ll all think you’re scary.” (This is why I have my #StrongIsSexy tag)
“You’re stupid for drinking so much water. You don’t need that much.”
“You’re stupid for eating so much protein.”
“You’re getting dyke-ey.”
“You should be working, not working out.”
“You make me feel lazy.”
“You’re too intimidating.”
I’ve also been tagged in many photos of unhealthy habits where the other party seems to be BRAGGING about the unhealthy meal. And when I have put up messages about joining my healthy journey, I have gotten remarks about “Can I do it and eat Oreos?” and other comments along those lines.
Should I keep going? It’s hard to go back through the memory banks and pull these out. I end up commenting on threads and conversations that I should probably stay out of because I don’t want any of my friends to hear these words from people they love and respect. No one should be told that their healthy choice is bad. No one should feel like wanting more energy and life is an insult to others.
Again, sometimes it is meant to come from a place of caring and support, but our phrasing is wrong. I know that I have a very bad reaction whenever someone tells me about the great juice diet they’re about to do for 45 days. No one is perfect, but we need to have an awareness of our words and feelings.
These negative comments come from a place of self-doubt, lack of self-confidence, inability to look at oneself to make healthy changes, or even from a simple misunderstanding of what a healthy lifestyle looks like. Those around us will look at what we are doing and see what they are NOT doing, become defensive, and sometimes go on the attack. The projection ends up on our social media and in passive aggressive conversation in day to day life. It happens all the time, and we are ok with it. Fat shaming is not acceptable, but FIT shaming happens just as often, we just haven’t put the spotlight on it yet.
**Disclaimer: If you have a friend that seriously is not eating, has dropped an unhealthy amount of weight in a short period of time, or has a tendency to go from 0 to 120 mph on things, it’s ok to express your concern. Before you approach them with: “You’re doing this wrong”, ask them questions about what they’re doing and why. I guarantee that every human will be less defensive about your feelings if you come to them from a place of understanding, instead of a place of attacking.
So the next time your friend posts that they’re going to CrossFit for the first time, or that they are starting a running routine, or that they have a goal to lose 20 pounds – encourage them. Support them in public. Ask questions about what they’re doing and what made them go for it. If you’re already healthy, help them along the way. If you are not in a super healthy lifestyle, and you feel indignant, incredulous or any other negativity towards the idea of what your friend is doing, that’s fine. You’re allowed to have those feels. That is your choice, but do not spread the negativity and resentment onto the rest of us simply because your choice is not our choice.
For those of us in this world that are combating the negativity of loved ones on an already difficult journey, keep pushing forward. Life will continue to hit you with obstacles. You are stronger. When you are past all of it and can look back on the journey, you’ll be very glad you did not listen to the naysayers.
For a few years now I have heard of this phenomenon called “CrossFit”. I was first introduced to the concept when the Black Rose Rollers (in … their second season perhaps?) struck a sponsorship deal with their local gym and begin training.
I’ll admit – I was instantly jealous.
I would see photos of my friends dead lifting and squat pressing alongside a guide and I wanted in. I didn’t care how. There was a piece of me that knew then that I needed to be a part of the movement.
But I wasn’t. I continued on doing my own thing. Slowly, more and more of my friends and derby-colleagues began partaking in CrossFit. People became obsessed with it; outsiders called them crazy. I understood the obsession – I have been skating for 4 years for a reason. From the outside I look crazed and obsessed. From the inside: how could you not be a part of this world?
Then, with any popular craze, the haters came in.
“It’s dangerous.” “You’ll ruin your body.” “They’re all about speed, not about form.”
And there was a part of me that believed them. I knew that there were competitions for CrossFit, and I heard so many negative comments about speed vs form, that I just started to believe them. It didn’t dull my desire to do CrossFit, but it just made me leery.
Then my team mate, the undeniably strong Russian Bayou, began her sessions. I asked her about it a lot (hopefully not too much); I was just so curious to know what it was about. How was it with her knee? Do they work with you? Is it all speed?
((There are times where I wonder if Bayou just wants me to stop talking to her because I get super excited (like a small yappy dog) and just ask questions.)) Through Bayou, and other league mate’s interest in her training and advancement, Dutchland was able to land a sponsorship with our local CrossFit: CrossFit Collective.
My meniscus is pinched.
Ok, fast forward. This week I went to my first two sessions of CrossFit. Friends across the country were stoked that I was finally going to “drink the kool aid”. I was finally going to see why they love it.
Yea. I totally get it.
This isn’t a gym where you walk in and are left to your own devices to sweat or not sweat as you please. This is a place to advance. To push past every boundary your mind has ever set for itself. It is a place to make the weak, strong; and to make the strong, invincible.
The speed aspect? Some of the workouts have time limits. So in my first session, we had a superset of 1) Farmer’s Carries 2) 6 burpies and then 3) 6 wall balls from the side, both sides. So you would do 1, 2, 3 in succession. The goals was to do 5 rounds of them OR you stop when 10 minutes hits. With 80 pounds for my farmer’s carries and a 10 pound medicine ball, I was able to do the 5 sets in just under 9 minutes.
Not bad for my first day.
We used the bar and we got to experience the cardio/plyo/weight training of my dreams.
Now today … we did dead lifts. Ok, I got that. Jesse Blames taught me awesome form. (THANK YOU, JESSE BLAMES!!! ALL THE KNOWLEDGE FROM YOUR SESSIONS HAS BEEN INVALUABLE!!) Then we went outside.
Sled pushes. Tire flips. Teams.
Me and Jocie, Incollision and Tot Annie were pairs on the same team. As we flipped, they pushed. Each pair had to push the sled to the end of the lot and back 4 times; as they pushed the sled, we were to flip the tire. There was grunting, groaning, dirt, swearing, crying and a nearly dehydrated team member. We completed the 8 laps in 21:20. Our group did a total of 154. Jocie and I did about 110 on our own. My fingers haven’t hurt like this since my climbing days. My biceps have NEVER hurt like this before.
Congrats to all the ladies that finished!! Two (Nelly Hurtado and White Winged Shove) are even skating tonight in bouts!!
So there you have it. CrossFit. Do it. It’s a mental game. It’s great to do it with people for the encouragement. Jocie definitely helped me push through and overcome the mental game.