Derby Blues

377e1e5Let’s just say that I wanted to kick my helmet across the rink yesterday. Yes, it was one of those nights. Nothing went wrong really. Yet, everything felt wrong for me. It was one of those nights where I cried on the way home, asking myself the usual existential questions.

Roller derby, I love you. Roller derby, I hate you.

I remember reading this article by Quiet Storm about her hate letter to derby. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you should give it a go. I read this post very shortly after I started roller derby. My passionate love story with derby had just begun, and felt way too magical for such a post to really have an impact on me, so I read it, and then let it go.

Last night, I read it again, and it resonated with me. Positive talk can only go so far. I’m a big advocate of staying positive, that’s my mojo. Yesterday however, I felt like no positive talk could save me from the crap load of frustration I was dealing with.

Truth is I’ve been having anxiety about practice. It’s a normal thing for me to have the butterflies before going, because stuff seems so insurmountable. When I started, I was nervous about skating, minimum skills, and the 27/5. Now, I’m nervous about tryouts, and scrimmages. I’m sure at some point I’m gonna be nervous about bouting. Weekend long tournaments. The list never ends.

I’m not strong on confidence to begin with, especially if I’m out of my comfort zone. I started derby because I wanted to skate. I wanted to learn how to be good on wheels. I took the challenge and went with it. Fearful, I became fearless, and battled my way through just like any other skater before me did. I don’t believe in talent as much as I believe in hard work. Derby is no different. With enough practice and dedication, anyone can become a star.

I practice what I preach. I show up to practice religiously unless work or a family event prevents me from coming. I take derby seriously. I NSO, I volunteer, I do whatever it is I have to do to support my league.

Despite all that, derby is the kind of battle that leaves me hopeless sometimes. It’s the kind of battle I wonder why I’m fighting so hard. Derby keeps asking me to give, and give some more… Truth is not everyone becomes an all-star.

Some said derby saved their souls. I really believe derby saved me too. Yet, today I feel so resentful toward it. On top of my anger, I feel guilty for hating the sport I also love so goddamn much.

That’s how I stumbled upon the hate letter to derby. I always ask Google for answers when I feel down. Google gives me what I need! In this case, I spent my post-practice late, late night reading blogs and posts from skaters who felt just the same as me. Whether they were freshies, rookies, or accomplished vets, I read their words and felt their sadness. The derby love was tainted with so much frustration. Big questions were asked: “What are my priorities?” was the main one. “Is derby my life?”, “Do I need to really kill myself for this?” expressed the same concern.

These questions made me ask myself questions.

What is my motivation in all of this? Why do I feel suddenly so defeated, and frustrated?

I took an inventory of my progress, and how it related to my feelings. It’s clear to me my honeymoon with derby has ended. I’m back to earth now. I see derby’s imperfections. I get impatient with derby. I don’t want to give it time, I want it now, and I want it bad! My skill set continues to improve, but when comes scrimmage time, I feel inadequate. I feel invisible. I feel unimportant. I feel like me leaving the track won’t change the outcome of the game. Whether I play or not, my team is fine without me.

This hurts. I’m not casting the blame at anyone when I say this. No one made me feel like this. I feel like this because derby got real. My relationship with derby is being tested, just like any relationship. Nothing stays in the pink cloud forever. I have to eat crap in derby, just like I do at my job, and anything else I undertake. That’s how commitment is tested. You endure the bad, you enjoy the good.

Success is built on failure. Success is built on disappointment, and frustration. My willingness to keep pushing past this will determine whether I stick around or not. I’m full of insecurities, but I’m very stubborn. If I want something, I will work toward it.

The negative Nancy voice comes strong in times like these too. I’m hungry for derby, yet I’m underfed. I have my frustrations with people, just like anyone else. I have my frustrations with how much game time I manage to get, and how my performance is affected by this squeeze of time I feel I’m stealing because… I’m just not good enough.

Deep down, I know I’m good, though. There lies the paradox. I know I’m doing everything in my power to be the best at it. I train, and cross-train, and skate, and practice… And I know I can do things. I’ve seen it when I check our practice footage. I really can DO things.

I don’t care so much about competing as I care about having fun. Because that’s what derby’s about, right? Fun?

There’s maybe too much crap on my plate. I need a reset somewhere. I need to just skate and find freedom there. I try not to think about making the team, and being rostered, and all that stuff. That stuff kills my joy of coming to practice and letting it all on the track.

Because in the end, I just want to skate.

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Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

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Cross-training: My 10 Do’s and Don’ts

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You’ve been showing up to practice religiously. You can’t climb up the stairs without wincing because your thighs and glutes are screaming with every step. Your lower back is giving you the same treatment. When will that pain stop?

Then your heart breaks a little when you hear showing up to practice isn’t enough.

WHAT?!?!?!?

Horrible truth no one wants to hear, yet here it is: showing up to derby on an average of two-three times a week, so sweating your butt off for 6-7 hours, isn’t enough physical training to take you to the next level. Nope. Derby doesn’t give you everything you need (sadly), and cross-training is required in order to really make you feel like your body is made of pure steel, and scream a little louder. Just a little.

Cross-training is “athletic training in sports other than the athlete’s usual sport. The goal is improving overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of one training method to negate the shortcomings of another.”59113193

Now the question of “How much is too much?” often pops up on my social media feed. Exhaustion can hit you very quickly if you don’t balance your routine, and working out for the sake of working out will be detrimental to your overall performance.

If your week is anything like my week, you know time to workout is hard to find. Every minute counts!

So how do you best cross-train? Here are my 10 Do’s and Don’ts!

1- Do I have to sacrifice sleep?

Sleep is something you should try to never sacrifice. I know it’s hard to do whether it’s kids, work, school… but sleep is your friend. Sleep helps your body recover from the stress of the day, and it helps reset your mind to a nice fresh start in the morning. Folks who repeat “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” will definitely die before they know it. I used to be able to function on very little sleep. Not anymore. I need my 7 hours in order to feel normal. If you can’t sleep much at night, naps during the day are the next best thing to give your body a break. Seriously. Just snooze it out, will ya?

2- Do I have to cross-train every off-practice day?

No. Rest days are very important. Take at least one day a week. Just like sleep, rest days help your body heal from the stress you put it through by working out real hard. Don’t bypass a rest day because you feel guilty about not working out, okay? Excessive physical training can become addictive, and put you in a vicious cycle where you’ll work out because you feel terrible about not working out. Watch out for that. Balance is everything. Don’t overdo it.

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3- Do I have to work out crazy hard every time I cross-train?

Following my previous comment about not overdoing it. No, you don’t have to kill yourself every time you work out. Just think of extreme workouts as putting your body through extreme stress. If you put your body through stress all the time, you will achieve the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. First, you will tire yourself out like crazy, increasing your risk of injury. Second, you will overeat because you just worked out like a freaking animal for two hours. Third and final, you will never give your body the chance to fully recover and build the strength and endurance you need to perform at the next level. Less is more. Don’t train harder, train smarter.

4- Do I have to cross-fit?

Cross-fit is on my to-do list. However, cross-training doesn’t equal cross-fit. Cross-training simply means working out and doing something different than roller derby. Over time, roller derby favors certain body parts over others, and cross-training just helps re-balance everything. Nothing like a strong left leg, and a weak right leg, am I right?

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5- What does cross-training entail exactly?

Cross-training should include strength, endurance and flexibility training. Weight lifting is great for building strength. Cardio and HIIT routines are good for endurance. Yoga is known to improve balance and flexibility. Cross-training isn’t only for the body. Train your mind by learning meditation. So much emphasis is put on the body, but the mental component is as important. You can work out all you want, your mind can make or break you. Read books about sport psychology! Mind Gym is a great read to start with.

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6- How much should I cross-train then?

If you already spend 7 hours sweating your butt off at practice, your cross-training should be adapted to how tired your body is and how much rest it needs. A heavy workout week for me will be: 7 hours of derby practice, 2 hours of cardio, 1 hour strength training, 1 hour flexibility training. Count on top of that that I walk an average of 10,000 steps a day, sometimes more, seven days a week. I’m a rather active person. Spending 4-5 hours cross-training on top of everything else wears me out rather quickly I find, especially if my work week is intense, and my sleep hours are less than my average (less than 7 hours a night). Sometimes I only cross-train three hours a week. When we don’t have derby practice, I cross-train more. If we have four practices in one week, I’m going to take two rest days instead of one.

I read a ton of articles about cross-training. When I digest that information, I always ask myself: what’s best for my body? If I don’t know myself, I’ll never be able to do the right thing. That’s where experimentation comes in. Push yourself and see how far you can go. If it’s too much, do less. If you can do more, great. There’s no magic formula that fits everyone the same. We’re all different. The older we are, the slower we recover. The more stressed out we are, the slower we recover. The less sleep we get, how well we feed our body… You get the idea. So experiment, take notes, observe, and adapt.

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7- Is walking cross-training?

Yes. Any activity that doesn’t involve roller derby is cross-training. You don’t have to hit the gym every time you want to cross-train. Staying active is key. Moving your body is essential. I love to walk. I also run. I mow the lawn. I clean the house. Less strenuous activities don’t mean you’re not doing something for yourself. You can go cycling, trail skating, hiking, swimming, anything you like and that makes you feel good, do it! Cross-training isn’t supposed to be laborious and a chore. I don’t believe in working out as a chore. Working out should be fun. If you don’t like running, then don’t run. Do something that you will keep doing because you enjoy doing it.

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8- How do I keep track of my cross-training?

Keep a schedule. Plan to work out. If you don’t plan it, chances are you won’t do it. It’s going to take some time and discipline to find what works for you, but I guarantee, once you find it, everything will go smooth.

9- What if I don’t find the time to cross-train?

Don’t beat yourself up. You can work out for five minutes at a time. Example: do squats when you’re in the bathroom. Do walking lunges on your way to the bathroom. Do the speed skater while waiting for your food to warm up in the microwave. Take a lunch break and walk outside. Stand on one foot and work your balance while washing your hands or brushing your teeth. Hold a plank for thirty seconds. Do a wall sit for thirty seconds. Take the stairs. Carry your groceries. Don’t wait until the end of the day and then you’re too tired to do anything. Small changes make a big difference over time. It’s just a matter of changing habits, and introducing new ones. No one is asking you to become Bonnie Thunders overnight. Bonnie is Bonnie. You are you. Do what YOU can do.

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10- Anything else I should know?

Be good to yourself. Listen to you body. Don’t overdo it. Experiment. HAVE FUN!

🙂

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You can follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

My 10 Rookie Scrimmage Tips

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I’m not a freshie anymore but I’m not a veteran either. I’m in that uber-challenging phase where I’m slowly learning to swim with sharks.

What’s better than getting my feet wet at scrimmage?

I’ve heard and read that derby is better learned when played. My first real experience with scrimmaging can be summarized in three words: WHAT THE F***! It’s a pretty common reaction. Hits are rough and the game goes way too fast. I repeatedly ask myself whether I’ll ever manage to get out of the pack during that jam… My arms are flying in directions they shouldn’t be flying, my stance is jacked, my mind is scrambled, and my feet decide to toe-tap dance instead of running as far away and as fast as my jello legs can possibly take me. Oh, and let’s not forget the being horribly out of breath situation! Blocking air is what I do best. I saw that jammer coming but heck… She was gone before I could decide where to go.

I’m not allowed in the kiddo pool anymore, where I can see and feel the ground below, and water only rises up to my waist. Now I have to mingle with skaters of all levels, which means more speed, more strength, more obstacles. Veterans delectably lick their lips ready to devour me alive. I’m the easy target. Even when they go at only 50 percent, I silently pray that my body holds and stays in one piece.

That stuff is scary! Yes. The good about it is that everyone felt this way at the beginning. So chill out. I got a few tips for you to make the experience a little less dreading.

1- Don’t hold your breath 

Breathing is critical. I know you’re freaking out but you gotta exhale. Holding your breath will only hinder your capacity to withstand high impact hits. Focus on your breath while you get hit or inflict a hit. The way I think about it is: breathe out your fear. The more you practice exhaling, the better you will feel, and apprehension will be replaced by confident aggression.

2- Keep your feet moving

The jammer will push you as hard as they can to get you out of their way. As a blocker, your first instinct is to keep your feet planted, usually pointing forward, which is very ineffective. I just kept gliding until the jammer had enough of using me like a push cart and bam, they were gone. Practice keeping your feet mobile while in a wall, whether you’re bracing or butt probing. Small lateral movements make a huge difference on how strong you are as a link.

As a jammer, keeping your feet mobile is essential. Agility is your friend. Don’t overdo it though. Toe-tap dancing in excess will wear you out and not take you very far. I call it the toe-tap stalling.

3- Stay with your wall

Find a partner and stick with her. When you find yourself alone on the track, find someone from your team, and follow them everywhere they go. Being alone is bad news. You don’t want to be trapped as a goat by the other team, do you? If you’re not familiar with the trapping the goat strategy, it’s very simple. If the opposing team traps one player from your team, they are the pack, and they control it. So stay with your folks! If you get trapped, get out.

4- Commit to your next move 

Don’t hesitate. Whether you want to hit, push, or escape, don’t change your mind half-move. Hesitation will kill you. Well, not literally, but you’ll definitely lose your momentum, and become the juiciest middle of a blocker sandwich.

5- Fall small

Yes, I still fall and spread like a starfish sometimes. Try to stay compact though. Recovery from a fall or out of a body pile is much easier when you’re already in position to spring back upwards.

6- Recover fast

Look up, and face the direction that gets you the fastest out. Don’t go backwards while turning clockwise if you could have easily made a move to the left and forward. You know what I mean… We tend to do weird stuff when we’re panicking. Take a breath, gather your senses, get back up and go! Every second counts.

7- Listen

Your team should shout out instructions at you. Even if it’s just “GO” yelled in such fashion you feel like everyone wants to murder you, just go, okay?

8- Speak up

If you feel like a lost giraffe, call out your teammates. You can yell at them in the same murderous tone if you want, but make it short and sweet. Remember tip #3? Find your closest teammate and ask her what to do. She will probably just grab you, and instruct you to move, stay, bridge, brace… Listen and go!

9- Relax

It’s hard to do when chaos rules on the track, but being as stiff as a stick won’t really make your life easier. Remember tip #1. Mostly try to relax the muscles of your upper body, such as your shoulders. Suck your stomach in to keep a tight core but loosen the muscles of your limbs. You will absorb hits much easier if your body is like a squishy octopus. You will move much easier too. Remember the freshie days of skating like a constipated giraffe? Yeah, don’t do that.

10- Have fun

The most important tip of all is to always enjoy yourself! Laugh. Laughter helps with everything. Be silly! Derby isn’t supposed to be a torture. If it is… Well maybe you need time to reset? Sometimes taking time off helps. Don’t beat yourself up. Making mistakes is part of the learning experience. You won’t do everything perfectly. Let go, skate, and take it all in like a sponge!

I hope these tips will make your life a bit easier on the track. Those are the tips I’ve been told by vets when I didn’t know what to do with myself. If you have more tips, please, please, share them!

🙂rollerderby1

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Find me on Instagram! @kikindateef

Show up, show up, show up

There will be days where I’m tired. Days where my mind urges me to stay home, in my pjs, eating chocolate, lounging like a lazy potato on my couch, while Netflix binging. Days where I’d rather sleep than sweat for two hours. Days where putting on my gear feels like climbing Mount Everest. Days where I doubt my abilities all together, and start rethinking this whole derby career dream/fantasy. Can I really do this? 

Unless I’m in absolute physical pain, and need serious rest to recharge my exhausted batteries for the sake of my health and wellbeing, I know that my mind telling me to skip practice is bullcrap. 

I can rationalize all I want that not showing up is actually a good idea. I can catch up on stuff I couldn’t do because derby is taking so much of my free time. I can pretend that missing practice will actually make me better because you know, rest and all… I don’t feel that burned out but better play it safe than sorry, right? I’m an expert at sabotaging myself. I lie to myself and really believe my own bullcrap. 

It’s during those moments that I must show up. I must fight the negative Nancy voice and get my ass to practice. The butterflies still run wild in my stomach upon showing up, but I fight the fear and put on my skates. 

As soon as I start rolling, I’m free. I know coming here was the right thing to do. I know I will feel better after two hours of hard work. I won’t beat myself up. I will learn something new. I will laugh and hang out with women who probably have all the excuses in the world not to show up… Yet they’re here by my side. We’re in this together.

Together we grow. Together we perform. Together we achieve things we couldn’t do without each other. 

If we all stopped showing up at once, there would be no practice. There would be no derby. There would be no fun. 

By showing up, I help myself as much as I help my league. I show up not only for me but for the name in the front of my jersey. 

I also show up because I can’t live without roller derby. I show up because I don’t have room for regrets. I show up because I love to skate. I show up because I want to kick ass and get my ass kicked. I want to laugh, I want to hustle, I want to play. I show up because I want to see my friends. I show up because I said I’d be there on teamsnap. 

I show up because I know there will be a day where I can’t show up anymore. 

I show up and make the best of it. Today.