Tryouts

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Thank you Quick Draw Photography 

So this past week we had tryouts for our B team. We skated almost every day for the past ten days, and ended the festivities with an awesome scrimmage, which left me tired but so happy about how far I had gotten, and how much more was left for me to do.

Results came in, and I didn’t make the B team. I’m not disappointed or sad.

Being on the B team requires a certain level I don’t have yet. This is an objective assessment of my progress, my skills, and my performance on the track. I’m extremely grateful for going through the process, and taking it all in. I’m excited to have done the 27/5 again, and managed 28.5 laps! Next target is 30.

Happiness is in the journey. I know that I will eventually make the team, just as I knew I would pass freshmeat. I keep working at it without putting myself under immense pressure that I have to succeed at all cost. I keep skating, and learning, without overburdening myself. My confidence grows with every stride.

I actually feel free today. Free to have passed that stepping stone, free to have realized I can do extraordinary things if I stop beating myself up, free to have taken that risk and gone with it, without reservations. This is not failure. There is no failure. Just another attempt to make it next time.

Being able to distance myself and not take things personally has been the greatest lesson roller derby has been teaching me this past year and a half.

I’m leaving you with these awesome pictures of our scrimmage… Never forget you are awesome for putting skates on, and trying.

Keeks

Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

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Thank you Quick Draw Photography

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Thank you Quick Draw Photography

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Thank you Quick Draw Photography

 

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Know your strengths, know your weaknesses 

“Confidence is key. True confidence comes from a deep awareness that one has made an effort to gather information, turned every stone, done everything to practice the craft and get strong.” Scald Eagle 

You can’t be what you want to be without knowing what you’re made of. Saying you aim at becoming the new Scald Eagle isn’t enough to help you be the star you wish to be. Dreams are important to keep the passion alive. Realistic goals are the stepping stones of your journey toward your dreams.

I hit a point in my journey where I put so much pressure on myself that I completely doubted my abilities. I didn’t differentiate between my strengths or my weaknesses. In my mind, I just wasn’t good enough.

Lexi Lightspeed recently posted on Facebook about believing in your own self. Be your own supporter.

You don’t need a wall of blockers to break yourself. If your mind sabotages you, you’re pretty much done.

I read Mind Gym and kept wondering what derby meant for me. What made me happy in derby. Then while we had a small break in between practices, I hit the skate park and didn’t think about derby at all.

I love the skate park because I get challenged in a total different way. I face myself and my fears. There’s no team to beat. No wall to break. No penalty box. Nothing but the hard unforgiving ground, and me on my eight wheels.

I find freedom at the skate park. The same freedom I find on the track when I know my strengths and weaknesses. When I skate and let go of all the debilitating insecurities, I know what I can and can’t do. What I need to work on. What I need to improve.

I rolled on that mini ramp so much, back and forth, back and forth, relentlessly, that my doubts vanished. I found my truth once I hit practice again. I knew what I wanted to do. I chose the path that would bring me the most joy, and challenging fulfillment.

It is necessary as an athlete to question in order to grow. Questioning too much can be hazardous though.

Paint your picture one brush stroke at a time. Skate and understand how your body and mind work together. Target your weaknesses one at a time. Cherish small victories. Don’t give up in times of doubt.

Most importantly, be your own cheerleader.

No matter how many times you hit the ground, you CAN do it. No matter how many times you fail, you WILL succeed. Know yourself to defeat yourself. Learn and grow, to become the star you want to be.

Keeks

Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

And

Read this great post by Lexi Lightspeed on Goals. And all the other posts she wrote. She’s quite an inspiration.

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.

***

Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

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!

🙂

*****

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. 

Love Your Gear: Quick Guide on Skate Maintenance

Do you know the anatomy of your skates? Everything rolls fine until you can’t roll anymore, and if your skates fail, you can’t derby. Whether it’s the plate that cracks, the toe stop that pops out, or bearings that fall apart… know your skates in order to efficiently maintain them, and always perform at the highest level.

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The boot of your skate is attached to a plate. Nylon, steel, or alloy, the plate is what holds everything under the boot in place. The plate bends and flexes in response to your movements and body weight. There is a reason why nylon plates are mostly on beginners’ skates, and metal plates are on more advanced skaters’ skates. Nylon is light but also very flexible, therefore subject to breaking faster than metal. Metal can be heavy and too stiff however, and may still break under really intense pressure. That’s why alloys are very popular, since they provide flexibility and are lightweight. Bont even came up with the Quadstars as an answer to pricey skates, and the plates are nylon. Whatever your body weight and skating preference, there is a wide array of plates out there.

Now comes the nitty gritty.

I’m excluding Arius plates from this post, as these plates don’t have traditional trucks. Most plates have trucks, which look something like this:

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The trucks are vital parts of your skates, as they are responsible for your wheel mobility. You surely heard from veteran skaters to “loosen your trucks” to give you more range of motion and improve agility. Again depending on your preferences, you might want tighter, or looser trucks. The truck angle might play a part in how comfortable you feel executing certain moves, like hockey stops. A small angle provides more stability than a bigger angle. Some plates combine 20 and 35 degree trucks to provide the best of both worlds.

The part of the truck that goes into the plate is called the pivot pin. The pivot pin is inserted into a tiny plastic pivot cup inside the plate.

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Credit: Bruised Boutique

When the pivot cups wear down, the skates feel out of control. The pivot pin sits snugly in this cushion, without movement.

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Credit: Bruised Boutique

Now the kingpin goes through the hole of your truck. Your truck moves around the kingpin. In order for the entire mechanism to work out smoothly, and for the ride to be as comfortable as possible, cushions or bushings are placed on either side of the kingpin. Cushions come in several hardness depending on your skating preferences.

 

RollLineAccCushionsUrethane-2These cushions wear out over time as well. Think of them as dampers. Dampers reduce mechanical vibrations, and absorb shock. When they can no longer absorb shock effectively, it’s time to replace them.

Your toe stop is screwed at the far end of your plate, right under your toes.

Depending on the type of plate, the toe stop is both screwed in and held firmly in place with either a washer and nut, or with a nut on the side. The side nut can wear out and lose its grip over time as toe stops get replaced, and constantly tightened. The washer and nut aren’t so much subject to wear and tear as the actual metal piece that holds the toe stop can get stripped, and literally come off the nylon plate. This is a common issue for skates like Darts, R3s and such. In response to this problem, many skaters super glue their toe stops so that they stay put. Obviously this solution foresees a new plate in the future.

The toe stop itself gets worn out over time, and requires to be adjusted in height or replaced. Proper toe stop height is measured in fingers, depending on how high you like them. Put the skate on the ground, and lift the heel, place your hand sideways and measure how many fingers separate the back wheels from the floor. When the skates come right out of the box, the toe stops will be at a certain height that might or not work for you. You also may like to have one foot higher than the other. Just like loosening your trucks, or adjusting the softness of your cushions, everything depends on your skating preferences.

This pretty much means you should try out as many setups as possible.

Last but not least, and probably a big culprit for noisy and slower skates, bearings! These tiny little greasy circles are inserted inside your wheels to make them roll. Bearings get dirty when not cleaned regularly. If maintained properly, they can last a really long time.

510sLosUzFL._SX342_You must remove the bearings from your wheels before cleaning them. To do that, use a bearing tool or bearing press.

maxresdefaultOnce the bearings are out of your wheels, remove the plastic protective cap off the bearings so that the bearing cage is fully open, and the inside can be thoroughly cleaned with a special bearing cleanser. After the bearings are washed, let them dry, then put one drop of bearing oil in each bearing, close them up, and reinsert them inside your wheels.

bearingcoverremovalentretien_roulement_roller_demonte_en_01Lots of information… I know. I heard “as long as it works, why should I worry?”. Some skaters only know how to change their wheels, and their knowledge stops there. Just think of your skates like a car. Your car needs oil change every once in a while in order for you to continue to drive. Understanding your gear gives you the ability to prevent bad breaks from happening. Given the oh so many variables of derby, limiting a few of them is surely helpful.

If you really can’t wrap your head around the many parts that make your skates whole, at least go to your nearest skate shop once a year to make sure everything looks the way it should.

Remember… Safety first!

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My 6 Derby Wins

There’s a lot to be thankful for in roller derby, despite the sometimes unavoidable frustration of not being physically able yet to nail that skill perfectly, or win that mental battle. Whenever I feel defeated, I look back at six milestones of my first year in roller derby, and I feel better.

JRG_WEB_freshmeat1- I showed up to first skate

I bought gear, I put it on and I skated. I was terrified, I didn’t know how I would perform, and if I would even like it. I thought, well if I don’t like it, can I still return all this gear? I guess my commitment to derby started as soon as I pressed the “buy now” button on Amazon. I even watched “Whip It” the night before to give me courage to skate the next day.

2- I showed up to the second practice

Despite being so nervous, not knowing anyone, and still trying to figure out if I was meant to do this derby thing. The vets scared me. They didn’t really chat me up, they just watched me from afar, and sometimes told me I did a good job. I was so intimidated. Yet I felt so much freedom. I could glide, and do stuff I never thought I could do. Derby definitely opened that door of possibilities I didn’t know existed.

3- I skated my first 27/5

I gave it my all. I didn’t make the 27 laps. I barely crossed over. But I pushed. I skated around that track for five full minutes! That was such an accomplishment. I felt lots of love that day from my fellow freshies, who pushed just as hard. I felt love from the more experienced skaters, who went through the same motions years ago. I felt like I belonged to the league, and the journey would be just a fantastic adventure.

9812e3efb94b15a9391d48db0d0b24d34- I experienced my first really painful derby injury

I heard, “it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when”. My injury was the typical “freshmeat kill your tailbone by falling really hard on your ass” ordeal. I couldn’t sit down properly for a good month. I destroyed that sucker. Thank God, nothing broken. But still, it hurt. I felt that constant nagging reminder that I had voluntarily enrolled in an extra-curricular activity that would leave me limping and cringing at some point. The tailbone was the beginning. It healed and I bought better buttpads.

Injuries are part of my story even before starting roller derby. No one wants to suffer and break bones. I had to ask myself, do I want to keep going? Do I want to go through the motions of maybe experiencing an injury that will keep me off skates for a long time? I had to be sure I was ready for it. I had to face that reality.

5- I failed my minimum skills

I wrote another post on the subject which you can read here. Basically, I am grateful I failed because I wasn’t skill ready to move forward. Failing gave me the opportunity to work on my basics, and practice until I was comfortable to be out there.

dcd04fbd3613b481d85c3f8896ecdc1c6- I got hit

I held my derby stance, sucked my stomach in, and bam. I got hit. It was a hard hit. Right on my side, sent me flying and I landed straight on my ass, wondering what the heck had just happened. During these few seconds, I made sure I was still in one piece. Then, I got back up as quickly as I could, and I finished practice. I still remember that hit to this minute. It left me breathless.

These wins help me keep things in perspective. They help me stay grounded. They help me enjoy every second on my skates. They push me to be better. They brighten my day. Every time I face a challenge, I think of that moment where it was just me and the track. What did I do? I learned that taking a break to reassess isn’t quitting. I learned that my body is my weapon, and my best asset, and I must be good to myself. I learned that my mind is my biggest opponent. I learned that day by day, I improve.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your wins?

🙂

Aggression: Find and Nurture your Inner Fire

3550583Roller derby is an aggressive sport.

Aggression is defined as a forceful action or procedure (as an unprovoked attack) especially when intended to dominate or master.

Many people think of aggression as something bad, violent, rageful. They picture Hulk, smashing everything in his path, ruining lives and making little kids cry.

While roller derby requires aggression on the track – there’s no “sorry” in roller derby – this doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be an asshole. There are ways to make opposing players’ game a living hell while not making stupid mistakes and be sent to the box, penalizing your team in the process.

Hitting right is hard. The more I watch and play derby, the more I think of it like a game of chess. The speed of the game forces me to act quick but the strategy behind each move actually requires me to take my time. Calculated hits are the most effective, and they’re performed with the perfect dose of aggression.

How do I become aggressive?

Remember the good old days when asked to hit another skater for the first time?

“Come on, hit me! I can take it!” the vet said to me with a big smile.

I was a shaky mess. I rolled slowly, and prepared myself for contact. I aimed at the hips. When the time came to actually touch her, I stumbled. My stance was shaky, and my balance wobbly. I had no power and no momentum. Deep down, I was looking hard for a reason to get mad at her enough I wanted to hit her. I barely brushed her with my hips and didn’t feel powerful at all.

While I struggled, the vets were really excited to hit us freshies. They didn’t look mad at all when they hit us. They actually were smiling, and looked very relaxed. We stood like chicken awaiting slaughter, and they came at us hard. One hit sent me flying. Woah, so that was what it felt like to be hit on the track… So we thought. Later the vets said they had hit us at 25 percent.

What must it have felt like to be hit at 100 percent!?!

Fast forward to scrimmage. Hits aren’t tempered anymore, and I’m feeling the full effect of being smashed into like a pinata on Cinco de Mayo. Woah. I never thought my body could withstand hits like that, and not immediately shatter like a porcelain doll.

As I learn to hit hard and effectively, I realize that aggression comes with commitment. Hesitation will kill me. I commit to hit a blocker and I don’t stop until I’m done hitting her. I focus all my energy and power toward that hit.

Aggression also comes with repetition. Muscle memory is my best friend. I have to hip check doors and walls to understand how low my body has to go and how my hips move to hit hard and legally. I work with my body to perfect the move. I try to go as fast and as hard as I can every time.

Aggression comes with control. I won’t be effective if I’m scattered. Like a car racer trying to pass an opponent, I must know myself, including what I can and can’t do. Throwing myself without any control will result in penalties, injuries, and possibly, an expulsion from the game.

Aggression comes with confidence. I know exactly how my body is going to move as I’m preparing to hit. I keep my stance low and use my hips to achieve the biggest hit in a legal target zone. I don’t give into fear.

The best way to find and nurture your aggression is to channel that angry energy and work on your skills. Learn to hit in a legal target zone! No one like headbutts and back blocks. A vet skater once said that aggression comes after you’re fed up with being hit all the time. This part is true. I noticed it myself, I really don’t like to be hit without hitting back as hard as I can. This took time though. I learned to brace myself at the beginning, and I took hard hits in weird places that left me breathless for a few seconds.

When the body is strong, and the mind focused, aggression is like this fire that burns bright and bold on the track. You affirm your dominance over your opposing players, and provide the best weapon for your team. Once the game is over, you hug and congratulate everyone.

Hitting people is also pretty awesome. So what are you waiting for?

If you want to read more on aggression, Treble Maker wrote a great post on the subject, available here.

🙂

M5s2T

Exercise Mindfulness to Be a Better You

61a6fed4121cd8c456ca5fdf3351b2a0Mindfulness is defined as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis” (Webster Dictionary).

Simply put, mindfulness means awareness.

How does awareness help in roller derby?

Ever watched these kung-fu movies where there’s a blind character, whether it’s the hero or some badass sidekick, and he can kick ass as if he possessed a million eyes? The guy is usually super chill, but one blow from him can send you flying into outer space before you know it. He can also fight better than people with 20/20 vision.

We won’t go as far as playing roller derby while blind, but we definitely want to send people flying while remaining as calm and focused as possible, and perfectly AWARE of what’s happening around us. Whether we’re blocking or jamming, we need to process countless thoughts, feelings, and sensations at once.

Successful athletes of all disciplines practice mindfulness to reach their full potential. Simple breathing techniques can lower anxiety, and help with clearing the mind and body of negative thoughts and emotions, such as fear. A composed skater will always perform better than a scattered, short-fused one.

How do we turn into killing machines on the track?

Let’s take a minute to travel back in time to the very first day you (and I) strapped skates to our feet. If you never skated a day in your life, needless is to say the endeavor felt freaking weird. We weren’t born with wheels!  Some impressions about the pads? They were bulky. The Velcro stuck way too much to your clothes. Your knee and elbow joints were in that angle you couldn’t keep your legs and arms fully straight anymore. The wrist guards prevented you from using your hands and seamlessly uncapping that bottle of Gatorade. You fell backwards a lot. The contact with the floor was hard, very hard. Your muscles and bones hurt in places you didn’t know it could hurt like that. Holding the derby stance for one full minute made you want to vomit. Your leg muscles felt like jello. You were stiff, very stiff, and while veterans told you to relax, you got stiffer! What about your breathing? Do you even remember how you breathed?

Setting aside bodily sensations, how did you mentally and emotionally handle these new challenges? Did butterflies fly havoc in your stomach? Were your palms sweaty? Did you talk to yourself on your way to practice, and convince yourself it was a good idea to show up and gear up? Did you talk to yourself again after gearing up and setting foot on that oh so slippery rink floor? Did you suffer from anxiety? Did you cry? Did you laugh? Were you excited? Did you experience a high from accomplishing something you didn’t know you could do before?

If any of these sound familiar, you exercised mindfulness. You were fully aware of what was going on with you that very day.

Sadly, our fast paced lives force us to be on auto-pilot for most of our daily tasks. We just don’t take the time to be aware of simple yet essential things such as breathing. As such, maintaining a high level of awareness takes training.

How do you train your mindfulness?

Start small.

Set your timer on one minute, and close your eyes. Find a quiet place, where you won’t be distracted by people or noises, and adopt a comfortable position. When ready, start the timer, and focus on your breathing. Push any distracting thoughts away by being solely dedicated on your inhale and exhale. When the minute is up, assess how you did. Did you feel pain or tension in any part of your body? Did your mind wander?

It’s okay if you achieved only ten or fifteen seconds of pure focus while the remaining forty-five to fifty were spent trying to get there. That’s perfectly normal. Like anything, mindfulness takes practice.

The purpose of the exercise is to focus on one thing, your breathing, to allow yourself to be completely present and aware of your body and mind. As you get more accustomed to the exercise, you can gradually increase the time.

Now the one million dollar question comes.

How do I exercise this mindfulness amidst all the chaos on the track?

Baby steps. It’s gonna take work. The way I practice it is whenever I get a quiet moment, on my commute to work, at work, as I take a walk, I focus on my breathing, and try to shut down any distractions. I find it easier to do with headphones on, but the exercise should be practiced in natural conditions too. This allows me to fully feel my body. It helps me clear my mind.

I practice mindfulness as much as I can outside of derby practice during daily routine activities, so when I’m at practice, it’s almost like second nature. I practice right when I wake up. I let my mind wander, and gently bring it back to my initial point of focus, my breathing. I practice when I wait in line, or when I’m stuck in traffic. I choose a cue (my commute really allows me to be focused) on my way to work, and shift my brain into mindful mode.

Someone on my team much more skilled than me, and with more years of experience, once told me that being aware is like opening a door of possibilities. I let go of all the crap the day has thrown at me, and the crap I throw at myself too, to be fully there during a jam, for as long as two minutes.

Once the whistle blows, it’s like the timer I set. If I’m aware of the present moment, I can better control my reactions. I can be responsive to my teammates yelling orders. I can move to where the OJ is coming, or if I’m jamming, to where the next blocker is.

The key is to start small and practice often. Countless scientific studies have proven that mindfulness helps balance our activities, thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions to minimize stress so you can become your best self.

paradise-state-of-being