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.
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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