How skating just isn’t enough

Spoiler alert: this post is going to talk about the side effects of my transfer into London Rollergirls… So if you have an anti-London bias (a topic for another day) zone out now.

So, like a sequel to a movie, here’s a mini introduction again – nearly a year ago I transferred into London Rollergirls because my job and my partner, Giggity, moved there. It wasn’t an unwanted move or transfer – I mean who would complain about skating at the highest level possible in the UK, or living in a city that has something happening everyday?

But the move was a giant change to my life. Coming from lil’ ol’ Lincolnshire – the big green flat marshland, with a small roller derby team, to the mammoth concrete beast that is London with its  highly competitive and huge roller derby team.

What I didn’t realise was just how giant the physical demands would be – leading me to the conclusion that skating just isn’t enough to keep you the top of your game.

roller derby pivot

Photo taken by John Hesse

So yah, yah, yah this is another post about how you and I should probably be doing off skates workouts, but it’s also more than that – it’s actually how you and I should be doing more off skates workouts, more non-training skating, more mental prep, more resting, more eating – because honestly I thought I was doing enough, but I AM SERIOUSLY STILL NOT.

Before I transferred into London Rollergirls I was hitting the gym twice a week – doing some loose strength training and trying to get some plyo movement back into my recovering legs. I was thinking about the mental side of the game (note thinking) and I was stoically sticking to the idea of Monday as my rest day. I knew that my transfer scrim was going to be hard – but I also thought I was working hard enough to be prepared.

It turns out I was doing just enough to transfer in. I passed my transfer scrim, and my probation and in November last year I bouted as Brawl Saint (HIGH FIVE). But quite simply it isn’t enough.

London Rollergirls Brawl Saints

Photo taken by John Hesse

Skating with the London Rollergirls has opened my eyes to how competitiveness is so fluid, and well…  Competitive. Like my good friend and housemate, Trisha Smackanawa, said in her blog post for Fitness Gone Rogue,

When you make the step up to the next level you are starting from behind and sprinting to catch up with everyone, only to find that when you get there you still have to run really damn fast.

Up a mountain.

And the mountain is on fire.

My motivation is to be the best skater I can be. To achieve that just skating really isn’t enough.

So what changes have I made?

Exercise

Well – it’s hard to remember a time when I slept in past 6:30. Since moving to London I’ve seriously upped my time spent in the gym. Where before my gym attendance topped out at twice a week and often done in the evenings, twice is definitely the minimum – with me often hitting the gym everyday (but Monday!) before work. Working out in the morning is something that I NEVER thought I would do – but with roller derby practice two evenings a week, and often mid-week meetings, it was a necessary change. It helps that my gym is round the corner from my work.

Mental prep

I’ve become obsessed with Ted Talks. I blame work for this more than roller derby – but Ted Talks are a great way to find out more information about your mental chemistry and personality ticks. I’ve previously spoken about trying to read to mentally prepare myself for the psychological ups and downs of injury and bouting, but I’ve found Ted Talks to be the most effective way of getting myself to believe I am strong, capable, free from injury, and well-practiced.

In particular I recommend this amazing Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. It speaks about how our body language shapes who we are, and about faking it until you become it. In particular the power poses referenced in this talk have helped me up my game considerably.

roller derby pivot taking the star

Photo taken by Andy Sainter

Eating

My eating habits have also changed. I really didn’t realise how necessary this was. But after spending an hour and a half at Brawl Saints team training getting my ass kicked, and then scrimmaging against both the amazing Batter C and the dominating Brawling, it’s easy to nearly faint if you’ve not eaten correctly -believe me I’ve nearly done it… Twice!

So now I’m more conscious than ever about what fuel I’m putting in. Because food is exactly that, fuel – so only a croissant for breakfast before training is like putting £2’s worth of supermarket petrol in your car. Cliche alert: you get out what you put in.

This change also coincided with me making a conscious decision to eat less meat, which I think has made changing my eating habits easier. But the search for protein is a constant puzzle (because I don’t like protein shakes).

Relaxing, resting and stretching

Prior to skating with London Rollergirls I can honestly say (aside from my first ever roller derby session) I have never had two-day DOMS caused by roller derby practice alone. Now I’m not surprised if I get this because I’m constantly pushing my body past its comfort zone to try and be more effective, stop quicker, hit harder, be more dominant or faster (and probably because I need more post-training protein).

So I started doing yoga on the regs. After every gym session I do 15 to 20 minutes of yoga, and on my rest days (which are Mondays AND Saturdays usually) I try to fit in a longer yoga session. My flexibilty has increased, which I’m advised by Fitness Gone Rogue, can only mean good things!

Feedback and maaaawwww skating

Feedback, free skate, feedback, free skate, feedback, free skate.

LRG has a great system of ownership on skaters to seek feedback, and a buddy system that supports this. Every couple of months since starting I’ve sought feedback on where I can improve to be what my team needs. The feedback is always different and always attainable – and often, actually not that far from my own self-assessment.

Having this feedback in my mind at practice and focusing on it where possible at free skate times really makes a difference to how you feel about your own skating and progress, as well as actually improving your performance. Some feedback is easier to work on than others, such as improving backwards skating versus not being a do-it-all player. BUT it’s a giant change to go from feeling offended and a little upset when somebody points out your flaws or “areas of growth” to thinking “great, I’m going to nail that – thanks for your time”

So yeah – the biggest learning curve I’ve had from my transfer to London Rollergirls, is how enough is never enough! But I think that’s what makes roller derby fun!

Learning and growing and growing and learning – Lil Cherry Kick’er

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