Have you added yourself to The Derbyverse Map yet? Go! Now! Be counted! And click the little arrow on the left of the map to view the dots in list form. Click a name to see where that person is. Go find Tesla and Gravy and give it a shot yourself! Add your photo, website URL, even a youtube video to your dot. Welcome to the Derbyverse, y'all. Share it with every derbyperson you know, and lets fill that map!
From the helmet of: Gravy
Weight lifting has been starting to gain traction in the roller derby community, and for good reason. Thanks to recent articles such as Why Strength Matters for Roller Derby Athletes and Perspective Shift: Roller derby & shifting the way we look at training, it’s obvious that our sport is leaning toward weight lifting as a primary form of cross-training. While the main benefits of weight training are outlined in the above articles, I want to focus on how to begin if you have no freaking clue what you’re doing and have never stepped foot inside a gym before (me, a year and a half ago).
So, I have pretty bad anxiety about a lot of things. I have a hard time beginning something new if I don’t have someone to guide me (exception: roller derby) and if there’s a chance that I’ll make a fool out of myself, then I ain’t doin’ it (again, same exception). Going to a place like the weight room for the first time can be intimidating. The only reason I even started lifting weights was because my best friend and fellow Jewel City Rollergirl, Jen Ittles and her boyfriend (and team coach) Wes Tickles were starting to do it. It’s to them that I owe all of my (limited) knowledge. And I still hit up Jen for training program recommendations (thanks, girl!). What I’m saying is, I am not an expert. I’m not a personal trainer (I’m pretty sure ‘linguist’ is the exact polar opposite of ‘exercise physiologist’). Everything I know comes from the internet or from other, more knowledgeable people, but I want to share my knowledge in the hopes that it can help give people the resources and information they need to start weight training. Or at least think really hard about starting, because I promise you, weight lifting will be one of the best things you do for yourself, mentally and physically (along with roller derby, of course!).
When I started, I had no idea how my body worked. How muscle or fat worked. This is a problem that a lot of women have. And it’s not our fault. We’re constantly being told that we need to eat less, that our bodies are never right or good, that we need to diet, that we need to be ashamed because we ate a cupcake (and we totally could’ve eaten SIX), that there are only two body shapes (fat and skinny), that we ARE the number on the scale. You know what? I weight somewhere around 127 lbs. I fluctuate from 125 to 130 and I’m only 5’2”. That’s above average for someone my height and my frame. You know what else? I can squat 185lbs. I can squat ME AND A HALF. And you know what else? The only reason I don’t care about what the scale says and why I’m not ashamed to share that number is because of weight lifting. These reasons, and so many more, are why more women need to start doing this, especially if they’re playing a sport that requires strength, speed, and recovery.
When I first told my dad about lifting weights, his response was, “You don’t want to look like a man.” That’s it. He didn’t say, “Good for you for getting in shape and breaking the cute, pink gendered box women are put in from the day they’re born!” or “I bet getting stronger helps you play the sport you love!” What a shock, coming from my own dad. If you’ve ever had a thought like that cross your mind, stop reading this article and immediately read this article. Like right now. And while you’re at it, read this article to dispel some other myths about women and weight lifting. Now, let’s start with basic information.
Weight lifting is understood in terms of sets and reps. Reps are the number of times you perform the lift without rest. Sets are the number of times you perform the number of reps with a rest in between. If you have an exercise that is 3x5, you will be doing 3 sets of 5 reps.
The three main lifts are: squat, deadlift, and bench press. Familiarize yourself with those. These three lifts should be in any program you choose to follow.
Following a program is extremely recommended, especially if you’re just starting. One fantastic program for beginning weightlifting is StrongLifts. There’s even an app for it! So convenient and helpful. This entire website has great information on getting started, because it’s meant to be a starting point (as long as you pretend that the language isn’t geared toward dudes).
Two other programs that are aimed for women and weight lifting are: The New Rules of Lifting for Women and Strong Curves. They exist in book form and are packed with tons of information, especially if you’re like me and like to research thoroughly about things before committing.
Okay, so you’ve chosen a program, watched the videos, and you’ve tried emulating the lifts with no weight in your living room. How do you make sure you’re doing them right? Head over to www.reddit.com/r/xxfitness and post a Form Check video. This subreddit is filled with women involved in all different areas of fitness, but there is a large number of weight lifters, many of them just beginning. If you don’t have a reddit account, there’s a Facebook group with the name, “reddit xxfitness.” It’s a very open, welcoming community, great for people who have questions that they might be self-conscious about asking in other groups.
Explosive Exercises and Your Core.
The three main lifts are great (and necessary!) for getting stronger, but roller derby athletes are getting stronger for a specific purpose. Exercises specific for roller derby include movements that train your fast-twitch muscles. I’ve added these into my training routine and have noticed dramatic improvements. My favorites include: ravers, frog jumps, depth jumps, and uphill sprinting. Uphill sprinting is really good for roller derby, because it mimics the sprint/recovery that is the nature of the sport. But it is fucking. terrible. In the good way, of course.
Every leg day I make sure to do a few core exercises. The one that makes me want to send dumbells flying at the mirrors is the decline crunch. It’s specifically terrible (and oh, so good) when you add a weighted medicine ball. I then go to the back extension bench and do a few sets of back extensions and side bends (video shows standing, but I use the same bench), because your core is more than the “six pack” muscles. You can slowly increase your weight on these (for backbends grab a weight plate and for side bends grab a dumbbell), but be aware that adding weight to the side bends can make your obliques (and your waist) larger (I use a max of 10lbs and my waist has gotten slightly larger).
From the helmet of: Tesla
Did tears roll down your cheeks? My eyes got misty and I had to wipe away a few salty drops. Now, this may be because lately I've been told more than once, by more than a few people, to "be realistic," "be sensible," and "be responsible." I was told it wasn't a solid idea to start a roller derby blog or print roller derby shirts "because no one really plays roller derby" and my target audience would be too small to matter. Sometimes I played the part of the naysayer: I'm too new to derby. I don't belong yet. No one knows who I am, or cares what I have to say. What if they don't like my writing? What if I get made fun of or ridiculed for something I say? What if no one buys what I design? What if I fall out of love with derby and give up?
I'm not saying that watching an inspirational video will cure you of all laziness and lack of will, but I do think that sometimes we need to hear someone tell us to GO for it. So, GO FOR IT. That thing you've been wanting to do? Go try it. Maybe you're reading this blog because you're standing on the outside of the derby circle wondering if you could possibly do it, too. You can. You are roller derby. Maybe you're fresh meat like me, or a seasoned skater like Gravy, and you're wondering if you could ever possibly play on a travel team someday, or be an international derby dreamboat like Fifi or Stef Mainey. We all know that line in Whip It, right? "Put some skates on- be your own hero." I think that translates into "Just do it. Why not you?" Why not? Why not start a derby blog? (Because so many already exist! It's been done!) Why not finish that damn painting? (I'm not even a great painter. There are way better illustrators out there.) Why not finish editing those photos? (It's not like I'll win a contest or the hearts of america with these photos, they're just head shots.)
Allow me to be my own Shoulder Angel a la Emperor's New Groove's Kronk: That derby blog you start could save your sanity, and people might just LIKE IT. Who cares if they don't? Write it anyway! That painting could lead to other paintings. It could lead to a worthwhile venture into illustration if you'd let it. It might make someone's day. Those photos stuck on your laptop might contain a gem, someone's very favorite photo of themselves. Maybe a few of those pictures will end up in frames on a mantle, and someone will smile every time they look at them. Maybe you'll never be famous or rich, or anyone's hero, but you'll never be ANYTHING if you don't get off this damn sofa. Be your own hero. And if you haven't watched The Emperor's New Groove, remedy that situation immediately. Just saying.
After watching the video, I stood up and went upstairs. I had a small fire in my heart, and I didn't want it to go out, so I began to write. I guess that's the key, isn't it? Find something to kindle that little fire in you and then don't let it go out. Fan it, care for it. Don't let anyone stomp it out, and if they do? Find a match. I hope, if you were sitting still like I was, that you're not sitting now.
From the helmet of: Tesla
Ok, more like toe stop dust in the spandex shorts, but whatever. I want to talk about skirts. I never used to wear them. I didn't wear sleeveless shirts or sandals, either. I didn't even own shorts before 2014. A little over a year ago, I made the decision to lose weight. I went on Weight Watchers and took a year to slowly slough off 40 pounds. It was nuts, and a total head trip, but I did it! I wanted to buy a skirt, maybe. And a dress. Just to try them. I bought them, wore them with tights for a few weeks, then put them away. I still wasn't completely sold.
I'd hated my legs ever since 8th grade when a girl named Kyle told me I had sausage legs. I wore pants every day after that. For the next 14 or so years my sausage stems stayed hidden beneath khaki and denim, too sausagy for polite company. I even wore pants to gym class in high school, and any time my legs just HAD to show, I wore the thickest hose I could find. How sad. Looking back, I wish I'd punched Kyle in the nose and moved on with my day. Instead, I let that wound fester into a body image so warped and bizarre that I loathed every inch of skin beneath my waist. Not even shedding 40 pounds had changed my mind. They looked different, sure, but they were still my stupid sausages.
Then, derby happened. It waltzed into my life, swept me off my feet, and taught me to love everything about my body. Every day I began to gaze a little longer at myself in the mirror, marveling at these legs and feet and hips that did such amazing things... things I never knew I could do! Jumping, spinning, stopping, hitting. I began to write daily love letters to my legs:
And you know what? I wore dresses 4 out of 5 days last week. I only wore jeans on Friday because it was Friday, and who says no to jeans? Not this girl. I've never been a girly-girl, I usually forget to shave and I don't do pink, but I'll tell you what... I'm a legs girl now. Look at them. My sausages ROCK.
From the helmet of: Gravy
One of the reasons I love jamming is because you can just sort of... shut off and go into primal spazz reaction mode. When you’re new to derby, it’s the easiest position. You don’t have to think about the strategy that you don’t really understand or the awkward things your feet and legs are somehow actually doing. And if you can use that wonkiness to make your way through a pack every once in a while, the jammer panty will just sort of... consistently make its way onto your helmet. And that’s it; you’ve got a star on your back for the rest of your career.
While I’ve been steadily leveling up in jamming over the past 3+ years, my blocking has been pretty stagnated. The first few times I actually blocked in a scrimmage, I remember that I could get to the opposing jammer quickly, but once I got there, I had no idea what to do. Do I hit her out or slow her down so someone else can hit her out? Is my body doing this right? How is she moving so quickly? And unlike when jamming, if your brain overthinks for a split second, the jammer is gone and you’re left standing there, analyzing what just happened. Until it’s time for the jammer to come back around (how did she get here so fast?!) and you have to find your friends and hope your butts are close enough that the jammer that’s barreling in won’t hit your seam and send you flying.
Being somewhat new to the blocking game is almost like re-learning how to play. I thought that the little tricks I used while jamming didn’t translate over to blocking, but it was only after I became a better blocker that I realized that each position could use the other’s skills, just differently. You can’t fake a jammer by pretending you’re not going to block her and then magically block her, but you can be sneaky and trick the jammer into cutting the track. Spinning, while sometimes getting you out of tough jamming situations, will not block the jammer, but solid footwork can help you stay in front of her while she’s juking. There’s a completely different mindset going into the game as a blocker than when going in as a jammer.
Blocking is like a game of ambition, relentlessness, and patience. (What do you mean, patience?! This is ROLLER DERBYAHHH). Patience in the way you move and the way you think. You can’t get too gung-ho and overcompensate, or you’ll lose the jammer. You can’t move your head from side to side looking for the jammer or you’ll lose her. When your wall is patient and can contain that jammer, daaaang, that takes all the jammer juice away. Blocking is zen. It’s focused, highly mental, and takes a certain amount of clarity to be successful.
Though I will always take that jammer cap when it’s given, I’ve really started to enjoy blocking. Blocking with people who are on the same page as you is like something I had never experienced before. Completely exhilarating, the way that everyone just sort of fills in where they’re needed, like a self-solving, soul-crushing puzzle. I hope that everyone experiences that feeling in their derby career, just as I hope that everyone experiences getting lead jammer for the first time (because you always take the opportunity to jam when it comes up, right? Right?!). If you want to play better and have a deeper understanding of the game, play both positions. Soak it all up. To be able to block a jammer, you have to move and think like one. And to be able to jam past blockers, you have to know what it’s like being a blocker. And the great thing is that you can soak it up. You have that power. Because whatever you put into derby is exactly what you get back (and then some).
From the helmet of: Tesla
So, this last friday I had a group lesson with Smarty Pants, and I was all excited (who wouldn't be peeing themselves in glee, right?!). I was going straight there after work, so in the morning I gathered all my gear, packed it on my back, and headed out the door. Halfway through that door I realized I'd forgotten a whole bag of iamrollerderby shirts upstairs. Damn. It's ok, though, I thought, I'll just run up and grab them, my gear isn't THAT heavy. On about the 6th step someone placed a hot knife in the top of my right thigh. That doesn't feel awesome, I thought, but I kept running up those damn stairs. On the way down the stairs my thigh continued to feel not awesome. What did I doooo??! The morning of a Smarty lesson day?! WHY DID I DO THAT?
I rested it all day at work, kept it tightly wrapped, and then skated on it that night. I did fine, and my leg felt so-so. Most importantly, the Smarty lesson was awesome. Two days later at practice I was feeling glimmers of that hot knife again, but I was determined to ignore it. I made it an hour and forty five minutes through practice. Like a freaking PROFESSIONAL. Then, mid-jam, I knew something was going to explode, and sure enough my leg was again searing with white-hot stabby pain. I coasted on one leg to the ground and quickly began to de-pad, lest that damn jammer panty get passed anywhere near me (nope nope nope). My brain was having a fit watching my girls skate. I wanted to skate, too! But.. the knife in my leg..
Why is it so hard to accept that we shouldn't skate when we're hurt? Because we just WANT to skate that bad? Because we paid too much money to miss a practice? Because we're just macho mamas? Maybe it's because we don't want to look like pansies sitting out of drills and jams. I don't know what it is, but it's super dumb. Two days of contact drilling and scrimmaging on that leg, that was super idiotic. And going to practice tonight, two days later, was maybe not the brightest thing I've ever done either. One stupid knee-tap and I'm now in more pain than I was that first day, and I'm probably looking at an even longer recovery time, but I just don't care. And I should. I need this body, man.
Derby is a sickness, yo. And the only cure is more derby.
Speaking of stuff that is sucky, my Arius plates tried to MURDER me this week. I'll explain. We were (thank goodness) skating slowly in a pack, about to go into a drill, when my left skate felt kinda floppy and weird. I looked down to see the side of my front wheel. Like, the side of it.. THE SIDE THAT SHOULD NOT BE FACING UP STARING AT ME. What the deuce? I plopped down on my luscious derby butt and grabbed my skate. I was missing a pin! Arius plates don't have kingpins and normal truck/axel set ups, they have butterfly cushions as a pivot point for each set of axels. There is a bolt that holds that assembly together, and one of mine was gone. For a moment I was panicky and upset, but then Memphis skated over with my pin in her hand and a slightly confused look on her face. THANK YOU, DERBY GODS! Memphis rocks.
As I was hastily fixing my skate, Donna 'Pologize ran over and told me her Arius plates had lost a pin, too! At the skating rink! IN THE DARK! Holy hell. Why, Arius? You trying to kill someone? I'll be checking my stupid pins before I skate each time now, and if you have Arius plates I suggest you start doing the same. Damn sneaky ninja pin.
The moral of tonight's story is this: Rest if you're hurt, and check your Arius pins to make sure they're not loose. My motto of "rest is for the weak/I'LL REST WHEN I'M DEAD" is just egotistical and moronic. I'm not gonna say I didn't have a blast at practice tonight, because I did, but I shouldn't have done that knee-tap of death. I shouldn't have offered to be the jammer in drills. I shouldn't have blah blah blah. Derby.
From the helmet of: Tesla
Summer. That's how it began for me. A new coworker at my job turned into a derby godmother, and within a month I'd bought skates. Adult women roller skated? Recreationally? I had no idea what derby really was (there was a movie, right?), but I knew I had stumbled upon something pretty great/terrifying. I had skated as a kid. A ton. When my mom talks about it now she says, "Oh, she lived in skates. Refused to take them off," at which point my husband says, "Yeah, some things don't change. Lately I think she'd sleep in them if I let her."
I feel pretty open and relaxed about my status as a rollergirl now (four months in), but it didn't start that way. I bought skates in May 2014, and the summer session of the Texas Rollergirls Rec League didn't start until June 1st. My coworker told me I should go to speed skate practice at the local roller rink to get my bearings. It had been 20 years since I'd worn roller skates, and time isn't always kind. I also have a bit (ok, maybe more than a bit) of a social anxiety issue. I may play things off okay sometimes when I'm feeling nervous, but on the inside I'm usually on the verge of a meltdown. I made up my mind to go to speed practice. I borrowed gear. I obsessed over the driving directions and traffic. I drove there after work. I sat in my car. I continued to sit in my car.
Really, if my husband hadn't pulled up next to me in HIS car and dragged me inside, I may never have gone in at all. When he inched his car into the space next to mine I had a death-grip on the steering wheel, my gaze fixed on a nowhere point ahead of my bumper. I was dug into my VW like a tick, and fear was coursing through my veins. "There are gonna be roller girls in there!" "Why does everyone walking in there have inlines? No quads?" "What if I can't skate? I'm gonna pass out." I didn't even realize he was there until he opened my car door like a ninja.
Yeah, I may over-analyze just a bit. What would have happened if he hadn't decided to come? But he did, and I DID go inside that roller rink... and I could skate. I could still cross over, turn around, and skate backwards. I even remembered how to crossover backwards! I didn't fall once. Jackpot. Now, stopping was a different story. Let's just say I rolled into a lot of walls and people that first day. I rolled into another rollergirl and made a friend. Turned out, rollergirls were pretty nice people. Jackpot numero dos.
I spent the next few weeks going to friday night speed practice, watching derby bouts on YouTube, and trying not to puke myself whenever I thought about signing up for Rec League. Hubby told me to sleep on it until I was sure, so I waited until the very last day and then pulled the trigger. No choice now. I had bought gear. I had invested. Time to walk the walk! The first level of our Rec League is called Primer, and it's a non-contact basic skills level, and it's where I met Gravy for the first time. She certainly didn't belong in Primer, but was going through the motions since she was new to Austin, and to the league. I took lots of notes. There are assessments about three times per session in which you can try to get to the next level. After three Primer practices, I decided to assess "to get the feedback," I said. Yeah, right. I wanted to skate with the big girls! Sorta! I had no idea. I passed that assessment, and headed into what the league calls a mixed-level scrimmage intensive. It's not a regular practice session. It's drilling followed by scrimmaging every single practice. Every. Single. Practice. Scrimmaging. Ever seen a bright-eyed freshie do a hitting drill? I'm pretty sure I looked hilarious. Ever seen one try to scrimmage without knowing a thing about the game? YouTube didn't prepare me for this. And the HEAT. Holy hell was it hot. Texas summers aren't exactly cool, mind you, and we skate in a big warehouse/oven with no AC. There are a few gym fans, though, and a trash can in which to puke when the heat doesn't agree with the breakfast taco you hastily shoved down your gullet. Basura.
And so it went. I was gung-ho... and then I was beat down. I was encouraged, and fussed at a little. I kept having to say, "I'm new! I'm sorry!" Some girls would help and give feedback, and that was the best part about skating with girls in a higher level. Some were more of the tough-loving variety and knocked me down every single chance they got. Sometimes that meant real, oh-shit-I'm-broken injuries. I must have had a sign on my back: "Hi, I'm Tesla. My fear response is to stand up, and I'm not short, so go ahead and slam me to the ground!! Teach me a lesson!" Despite my best efforts to stay cheery, I got pretty down on myself. I got hurt, tearing some muscles in my rotator cuff. I got sad and frustrated, and began taking every hit personally. Maybe derby wasn't for me? Moving into the Intermediate level may have been a bad choice.
I decided to make my self-doubt known to the league coordinators and some of the girls, and I got lots of positive feedback. I also got a few links to some blogs about mental toughness, and a pep talk about owning my athleticism. No more excuses about how I'd never played a sport before. I'm playing one now! Time to own that shit. I went back to practice the next week ready to take on the world and keep smiling. I just did it. I took that stupid jammer panty when it was handed to me, and I got back up every time I slammed. I smiled through some pain and pushed through some exhaustion. I could do this. And the girls noticed. I got butt-slaps and high fives! I got congratulated on getting lead jammer! Wait.. I got lead jammer?! I hadn't even realized.
By the last practice of the summer session I was a rollergirl through and through (and threw). I had started derby to have fun and get a good workout. Pfffft. Silly freshie! You don't do derby to get in shape, you get in shape to do derby. I had never worked out before, but I was now squatting while I brushed my teeth and doing push-ups while the oven pre-heated. It didn't take long for it to become one of the most important things in my life. Three months from terrified to hook-line-and-sinker in love. And that's how I got here. I just want to share this derby love. I hope you'll like what I have to say.
Tesla and Gravy
Just two rollergirls trying to share the rollerlove from Austin, TX to the world.