Sunday, December 16, 2012

Burn Out

I’m bad at putting my laundry away. I don’t have a washer or dryer at home so I have to venture out with a giant basket of clothes and by the time I get it all home I throw it on the ground and forget about it. Then when I’m desperately looking for one specific shirt, or a matching sock I start sifting through the basket and the clothes spill onto the floor. Then they start forming piles of slightly worn, dirty, and did this even get washed?

I’ve been running around kind of crazily lately so the laundry was starting to creep out of my room and taking over other rooms. And then the dishes were piling up and the cat box desperately needed cleaned so I just started leaving the house because I couldn’t stand looking at the mess that I kept telling myself that I had no time to clean up…

I was overwhelmed.

Thursday I came home and finally cleared off the kitchen table. Which meant I had to put some dishes in the sink so I had to finally wash them. The odor of litter was distracting so I finally cleaned it and swept the bathroom and picked up some dirty clothes to put in the hamper which finally motivated me to put my clean (?) clothes away… I calmly and coolly put everything in its place and swept and washed and vacuumed and felt much better about life. I looked around and realized that washing a dish after I use it and putting that shirt away that I didn’t end up wearing would keep the place much cleaner for longer rather than just throwing stuff around.

The calm feeling that washed over me while methodically cleaning my house and the renewed feeling afterwards kind of made me feel better about... roller derby.
Photo by Ken Mitchell
This year, my fourth year of playing roller derby, I got burnt out. I was on the board, I was a coach, PR head, WFTDA rep, and of course, skater. None of those positions I felt got carried out to their full potential because I try to do everything I can at the same time and soon little things start piling up because something will ultimately get ignored. Those little things start adding up to bigger things and then I give up until they become crucial and then half-ass it in a fit of frustration.

I’m bad at delegating. Or letting go of control. I almost wanted to quit multiple times over stupid things. I barely blogged all year because my relationship with derby was on the verge of breaking and I felt dumb and embarrassed and less invested as time went on. This is just a neurotic thing, but there were times I felt I couldn’t even wear the Deadwards face necklace Bang made me because I felt so disconnected from the enthusiasm and love I had for derby two years ago.

And it’s not just my derby life, but real life too. Living in a college town I watch students around me picking their majors, graduating, and finding careers while two years out of college I still have no clue what I’m doing and make myself feel bad about it. Debts, bills, and an uncertain future are heavy and I let them weigh me down. Soon it’s just like my laundry and I look around exasperated, and then give up.

If you haven’t noticed yet, all these stresses and problems are all things I’m doing to myself. I do admit I have a bit of an abusive relationship with myself, but it’s always for the best, I swear! The upside to that is that I also have the ability to fix my problems. I read a lot of books about mental training this year and the biggest thing I picked up is that we DO have the ability to change and most of our downfalls are mental. I need to spend less time on “look at this problem! It’s such a problem! Look at this thing inconveniencing me!” and more on how to solve my problem. Being more proactive about potential problems is the key to maintaining sanity.

I also need to focus more on the good things in life. My blog, much like my journal, starts to become a place to just bitch about problems and then I fear the record of my life will just be a string of complaints and bad feelings so then I just stop writing all together. I need to make an effort to write down and celebrate the happy times too.
I have fun sometimes, I swear
SO. Going into the New Year, I think I will actually make some resolutions despite how cheesy and cliché that is.

  1. BE PROACTIVE. If I stay on top of responsibilities they won’t become problems.
  2. NO EXCUSES. (aka STOP BITCHING) I started a series of No Excuses articles and I need to first, finish them, and second follow them.
  3. DELEGATE. Spread the responsibilities and don’t feel like I need to do everything. Focus on myself from time to time.
  4. CALM THE FUCK DOWN. I get too high anxiety, high strung, crazy about life sometimes. Everything will be ok. The world isn’t ending… Wait, oh crap…
  5. STAY POSITIVE AND MAKE IT CONTAGIOUS. Stop mentally beating myself up about things and keep my morale up. Attitudes are contagious, so hopefully I can keep other people (i.e. my team) happy and positive and not let them get burnt out either. 
Cleaning my apartment made me realize that I shouldn't lose hope about other things in my life. If I drop the excuses, delegate and be proactive about some of my responsibilities, and just stay positive and just CALM THE FUCK DOWN from time to time I can make it all work. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Learning from Losing

Photo by Patrick Bloom.

I don’t think I can say this enough: I hate losing.

I am trying to teach myself to find success in small victories. August 25th we played the Mid Iowa Rollers, which has been an emotional match up for me in the past, and I didn’t cry, I didn’t give up, and I didn’t get mad. There were moments that my brain started to drift, but I recognized those destructive feelings and chose not to react to them. Yes, it sucked that were down by up to 100 points, it sucked that we were heavy on penalties, and it sucked that we had a hard time in the first half, but there is no value in should/would/could of statements. 

We did have some pretty great defense of our own, holding their jammers for long periods of time, and stopping the point hemorrhaging. Towards the end I had a 20 point jam, with their jammer on the track, due to the wonderful blocking of my teammates. It helped the crowd get excited and kept us pumped. It wasn’t enough to win the bout, but we did cut their lead in half. That felt good.

I have been playing roller derby for nearly four years and every week I am learning something new about myself or the game. When we first started, we played a wide range of competitors, trying to find our feet and our skill level. We were pretty decent as a newer team, so there were a few blowouts in our favor that we marked down as wins and made us feel good. It's easy to get 20 point jams in lopsided competition, and it's easier to play controlled defense against fresh jammers. Of course, playing against any team is going to give us some feedback of how we play together, and let us try new things, but it's not going to push us as hard to improve and find our weaknesses. 

The first time we played a version of the Minnesota Rollergirl All-Stars, and I reference this bout often, I instantly got frustrated and upset. It was HARD and my instinct was to hide. Looking back I realize I just had not gone up against that caliber of blocking yet and I hadn't developed my mental game well enough to deal with it. I despised losing, and anytime we struggled I would instantly go into panic mode, which would affect my jamming, which would piss me off, which would send me spiraling into a sloppy mess. 
In the star, lots of eyes are on you. Especially when you fall. It sucks and is embarrassing, but all you can do is get back up.  Photo by KORfan.
 About 90% of the time we are on skates, we are practicing or scrimmaging against ourselves. The other small percent of the time we are competing and testing ourselves against others. This is the best kind of feedback, and reflecting on a losing bout in a bad way is never going to help me improve. Instead I am thinking of situations that were hard, and trying to figure out what I can do different next time. I’m picturing the moments that our pack didn’t stop the jammer, and looking for ways to work together better. I have to admit that I did learn a lot from playing the Mid Iowa Rollers, and they exceeded my expectations. Part of me is mad and frustrated that this time they were better, but I am choosing to let that go and figure out how we can win next time.

A few weeks ago I realized with all my preaching about the mental game, I wasn’t taking my own advice. I know I fail at listening to my own words a lot, but I really thought I was on the ball with this one. Yes, I had gotten better about not getting upset, but I hadn’t purged myself of ALL negative thoughts. I pride myself on not talking back to the refs or challenging penalties, but I didn’t realize my knee-jerk reaction to make snide comments when I returned to the bench. I didn’t feel bad about them because they were never directed to anyone, just said aloud. “Well THAT was a directional block…” It's not good for anyone to hear garbage on the bench, but it's even more important not to hear it come out of the mouth of their Alternate Captain.

I had a moment this last bout that I was about to say something negative as I sat down and I quickly covered my mouth. Tyna looked at me concerned and asked if I was going to puke, but I explained that I was just holding back word vomit. I recognized my negative thought, let it go, and quickly forgot about it. Just that moment of recognition, and changing my behavior before it happened, made me a much better skater. I didn’t hide behind the bench, despite not scoring a single point in the first half, and ended up the highest scorer on our team for the night with 39 points in the second half. That felt good.
I am nothing without my blockers. Photo by KORfan.
Letting go of those bad moments, clinging to the good ones, and maintaining a bit of hope can do a lot to turn your game around. Usually when I look at the scoreboard it's a matter of, "can we still win this??" I had to keep pausing and telling myself to stop caring. It's not a carelessness like giving up, but more of a re-focusing of energy. Instead of worrying about how the jammer just went to the box and what was on the scoreboard, I would look at what I could do next. I tried to take in each jam as they came, letting them go once they were over, and moving on to the next. I felt that I succeeded in this mental strategy and can work on it more as we go into another hard bout.

Human beings are highly emotional creatures, but we also come with the ability to choose. I think in this technological age, we’re all getting used to instant gratification, but we have to remember that most change comes from self-discipline, patience, and hard work. I’m not going to become a better jammer by willing it, and I’m definitely not going to improve by saturating my brain with negative thoughts. It’s my life, I have to choose to work towards the way I want to live it. 

"Fear, anger, and sorrow are all parts of life. You can't make them go away by wishing it. Emotions pass like clouds in the sky. Meanwhile, you always have the power to choose how you will respond. You may feel afraid, but you don't have to behave fearfully. Emotions are not destiny." Dan Millman Body Mind Mastery: Training for Sport and Life

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Win or Lose, it's How You Survive the Game

Wow, I really haven't written since before our very first bout of the season? It's been so long, even blogger has changed its layout on me.

The past six months have been a bit hectic. Last December I started a new part-time job working as a production assistant for the local news station. It's been really fun, and more in line with my interests for a career. However, it came with a catch: a 4am to 9am shift. I could have worked the evening shift, but since the roller derby monster ate my life, I must work around our practice schedule. It's also in Cedar Rapids which means dishing out more money on gas and having some expensive car problems. You win some, you lose some.

The last post was the eve-eve of our first WFTDA bout, which was of course also against the #2 team in our region (and arguably #1 now). We lost of course, but I found a small victory in keeping my head in the game and doing the best I could. Then MNRG sent their Rockits down here and somehow I lost my head again. Loss number two for the season. After almost a month of me trying to up the mental training for everyone, and tightening our teamwork, we had a successful bout in Sioux City, winning 175 to 111. Like the first time we played them, we were down at the half and came back for the W.

Photo by Jim Lee
 A couple weeks later we had a busy weekend in Chicago, with our Beta B team winning over the Shade Brigade and suffering our third All-Star loss to the Syndicate. In the beginning of May we traveled up to play Killamazoo and after a steller first half, we gained our fourth loss due to a penalty craze in the second half. (Although we won the shit out of the after party.) The end of May I got to stand at the sidelines as I watched our fresh meat become bouting skaters against the Push-Up Brawlers.

Now we're in the home stretch of spring bouting. The first weekend of June, we played the Des Moines Derby Dames and pulled out a last minute win there. Then this past weekend we tested ourselves by traveling ten hours, playing two bouts, and one of those teams was a top ten regional team. Overall, I feel like it was a successful weekend. Saturday we played the Ohio Rollergirls in a tough but exciting conclusion to their triple-header evening. Despite losing, I really feel like we stepped up our defense and performed amazingly. I started out the bout on shakey jammer legs, and after throwing a small fit, Tyna started blocking me more. I do love jamming, but blocking is so much fun. The following morning we played a closed bout against Demolition City, who lost similarly to Ohio the night before. It started out pretty close and the action stayed heated the whole time. Their blockers hit comparable to Ohio, and had some awesome teamwork. We just focused on shutting down their jammers and ended up with one victory to bring home. You win some, you lose some.
We got new unifroms and I chopped off most my hair.
Photo by Patrick Bloom
I hate losing.

Right now I feel like the point differential for my life is negative and I'm being lapped. I decided it was a good idea to live on my own this fall, but money is tight and it's going to be hard. Growing up is getting more and more difficult and I have to start making adult decisions. Currently I have many different variables pulling at my sanity and I'm not sure which ones should give. There are times, and I'm sure plenty of people outside of derbyland think that I should, but I have thought about quitting derby. At this point I can't fully justify dropping it, and I'm definitely not done with it yet. I've learned so much from this sport, and one major theme has been to never give up. I've been doing a lot of whining and pouting, when I should be looking for more solutions to my problems.

A specific derby moment ingrained in my memory is when we played our toughest bout against a version of the Minnesota All-Stars a little over a year ago. I had never before been shut down that hard during a jam, and I have referenced it painfully many times since. Vuedoo and the other girls in light blue were wiping the floor with my face and there wasn't a single thing I could do but get up and keep trying. I started to lose it mid-jam and after getting knocked down for the millionth time, I just wanted to skate of the track and cry. I no-doubtedly crumpled behind the bench and cried afterwards, but at the time there was nothing I could do but keep skating. I specifically remember that moment of panic, exhaustion, humiliation and total frustration that took over. I mentally gave up but physically kept skating, and I feel like I have been half-assedly living my life the same way. If I stopped filling my mind with negative garbage and spent more energy taking charge of my life, instead of throwing pity-parties, maybe I wouldn't constantly feel like I am drowning.

I know I write a version of this post every few months when I'm starting to majorly freak out about something. I've been feeling a small twange of optimism lately, and I am hoping I can hold on to that and swim my way out of this rip-tide.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Nights Before Boutday...

Two sleeps before bouting, and all through derbyhaus,
rank smelling gear could kill a small mouse.

The WFTDA patches were sewn on the jerseys with care,
with hopes that the rankings would give them their share.

Cats laid on boutfits, strewn all over my bed,
while visions of lead jams played out in my head.

From Animal's room you could hear a tap-tap
as she pretended to sleep while playing the words with friends app.

When out in the kitchen there arose such a clatter
I stumbled over my gear bag to see what was the matter.

Into a dark corner Henry ran with a flash,
and James flopped around, belly up, unabashed.

Spotting the table where clean bearings lay
made my stomach flop, remembering bout day.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
but a tiny unicorn with a gender unclear.

With a missing horn and a cape full of sparkles,
I knew at once that it must be 'parkles.

My nerves Herm noticed but gave me no blame,
but reminded me of my team, and called them by name.

There's BatR, and Baker, and Sugar and Jen.
Goldie, and Fi, Jane Bang, and then...

Pains, Animal, Trip, Glad, Lucy and Red,
they are all there for you- get out of your head!

On the line, with strong walls, at the front of the pack,
there are plenty of blockers, who've all got your back.

Around the track you will speed, over the apex you'll fly,
When you meet with an obstacle, you'll never say die....

(to be continued)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Behold! 2012

If the world is really going to end this year, I predict I would die happy after a great year of derby. 2012 is making out to be a fantastic season and I can't wait to really get things started. We are just rounding out an exciting schedule and to make it even better, we found out Tuesday that we FINALLY graduated to the WFTDA big leagues. It was quite the surprise since it was mid-quarter and we weren't expecting any announcements until March.

That day it was also in the high 50s, in January... in Iowa, so I decided to celebrate with an outdoor skate. It kind of made for the perfect day. It made me wish I lived somewhere  that had no winter so I could potentially skate outside any time I wanted to.
Deadwards approves.
We returned to skating practice on the 4th and are just starting to get back into the swing of things. Taking a month off from skating practice didn't turn out as bad as I thought, and I'm sure we have our strength training at Fit2Live to thank for that. Without skating, all I had was planning to throw myself into; for fresh meat practices, PR stuff and anything else I decide to stick my nose in. I started getting overwhelmed and think I forgot about the fun side of derby. Skating again reminded me that this should be about the camaraderie, fun and skating. I'm going to try to make an effort this year to balance it all a little better so I don't get burnt out.

I feel like doing pack drills at practice gives me an indication of where we are all at as a team. Wednesday we did 40 laps as a pack, non-derby direction and it felt good. We all felt very cohesive and strong, not at all what I expected after a break and going clockwise. That's a good feeling since our first bout this year is a mere THREE WEEKS from today, against the Minnesota ALL-STARS. Oh god. I think I'm having panic attack deja-vu. This time it's not a vague version of their All-Star team-- it is them straight up. We're also hitting the road and are going to be playing on their awesome track at the Roy. I'm excited about the venue, but nervous about the giant crowd it holds.

Last year I seemed so mentally and mostly physically prepared for that bout, but somehow lost it all when things got tough. I'm going to try and work on my mental game prior, so I can hold myself together and give them everything I got. I've got to start getting used to tough competition since our schedule is stacked with WFTDA teams. It is going to be a very trying season, but with our league in its 4th season, and having brought in some awesome talent from recruitment, I am ecstatic at the possibilities 2012 holds.

Here's a little blast from the past that gets me emotional every time I watch it. It is a sort of video blog I recorded when we drove up to Madison last spring to play the Unholy Rollers. It is an example of how my team continues to amaze me and I want to tap into that power this season as we start taking on some harder teams.

See you on the track.


Friday, January 6, 2012

No Excuses: Dynamic Warm Ups

I totally made this up, as seen by my
MSpaint illustration.

Now that you have mentally prepared yourself for roller derby, it’s time to strap skates on, right? Not quite. To tap into the full potential of your body when you work out, you should keep a cyclical process in mind: Rev, Run, Recover.

Rev Your Engines
Before exercise, it is best to warm up to help prevent injury and to prime the body for a more efficient workout. It’s a small amount of extra time away from practice, but well worth it in the long run.

Warming up should work your body gradually into peak performance. Start with a 5-10 minute jog at about 40% working up to 60% to get your heart rate up. This warms your muscles- which prevents injury, warms your blood temperature- which gets more oxygen in your blood for endurance, and dilates your blood vessels which makes exercise easier on your heart. It will also prepare you mentally for exercise, and a warm body will use stored muscle fuel more effectively.

Next would be when most people start bending and pulling on muscles, but recent research shows that static stretching before exercise could actually do more harm than good. Dynamic stretching is a practice that is becoming more popular and has even been mentioned in a series on All Derby Drills and an article in Blood & Thunder Magazine. The more I read about it the more this new warm up makes sense.
Studies have shown that static stretching before performance can smother your explosive power and reduce your strength and speed for up to 30 minutes after. That's half a bout!
Cathy Kovach Photography
Static: a. Having no motion; being at rest; quiescent.
           b. Fixed; stationary.

Why would you want to stop moving and bring your heart back to a normal rate before you proceed to exercising? Often a stretch circle turns into social time or daydreaming as you hold positions. This distracts your brain from thinking about the impending workout and you cancel out all the effort you put into warming your body. A static stretch pulls the muscle to its limit and is only really increasing your tolerance for the discomfort and can lead to over-stretching. Studies have also shown that this could tighten your muscles before exercise instead of relaxing them. The part that concerns me the most is that static stretching also zaps your quick twitch muscle, the kind that gives you explosive power.

With dynamic stretching, such as walking lunges, the muscle is performing actively in a way that it may be used in your exercise. It’s being stretched and warmed in a more controlled manner, which increases range of motion and power. Stretching with movement also keeps your body running warm and tells your brain that you’re preparing to work. You want to try to warm up the muscles specific to your sport, so understanding which movement works which muscle is good to know. A quick search for ‘dynamic stretches’ pulls up a handful of resources, so I won’t go into the various ones here. Most of the exercises work better off-skates, but some can be adapted to wheel shoes as well. I would recommend doing your warm up before you hit the track, although making that transition to the rest of your practice while still warm is important, so gear up quickly.

Tons of resources on YouTube. This one is pretty thorough and doesn't have an annoying 
hard rock song attached to it. 

Run Your Workout
The second part of the cycle is obviously your practice, workout, bout, etc. You are most likely working hard and breaking a sweat, so make sure you give your body a few small breaks and re-hydrate. Staying well hydrated all day is important because at practice you’ll only be making up what’s lost. When exerting yourself for longer than an hour, you may want to reach for a Gatorade or something else with calories and electrolytes to replenish the carbs and minerals burned. Red Bull may give you wings, and energy drinks are proven performance enhancers, but caffeine will also dehydrate you. They are best to consume in moderation or along with some water.

Taking care of your body is the moral of the story throughout this cycle and it doesn’t stop while you’re pushing yourself on the track either. We are obviously playing a contact sport but you should do everything in your power to prevent injury. Some no brainers like wearing proper attire, gear and footwear (in this case skates that FIT) are vital to the longevity of your body. In my opinion, most injuries are caused over time, like repetitive falling on crappy knee pads, foot problems or blisters from ill-fitting skates, etc. This sport comes with a high price tag, but investing in top notch gear, and replacing it regularly, will give you a loving, long-lasting relationship with roller derby.

Running yourself ragged at practice will do you no good either. Arriving at practice on an empty stomach or dehydrated is a quick way to hurt yourself. You risk becoming physically ill or light-headed which means you are not practicing at your peak performance. It could also lead sloppy skating or passing out which may injure you or others. Derby hurts, but experiencing real pain is a smoke signal from your body telling you something is wrong. If it’s a severe or reoccurring pain, get it checked out! Wear any suggested gear or braces and do your PT if coming back from injury. Pushing yourself at practice breaks barriers, pushing yourself past the tipping point breaks bones- listen to your body!

A little glimpse into my team's practice. We began working out at an awesome local gym, Fit2Live, and Ryan talks a little bit about dynamic stretching vs static stretching.

Rest and Recovery
Just like you slowly prepped your body to work hard, you should bring it back down to a resting state. Doing some slow, relaxed laps at the end of practice (preferably both derby and non-derby direction) at a conversational pace is a good way to get a bit of social time in while your heart returns to a resting rate. This gradual decrease in activity helps get rid of lactic acid in your muscles which could prevent soreness. 

Now is the time for static stretching to have its place. The studies I’ve read haven’t banned it all together, but suggest it be saved for your cool down or outside of practice. Animal Mother is a yogi who has ran us through a routine after practice that feels great after a hard workout. She often attends yoga outside of practice to help get rid of aches and pains or uses it as mental centering. Not only is this a time for your body to rest but for your mind to reflect. Incorporate some of your mental training as you end practice and think about your performance.

The hour after your workout is an important time to replenish your body of everything it lost while working hard. Chocolate milk is the best beverage to keep in the fridge for a post-workout boost. The calcium and protein are particularly good for female athletes and the carbs and sugar help tired muscles regain energy. It’s suggested that you eat a recovery snack rich in carbs and protein immediately and then eat a meal full of protein, fiber and whole grains within an hour or two. If you wait much longer, your body’s ability to fully refuel drops by half. Since derby practice can burn from 600-1200 calories, it’s important to eat a healthy recovery meal and continue drinking water.

A wide range of people stumble onto roller derby and not all are already athletes who maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you are a derby girl you must face the fact that you are now an athlete and you should do your body a favor by cutting out junk food and enriching it with non-saturated, healthy fats. I know the ravenous feeling post practice combined with an elated exhaustion often leads to popping a pizza in the oven or going to your favorite bar for fried things, but please reduce these indulgences to a moderate consumption. Stock your fridge with colorful fruits and veggies or prep some pasta for the week to make it easier to refuel when you’re exhausted.

Sure, derby girls love to party-all-the-time,
party-all-the-time but remember alcohol can have
lasting affects on your performance.
“Alcohol is the enemy of the athlete”.
Beer may be a liquid, but that does not mean it makes a very good recovery drink. It can hinder your recovery process and still affect your performance 48 hours later. I think most skaters are told not to drink the day before a bout or even the week of, but this great article by a derby girl may make you even think twice about indulging at after parties. (yeah, right.) Drinking, especially after bouts, can be a celebratory time and a reward for hard work, but keep in mind how detrimental it can be for the serious athlete. 

Keep your workouts well-rounded with the three Rs; rev, run, and recover, and not only will you train at peak performance, but you can help your body prevent injury. Everyone's bodies have different needs, so always consult a doctor and do your own research before you start any fitness routine. I am by no means an expert on any of the material covered here, but am merely reporting what I have learned from research and experience.

No Excuses: Introduction
No Excuses: Mental Training
No Excuses: No Train No Gain