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


  1. I just could not depart your website before suggesting that I actually loved the usual information an individual supply in your guests? Is gonna be again incessantly to investigate cross-check new posts
    Mr. Gasket 7680 Remote Oil Filter System

  2. Hello. splendid job. I did not imagine this. This is a excellent story. Thanks!
    Sorel Women's Tofino CVS Boot