Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Stay On in the Off-Season

Roller Derby doesn’t really have an official season, a topic which I’d love to explore later, but it seems like a lot of teams take time off during the holidays. If you’re entering an extended period out of practice, don’t completely end your training. Periods of rest are important, but so is cross-training. When you’re not concerned with competitive play, it’s important to build your athletic base and worry less about finite skills.  

Our league ramped up competition the past few seasons, once we became part of the WFTDA, and we have been pretty busy. Last year we did take off time in December from skating but continued to workout, which started us out right in January. This year is different for two reasons: I started a derby break early, and we have no formal training for our off season, so it’s all D.I.Y. Part of the reason for my break was a mental one, but also a restorative and physical break. I have an odd sleeping schedule (work at 4am) and ran myself into the ground in October. I have gotten a little too lax on working out on my own though, especially when Thanksgiving hit, and I am feeling it now.

Winter can make it doubly hard to keep moving, especially if you live in a cold, wintry place, but there’s no excuse to quit trying. Since there aren’t bouts keeping you busy, you should have more time to work on your strength and conditioning. Don’t worry about skills or even skating during this time, but just focus on those building blocks.

This is also a good time to work on any imbalances that your body might have from rigorous training. We skate hard and turn left, so your body is likely to have a bit of lopsided muscle development or training wear. There might also be a nagging injury or pain that has haunted you all season, and this would be the time to address it and work it out gently.Work on your strength and stability with workouts like this one by Smarty Pants (page 50, article on Texas Rollergirls proceeds it). 

The training doesn’t need to be of Olympic caliber or intensity, and cutting out high-impact exercise during this time can help your body recover and help prevent future injury. Maintaining the same level of training as during the season, when you have no bouts to work towards in the off-season, can be just as detrimental as dropping training completely. The mind isn’t as focused without an objective to work towards, and you can get sloppy or hurt yourself maintaining that mid-season intensity. Going into the next season you don’t want to start from scratch though, maintaining a small level of fitness is better than starting all over.

Sandrine Rangeon’s recent blogpost about hypertrophy training emphasizes how we must put balance in our training. Skaters often work hard on their quads and glutes, but forget about hamstrings. Performance relies on muscle groups working together, and these two have an impact on your skating power and the functioning of your knees.

This is also a good time to work on flexibility and make sure your body doesn’t go frigid during these off months (and cold months for most.) If you haven’t tried yoga before, this could be the time to find your zen during holiday stress. Invest in a foam roller, or chunk of PVC pipe, and roll out your muscles with a deep tissue massage. Flexible muscles help prevent injury!! (If I talk enough about injury prevention, will it sink in?)
Some of the people I've been missing while on break....

If your league doesn’t believe in breaks, talk to your board or coaches about implementing one. One or two specific times of the year where you completely stop skating for a month or so. It can do wonders for team morale, motivation, and your bodies. Roller Derby is filled with a varying degree of bodies and fitness, so of course some people can handle heavy training, but others may not. Give everyone a break, and those who crave more can do it on their own.

This also means plugging in small breaks through the season. Plan your bouts so you’re not competing too much back to back. Think of getting knocked down and around repeatedly like getting hit by a car; your body deserves a bit of recovery. Plan some low-impact practices the week after a bout, and then build back up to the next one.

Living History Farm's Cross Country race.
Over the creeks and through the woods, in 9 degree weather....

The off-season isn’t only time to get sweaty, but to brush up on your nutritional training as well. Discover healthy ways to eat your favorite foods, try new recipes and allow yourself to indulge a little over the holidays, but compensate elsewhere. (i.e. salad for lunch with tons of veggies!) Get in a food routine and carry it on into the season.

Don’t just throw up your hands in the off season because you’re not meeting for practice weekly or you had a weekend full of holiday dinners, start molding next year’s athlete now! Hold yourself accountable and form weekly goals. Force a teammate to meet you at the pool, sign up for a 5k, or get a gym membership. Do whatever it takes to keep you moving and you’ll thank yourself when January hits. -L4D

Some sources I pulled info and ideas from:
How to Recover from a Tough Racing Season
One Simple Strategy for Avoiding Weight Gain in the Off Season
December Naturally Fit Magazine  - Article on Texas Rollergirls and workout by Smarty Pants
The Pro Secrets to Off-Season Training
Off-Season Training 
(look to other sports to help cross-train!) 

Also a reminder to relieve some of the pressure your team might be experiencing, and the off-season can be a good time to refresh. Blog by Elektra Q-Tion.

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