"Women may be the one group that grows more radical with age."
- Gloria Steinem
So you joined a roller derby league. You've dropped several hundred dollars on gear, become fascinated with shiny tights and anything Bedazzled, committed to being healthy and to practicing twice a week. Then life happens. You have to work late, the kids are sick, you're sick, you don't have a sitter, the car broke down, or you simply don't have extra gas money this week. Now what? While there is no substitute for skating as a means of improving skating skills, when you're up against it, there are ways to sneak balance, core work, and footwork into your daily life. I know what you're thinking...what? When? How could you possibly find time to work on derby skills when you can't even make practice? Consider this...most people our age are fully ensconced in the 9-5 work grind. This sometimes annoying part of grown-up life we call a "job" is a potential advantage for developing derby skills. Here are a few ideas to sneak a little derby training into your everyday, busy, grown-up life.
1. Check out the floor surface where you work.
I'm lucky enough to work in a building with tile floors. I didn't recognize this as an asset until derby, but now I embrace it. The floor is cleaned and mopped daily. I've been caught on my skates at the office several times. I've stayed after closing for 20-30 minutes simply to skate up and down the hallway on one foot (a skill you will need to demonstrate at some point in your derby life). What I can say about this is make sure you wear all safety gear and inspect the floor first for sticky substances that will fetch up your wheels. Your colleagues may call you crazy, but that's just an outward manifestation of their envy and admiration.
2. Make the most of work breaks and lunch time.
You have at least 2 fifteen minute breaks and a half hour lunch in an 8 hour work day. During this time, it's not unusual to find me in my office (or a coworker's office), padded up, talking and standing on one foot or doing footwork regardless of floor surface. I practiced walking on toe stops in a carpeted office before taking it to our super slick tile hallway. If you don't want to take your skates to work, there is no reason you can't just do balance work or plyometrics. You don't need skates to do jump squats, single hops from foot to foot, or tuck jumps.
Ten or fifteen minutes is plenty of time to practice balancing, footwork (side stepping, crossovers, grapevines), and walking on toe stops. If you do this twice a day, that's an extra 30 minutes you've gotten in on your skates. There is also no reason you can't eat lunch at your desk, especially if doing so means an extra hour of practice spread throughout your day. When warmer weather finally reaches Maine, I will be pumping out laps outside during my lunch break. While you don't need to do this every day, consider taking your skates and pads to work several days a week.
3. Hit the stairs.
I have several flights of stairs in my building. I use them to practice crossovers and reverse crossovers (without skates). When practicing reverse crossovers on the way up the stairs, for example, I get low, lean forward, and be sure to step forward with my left foot (instead of just stepping across the right leg). Then I over-exaggerate the push with my right foot. Put your weight on that left left as you would on the track. I do my standard, derby-direction crossover whenever I need to go down the stairs.
4. Getting ready for work or making dinner (or anytime you are home).
Regardless of floor surface in your home, consider putting your skates and pads on right out of bed. There is no reason you can't make coffee, eat breakfast, and brush your teeth with skates on. Try skating to taking backwards steps (with minimal rolling) to the coffee maker. Be sure get low and look behind you (things you should be practicing anyway) for the sake of your cat and any children in your home. It's also not a bad idea to call your line so those around you aren't terrified. Brushing your teeth and drying your hair are great opportunities to practice more single leg balancing. Even if your floor surface is carpet, that's ok. you can still practice simply moving around on your skates. Again, this isn't something you have to do every day (unless it brings you immense joy).
5. Coworkers and family members can be secret weapons.
Do you have cool coworkers who are pretty sturdy? I do. I'm lucky to have several. A few even skated when they were kids. They will actually get into derby stance and let me practice hip, full body, and shoulder checks (not at full steam because we aren't wearing safety gear). If you are going to do this, exercise some caution. Make sure there isn't anything sharp to fall on (like a dresser or desk corner, coat hook, etc.) or a window to fall out of (my boyfriend still thinks I tried to kill him). I wrap my boyfriend in pillows before I hit him full force. He no longer comes up behind me at the coffee maker in the morning because I like to sternum block him. The point is there are likely people in your life that will help you when it comes to blocking and hitting. It helps be involved in your new obsession, but take care of them. Be sure to stuff their clothes with large, soft object and make sure your Safety Officer at work is cool and in a good mood!
If you can't see yourself laying down the perfect line, lap after lap, for five minutes, or rounding that corner on one foot, it'll never happen. Before bed, or whenever you might have 5 quiet minutes, close your eyes and literally see yourself successfully completing, over and over, whatever skill you may be struggling with. i need to do faster transitions and better hip hits. I might close my door at work, turn off the radio, quiet my phone and spend my break visualizing myself doing these things. I may do it when I've put my book down, just before falling asleep. If you have doubt as to the power of visualization for athletes, look it up. A little self-directed research should convince you this is a worthy enough way to spend your time. Try to leave yourself at least 5 uninterrupted minutes to give this a try, even if it means locking yourself in the bathroom.
Other things to consider...
7. Get the whole family involved.
By now you've memorized the rink schedule. Your kids, friends, spouse or partner will want to see you on skates. Take them to the rink and put them on their own skates (safety gear too!). There is no reason your new obsession can't be a new family hobby. It will get everyone involved, mean less babysitting fees and feeling less guilt for leaving everyone behind to get a few more laps in.
8. Rest when you need it.
We talked about the importance of recovery in Part I. We can get so focused on practice and skills that we take the fun out of it. If you find yourself dreading your skates, chances are you should've just had lunch that day instead of sneaking in more practice. You don't have to devote every unaccounted for second of your life to "derby stance." Relax, celebrate improvements as they come, take care of yourself, and have fun. Practice should be a time you look forward to. If you don't, go back to Part I and figure out what the issue is.
No matter what your day looks like - school, office, home - there are always ways to sneak in derby-related work. Consider this your challenge for the next week - try at least two of the ideas here. Then come on back and leave us a note here and tell us how it went.
Dawn of the Dead - Aroostock Roller Derby