Roller Derby Preparedness

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but in college and grad school, if I’d gotten behind on my reading or other preparation for class, or if I’d overslept and was going to be late, I’d usually just not go at all.  That feeling of being unprepared, publicly, or at least in front of people I respect (and whose respect I seek), is one of the things in life that makes me most uncomfortable.  Maybe it partly stems from my childhood memories of heading into piano recitals with too-little preparation, but I can’t help feel like I’m letting everyone around me down, and it’s an awful feeling.

That late/behind/unprepared feeling doesn’t happen that often as an adult; I work hard to stay on schedule and not make people wait or be late to events/meetings. But it’s not just about showing up. Like meetings and classes, being prepared for derby and other sports activities requires more than just being there, on time and with all your gear. It requires planning — having spent the time beforehand, doing whatever it is that you need to do to prepare. This is obvious, of course. I wouldn’t think of coming to a search committee meeting not having read the candidates’ files, or teaching a class without re-reading the assigned materials and reading/editing lecture notes — that’s a given. But the appropriate level of preparation for roller derby sometimes eludes me.

It may be partly because it’s a moving target: One of the things I’m noticing about trying to be an athlete at 43 is that my body is just much less forgiving overall than it used to be. Less forgiving of variations in hydration, nutrition, rest and activity level, in particular.  If I take a few days off after a particularly good/hard workout, that first one back is difficult. But if I don’t take enough time off, there’s still a struggle, and I fear injury. If I’m improperly hydrated or sleep-deprived, the results can be surprisingly disastrous. Being prepared for roller derby — to me — means actively preparing in the days prior, by getting enough sleep and staying hydrated, eating well the day before and the day of practice, and not overdoing it or taking too much time away from the gym or track. Get sleep, drink water, eat real food (not too much). It’s not just a PSA. It’s like being designated driver — paying attention to this stuff has to be an absolute rule for me, if I’m going to continue to do this sport. I’ve written before about that feeling of being way behind in a pack or paceline or group run. Putting anything less than my best, most prepared self out on that track is only asking for that feeling, plus muscle cramps and possibly injury to myself or even someone else.

There’s been some research on the bodies of “older athletes”, how they recover and respond to various changes in workouts, but I haven’t run across any that set these factors as the variables (usually, they’re actually controls).  But if I listen to my body, I think it’s trying to tell me what it needs. Again:  get sleep, drink water, eat real food (not too much).

The irony is that for the last two weeks I’ve been playing personal chef for someone doing a radical nutrition makeover/reboot of sorts, and I’m really focused on making sure she’s getting fresh, healthy, balanced meals and plenty of water. I pack her lunches (and dinners, if she’s on call), and have been making grain salads and homemade smoothies like a boss. Meanwhile, I’m still picking up bbq and ice cream at least once a week (not the same day/meal, but still), still forgetting water entirely some days, overdoing the salt and sugar and losing track of protein. So… yeah. Next post: nutrition reboot!

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