Archive for May, 2012

Trust in Me/Myself/I

courtesy of Laura Fitch / fitchphoto.com

When our league held travel team tryouts, they asked us to answer a few questions about our interest in making that move and what we would bring to the team. It’s a topic I think about often, and yet I was relieved that they did it through an online form rather than in-person. Having time to carefully measure, read, and re-consider my words is something I always appreciate. It’s not only about polish, it’s about making sure the words that are coming out actually represent what I think/believe. Words tumble out too easily sometimes, and you can’t stop them when you’re having a conversation. Depending on the level of meaning that someone’s going to attach to your response to a question about what you think, that can be scary.

Anyway. I had no expectations about that tryout process, truly — it’s hard to explain, but I think I just managed to remain in the moment up until it was over and we had to wait for results. I just tried to take it all in, not have any expectations other than participating (doing everything that was asked of me, trying my best, even/especially if it was a bit scary). So the analytical brain shut off, and so I just didn’t pay attention to my position in the pack, so to speak. Which kept me from freaking out in a major way.

But the survey absolutely spoke to the analytical side of me, the part that wants to understand EVERYTHING, figure it all out, and prove to myself that if I can solve ALL OF THE PROBLEMS, I’ll improve. Even though I know that’s not the way it works with so many things (derby included).  So one of the questions asked about our vision of a team. Never having been part of one, I probably should have said that. But instead, I just wrote what came to mind. I wrote about trust as a responsibility that you have to your team; to be there when the team needs you, not just when you need the team. I don’t know where it came from, but I still like it, and I still believe it just as much, now that I’m actually part of one.

One of the challenges in derby is seeing yourself as secondary to the team; secondary to the jammer you’re trying to protect and help, secondary to the work that you’re doing with your fellow blockers, secondary to the game that you’re trying to win. You’re a part of that, of course, but the larger part is always more important. That’s the trust part. I know, team sports 101, right? But it’s part of what makes it so challenging to play when you’re not confident in your skills, because you have a whole team counting on you to do your part, trusting that you will and that you will have your own confidence to do it — and all that responsibility can be weighty.

On the scale from uber- to under-confident, I trend towards the latter. I put on the damn skates, I show up on the damn track, I listen and skate and try to do what I’m supposed to, be where I’m supposed to be, and some days the needle moves further to the left than others. It’s where the analytical side of me is a bit of an enemy, sizing up the field and my own skills and giving me far too many reports on the situation. I’m not oblivious or praise-seeking; I know my skills, and I have my eye on some very particular goals for future skills, but right now? It’s sometimes hard to shake off feelings of letting down the team when I don’t accomplish something I want to do. Which is my issue, I know. Mine to shut up about, a good deal of the time, but I also believe there’s some value in getting this stuff out, both to me and maybe to others who can find some truth for their situation.

So on the heels of our big home season opener (yay!) and first bout with the new team (yay!), and not really accomplishing what I wanted to (boo!), I’ve been in deep in snarkyfunk this week, and it has not pretty. Inward and outward, a crappy mood is crappy. It’s taken me four days to articulate what was happening in my head though, which is what I need to actually shut it off. So in tweet form, starting around noon and continuing through the afternoon/evening:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s it, really. Onto the next jam! Smash!!

Derby Brain

derby on ice?

For the 403rd time, I have.no.sports.background.  Well, no team sports background, at least. Everything I’ve done up until skating has been a hobby/activity for me, not a sport. So I’m finding the mental aspects of playing roller derby to be endlessly fascinating. Obsessively. Specifically, two things are on my mind these days:

#1) Negative thoughts can affect performance, in big, persistent ways (I’ve written about this before). Self-doubt will make you play like crap. If your internal dialogue is about what you can’t do, then you won’t be able to do it. You have to take your whole strong, confident self out on to that track. I don’t care what your level of experience with derby is; lace up those skates, stomp out onto that track, and own it with every muscle fiber you have. Your work — your effort — is what matters, not your performance. If your effort is awesome, you’re awesome. Don’t let that little voice tell you anything else.

#2) While the game can be analyzed from a distance, it’s not the same type of analysis that has to happen during play; the game brain — the one that has to react quickly, almost automatically, and carry the body with it —  is something seems to only grow through more practice, not armchair analysis.

Get her NOW, Snark!  (I don’t think I did)

I’ve made quite a bit of progress on handling #1. I’ve learned to do one of two things when the mood is low, or self-talk is negative or wallow-y:  talk back and shut it off, or remove myself from the practice and do something else. Occasionally, it’s just not possible to shut out the crap in my head. But taking myself out of the situation that’s triggering those thoughts, by gardening or cooking or going for a bike ride or writing or even sometimes working takes care of it.

Dealing with #2 is a different challenge. I’ve been pushing myself to step forward more in practice/scrimmage: volunteer more quickly, get myself in the middle of more jams, jam when the panty is offered. I know that somewhere in my brain, those hours are stacking up. My feet may have well over 10,000 hours of movement on wheels, but derby hit the reset button on that. Fckn A. I’m also working on my own default strategy of sorts, based on what I think many of my teammates have just internalized about playing derby.  My brain can go straight to the strategy of odd/unusual situations, but there’s a big gap at the low end of my derby education; my analytical brain is too slow to draw on when I’m playing, but I haven’t really trained the game brain well enough. So I’m studying the game the way I’d study a new subject, but also just drilling basic situations over and over and over, trying to make them reflexes of a sort.

I can’t really talk about what that default strategy looks like… it’s too closely tied with my team’s/league’s training and strategy. But duh, watch derby, write it out, it’s fairly visible. And logical, if you think it through. And yet so amusingly challenging to really learn.

Topsy-Turvy

Almost simultaneously, I got word today that the Carle Weight Management program was closing, and read this awesome post by a league mate about dealing with medical folks about weight and health (and the sometimes conflation of the two).  That I’ve found greater wisdom and support from highly competitive athletes than I have from the so-called health professions is still something that I’m sorting through, but I certainly think it’s mixed up. But reading both of these things today prompted me to re-read, and now re-post, the following two pieces of my own (if you’ll forgive the indulgence):

The first, Ok, go, is a look in a mirror of the past, including some reflections on that medically-supervised fast & quasi-fast program that Carle runs. I said it once, I don’t think I could put the words together again and have them come out so well, so I’ll just link you there.

The second, Silencing the Little Voice, is about moving forward and appreciating exactly where you are right now. Geez, I’d almost forgotten that I really thought I was going to puke or pass out on the first night of practice in this new league.  And the next. I thought many times that I couldn’t make it another minute, thought I couldn’t handle it, that I was in over my head. Terror. I remember saying to one league mate that I had no legs left, before she sent me out to do 25 laps. Though both practices and scrimmages still present serious challenges for me every week (and for everyone, I’m sure – I have no illusions about being alone in that), I haven’t felt the drowning, hopeless, terrified feelings in a while, and re-reading this really makes me appreciate that. And hopefully not take it for granted, or the work I’ve put in to get me this far!  And even more than that, that the appreciation of the past work will motivate current and future work.

It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come — even if it’s the span of a few steps, or a few weeks. Life’s too short to hold back, and yet I know so many of us do, in all areas of life. I repost these in hopes that one or both will resonate with someone else, too.

Juice Me

Before I start, THIS IS NOT ABOUT FASTING. I believe in healthy, balanced eating, and in getting all your nutrients from real food whenever possible. And that’s where this post comes from: from a desire to get more nutrients out of real food.

Over the last year or so, I’ve really struggled to reconcile lots of ideas about a healthy eating plan (for myself and my partner) with our schedule. The amount of planning required for prep and cooking healthy food is not trivial; convenience food is convenient. And we’re often in the position of choosing what’s least problematic for a meal that wasn’t properly planned. I’m very distractable, I don’t stick to plans well, and maintaining a balanced diet requires consistency.

The idea for adding in some juices struck while I was in a bit of a cooking rut. Our meals have been remarkably grain-heavy lately, and low on vegetables.  Any ideas for getting more plant sources into our diets without a lot of prep/planning would get my attention right now. Portability would make it even better, and juicing seemed to fit the bill.

So it turns out there’s a whole new movement based on the experience of one guy who hit rock bottom with his health and decided to try to turn it around in a very drastic way:  pack a generator and a juicer into the back of a car, travel around the states, and live on juiced fruits and vegetables for 60 days.  And film it all, of course. Gimmicky and drastic, his juice fast nevertheless gave him the break he needed from many bad habits, and kick-started a long-term, healthier lifestyle for him. But after it’s over, and he’s back home thinking about cutting what must have been a very boring little film, he gets a call from this trucker he had met in Iowa, asking for his help in turning his health around. The second half of the movie is dedicated to following him as he turns his health around in a more dramatic and story-worthy way, also inspiring others in his town to eat drink more plants. Though it’s also a tale of juicing-evangelism, neither seem to advocate it as a lifelong way of eating (the movie is somewhat unclear on what either of their diets look like post-fast, though Joe is on Twitter and has a blog where he continues to report and engage on the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables).

At this point in my life, I’m firmly anti-diet (in the “going on a diet” sense, but also in the “I’m strictly paleo” sense). I’d rather think about my diet as a way of eating instead (WOE, in the vernacular).  I’ve done restrictive, I’ve done quirky, I’ve done drastic/fasting, I’ve done obsessive, and the long-term effects of those have always been far more negative than positive. Loss of focus, loss of other healthy habits, loss of decisionmaking and responsibility if nothing else. And as “diets” with a concentrated focus on quick/er weight loss, they’re problematic. I couldn’t get 100% on board with Weight Watchers, or Atkins, or Vegan or even Vegetarian diets, either; there’s always something that chafes in the mandate of an all-knowing system. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for experimentation, adding and subtracting elements of different ideas about eating, and seeing how it goes. Any plan that emphasizes whole, real foods gets my attention. So I approached this juice reboot phenomenon with all of that in mind (and with the recognition that juicing eliminates something substantial from whole foods).

My goals were to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in my daily diet; return to building more meals around fresh produce, drink more water, reduce salt, dump processed food as much as possible, and focus on nutrient-density over calorie-density. Kick-start some weight loss? Making that a primary goal nearly ALWAYS fucks with my head, and I can’t risk that right now. But yes, I know from past experience that knocking off some pounds right now will translate into greater agility on the track, so that’s not far off. Anyway.

We own a juicer already, so that part was easy. My partner and I talked about options, and we decided to create our own plan: 3 days on a combination of fruit and vegetable juices, fresh fruits and vegetables (and nuts), and some legume/grain additions for dinner and maybe lunch.  If we felt at any time like our bodies weren’t getting what we needed, WE’D EAT SOMETHING ELSE. No judgment, no rules about sticking with it, other than to be mindful of our goals, and listen to our bodies. Still, we purposely chose to squeeze this in at a time when we didn’t have particularly high energy demands; I definitely wouldn’t try this much of a change to my diet if I had a bout coming up, or even an important meeting or writing deadline, in case it affected my ability to focus. It was designed to be a short-term experiment, not a new long-term plan.

We used some of the recipes on the reboot’s “plus dinner” plan, and expanded from there. Here’s a rough summary of what we had:

Day 1 (Sunday): Carrot-apple-ginger juice for breakfast, cucumber-celery-apple-kale juice mid-morning, tomato-cucumber juice at lunch, green juice in the afternoon with a couple handfuls of nuts, and lentils & brown rice w/ steamed broccoli for dinner.

Day 2 (Monday): fruit/veg juice for breakfast, lentil-rice leftovers and some carrot/beet/cucumber juice for lunch, and beans & rice for dinner. I also had a 2% iced latte in the late afternoon, mostly for the caffeine before I had to teach, but also because I was a little nervous about whether I was getting enough protein.

Day 3 (Tuesday): fruit (ALL fruit) juice for breakfast (big mistake!), rice noodle salad (also a bit of a mistake!) w/ tofu for lunch, green juice mid-afternoon, and stir-fried tofu & shredded carrots w/ brown rice for dinner.

Each juice was around a pint or a pint and a half, depending on the recipe. I’d add water or coconut water to stretch mine, and put them in a quart mason jar to drink slowly (e.g., on the road), but my partner mostly just drank ’em all at once. They were nearly all tasty, and only the fruit juice caused any stomach upset (I think I just drank it too fast — that’s a LOT of sugar hitting the stomach that quickly). Nothing gave us any other digestive problems, surprisingly. I did abandon the precise recipes from the site after the first day, though; I wanted to customize based on what I had left on hand, and what sounded appetizing to us.  One “gazpacho” juice called for bell peppers and onions, which sounded awful… and I’d heard less than positive reviews about that one.

How were our energy levels over the three days? Strangely level. No spikes, no crashes, but the end of the first day (before dinner) we were exhausted, without having exerted that much energy during the day. We tried to get some work done in the garden, and both of us pooped out within an hour or so. I was cranky and wanted to go to bed by 7pm. Dinner helped, but only a little. On the morning of Day 2, both of us were saying that we felt much better overall, and I had plenty of energy to do a fitness class in the evening. By the morning of Day 3 I was definitely feeling more energetic and focused — a clearer, more awake morning than I normally have, for sure. But that huge morning burst of sugar in the fruit juice, plus the rice noodles at lunch made for an hour or so of low energy in the afternoon. Far from the worst 3pm-sleepies that I’ve had, but it did make work more challenging.

Maybe 3 days isn’t enough to really judge, but I’d say the changes were moderately positive.  I also didn’t closely document what we were getting in the way of nutrients, which means that I don’t know whether the juices were providing us with sufficient calories — it’s likely that they weren’t, as the amount of produce required to make double these recipes is sort of shocking. So I screwed up on that one. Next time (if there is a next time), more tracking.

cc-licensed image courtesy of pinprick.

The benefit of juicing vegetables and fruits lies in its concentration of a high volume of fresh, raw produce – – much more than you’d be able to eat without feeling ill from all that fiber. Which is a danger of juicing, of course; the juice of fresh produce is about as nutrient-dense as it gets, but it’s also calorie-dense in that form.  It’s very easy to consume more sugar and calories in a short amount of time in juice than you intend to. The body just doesn’t send the same “full” signals that it does w/ the insoluble fiber. And if you’re treating the juice as a “free” veggie, without compensating for the added calories in the rest of your diet, you could definitely gain weight by juicing.

On the flip side, it was surprising to me how many macronutrients you can get out of vegetables and fruits alone. Nibbling on salad all day won’t feed your body enough, but juicing 10x as much and drinking it throughout the day just might. (and did, I suppose, for the folks in the film). According to the site, the “V28” juice (beets, carrots, celery, tomatoes, parsley, jalapeno and radishes) has 17g of protein, 47g carbs, 540mg sodium and 340 cal. Not bad for a pile of vegetables (though the sodium level is a bit shocking, if it’s accurate).

Can you get the same benefits from blending, rather than juicing? In a larger volume, yes. You miss out on the concentration of nutrients, but retain all the fiber — which is something you want to have in some abundance in your diet. A juicer is necessary  if the concentration of nutrients is what you want. There are definitely some tensions out there between the juice and smoothie camps.

What’s next? I can imagine a number of ways to work juicing into a regular WOE, particularly as we head into summer. In the heat of summer, we often don’t want a heavy meal, and I can see adding in some vegetable juices, particularly at lunch on the weekends. Or when we’re feeling under the weather and want to boost our nutrients. But I think more than anything, juicing just reminded me how well plants can feed us, whether whole or juiced, and that our bodies don’t need so much of the other things we put in them. Increasing fruits and vegetables is still a goal for us, and this gives us a new option for adding more into our diets.  Not to mention going through the mountains of kale our garden produces in the summer.

Mechanics

I’m sort of fascinated by the topic of body mechanics, and how each of our bodies performs the same functions but in very different ways. In yoga, the teacher will remind us that everything has to be adjusted for our own bodies, and taken at our own pace. There are positions that come very naturally to me, like spinal twists, and others that seem impossible, like hip openers.  Some positions will come with some work, but I think Pigeon in particular will elude me for a very long time.

Before I took up roller derby, I did a lot of ice skating, of the serious-hobby sort: Ice dance and moves in the field, most recently, about 8 hours of ice time a week. I’m not sure there are very many things that the two types of skating have in common; I’ve found far more differences in the last couple of years than similarities as I’ve had to re-learn how to skate for derby. Ice dancing feels very much like skating from your chest and your feet; roller derby is all about the hips. But something that I used to work on with an ice dance coach suddenly occurred to me last night in the context of skating for roller derby — *my* derby skating, at least. It’s something that may come naturally to other skaters, but remains challenging for me.

In ice skating, it would be called a forward outside edge, or FOI. In ice dance, it’s part of one of the most fundamental moves for nearly all the dances: the swing roll, a FOI held long enough so that you make a giant C in the ice, while the other leg swings slowly from back to front. There’s often a lot of focus in the beginning on how not to let the swinging leg throw off your balance, but the positioning of your skating leg is really more crucial. In order to hold that outside edge, maintain a deep knee bend, and not lose your balance, your knee must be over your skate.  Not pointed in, not pointed out, but right in line with your skate, pointing in the same direction.  If your knee tends to fall “in” towards the center of your body, like mine does, you lose all your power — that knee pulls against the edge you’re trying to hold, and it feels like you’re twisting into a pretzel, leaning in order to get onto a deeper edge so that your skate doesn’t slide under you. My coach noticed what was happening, and gently pulled my knee out to track over the skate when I insisted it wouldn’t go that direction. It was like taking the brakes off — the skate just glided freely, I didnt need to lean, and weight was still balanced over the skating leg. There was tension in that hip, but everything else suddenly felt right.

So as I was warming up around the rink last night, trying to take turns 1&3 tightly with deep edges, trying once again to figure out how to build speed, it occurred to me that I was trying to get my foot to do all the work of holding that outside edge in particular. I reached down and pushed my knee out, and once again, it was like taking the brakes off. No strength to keep it there, but everything else felt better:  more powerful, more balanced, more in control of that edge. Yay for mini-revelations, and new things to work on!

So, how to strengthen the muscles that open the hips, that pull the leg laterally away from the body but also rotate the leg out? It’s probably no surprise that I have no turnout for doing mohawk/tomahawk turns or skating sideways in derby, either; all of this is connected to those hip openers in yoga that plague me.  I’ve been paying so much attention to flexibility to open the hips, I’d forgotten about strength. So more abductor, hip flexor and glute work:  fire hydrants, leg lifts, plies, and all of those yoga hip opener poses.