Posts Tagged ‘ derby ’

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.

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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.

2012 vs. 2011

The last year has been a bell-shaped curve for me, in some ways. Certainly my conditioning is back down where it was last year, and I’m pretty sure I’m in exactly the same clothes. But in my head, it’s a sea change.

This time last year, I was so frustrated, so unhappy with derby and my own skills/performance, but unwilling to leave it and spiraling about what to do next. I turned to the gym to “fix” me, made a sort of enemy out of my body, and spent the next 6 months mostly setting really high bars and constantly chiding myself for not reaching them, chasing after league- and team-mates who could then and will always run and skate circles around me. It wasn’t enough that I did what was asked, or that I was improving, or working hard — very hard. I found incredible pain in the unchanging view of people’s backs (when they were even in sight), and in what felt to me like constant failure. It’s a matter of perspective, of course; I was upright, skating, playing, rostered, voted captain. I was still in the game. But I felt, week after week, like someone had made some big mistake in giving me those spots.

So I hit the gym a little too hard, and wound up with a relatively minor overuse injury that nevertheless kept me from doing the half-marathon in May that I’d registered and trained for. I trained through it, but was so frustrated by the way it limited what was still such a new routine, and what I knew was an unsustainable schedule. But I pushed on. Bouts, bouts, bouts. And the combination of derby drama and derby suckage kept pushing me, making me want to hide at a training camp (yay, Blood & Thunder!) until I got stronger. I nurtured that thought often. It was scary, facing that pack every week, wondering what feelings chasing them would bring up.

It wasn’t all unhealthy stuff, though. I did find all sorts of awesome good-for-me things in that time: It turns out that I love to cycle (though not so much the indoor cycle trainer), and I’ve gotten so much out of training with a group of strong, amazing women I met through one of the local bike shops; I had a blast creating and living through MegaDay (a 9-hour training day of boot camp, running, biking, Pilates Reformer, sled sprints, treadmill hills and weights), even though it came from a not-so-healthy headspace; I still love running (slowly) when it’s good (and it’s usually better than I think it’s going to be); and I learned once and for all that I do my best when I have a coach or trainer nearby to push me beyond what I think I’m capable of. And I definitely learned that I have to stay away from the scale when my thoughts start turning on me.

Because I still see myself in two very different, mutually-exclusive ways: the couch potato and the athlete. Unhealthy and healthy, weak and strong, hidden and brazen. That duality is always there, and it means that derby is a constant challenge. Is the athlete showing up today, ready to work? And when she does, then it’s easy to lose focus on *my* goals, *my* pace, and start comparing my skills to someone else’s. One of these things is not like the other. Worst game ever.

So here we are in late February 2012. The draft was kind to me, and I’m more grateful for it than anyone can imagine. And I’m the better for a year of overtraining and a few too many post-practice sobfests. I’m aware now, if nothing else, of how much my own framing of derby situations affect my mood. I learned a bit about how to get more out of shorter workouts. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve with respect to both nutrition and training (and recovery), and I have a much better sense of the landscape of my own brain when it comes to how all this stuff makes me feel — and how damaging bad feelings can be to my training. That’s the biggest lesson of the year, I think.

So here’s to you, 2012.

May you be filled with positive powerful messages, delicious healthy food, pukeworthy awesome training, more/new amazing derby and cycling peeps, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Oh, and bourbon (of course).

Ok, go.

Last post, I said I wasn’t going to get all confession-y. Well, this time I am. Just to the extent that it puts these recent posts into some context.  And on the wild off-chance that one of the 3 readers out there can relate.

I wasn’t a particularly thin or fat kid.  I was a geeky reading and theatre and music kid who had a passing familiarity with a few sports. I roller skated, ice skated, swam and dove, played a little tennis, a tiny bit of volleyball and soccer, ran and cross-country skiied. I eventually found that all those ski/skate forward-motion sports came naturally, but I never thought of myself as an athlete or even a potential athlete.  I could’ve been, but I wasn’t very interested,  and besides, I didn’t think it was an option for me.  My two favorite sporty things — diving and skating — weren’t school sports options. And then I broke my leg in middle school (roller skating, of all things!) and it sort of killed any ideas I had about volleyball (the third option). It was like I’d missed the zero-entry point, and now I’d have to jump into the deep end of the pool.  Meh.

I couldn’t say exactly when weight came on. In little waves, I’m sure.  High School. College. Break. Law School. Break. Library School. Move. Move. BIG Move.  My highest weight ever was about 2 years into my time at Yale. Scary high, and I actually talked to my primary care physician about what to do — the first time I’d ever had a conversation w/ a physician about weight.  She gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard: Find an activity that you love doing, for its own sake. And just do it, for you. The rest will come. So I picked ice skating, remembering all the fun I’d had as a kid, thinking it might be a year-round option. There was a basic skills class for adults starting up at the Whale, and I signed up. I don’t know how long it had been since I’d been on ice, but I was almost instantly hooked. Over the next three or four years it sucked me in about as much as derby has these last couple of years.  Ice dancing, moves in the field, lessons, skating club, early morning perfect ice with the two or three incredibly generous students who’d secured a cheap timeslot for more serious practice. It wasn’t my style, but it was fun and great exercise, and I poured myself into it. Speed skating might’ve been exactly the right fit, but a bad experience with the leader of the local group turned me off in a big way (“come one, come all!  oh, you?  yes, your skates are ok; they’ll be the least of your problems”). Feh. Anyway. So I stuck it out w/ the short blades. Toe pick!

After I moved to Illinois, concerned that I wasn’t dropping weight (which was the goal, of course! DROP THE WEIGHT!  GET THIN! GET FIT! GET A MAKEOVER!  BE A NEW PERSON AND SHOW THEM ALL!!!), I signed up for one of those medically-supervised fasts.  Yes, one of those. Yes, I know. Sigh. It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Cost me a small fortune, and maybe wrecked my metabolism, and did as much to screw with my head as any other experience in my life. But I lost 90 pounds. I was running a lot, skating a little, and my nutrition was pretty good (not that it was bad to begin with; it was just really unbalanced). But everything in this new health world of mine was good/bad, virtue/shame, compliant/uncompliant, scale up/scale down. And I still had no clue about what motivated me to keep myself healthy.  I knew how to reward  (I knew that going into the program), and now I knew how to withhold.  In a really big way, with food and exercise. Great weapons, those two.  So wrong.

So even though I kept the last 40# off completely, I moved into the first 20# relatively quickly, and have bounced around in the other 30# for the last 5 years.

There were many things about roller derby that drew me in. I’d never really done a contact sport, and the idea of doing one on roller skates — where I felt like I had a bit of a leg up at the start — was super-appealing. I also really admired the women’s empowerment ethos that marked the new roller derby. I loved the idea of physical challenge and actual physical contact as a way to work off stress. Frustrated at the end of a long day of work or home not going well?  Go to practice and hit people! Hard! The harder you hit, the more they’ll like you!  For real, that part is the best. And, like ice skating a decade earlier, I was looking for a sport/activity that I loved and that would help me continue the support and motivation to take care of my health. Ok, so I was also secretly hoping that those 30# would magically melt off.

They didn’t melt off, and once I hit a sort of plateau with my derby skills, I headed into the gym to work on strength and endurance. And those 30#. They were like an obsession, those #. Watching the scale, watching calories, waiting for clothes to fall off, hitting the gym over and over again, like my head against a wall every morning with a 4:15 alarm.  Not entirely, but that dynamic was there the whole time. It took so much more time than I would’ve liked, and the frustration was so great it leaked all over my closest friends. But the headbanging eventually did pay off in speed and endurance, and in more confidence to push my agility and take more risks. And then life got in the way this fall and I lost my routine for a few months, which brings us to now, back to those damned 30#, and the next stage.

New league, new perspective, new routine. New goals. No more obsessive goal-setting, scouring race calendars and jumping on the scale practically every time I see it. The scale is gone. It’s something for my trainer to watch, not me. I’m watching whatever is happening now. No more getting depressed by whatever I did or didn’t do last month or last week or last night; No more living in a vision of the future where everything is better.  I’m just working and enjoying the work now. Starting again. Watching the track, my PiYo and running form and the dust from my bike trainer tire. Listening to the sound of a few hundred wheels moving across the floor, and that little voice in my head saying “come on, just a little more.”

going around the bend, by McBeth

More Wellness, Again.

This isn’t strictly a derby post, but my wellness mindset is very much shaped by my relationship with a sport, and derby is the sport in my life now. I had three convergent thoughts rolling around in my head as I started to plan this post:

  1. After a much-too-long practice and gym break and a recent league change, going back to practice feels like starting over.
  2. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in these many years, it’s that you can always start again. The lapse doesn’t matter, not really. Starting matters. What you’re doing right now matters. Forget what you missed yesterday.
  3. This time, I’m going to… I don’t know. Stop and think? Stop thinking so much?

So. Not to get too confession-y here, but this starting over is starting to feel like an old friend. I’m still not sure what kind of a friend it is, but I’m embracing it. And working on cultivating acceptance. Acceptance as the foundation from which everything else comes: confidence, motivation, perseverance, change, contentment. I’m reading about the HAES (health at every size) movement/philosophy, I’m observing the messages I take in and the self-talk. And I’m trying to approach food and exercise without judgment  or regret — much easier said than done.

I also struggle with differentiating between acceptance and complacency, concerned about the latter, and I often catch myself fighting an inner battle over which is which.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
~Lao-tzu

Patience is not my strong suit, I’ll admit. But this is a big part of the challenge in living a contented, well-balanced life.

My body and body image have changed greatly over the years. I look back at photos and cringe at how bad I felt in what I can now recognize as a healthy body – a body that I was terrified of, though, and totally disconnected from. The times I was working the hardest were the times when my body image and self-talk were actually the worst. Yes, I’m more than a little angry that no one ever recognized the destructive self-critical crap I was feeding myself, and the effect it continued to have, year after year.  Even now, the hard-core athlete mode that I can get into — reveling in the sheer magnitude of it — can actually fuck with my head more than anything. It feels so strong, and on the surface looks so productive, but it’s not necessarily positive. There’s an incredibly strong pull to withhold that accompanies it when I don’t meet my expectations;  to deny food as a demonstration of strength and control. Getting out of that space is so difficult sometimes.

But I’m starting this time with a little bit more awareness, and a little less goal-setting. I need to stay out of that hard-core mode for a while, and yet still get my sport on, still work towards something. Today I started the day with a workout and a green smoothie, and finished it with a great derby practice (with the new league!) and some salty sugary carbs.  Tomorrow, a lighter workout and more protein. And no judgment.  After all, this body just skated 25 sprint laps. It’s agile and powerful and you’d be amazed at how quickly it can knock you to the ground.

Eating for derby?

On the heels of my mega-week of derby, I’ve been thinking a lot about a grey (for me) area between nutrition and medicine in the context of sports.  How far should we expect nutrition to take us on a daily basis, where should we start thinking about adding nutrients to fill in the gaps, and then at what point do we turn to medicine to intervene where the nutrition and supplementation regime isn’t doing the job? Add glucosamine when the knees start bothering me?  Take extra vitamin D to strengthen my immune system? I’ll totally pop the Airborne when I feel a cold coming on, but I have a sort of knee-jerk reaction against enriched foods, vitamins and other supplements for daily nutrition.  When, you know, there’s all that food GROWING IN THE GROUND RIGHT THERE. Full of nutrients, full of things that science is still discovering we need. So yeah, I’d really rather stick with that gorgeous fresh green stuff, if that’s possible.

The growth of the vitamin store market over the last few years makes me a little queasy, and I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what I think about it, but I know my discomfort has something to do with the way they pop up so close to restaurants that sell factory-farmed, factory-created, artificially colored and flavored and constructed pseudofood. I mean, if we were all eating from gardens and farms, would we need all these vitamins?  Of course not… but I also know it’s not possible to get every macro- and micro-nutrient that we could use through food, and everyone needs/wants a different nutrient mix.

So there’s a market for all these vitamins, but there’s also a market for empty-calorie foods, and judging by their growing proximity to each other, it seems like it’s an overlapping market.  (it used to be that the vitamins were just filling up the co-ops and natural food stores.. these new big-box vitamin chains are showing up in malls and in the big commercial areas of town, next to the fast food restaurants and other bg box stores)  What gives? Not that this is the riddle of the sphinx, but it’s all just so obviously screwed-up.

I’ve been really sore lately after workouts and derby as I’ve ramped up the intensity of everything this spring/summer.  My quads ache, my knees pinch in the morning and during lunges, and it seems like it always hurts my abs to laugh.  And with my limited knowledge, I start wondering about how I should be better managing things like antioxidants and glucosamine and other alternatives to just popping another ibuprofen or naproxen.  I mean, I’m not opposed to taking NSAIDs after a game or for an injury (even a particularly hard fall on my ass), but I’d rather not make it a daily habit (and I haven’t yet).

If there’s something I can do to speed healing, I’d love to check it out.  But I wonder where I can go for trustworthy information about nutrition, because those vitamin stores really creep me out.  I’ve been interested in Derbalife (an Herbalife distributor by and for derby girls), but I’m having a hard time getting to any concrete information about their program, other than references back to Herbalife products/publications.  There are testimonials and such, but no info about what/why they recommend, how it’s tailored to an individual, and where the sales/marketing pitch ends and sound science/health/medicine advice begins.  This girl is *SO* not down with the “just drink this twice a day and swallow these pills and that’s the program kthxbai.”  Not happening here.  I might go back to reading Jillian Michaels’ Master Your Metabolism, now that I’m really locked in to thinking about that stuff again, but I’m hungry for recommended reading from other derby folks.  Email or tweet or fb comment me w/ suggestions, and I’ll plug them into a separate post later on.

I really should be upfront about the fact that food and I don’t exactly have the model relationship… let’s just shorthand it to love/hate and be done with it.  But seriously, the focus on nutritional information can be bad for that relationship, so I can understand why some people would rather swallow a handful of pills than keep close track of their food. I just think there’s a better way for me, and I’m still trying to figure out what that is.

Hey Perseverance

I have something to confess:  There are some days, as many as a couple a week in a tough week, when I seriously think about quitting derby.  Sometimes no more than a fleeting thought, sometimes more.

It’s not because I don’t love it (I do!), or because I’m not having fun (I am!), or for any of the other reasons that certainly could push someone to quit derby. What gets hold of me on those days is something like a rock in my stomach; the realization that I’m working SO hard — on the track, in the gym, on the trails outside running, skating and on the bike, doing hard offskates workouts even on practice days  — and yet despite all that, good derby still feels so far away for me.  The feeling of struggling so hard only to still feel like I’m trailing the team/league is crushing. Watching my teammates build fearsome derby bodies and minds in training is thrilling, but it’s also just hard sometimes to feel left behind.  Yes, I know it’s not about keeping up with people.  Or about being fastest or smallest or quickest off the line, and yes I know I bring different skills to the table. But being at the back of the pack in a group run, every time? It fucking sucks.

You could say I have a history of avoiding this sort of struggle, bailing out of activities that require this much work just to be mediocre. Most sports growing up, definitely dance, my super-science-intensive undergraduate program, etc.  I’m trying to learn to appreciate the effort and the incremental changes that I know I’m making, but there are days when it takes a really firm digging-in of the heels (and the encouraging words of teammates) not to walk away from derby.

I thought I’d have a bit of a leg up with roller derby as opposed to other sports because of the skating, but lots of girls started with a lot less experience on skates 8 months ago and have already surpassed my skills. They’re leaner, faster, (younger, for the most part) more agile, and their bodies respond to training much more quickly. I can work my ass off training for a few months and still find I’m behind everyone else… and I have to be ok with that, or I can’t do derby. The work is long-term, and has to be as much about the day-to-day as it is about goals — which will COME, in their own time.

But I do love it. As elusive as it might be, I love it and it’s worth it, and so is the effort.