Category Archives: Roller Derby

Episode 106: Dara O’ Bannon is on Fire!

The wonderful hosts of the Back of the Pack Endurance podcast interviewed me last night about running, roller derby, aerial arts, my experiences as a first-time race director and my upcoming gig as a balloon art model. I come in around the 1 hour mark in this episode and they let me ramble and giggle to my heart’s content!

Source: Episode 106: Dara O’ Bannon is on Fire!

Stuffed Energy Dates – a natural, Paleo alternative to energy gels

Since going Paleo, I’ve started experimenting with natural race fuel – the chemical-laden Gu and Chomps just taste weird to me now and upset my stomach. I’ve carried dried fruit, made my own gels using fruit, chia seeds and sweet potatoes, and I’ve messed around with the recipe I’m about to share now – medjool dates stuffed with coconut oil and cocoa powder. It’s my absolute favorite way to fuel before, during and after a race, training run or workout.

Dates contain easily digestible simple sugars plus fiber that helps stabilize blood sugar. The high levels of potassium help keep your electrolytes balanced and the magnesium is a natural anti-inflammatory. Iron and B-complex vitamins help boost energy. Dates also contain calcium, Vitamin K and phenols (antioxidant compounds that protect cells against damaging free radicals). So much nutrition in such a small package!

I use the coconut oil because of the MCT (medium chain triglycerides). Coconut oil is metabolized like a carbohydrate – The fatty acids are sent directly to the liver for conversion into energy and not into body tissues as fat. The cocoa powder is rich in potassium and contains energy-boosting caffeine and theobromine (which is also a mood booster). Potassium chloride AKA salt substitute helps strike a better electrolyte balance than sea salt (although for training sessions shorter than 3 hours, you don’t really need the extra potassium anyway, as long as you replenish post-workout).

Okay, so now you know why. Let’s talk about how!

Mise en place (Anne Burrell would be so proud)

Mise en place (Anne Burrell would be so proud)

What you will need to make a dozen of these little energy bombs:

12 large medjool dates (fresh are softer and easier to work with than dried)

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Potassium chloride (sold as “salt substitute” in your grocery)

The process:

Using a sharp knife, carefully slit each date without cutting completely in half and remove the pit in each, then spread the halves apart so they fold open like sticky little books.

dates2dates3

Next, mix the 1/4 cup of coconut oil with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder until it forms a brownie-batter like consistency. You can use less cocoa if you like. I won’t micromanage your taste buds.

dates4dates5

Use a teaspoon to measure out the amount you’ll put in each date. You may use a bit more or less depending on the size of each date.  Spread cocoa/oil mixture inside each half and then sprinkle with the salt substitute.

dates6dates7

Smush the halves of each date back together and pinch the edges slightly to seal. Now it’s time to wrap them!  I use Glad Press’n’Seal, although foil works well too. I wrap these as shown below (more info later on why, beyond easy wrapper removal):

corner to corner instead of edge to edge is easier to open on the run

corner to corner instead of edge to edge is easier to open on the rundates9

After wrapping each date individually, they’re ready to go into a baggie and then into your fuel carrying system. I can fit 6 dates into a snack-sized bag, which goes into my SPI belt. It’ll hold more, but this is usually all I need.

dates10dates11

These are great for pre- and mid-run, but for fast post-run fuel (or for when I need a little change in flavor and a bit of protein), I like to stuff them with cashew butter or almond butter instead. Same concept, less mixing.

dates14dates15

To tell them apart in my bag without having to inspect them, I wrap the ones filled with nut butter like candies, twisting the long ends of each. I usually mark a C or A on the wrapper depending on which nut butter I use, but it’s easier to feel the difference in wrapper than it is to read the writing when running.

dates16

There you have it! Natural, portable energy that can be consumed on the run, on the bench in a derby bout or between sets in the gym. Nothing fake and you can control what goes into your fitness nutrition.

For the sake of comparison, here are the nutrition facts for my recipe vs. Gu. Since it is not an exact 1:1 ratio on carbs, you may have to play around a bit with how frequently you consume these as opposed to how frequently you’d use Gu. As I become fat-adapted, I notice I need fewer and at longer intervals than I did when I was weaning myself off of the carb-heavy diet I used to consume.

Nutrition info for coconut oil stuffed dates

Nutrition info for coconut oil stuffed dates


Nutrition info for Gu (varies slightly by flavor)

Nutrition info for Gu (varies slightly by flavor)

I hope you enjoy these – please let me know what you think!  I welcome feedback and I’d love to know what works (and doesn’t work) for you. My next post will be about some of the other options I’ve tried – I’ll include the recipes for the homemade gel and sweet potato puree I like to use.

OFFSKATES WORKOUT WITH ACRD

Pyro

I had the privilege of guest-coaching an off-skates workout for my beloved Assassination City Roller Derby recently, and I wanted to make it available for anyone to do at home. This circuit takes 20-30 minutes, depending on how long your rest breaks are in between exercises.  You can do this pretty much anywhere – it requires no equipment and you don’t need shoes.

Off skates with Pyro – 6/29/14

 
Warmup (5 minutes)
Neck/shoulder/arm rolls
Windmill – stand in an A-frame, arms straight out to sides parallel to floor. Keeping arms straight bend and twist at waist to touch right toes with left hand. Return to start position and twist to touch left toes with right hand. Alternate for 20 seconds.
airplanearms
Marching, high knees, butt kicks
Balboas –  jogging in place while shadowboxing high in the air as if punching a speedbag
10 jumping jacks
10 cross jacks  (arms crossed in front instead of overhead)
10 squat jacks (sink into sumo squat with each jump)
Core (5-10 minutes)
Cat/cow for 15-20 sec to loosen the spine, then  30-60 seconds of each exercise with 10-15 sec rest in between.
 cat camel
Scorpions – On your stomach, elbows on ground, chest up – lift left leg and twist it across body so your toe taps the floor to the outside of your right leg.  Return to start and alternate this cross-body motion on both sides, keeping upper body still and focusing on opening up hip flexors.
Elbow plank with alternating wide toe taps
Iron cross – Lie on your back with arms straight out to sides and legs wide. Lift right leg straight across body to meet opposite hand, and return to center.  Alternate sides for x secs/reps, focusing on glutes, hips and hamstrings. (Iron cross can also be done standing as a dynamic warmup – kick leg up to meet opposite hand)
Around the world plank – one by one, lift and lower each limb slowly and with control in a clockwise fashion; reverse direction halfway through
Bridges – lie on back, knees bent, feet together, soles pressed into floor. Lift pelvis using core until torso and legs form a diagonal; squeeze glutes at the top. Keeping flutes engaged, slowly lower to floor. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
Flutter kicks – lie on back, legs straight, hands under low back for support. Tuck pelvis and make tiny rapid fluttering kicks with feet, floating them just a  few inches off the floor while keeping upper body flat on floor.
Balance (5 minutes with no rest – just keep alternating legs for each exercise)

Basic balance: stand on one foot and slowly swing the other leg forward and back to center; out to the side and back in; and behind you and back to center.  Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.

Hip abduction: stand on one leg, raising other knee to waist height.  Abduct your hip so that you “open the gate”, with your knee pointing out to the side…you’re gonna look a bit like you’ve got a lil’ Captain in ya…then slowly adduct so your knee points forward again. Stay on the same foot and slowly repeat this open/close motion for 30 seconds.

Single leg toe touch:  stand on left foot, right foot hovering off ground in front of you. Bending @ waist, reach with right hand to touch left foot; stand up straight to complete rep. Keeping a slow, steady pace, repeat for 30 sec, then switch sides. (note: you can add a dumbbell to your toe-touching hand when you’re ready to progress this exercise)

Single leg squat with contralateral toe touch – as you squat on your right leg, touch the outside of your left foot with your right hand before standing straight up to complete one rep.  Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.

squattouch

Single-leg curtsy squat with front leg swing:  shallow single leg squat, free leg bent back behind – as you stand, straighten leg and swing it in front of body, then behind for the next squat – repeat for 30 sec each side.

Cardio (5-10 minutes, depending on how long your intervals are)
Speed skaters
Mountain climbers
Reverse lunge with kick punch – from a standing position, step back with right foot into a reverse lunge.  From this position, you’ll smoothly stand as you front kick with your right leg and punch the air in front of you with your left hand @ the same time. Put some oomph behind it!  Repeat the lunge to kick-punch for 30 seconds on this side, then switch to lunge and kick with left leg as you punch with right hand for 30 seconds.
Burpees  (or cross-climber burpees)
crossclimberright
Bonus – if you are working out with a friend or a team, throw this in at the end for one last core/cardio exercise:
Partner leg throwdown: Lie on your back, head in front of your partner’s toes, and grasp their ankles/calves for support.  You’ll lift your legs and they’ll throw them back down to the ground, alternating left, right or middle – your job is to use your core to stop your legs before they hit the ground, then immediately raise them for the next throw. Repeat for 60 seconds and switch.
Cooldown stretch (click for how-to)
hipstretch1
hipstretch3
Please let me know if you have any questions, if you enjoyed this workout and if you’d like to see more like this!

Offskates workout with ACRD

 

 

Pyro

 

I had the privilege of guest-coaching an off-skates workout for my beloved Assassination City Roller Derby recently, and I wanted to make it available for anyone to do at home. This circuit takes 20-30 minutes, depending on how long your rest breaks are in between exercises.  You can do this pretty much anywhere – it requires no equipment and you don’t need shoes.

 

Off skates with Pyro – 6/29/14

Warmup (5 minutes)
Neck/shoulder/arm rolls
Windmill – stand in an A-frame, arms straight out to sides parallel to floor. Keeping arms straight bend and twist at waist to touch right toes with left hand. Return to start position and twist to touch left toes with right hand. Alternate for 20 seconds.
airplanearms
Marching, high knees, butt kicks
Balboas –  jogging in place while shadowboxing high in the air as if punching a speedbag
10 jumping jacks
10 cross jacks  (arms crossed in front instead of overhead)
10 squat jacks (sink into sumo squat with each jump)
Core (5-10 minutes)
Cat/cow for 15-20 sec to loosen the spine, then  30-60 seconds of each exercise with 10-15 sec rest in between.
 cat camel
Scorpions – On your stomach, elbows on ground, chest up – lift left leg and twist it across body so your toe taps the floor to the outside of your right leg.  Return to start and alternate this cross-body motion on both sides, keeping upper body still and focusing on opening up hip flexors.
Elbow plank with alternating wide toe taps
Iron cross – Lie on your back with arms straight out to sides and legs wide. Lift right leg straight across body to meet opposite hand, and return to center.  Alternate sides for x secs/reps, focusing on glutes, hips and hamstrings. (Iron cross can also be done standing as a dynamic warmup – kick leg up to meet opposite hand)
Around the world plank – one by one, lift and lower each limb slowly and with control in a clockwise fashion; reverse direction halfway through
Bridges – lie on back, knees bent, feet together, soles pressed into floor. Lift pelvis using core until torso and legs form a diagonal; squeeze glutes at the top. Keeping flutes engaged, slowly lower to floor. Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
Flutter kicks – lie on back, legs straight, hands under low back for support. Tuck pelvis and make tiny rapid fluttering kicks with feet, floating them just a  few inches off the floor while keeping upper body flat on floor.
Balance (5 minutes with no rest – just keep alternating legs for each exercise)

Basic balance: stand on one foot and slowly swing the other leg forward and back to center; out to the side and back in; and behind you and back to center.  Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.

 

Hip abduction: stand on one leg, raising other knee to waist height.  Abduct your hip so that you “open the gate”, with your knee pointing out to the side…you’re gonna look a bit like you’ve got a lil’ Captain in ya…then slowly adduct so your knee points forward again. Stay on the same foot and slowly repeat this open/close motion for 30 seconds.

 

Single leg deadlift:  stand on left foot, right foot hovering off ground in front of you. Bending @ waist, reach with right hand to touch left foot; stand up straight to complete rep. Keeping a slow, steady pace, repeat for 30 sec, then switch sides.

 

Single leg squat with contralateral toe touch – as you squat on your right leg, touch the outside of your left foot with your right hand before standing straight up to complete one rep.  Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.

squattouch

 

 

Single-leg curtsy squat with front leg swing:  shallow single leg squat, free leg bent back behind – as you stand, straighten leg and swing it in front of body, then behind for the next squat – repeat for 30 sec each side.

Cardio (5-10 minutes, depending on how long your intervals are)
Speed skaters
Mountain climbers
Reverse lunge with kick punch – from a standing position, step back with right foot into a reverse lunge.  From this position, you’ll smoothly stand as you front kick with your right leg and punch the air in front of you with your left hand @ the same time. Put some oomph behind it!  Repeat the lunge to kick-punch for 30 seconds on this side, then switch to lunge and kick with left leg as you punch with right hand for 30 seconds.
Burpees  (or cross-climber burpees)
crossclimberright
Bonus – if you are working out with a friend or a team, throw this in at the end for one last core/cardio exercise:
Partner leg throwdown: Lie on your back, head in front of your partner’s toes, and grasp their ankles/calves for support.  You’ll lift your legs and they’ll throw them back down to the ground, alternating left, right or middle – your job is to use your core to stop your legs before they hit the ground, then immediately raise them for the next throw. Repeat for 60 seconds and switch.
Please let me know if you have any questions, if you enjoyed this workout and if you’d like to see more like this!

Adventures with Internal Fixators – there IS life after ORIF!

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably a roller derby athlete and/or a runner with a broken leg. At least, that’s my hope. Wait, allow me to rephrase that! I don’t wish broken limbs on anybody – but if you’re already broken, then you’re likely searching the web for tales of other skaters or runners who have been bolted back together. You want to know what your future with your newly bionic leg looks like. You want to know if you’ll skate or run or jump rope again. You’re probably even wondering whether to throw out all your high heels. You have questions! I may have answers.

I found myself in similar circumstances in June of 2007, when my left tibia/fibula shattered in 11 places. You can read about it here. Long story short: I have 2 plates, 17 screws & a stabilizing rod in my left ankle/calf. Due to the severity of the damage to both bones, none of that jazz can ever come out. I know some folks who have had plates or screws removed later in life, but this is what I’m working with for the long haul.

 

Pyrobot

Pyrobot

My surgeon said that I’d probably always walk with a bit of a limp, that running was out of the question & that I certainly wouldn’t be able to play derby anymore. Looking back on it now, I think he was intentionally challenging me to prove him wrong.  It worked. I played derby for 5 more years and have run two half-marathons and countless shorter races since. I’ll never be a pogo stick champion and I’ll always be able to tell you when the weather’s about to get cold, but overall, I’m a better athlete now than I was before I was injured.

It’s been nearly 7 years since my surgery, so I feel like I have a pretty decent grasp by now on what works and what doesn’t for recovery and beyond.  Your mileage will vary, obviously, depending on your pain threshold and willingness to work beyond it.  My observations:

While you’re still in your wheelchair or on crutches:

  • Take your pain pills on schedule, but only as long as you have to.  Try alternative therapy if you can. There are plenty of natural pain relievers that won’t damage your body the way that NSAIDs and opioids can.
  • Sleep as much as humanly possible, then sleep some more – your body needs so much more sleep when it’s trying to heal.  Your body also heals much more quickly if it’s not full of alcohol or crappy food, so don’t crawl into a bottle of whiskey like I did or eat your bodyweight in french fries.
  • Stay active so your general fitness level doesn’t slide completely off the rails. Unless you also have an upper body injury, you can lift weights while seated or lying down.  Here’s the series I did during the three months where I was allowed to put zero weight on my left leg:

Seated: front and lateral arm raises, alternating hammer curls, single-arm concentration curls, overhead press, overhead tricep extension, bent over rows and bent over flyes

Lying on back on a yoga mat or bench: chest press, flyes, alternating rows, pullovers, isometric straight-arm holds

  • Start a journal or blog if you’re not keeping one already.  Write about your entire experience while it’s fresh in your mind. You’ll someday be a completely different person than you are at this stage in your injury, and your story will motivate and inspire others if you choose to share it.
  • Stay involved with your league if you intend to return to derby. Volunteer as an NSO, brainstorm sponsorship opportunities, take notes for coaches on the sidelines.  Even when it’s hard emotionally to watch others get to skate when you cannot, please know that you are setting a good example as a productive member of your league.  You’re still making a difference.  If you were an “I just want to skate” type before, maybe it’s time to rethink that mindset.
  • Now’s a good time to finish that book (and start a new series) or to learn how to crochet. Treat this less active time as a way to exercise your brain. You won’t get quite the same endorphin rush as a tempo run or a scrimmage, but your synapses will fire a lot harder if you’re doing something productive with them.

When you’re back on your feet (and you WILL be):

  • If you have the time/money/insurance to devote to physical therapy, I highly recommend it.  If you are more of a DIY kind of athlete, then schedule your rehab exercises into your calendar and treat them  like they’re PT appointments that cannot be missed. Yes, it’s boring and unpleasant, but rebuilding your balance and strength is crucial to preventing compensatory muscle imbalances (that can jack with your kinetic chain for years to come).
  • Single leg barefoot balance exercises are great for restoring your balance on foot, which will get you back on skates faster.  (As soon as I can get somebody to take some pictures for me, I’ll post a balance workout that can be used to improve anybody’s single-leg strength and stability)
  • Strengthen your core.  Not just your abs, but your hips too – your hips are part of your lumbo-pelvic hip complex (LPHC), the group of  29 muscles that make up your true core – where your center of gravity is located and where all movement originates (and in derby, it’s your wrecking ball). Weak hips will increase your risk for knee and (more) ankle injuries, and your kinetic chain is already working at a disadvantage now that your muscles/tendons/ligaments have to reform around foreign matter.  I recommend bridges, planks, hip abduction (I lay on my side and do Jane Fonda-style leg lifts) and hip extension (supermans and scorpions factor heavily into my core workouts).

Returning to skating:

Since my injury, I’ve seen many skaters come back faster than I did, and I am always impressed at those who can flip that switch in their brain again so quickly.  You know – the one that takes us from mortal to human wrecking ball. If you’ve been broken, you know that switch doesn’t flip as easily anymore.  That is completely okay.  Let me repeat that.  IT IS OKAY TO BE SCARED TO PLAY DERBY AGAIN. It is wise to have a certain degree of fear/caution, because it helps you protect yourself as you heal.

Hopefully, your orthopedic specialist understands enough about your sport to have given you a realistic timeframe on when you can return to derby. (I give bout tickets to all of my doctors/trainers/PTs so they can see exactly what we do). My surgeon prescribed a month of non-contact skating before letting me jump back into contact.  I had been so impatient to get back to blocking, but I found that I needed another four months for my scars to heal before I could stomach getting kicked in them.  I reffed until I found myself craving a solid hip check. My league was very cool about letting me jump back into drills at practice when I was ready.

Talk to your trainers (and your doc and PT) when you’re ready so everyone understands where you are physically and mentally. Honest communication keeps expectations reasonable on both sides of that equation.

Returning to contact:

  • Getting kicked in the plates HURTS. I wore a neoprene brace for about a year – not because I felt it was protecting me from further damage (that metal isn’t going anywhere), but for the cushioning it provided in my skate boot and the extra layer of protection against contact to my scars and hardware.
  • Your metal ankle needs to warm up before you start skating.  Do an active off-skates warm-up that includes some ankle circles, pointing and flexing, etc.  Repeat these with your skates on, rolling on your good foot while you roll your bionic ankle around to let it get used to the weight of your skate.
  • Inflammation is normal – for over a year, my metal ankle became a cankle every time I worked out. All of those soft tissues are still trying to settle around the new hardware. Ice, anti-inflamatories and elevation are absolutely the best ways to hand this  Going to the bar with your teammates after practice will not help. Go home and take care of yourself. Sleep.
  • If you have nerve damage, some of that stuff is going to eventually reroute and wake up in unpleasant ways.  Buzzing, tingling, burning and throbbing are all normal. About 4 years after my surgery, I developed a neuroma near the bottom of the inner plate.  It was basically just an angry little ball of hate that would bring me to my knees if you whispered near it. I experimented with a topical prescription numbing cream, got a few unspeakably unpleasant cortisone shots and eventually had a cobbler cut the side of my Reidell 395 low enough so that it didn’t rub Hateball.
The inner ankle of the left skate is cut low enough to fit below the implanted metal.

The inner ankle of the left skate is cut low enough to fit below the implanted metal

Speaking of skates:

Your boot may not feel right anymore, and styles you coveted before may be wrong for you now.  I thought Antiks would help support my ankle, but the high collar was excruciating. I had limited success with a Reidell 195, but the super-low ankles combined with my narrow heels made me curl my toes too much to try to grip, especially on crossovers (I jammed myself right out of my left skate once – so weird to adjust mid-crossover to having one sock foot). What eventually worked for me: Bonts. Oh, how I adore my Bonts. They’re like running shoes with wheels attached.

pybonts

Speaking of shoes:

I had to rethink footwear after my surgery.  Range of motion is limited in my ankle and every degree of angle change equates to more strain on my metal.

  • Stilettos and narrow, tall heels are out for me now, as they’re not stable enough.  However, I have had excellent luck with Pink and Pepper heels – they have a wide base and stable ankle straps. Wedges are a better choice, but honestly, flats are probably going to feel better from now on. Whichever heel height you’re comfortable with, a cushioned insert can help absorb some of the impact you’ll feel  on the metal.
  • Running shoes were also a trial and error experience for me – it’s hard to find shoe salespeople who are familiar with the special needs of the bionic runner. (I really should look into product testing for shoe companies – I think I’d be a good candidate and I could write reviews that might help other athletes)  I used to be a minimalist runner, but my old Adida Adizeros and Nike Free didn’t have enough padding to absorb impact.  Nike Lunarglide was a better choice, but my favorite shoe so far has been the Hoka Bondi. I plan to write a review on these shoes later this month.  The extra cushioning absorbs impact, which means I can run farther and faster without pain. I am actually able to sprint in these, and I never thought I’d sprint again!
Hoka Bondi B is like running on fluffy clouds

Hoka Bondi B is like running on fluffy clouds

Returning to running:

As with skating, returning to running was a slow process for me. Single-leg balance exercises helped strengthen my atrophied muscles, but it took awhile to get used to the sensation of impact.  For the first half mile, I can tell you exactly where every screw is, particularly on cold mornings.  An active warm-up routine (instead of static stretching) before you run helps tremendously.  Build mileage slowly and ice after you run.

Other adventures – what works for me:

  • Yoga has been one of the best things to ever happen to post-surgery me.  Yoga helped me restore my physical balance, gave me an emotional outlet for my frustration and made me more aware of what my body was capable of doing if I focused my energy.
  • An elliptical is a fantastic low-impact way to get your cardio in as long as you’re not on autopilot. Sprint intervals are more comfortable on an elliptical than a track when you have internal fixators.  I like setting the ramp on mine to the highest incline so that it becomes a stair-stepper.  (I miss climbing stairs with my travel teammates, but my knees can’t take the impact these days)
  • Swimming and water running: I spent a lot of my recovery time in my mom’s pool, walking through the water or running while wearing a floatation belt. (okay, it was my kid’s alligator floatie. Don’t judge.)

What’s not as fun for me now:

  • Crossfit (I KNOW) and anything with heavy plyometrics. I can jump rope, but it hurts. I can still do squat jumps and box jumps, but I land harder on my right foot to offset impact.
  • Tennis (side-to-side, quick movements aren’t friendly to rigid ankles)
  • Bottom line: You have to decide how much you’re comfortable hurting.  If you’ve made it this far in your recovery, you’re probably pretty good at handling pain by now. Challenge your limits, but don’t beat yourself up if you move more slowly than you used to or can’t lift as much as before. You’re moving, and that’s pretty damn awesome.

 

Many thanks to you if you’ve made it through this ramble!  Please feel free to ask me any questions about recovery/rehabilitation and whatnot. I’ll answer them in Life After ORIF Part II: Mom of Steel. I’ll also address some specific derby concerns, like re-learning to snowplow with limited range of motion.  I’ll also talk about getting tattoos on top of scars/hardware, since that’s an adventure in itself.

 

How Roller Derby Saved my Life

I originally wrote this on my league forum as a post for the fresh meat group I was coaching at the time. I shared it on Facebook later for a rec league group I was training,  and by request I’m sharing it here now in its original entirety. I hope it continues to inspire and motivate aspiring derby athletes.

…………………………………..

I’ve been meaning to put this out here for awhile – I posted it on my league board recently in a nutrition and fitness thread for my freshies. There aren’t a lot of old guard left who remember what my life was like when I first joined Assassination City & I don’t want anyone to ever assume that I’ve always been who and what I am, because it’s taken a lot of hard work to get here.

This will be really, really long, so bear with me.  I talk a lot. Plus, I’m a narcissist who needs visual aids to fully illustrate the changes my body has gone through, so you get pics too.

I was small (unhealthily so, but that’s a confession for another time) until I hit my early 20s, then birth control (& later fertility meds – oh, the irony) + eating way too much crappy food + sitting at a desk all day reshaped me. I weighed about 155 when I finally became pregnant with Victoria – then I put on 63 pregnancy pounds. Yeah, that’s not a typo. I’m 5’4″ & I weighed 218lbs when I checked into the hospital. That’s over twice the size I was when I met V’s dad. Some of it was the swelling from pre-eclampsia, but most of it was the fact that I used pregnancy as an excuse to eat everything in sight (mostly processed garbage & greasy fast food) & I told myself that walking the dog was actually real exercise.

Here’s what I looked like pregnant (with my best friend Jackie O’NiceAss @ her baby shower):

Our kids were born two days apart.

Our kids were born two days apart.

 

And right after I had V (rare pic of natural haircolor):

proud mama

 

V had severe GERD, which took a trip to the emergency rom and several specialists and procedures to diagnose. Sickly, unhappy new baby + scary new body and wild hormones did a number on my self-esteem, so I spent the first 4 months of V’s life in misery on so many levels.  I didn’t realize at the time I had PPD, but I can see now how bad it really was. I felt very alone and I needed an outlet.

When V was about 4 months old, Jackie O & I started talking about roller derby again. We’d heard about it for the first time @ the baby shower where the above pic of us was taken & we had made a pact that we would join after we had our babies. After researching local leagues, I attended a DDD bout one weekend and an ACRD bout the next.  Dude, I was hooked within the first 2 jams. It was pure awesome. I contacted ACRD about 2 hours after their bout & joined within the next month (summer of ’06).

My skating background: rink rat as a kid + speed team when I realized that skating was faster than running (I’ve loved running since I learned how to do it). I hadn’t been on skates in 17 years, though. I went to a public session the day before my first practice and rented a pair of brownies. I was on the floor for 15 mins when a 12 year old asked me to teach her how to cross on the corners, so I guess it came back to me pretty fast. Muscle memory amazes me.

First practice: I lasted 45 minutes. I was so out of shape! I’d been walking every day & had progressed to light jogging again since I had V, so I was probably down to 185 when I strapped on my skates. My bad knee hated me because of all of the weight I was forcing down on it.  The coach was less than kind about my inability to keep up, the veterans blatantly ignored me and I felt so far out of my element physically and socially.  Fortunately, Gloria Vanderbitch sat down next to me during a water break and within two sentences became one of my best friends for life – so I swallowed my pride and fears, stuck around and came back the next week. I made it through the entirety of the next practice & every practice after that, & soon my body and mind began to transform.

In my first year of derby, I lost about 25 pounds…I didn’t do much else besides skate. I was eating less, but still eating like crap – my first home team, La Revolucion, used to get bourbon & pancakes @ this dive bar called Bandera after every practice. Not exactly the best post-exercise nutrition. Still, I was a pretty decent jammer & I used my size to my advantage – but more importantly, a year of hanging out with a group of strong, beautiful, confident women who come in all shapes & sizes reshaped my self-image & helped me love myself again.

larevpy

La Rev Py

I shattered my leg (11 breaks in the tibia/fibula) on June 6 of ’07 – had surgery June 11 (2 plates, 17 screws and one stabilizing rod), attended the pre-bout party in a wheelchair on June 15, & went to the bout + separated from the Giant on June 17. It was a busy, fuzzy  week of pain and confusion. The Divorce Diet will make you drop weight fast, but I don’t recommend it – nor do I recommend crawling into a bottle of whiskey for a year, which is what I did. Weight fell off to the point that people were asking if I was doing coke. (I was not. I was just drinking myself to death.) I think I was probably 112 @ my skinniest – West Texas flung me around the rink in July of ’08 (my first bout back as a skater) like a rag doll.

Scary Py.

EAT SOMETHING.

** Around this time, I started practicing yoga + meditating every day. I needed to regain my balance in every sense of the word. Yoga changed a lot about my life for the better – I cannot say enough good things about practicing on a regular basis. I healed physically, mentally & spiritually through yoga. It made me more mindful of every bite I put in my mouth, every drink I took, every minute wasted in a bar or stuffing my face in front of the TV that could have been filled with something meaningful & productive. I also started keeping a journal, which made it easier to track whether I was stress-eating or forgetting to eat bc I’d drank too much. A journal shines so much light on what’s going on inside you, & that helps shape the outside. **

I sprained my right ankle in Dec ’08 but kept skating on it in pain ’til about Feb ’09. I do NOT recommend that – if you have an inversion sprain, get off your skates & heal. I opted for 3x per wk physical therapy bc I wanted to recover as quickly as possible. Physical therapy strengthened both ankles, plus it helped build some muscle in my legs (stability exercises are SO good for your entire lower body & core). It made me feel stronger, & I love feeling strong! I started running again (a slow and painful process with nuts’n’bolts in my leg, but it is possible to run again if you have been broken and rebuilt) & I bought a couple of circuit-training DVDs featuring HIIT (high intensity interval training, which is the quickest way to get in bad-ass shape). I highly recommend Jackie Warner’s DVDs – she will destroy you in a very short amount of time. The key is to understand that exercise is supposed to be uncomfortable to some degree – you have to sweat to burn fat & build muscle.

After a year of lifting @ home, Smack the Ripper talked me into joining her gym in May ’10 – I hired a personal trainer & fell in love with her job, so I started the NASM PFT program in July ’10 & started hitting the weights & Stairmaster hard. I received my NASM PFT certification in April of ’11 and have since added several specialized certifications to my arsenal of training knowledge.

So, to make a short story very, very long, that’s why your off skates warmups are so intense – and that’s why I now look like this:

gunzzz

 

I’m impressed if you made it through that long ramble. I feel a bit as if I’ve exposed my soft underbelly to you all, figuratively & literally. I work my ass off on the daily because I know I’m never going to be a final product – I’m always a work in progress. We all are. I take my nutrition one day @ a time, focusing on eating clean 95% of the time & I don’t beat myself up if I eat a yummy fatty treat every now & then (although once I started eating clean, I stopped craving sugar and fat as much – I’m repulsed by fast food and most processed crap now). I break a sweat @ least once a day – cardio is good for the body, heart, mind, soul. Cardio is good working meditation for people who can’t hold still for long (like me). Lifting weights makes me feel powerful – that power carries over into life outside the gym and off the track. Lean muscle burns fat even when we’re asleep, so my body is a self-maintaining machine. I quit drinking on Nov 1, 2009 and I don’t miss it @ all. I realize I am an extreme case and your mileage may vary – I don’t expect anyone to quit drinking or enjoying an occasional piece of cake – I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal, so it works for me.

Bottom line out of all of this, the one point to take home with you – derby can change your life in many positive & amazing ways, but it’s only the beginning of being truly fit & healthy. Think of derby as the gateway drug to lifetime fitness and health. Derby practice alone will not turn us into powerful lean machines – we have to put hard work in to get great results out of what we do every day. That daily hard work will show up on the track and in every other aspect of our lives.

Thank you for listening.

sweatpantsareforsoccermoms

 

Midnight Mile

As 2013 drew to a close, I kissed my sleeping husband, deactivated my Facebook account and hit the trail for a midnight mile (1.11 miles actually, which was unintentional but pleasantly significant to my pattern-loving brain).

It was 39 degrees and crystal-clear – the sky a canopy of constellations.  I ran without music, listening to my breath and my feet and the fountains in the neighborhood lake. I was the only one on the trail, the only one who saw the Christmas lights reflecting off the water’s surface in kaleidoscopic swirls as 2014 came racing in. I love that feeling – knowing I’m experiencing a bit of magic that nobody else will ever see.

When I was done, I laid in the grass and looked up at the stars, thanking the universe and the power behind it for a blessed old year and offering up my promises and goals for the new year.  I stopped referring to them as resolutions last year, but I remain resolute in the best sense of the word – unwavering and determined.

Here’s what I plan to do in the new year.

  • Reevaluate and reorganize how I spend my free time: I deactivated my Facebook account for a temporary and as-yet-undetermined amount of time. Without that massive time suck (which is, admittedly, my favorite place on the internet), I can accomplish my other goals more quickly and completely.
  • Publish my first book: I’ve been creating/testing recipes for the nutrition-conscious and for athletes with dietary restrictions for a few years now. I’d love to share them in a beautiful book full of well-photographed dishes interspersed with colorful anecdotes and pictures of my derby and running adventures.  I plan to include a companion booklet full of advice for new athletes (particularly Fresh Meat, as I feel that there are not enough off-skates resources out there for the budding derby athlete), some basic sport-specific starter workout programs and a training log.
  • Start a YouTube Channel: with the help of a filmmaker friend, I’ll soon have my own YouTube cooking show. You’ll get simple, healthy recipes prepared in typical Pyro style – light on grace and poise but heavy on clumsiness and sass. Tune in to see if I drop a knife on my bare foot or just spill the sauce all over my dogs!
  • Run my third – and possibly fourth and fifth – half marathon, while training for my first full 26.2.  The upcoming half is Cowtown and I’m running for ALZ Stars to raise money for Alzheimer’s Association.  If you’d like for the name of one of your relatives to be honored/commemorated, please email me or comment below – the names of my grandmother and grandfather will be written on my race shirt, as well as the names of friends’ loved ones who are battling or have battled the disease. (If you’d like to make a donation, no amount is too small – and I will match it and add your name to my “gets a free cookbook” list)
  • Settle into a church home and find volunteer opportunities within the organization: this is potentially happening already, and I am as excited about this as I was about falling in love with my husband. I have a big crush on a church that feeds hundreds of local families from its gardens and mobile food bank, hosts a 5K to benefit youth mission trips and has a dynamic children’s Sunday school program and a passionate, enthusiastic minister. We’re obviously still in the honeymoon stage – but then again, I still feel that way about my husband 5 years after finding him. Sometimes you just know.
  • Be the best mother, wife, sister, aunt and daughter I can be: this sounds like one of those vague resolutions I dread, but I have a very specific set of subgoals that will help me fulfill this promise to myself and to my family. Some hinge upon each other, like retiring from derby (that one was checked off early thanks to herniated discs and nerve damage) so I’l be free to attend my daughter’s soccer games and other activities. Some have already been stated above.  Most are listed only in my head and in my heart, and they are referred to multiple times a day.

I’m incredibly excited about the Year of the Green Wood Horse – 14’s my lucky number. :-)  I hope this is a wonderful, fulfilling year for you all.

One-Exercise Workouts: the Cross-Climber Burpee

I’m a big fan of timesaving, full-body workouts that can be done virtually anywhere with no equipment.  Seriously, there are ZERO excuses to skip a workout with that kind of resume. My favorites include core work, cardio and plyometrics to keep me in top form for derby and running.

I call this a One-Exercise Workout, but it’s really a couple of exercises blended together into one super ass-kicker.  Push through these as hard and as fast as you can while maintaining your form – make sure you’re landing lightly and if you feel a sudden or sharp pain, stop immediately.  These are not for the faint of heart, so be ready to ache afterward – but the results are absolutely worth the burn.  Plus, as soon as you’re done with the set, you’re done with your workout – simple, huh?

 

Cross-Climber Burpee:

Start position:  standing straight, legs together, arms by sides, shoulders back.

Drop to a crouch, hands on the floor slightly in front of your feet.

burpeecrouch

Jump feet back to land in plank position.

 

plank

 

Holding your plank, pick up right leg and twist lower body to tap right knee against left elbow.  Return to center and repeat on left side, tapping left knee to right elbow.

 

crossclimberrightcrossclimberleft

 

Return to plank (if you’re feeling particularly masochistic, you can throw in a push-up at this point) and hop legs back into a crouch.

burpeecrouch

From here, you’re going to spring up into the air!  Jump up as high as you can…arms outstretched over your head if you have the ceiling room, or clasped behind your head if your Hobbit house was built in the 1950s like mine.  Imagine your legs as springs, propelling you to the ceiling.

jump

Land lightly in a crouch – that’s one rep!  Shoot those legs back out into a plank and hit it again!

As for sets, play around with what works for your timeframe. When I’m rushed for time, I like to do mine Tabata-style – 20 seconds of 100% effort as I do as many as I can as quickly as possible, followed by 10 seconds of rest and repeated 8 times.  That’s a 4 minute workout that hits every muscle while increasing my endurance, boosting my metabolism and making my butt look fantastic in shiny shorts. You can’t beat that with a bat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legiversary

Gather ‘round, kids, and I shall tell you the tale of the PyroBot. Don’t worry, this book has pictures and the sentences are short. (Well, shorter, anyway. By the fifth revision, I remembered that verbosity is part of my charm – which is code for “F it, I am what I am.”)

Once upon a time (6 years ago on this day, to be precise), there was a skater named Pyro. In 10 blissful months with ACRD she’d skated off 60 pounds, become co-captain of her hometeam and was finally starting to feel like a productive member of her travel team. She still had a long way to go, but basically, everything was coming up Milhouse.

I'm either calling the jam or doing the Funky Chicken.  Hard to say.

I’m either calling off the jam or doing the Funky Chicken. Hard to say.

Our hapless (but never helpless) heroine was jamming at practice when a low block shattered her left tibia/fibula in 11 places. She kept a brave face as they waited for the EMTs, reassuring teammates that she was doing just dandy (“I’m not in shock, I’m just pissed off!”) and cracking dirty jokes until the ambulance doors closed. Then the tears started. In that moment she realized she was going to miss more than just next week’s bout, and the reality of that hurt even more than the floppy leg.

That sound the cans make?  My leg kind of sounded like that!

Crash! There goes reality and PBR all over the floor.

Five looooong (seriously LONG) days later, Pyro became PyroBot. Dr. Clinton Bell did an impressive job of reassembling her, installing 2 plates, 17 screws and a stabilizing rod. He also did a great job of being cute as a button.

prettyleg

Metal detectors and MRI tubes are my sworn enemies.

Pyro spent the first month in a wheelchair. There wasn’t much to do in her wheelchair besides drink. So Pyro drank a lot.

It's hard to tell if you've had too much to drink if you don't have to walk a straight line.

It’s hard to tell if you’ve had too much to drink if you don’t have to walk a straight line.

Pyro’s entire life kind of imploded at this point, but she was lucky to have the support and love of good friends who were there for her through some rough patches.

Eileen Left's other arm is in a sling, but she still pushed me around all night.

Eileen Left’s other arm is in a sling, but she still pushed me around all night.

After another three months on crutches and a final month in a walking boot, Pyro was finally cleared for physical therapy. She was told she’d probably always walk with a limp and that she would never skate the same way she used to.

Then Pyro found yoga.

Outfit not recommended for bikram yoga.

Outfit not recommended for bikram yoga.

Yoga restored her balance in every sense of the word. Her flexibility and strength returned. She became braver, calmer, and happier. She drank less. She smiled more. She laced up her skates when she was cleared, but pain and fear kept her from contact for 4 months. She didn’t want to quit, though. She became PyRef.

pyroref

And she track managed for awesome teams.

Viva!

Viva!

govcup

Oops, I'm trying to ref instead of coaching.

Oops, I’m trying to ref instead of coaching.

Then a funny thing happened – the fear faded and the pain became easier to tune out. Pyro started bumping skaters at practice instead of blowing her whistle. She skated for travel team again, soon becoming co-captain and eventually captain. She joined a hometeam – an amazing group who challenged her to work harder and become a better skater than she ever was before the injury. She even played co-ed derby, which she LOVED.

govcup

pyroaction

ninjapy

Pyro soon began to run again, and the last of that limp disappeared – along with the last of her drinking days. She entered as many 5Ks as she could, then set her sights higher. Pyro never ran farther than 8 miles at once before her injury, but after becoming Pyrobot she ran 2 half-marathons and a 15K within 4 months. Once she was able to use her legs again the way they were meant to be used, she never wanted to stop.

firsthalf2

metro5k

Spending so much time with physical therapists inspired Pyro to hire a personal trainer – then eventually become a trainer herself. She focused on corrective and rehabilitative exercise so she could help her friends heal from their injuries, too. She discovered that muscle not only provided a protective layer to help prevent injuries – it looked damn good too.

swole

And that, my darlings, is how a girl who thought her world was ending turned it around into something far better than she could’ve ever imagined. It took time and hard work and it hurt a lot. But she came out on the other side stronger, wiser and with the understanding that every challenge is just an opportunity to prove her mettle. Now her mission is to help others see that no matter what they are going through, this too shall pass and life will be amazing again. It won’t happen overnight and you’ll have to work to make it happen, but it will happen.