Tag Archives: pynk fitness

Runner Girls Podcast!

I had such a great conversation with Katie and Sue when they interviewed me last week for Runner Girls Podcast. I talked a lot about falling in love with running as a kid, about running as a pacer and about coaching Girls on the Run. The interview can be found here:

https://runnergirlspodcast.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/season-4-episode-7-all-the-things-all-the-time/#more-1314

Enjoy!

Tie-Dyed White Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

IMG_7429

For my daughter’s 10th birthday, she asked for “a white cake with colorful swirls and chocolate icing with green and pink decorations.” Very specific, and I aim to deliver what people ask for. Not only do I deliver, I like to over-deliver by taking the idea a bit further.

I have a basic white cake recipe that I love to make – it is so simple but so delicious. Super-moist but light, dense enough to stand up to a thick buttercream but airy enough to layer without getting too heavy. I’ve tweaked it over the years ’til I’m happy with the results every time I make it.

I took my basic recipe below and doubled it, creating four layers (two 10 inch and two 9 inch) with a different colored swirl inside each. Then I assembled and frosted it with my chocolate buttercream frosting. My daughter and I tinted a bit of the Caramel Buttercream I had left over from the chocolate cupcakes I made for the party (I like for people to have options, and I also like to stuff my guests uncomfortably full – that’s my love language) and used it to add decorations, along with roughly 2 pounds of sprinkles (I exaggerate, but that kid is seriously pretty heavy-handed with the edible glitter).

The reactions when I cut into the cake were great – nobody knew what the inside looked like until the first piece was served. The kids all went “WHOA” and one usually-hard-to-impress girl exclaimed, “that is friggin’ COOL!” Validation achieved. 😉

Let me know how yours turns out. The color combinations are endless and you can swirl together as many as you like.

TIE-DYED WHITE CAKE:

** This recipe makes one two-layer round cake (9 and/or 10 inch pan). You can double the recipe like I did if you’d like to build more layers! **

Ingredients:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) softened (NOT melted – it makes a big textural difference, trust me) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups cake/pastry flour (lends a much lighter texture than all-purpose)
2 teaspoons baking powder (make sure it’s fresh – old baking powder yields less rise)
6 (3/4 cup) egg whites
3/4 cup milk (I use 2%)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Gel food coloring and a few small bowls to divide and tint cake batter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of two round pans (I used one 9 inch and one 10 inch and made two batches for the layers). Line bottoms of pans with parchment or waxed paper. (I cut circles of parchment paper to fit in the bottoms of my pans. This step will really help you avoid the stuck-to-the-pan blues that often result in torn cake.)

Using your stand mixer or an electric hand beater, cream butter and sugar together on medium-high until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. In another bowl (sorry, I’m really making a mess of your kitchen) whisk together the egg whites, milk and vanilla extract.

Add 1/4 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture in the mixing bowl and beat for a couple of minutes, then add 1/4 of the milk mixture and beat ’til incorporated. Repeat this process until all dry and wet ingredients are incorporated into the butter/sugar mixture. You’ll probably need to stop the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that everything gets combined thoroughly.

We’re gonna dirty up more of your dishes now. Depending on how many colors you want to make, evenly divide the prepared batter into separate bowls. Using a toothpick or the tines of a fork, dip a tiny amount of the gel food coloring into each bowl and mix thoroughly into batter. Repeat as needed to reach the desired intensity for each hue.

To make the swirls: You’ll need small scoops, measuring cups or spoons for each color (more dishes to wash, hooray!). I use 1/4 cup scoops for mine. Using your scoop/cup/spoon, place a dollop of one of the colors of batter in the center of each pan. Give it a minute to spread out a bit, then scoop a different color and pour it directly on top of the dollop already in the pan. Don’t mix them together! Let the batter spread a bit before adding the next dollop, again to the center. Keep repeating this process until you have concentric rings in each pan, like a bulls-eye dartboard. Don’t mix them together, although you can use a spoon to lightly push the edge of each new dollop out so the mixture continues to spread to the edges of the pan. It’ll look like this when the pans are full:

IMG_7381

Bake cakes about 22 to 25 minutes on the middle rack of your oven (or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean). I turn/rotate them halfway through to ensure even baking.

Cool in pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto rack (I like to put the rack upside down across the top of the pan and hold them together as I quickly flip the pan so that it drops easily onto the rack), remove the parchment/waxed paper and let the cakes cool completely on the rack before frosting.

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

FullSizeRender

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened (NOT melted – you need the structural integrity of soft butter to make this frosting set up right)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pound confectioners sugar
1/2 cup milk (I use Horizon 2% chocolate milk just to pump up the cocoa flavor a bit more)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:

Add cocoa powder to bowl of stand mixer or large bowl that you can use your electric hand mixer in. Whisk powder thoroughly to remove any lumps.

Using your stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat softened butter into the cocoa powder at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes – you want the mixture to be really creamy and fluffy. (I use the paddle attachment in my Kitchenaid stand mixer for the best results.)

Reduce speed to medium and add 1 cup of the sugar and 1 tablespoon of the milk, then crank the speed back up to high for a minute or two until well-combined. Repeat this process, slowly incorporating the sugar and milk until it’s all combined with the butter (you’ll need to frequently stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and beater with a spatula). Add the vanilla extract and beat on high for another two minutes.

** If frosting is too dry/hard, add a little more more milk – a tablespoon at a time – until it reaches the right consistency. If it’s too wet/soupy, add a bit more confectioner’s sugar – again, a tablespoon at a time – until the texture is right.

To assemble cake: using a spatula, spread a thin layer on the underside of the bottom layer of cake to “glue” it to the cake board or plate, then lay a nice thick layer of frosting over the entire bottom layer. Frost the underside of the next layer so it’ll stick to the bottom layer better, then set it in place and frost it entirely too. You can then smooth out the frosting, add a thicker coat to hide the “seams” of the separate layers and/or put additional frosting into a decorating bag with a piping tip to embellish your cake. (My daughter chose the large star tip to outline the layers and to write her first initial on top of the cake before dousing it liberally with sprinkles and colored sugar.)

cake

Let me know how yours turns out! I’d love to see pictures. (I really need to start taking more “process” pictures of my own recipes! I always forget or take sloppy ones.)

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!

Fresh Ink x2

I am flattered and honored to be the subject of an article on Runner’s World’s Zelle website!  Many thanks to Megan Birch-McMichael for such a fantastic writeup.

 

www.runnersworld.com/run-matters/she-runs-dara-obannon

 

This awesome article, which makes me seem much cooler than I actually am, was published the morning after I got my first running-related tattoo – I am covered in derby ink, so I really wanted to get something that represents my running life as well. Meet Pacer and Miles, my running spirit animals. Myles Bryant designed and inked this piece for me, and I am over the moon about how much I adore it.

 

Pacer says Miles is going WAY too fast and will burn out by mile 9.

Pacer says Miles is going WAY too fast and will burn out by mile 9.

Everything is coming up Milhouse today! Now I’ve gotta go be awesome so that I can live up to the press. 😉 Have a blessed day!

Run for God @ the Honor Connor 5K

Race report, Proud Coach edition:

FUMC Hurst FIT Class, Spring 2015

FUMC Hurst FIT Class, Spring 2015

For 12 weeks, I led a paired fellowship class @ our church called FIT: The 5K Challenge, using the Run for God 5K book as a guide for our discussions and training. It was a diverse group that enjoyed a lot of insightful conversations and there were moments of epiphany and growth for all involved, especially me.  Our group ended the session together by running our target race, the Honor Connor 5K & Smile Mile. We had 13 runners total – most were running their first or second race ever.

The start was delayed 2 hours, thanks to heavy rain/lightning/flooding. When we finally got to run, the humidity was pretty intense & there was standing water on many sections of the courses. None of us let the conditions deter us from enjoying our races!

Both my mile & 5K groups did an amazing job – two of my women placed in their age group (2nd & 3rd in the same AG). One of my gentleman was initially listed as placing 2nd in his, but a recalculation bumped him – he would’ve been first in the next AG if he’d been a few months older. As he put it, “I’m not too slow for my age, I’m too young for my speed.” 😀 He was just ahead of me the entire time & finished right in front of me – watching his joy throughout the race (he is a former runner who took some time off & has used this class to return to running) was better than running my own race (which was still a lot of fun – good course & great support).

I want to be the lady next to me when I grow up.

I want to be the lady next to me when I grow up. She was so cool. I made her race me in the last 20 steps.

I finished my 5K, then went back out & ran in each of my remaining students – I got them just to the line so they could cross on their own, then turned back to run down the course to find the next one. After my 3rd time coming down the home stretch, a few little girls on the curb asked, “how many times are you gonna run this race?” When I explained what I was doing, they cheered “go pink lady!” and repeated it on the rest of my return trips. I may have that printed on the back of my coach shirt for next session.

13607631_3 13607631_4

I had secretly ordered medals for everyone in our group, and the shock & joy on their faces as they received them brought tears to my eyes several times. I also cried as I crossed the line with each of them. I’m a sap.

medals

I’ve run about fifty 5Ks, but this one was one of the best race experiences I’ve ever had. To see my little group achieve their goal was sweeter than any award I could receive. I can’t wait to do another one of these classes in the fall!

I want to be as cool as Kim when I grow up. This lady rocks.

Kim rocks!

Dallas Marathon 2014

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/42c/53149083/files/2015/01/img_2699.jpg

It has taken me a month to recap this race on my blog, partly because I already wrote about it on my running group but mostly because I was waiting for my mixed feelings to resolve into something ultimately positive. I have a tendency toward self-flagellation after any athletic event or performance, regardless of outcome – I spend ages obsessing over how I could’ve done better. It’s a blessing and a curse, but it keeps me striving for bigger/better/faster/more, so I choose to embrace it.

This was my 1st full marathon and it was full of meaning. Dallas was my 1st half marathon in 2009 – I quit drinking while training for it, so this medal is my version of a 5 year chip. I trained for months, hitting all but one of my scheduled runs. My right knee wasn’t always thrilled, but I felt ready after record mileage, a half-marathon PR and an AG award for my last half before the marathon.

About a week out, I developed an ache in my left thigh/buttock that quickly went from uncomfortable to excruciating. I thought it might be a hamstring tear or piriformis syndrome, but a visit to my beloved chiropractor confirmed that it was sciatica due to a bulging and possibly herniated L4-L5. I’ve spent nearly 2 years rehabilitating the mess between my C2-C5, so this news was pretty demoralizing – I wasn’t ready for more traction/decompression.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/42c/53149083/files/2015/01/img_5728.jpg

The pain was slowing me down considerably & there was concern from family, friends & Dr. Cox about the distance, so I briefly considered switching from the full to the half. Then I received my crazy bib # – 999 – on what would’ve been my grandmother’s 99th birthday, so I took it as I sign that I had to try. Worst-case scenario? I would start but not be able to finish, which felt preferable to finishing the half & realizing I could’ve gone farther. I recalculated my goal pace based on my decreased ability and estimated my finish time at 5 hours. I was 2 days out & could barely sit or stand up without searing electric pain down my left leg. As long as I was in motion, though, it was tolerable.

The weather was overcast on race morning & heavy rain was forecasted for afternoon. I met up with my brother Kris, my sister-in-law Jen & a few of their friends, most of whom were running the half. Jen is my favorite running buddy & the races shared the same course for the first 9.5 miles, so the time with her flew by.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/42c/53149083/files/2015/01/img_2554.jpg

We hugged goodbye at the split & I was on my own, maintaining a slower pace than I’d planned but still in pretty good shape. The hills were starting to hurt a bit around mile 13, but the promise of seeing my awesome husband every 3ish miles (he found me 8 times on the course, carrying a backpack full of just-in-case) in his bright pink Wonder Woman shirt kept me in good spirits. He even ran a bit with me, even though he hates to run.

At mile 15, the intermittent rain became a torrential downpour. It would continue for the entirety of the next 11.2 miles. Good thing I had my custom-made poncho with me.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/42c/53149083/files/2015/01/img_2701.jpg

Despite the weather, the volunteers were all cheerful & the spectators were amazing. Great course support, even when the 25mph wind gusts made it impossible to keep water cups on the tables.

By mile 20, my back & leg were pretty wrecked but I was still enjoying myself. The rain made the potholed streets a bit harder to traverse and my knee was starting to lock up, so my pace slowed to a shuffle. I never hit the infamous wall and I never doubted that I could finish the distance, but I was starting to worry that the course would close before I could cross the line – the time limit was 6.5 hours & judging by my recalculations, I would be cutting it close.

By mile 21, I’d already decided to do another marathon (maybe Cowtown in March). My Garmin died around this time, so I quit caring altogether about pace & just looked for mile markers. The sag wagons were nowhere in sight, so that gave me hope.

Around mile 22 I passed the Doublewide, the bar where I used to get blackout drunk & make terrible decisions before I traded drinking for distance running. I flipped it the double bird and picked up my pace.

Downtown Dallas never looked so beautiful as I shambled toward the finish line. I was amazed by how many spectators were still there, despite the rain & the late hour.

I finished in 6:19:16, over an hour slower than I’d hoped. But I made it with a grin on my face & a profound sense of gratitude for the ability to run, even when it hurts.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/42c/53149083/files/2015/01/img_2700.jpg

I picked up my finisher medal & my Dallas Duo medal (for also running RnR Half in March) & I found my husband. Hugging him felt better than any medal or PR ever has, and that’s when I finally cried.

He had doughnuts & hot coffee waiting for me in the car. I may have run all day, but he was the one who worked his ass off to support me – I am so thankful to have him on my team.

I rode the finisher’s high into Tuesday, when my depleted endorphins & exhaustion finally caught up with me. I spent about 24 hours disgusted with myself for finishing nearly 80 minutes slower than I’d hoped, for not pushing myself harder, for walking part of the last 10K. I was a marathoner, yeah, but I still felt like I’d failed.

As with any failure (or half-assed success), I ultimately chose to use the disappointment as fuel for my fire. I registered for Cowtown & started my training cycle again. The upshot is, unless I fall asleep or into an open manhole, I’ll most likely PR my next marathon!

If you made it through this ramble, then I sincerely thank you. I needed to get it out there so I can finally shake off the disappointment & move forward. I still have severe sciatica, but I’m running through the pain & treating with a TENS unit and an inversion table. Eventually I’ll go get that MRI & schedule some traction/decompression sessions, but for now I’m just focusing on my training schedule. We’ll see how Cowtown goes!

Vegetti Adventures: My Love Affair with a Spiralizer

I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets, particularly those of the “As Seen On TV” persuasion. So when my dear friend Trigger Mortis told me about her Vegetti, I was intrigued (and remained so even after realizing it wasn’t a saucy euphemism).

I picked one up at CVS and gleefully began spiralizing everything in the crisper, experimenting with simple sauces and herbs from our garden. So far, these recipes have all been hits – even my picky, pasta-loving progeny has tasted them (that alone is worth the 14 bucks).

A few tips:
• This thing’s basically a giant pencil sharpener, so long, thin vegetables fit best in it. Sweet potatoes in particular are easier to spiralize if they’re skinny.
• When peeling your vegetables, leave a few inches at the top unpeeled so you’ll be able to grip without slipping.
• You’ll have a couple of inches of pointy veggie nub left, since it’s pretty much impossible to spiralize the entire vegetable. I’ve been saving mine to cube and roast for vegetable soup or dog food.
• The “noodles” can be boiled, but I vastly prefer a quick sauté in olive oil or coconut oil to preserve nutrients – plus the caramelization adds depth of flavor.
• Each of these recipes makes two small servings or one “stop judging me, I just ran 5 miles” serving.

Sweet Potato Pad Thai

Sweet Potato Pad Thai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Pad Thai

Saute 1 spiralized sweet potato for 5-8 minutes, then stir in:

1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
Dash of sriracha

Top with chopped Thai basil and/or garnish with a lime wedge.

••••••••••••••••

Hash Brown Nests with Baked Eggs

Hash Brown Nests with Baked Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hash Brown Nests with Baked Eggs

Preheat oven to 475 & grease 2 ramekins or muffin cups. Spiralize 1 russet potato, season with salt and pepper and divide mixture between ramekins, pressing spiralized potatoes into the bottom and sides to form little nests.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, then turn heat down to 400 & remove cups from oven. Carefully crack 1 egg into each cup and return to oven to bake for 5 minutes or until whites set.

••••••••••••••••

The potato nests were really fun to make, so I also made zucchini nests with cherry tomato “eggs” from our garden. One is raw and vegan; the other is baked and filled with herbed ricotta. The raw recipe works great with cucumber, too.

Zucchini Nests

vegannest

Raw Zucchini Nests with Cherry Tomato Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiralize 1 zucchini and marinate the noodles in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and golden balsamic vinegar for a few minutes to soften, then drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Arrange noodles in a nest and top with raw tomatoes and fresh oregano.

 

vegricottanest

Baked Zucchini Nest with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preheat oven to 400 and grease a ramekin or muffin cup. Spiralize 1 zucchini and mix 1 beaten egg into the noodles, then arrange in ramekin/cup to form a nest. On a separate pan or cookie sheet, toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast zucchini nest and tomatoes for 12-15 minutes.

Mix together 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese and 1 teaspoon chopped oregano. Top nest with ricotta and tomatoes.

••••••••••••••••

Lastly, a trio of post-workout snacks. I find myself craving the zucchini after every run now.

Clockwise from top left: Sweet Potato with Salmon and Black Beans, Cucumber Salad & Zucchini with Ricotta and Mint

Clockwise from top left: Sweet Potato with Salmon and Black Beans, Cucumber Salad & Zucchini with Ricotta and Mint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato with Salmon and Black Beans
Spiralize 1 sweet potato and sauté for 5-8 minutes. Add 1/4 cup cooked salmon and 1/4 black beans & season with cayenne.

Cucumber Salad
Spiralize 1 cucumber. Season with cracked black pepper, stir in 1 tablespoon of golden balsamic vinegar & top with 1 tablespoon of feta cheese.

Zucchini with Ricotta and Mint
Spiralize 1 zucchini and sauté with 1 chopped clove of garlic in olive oil for 3-5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese & 1 tablespoon chopped mint. Trust me on the mint! It pairs beautifully with zucchini.

••••••••••••

I’ll post another round after this week’s experiments. Let me know if you try any of these, tell me what you liked & share your own recipes with me!

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.