Tag Archives: pyro maim ya

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.

 

Link

Pynk Fitness now has a website!

Hooray! I’m now the proud owner of pynkfitness.com AND pyromaimya.com.  Movin’ on up, feelin’ legit!

I’m exporting this blog in its entirety and will continue to write new content for my new websites. I’ve been working on a Fresh Meat Fitness series, plus I had a brainstorm recently re: a series on skating and running after ORIF (open reduction and internal fixation – or in layman’s terms, when your leg is chock full o’nuts and bolts). I’d like to review all the skate boots and running shoes I’ve tried since going Full Metal Ankle, plus give a little practical advice for anyone returning to an active lifestyle after going bionic.

Stay tuned to pynkfitness.com and pyromaimya.com for more adventures in fitness and family. Video clips are coming when it’s not so blasted cold – and now I have a handy place to archive all the recipes I teased you guys with on Facebook.

Check out the new URL!

Thanks to my dear brother, I now own pynkfitness.com and pyromaimya.com! I’m happily planning my layout and importing files this morning. I worked in web design/hosting in the late 90s and early 00s, and I’m tickled to see that cPanel’s even easier to navigate now.

As I relearn to ride this virtual bicycle, please accept this picture of my sweet family in lieu of actual content.  This was taken at lunch with old friends after we ran the Hypnotic Donut Dash, which was an absolute blast and a much-needed respite from an emotional week.

photo

 

Actual content coming soon. I’ve been working on a Fresh Meat Fitness series, plus I had a brainstorm yesterday re: a series on skating and running after ORIF (open reduction and internal fixation – or in layman’s terms, bionic leg chock full o’nuts and bolts) wherein I review all the skate boots and running shoes I’ve tried since going Full Metal Ankle. Stay tuned!

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.

Full-body burnout with Loca and Pyro

My best friend Loca took the day off work to train with me yesterday.  Loca’s back and arms make grown men cry (and her one-armed pull-ups make me a little weepy myself), so I knew I’d have to bring my A game to challenge her obscenely high level of fitness. My plan – compound moves, plenty of core and lots of plyometrics.

We took the TRX suspension trainer (one of my favorite training toys), a 10lb medicine ball and our yoga mats out to the lake for some fresh air and Vitamin D.  The TRX easily hitches to any tree, but you can also hang it over a closet door if your weather isn’t as comfortable as ours was. Most of the exercises in the entire workout require very little space to perform.

Dynamic warmup

20 windmill toetouches
20 standing iron cross kicks
20 standing single leg pikes
20 sidestep squats
20 side lunges with warrior arms
20 lateral shuffles with side kick
10 jumping jacks
10 cross jacks
10 burpees

20 Single leg hip rotations
20 curtsy squats
60sec curb step-ups

10lb medicine ball:
20 single leg woodchops
20 single leg deadlifts
10 squats with front raise

TRX suspension trainer:
10 squat to low row
30sec plank with scissor legs
10 mountain climbers
10 bicep curls
10 chest press

10 jumping jacks
10 cross jacks
10 burpees

60sec Elbow plank with toe taps
60sec bicycle crunches
30sec flutter kicks
10 spiderman push-ups
10 inchworms with push-ups

Yoga cool down

Best Stretch Ever

I figured I’d ease you into my blog by teaching you one of my favorite stretches (look, if I went straight to spiderman pushups on our first day together, you’d probably close this tab and search for muffin recipes instead).  This is a great cooldown stretch after a derby practice or offskates workout – your hip flexors will thank you for it.

Anyone who’s ever skated one of my practices knows how much I love a good cooldown stretch. A cooldown stretch is much more important than you think – if you’re just hopping off the rink without giving your muscles time to slowly release some of that built-up tension, you’re putting yourself at risk for soreness, fatigue or injury.

This is my absolute favorite stretch ever – it targets your back, shoulders, hips and legs, plus it helps slow down your heartrate and breathing and gives you a nice warm fuzzy feeling. I’ve heard it called the Py-retzel, since the end result is rather pretzel-like. I try to do it at the end of every practice and I always hear such happy sighs all around.

How to twist one up:

Lie on your back, right leg straight and flat on the ground and bend your left knee, pulling it in toward your chest.  Hold it here for a few seconds, then open your hip a little and pull knee in toward armpit to get a deeper stretch.

Lift right leg straight up so that it’s perpendicular to your body and cross your bent left leg so your left foot rests over the top of your right thigh. Your legs will form a figure 4. With your left arm on the inside of your right thigh and your right arm on the outside, clasp your hands behind your thigh and gently pull it toward your chest.  You can bend your right knee a bit as you pull to get a deeper stretch through your hip.

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Release right thigh and lower leg to the floor.  Keeping left knee bent, gently twist your torso so that your left knee touches the ground next to the right side of your body. Try to keep both shoulderblades pressed firmly into the floor as you take a few breaths and allow your spine to release.  Straighten your body out, give your legs a little shake and repeat on the other side.

If you’re flexible and would like a deeper stretch, you can bend your bottom leg and catch the toes of your foot in your hand, using your other hand on the knee of your top leg to counter-balance the stretch.

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I usually follow this one up by rolling onto my stomach, pushing into upward dog, then pushing back into child’s pose for a few breaths before I take off my gear.  No matter how charged up I am from practice, my muscles and mind immediately feel more zen for the drive home.