i am not a natural

I Am Not A Natural, Pt. 6

So, we’ve taken a look at my personal recipe for succeeding as someone who does not have talent, but is willing to work hard. I will reiterate that the way I love roller derby is all consuming. I coach, I train, I skate for our charter team, and my partner is a ref. How much more involved could I be? You probably won’t want to follow the exact same path that I did, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the tips provided!

To recap, my personal list of ingredients for success is:

  • Positivity Stop comparing yourself to others. Quit negative self talk. Keep a notebook full of compliments people have given you, and while you’re at it ACCEPT THE COMPLIMENT.
  • Goals Write them down. Then break them down into smaller, less daunting goals. Work towards them and celebrate every freaking step of the way.
  • Drive Tap into your motivation, become disciplined, and use a power word. What do you want to get out of roller derby and what are you willing to put in?
  • Cross Training Do your cardio, but also pick up some weights! Don’t just go to practice. Put in work off of the track to further improve your game on the track.

Own your journey. Remember that everyone progresses at different speeds. You will succeed at one thing while a teammate struggles, and vice versa. That’s totally normal. Also, know that this sport is CONSTANTLY changing. Your struggles, goals, and cross training will need to change with it to keep up.

When I started roller derby, I had no intention to become an athlete. I never in a million years thought I would be a consistent member of the charter team! It started out as what I thought to be an insane goal in my book. Yet, here I am. You can reach your goals too if you remain positive and work towards your goals both on and off of the track. If I, someone who couldn’t stand on their skates for longer than a few seconds at a time at my first practice, can make it this far… I have all the faith that you can too.

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” – Kevin Durant

Posted by Jax in mental game, roller derby

I Am Not A Natural, Pt. 5

So the last blog I wrote for this series was April 21, 2015. Honestly, I never finished Part 5. Not because I wasn’t cross training, but because I got side tracked by other league responsibilities.

The good part about this is now I have the advantage of telling you about ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF CROSS TRAINING!

Before roller derby I was pretty out of shape. I had just graduated college and most of my free time I was working or playing video games. When roller derby became a (what I thought would be a far future) goal of mine, I started working out again. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, though. I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill on a high incline. This eventually evolved into a slow jog with less of an incline. Weights REALLY intimidated me. I had no idea what I was doing and I honestly didn’t take the time to learn. I knew cardio. The sports I participated in growing up were just that. Running. Slow, slow running.

Then Ann Arbor posted about boot camp and I joined sooner than I anticipated. I stopped going to the gym because at the time I thought I should focus on the basics of skating. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I could have mastered things quicker if I had the strength from the start. Live, cross train, and learn!

It was very apparent that nothing was coming naturally, or would come naturally to me. But I was madly in love (and still am very much so) with everything roller derby. Despite all the hurdles, set backs, and struggles I was willing to show up to practice and work for it. Love is crazy like that.

After I passed my skills assessment I started to dip into cross training and changing my eating habits. I started with work out videos and MyFitnessPal. I first picked up Insanity, got through the initial warm up, turned it off and gave up. That’s just the warm up?! How the hell am I supposed to keep going for 30 minutes after that? I reevaluated and ended up starting with Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. I had seen people get great results all over the MyFitnessPal forums. It was just 30 days. 10 days of level 1, 10 of level 2, and 10 of level 3. It seemed less daunting than Insanity. It was still a tough start. I was using 3 pound dumbbells and because I have neglected my arms my entire life, they felt incredibly heavy. Some days the work out felt okay, other days it felt so difficult. Even though it was the same work out 10 days in a row, I never knew how my body was going to respond to it I felt like. If you can get past Jillian talking about looking good in a swimsuit, while not participating in the work out at all, I would recommend this as a cheap intro to cross training. It was a good work out in 27 minutes, scaleable for your fitness level… and if you want to make it more difficult, WEAR YOUR SKATES! That’s right. While getting comfortable in my skates, I wore them on the carpet at home and did 30 Day Shred. You can too.

Eventually I was able to revisit Insanity and it is probably the one work out video series that has made me felt super accomplished every time. I still revisit these videos in my regular training schedule. It’s great to build leg strength, endurance, and ESPECIALLY quick twitch muscles. Which are so important in roller derby! It definitely isn’t up everyone’s alley, but I still find it as a useful training tool today.

When I got a full time desk job and started coaching, sometimes fitting my cardio in was hard. I branched out to another Shaun T workout called T25. T25 has a variety of non-stop cardio circuits for 25 minutes. I’m a huge fan of these, although they don’t kick as much ass or work you as hard as Insanity does by any means.

Unfortunately, those videos cost money (unless you are a pirate– no judgement here), but there are so many incredibly options for free on YouTube as well. I run a cross training facebook group for the team I coach and I am frequently posting videos from FitnessBlender, POPSUGAR Fitness, and LiveStrong as suggested tools. Aside from that you can find so many free work outs on YouTube by just searching keywords like: HIIT, Plyo, Circuit Training, etc.

Here’s the thing– cardio can only get you so far. It will help your endurance. It will help your leg strength… to an extent. It can assist in building your quick twitch muscles. But roller derby has moved away from everyone racing and big holes for jammers to just juke right on through while avoiding hits. We are seeing more and more TIGHT walls where jammers have to push and be ready to explode when they find the tiniest bit of an advantage point. Blockers are having to sit, contort, and dig deep to hold together and prevent scoring passes. Low and slow. Gone are the days where just juking and speed make you a good skater. Now you need to have an expansive tool box and strength.

It was a rude awakening for me when I realized I couldn’t just jump around the outside every time any longer… I now have to push and still have energy and slip around and sprint away as quickly as possible when opportunity arises. This means more than cardio. I found my saving grace in Crossfit. There have been significant changes in every part of my life. I feel pretty cool that I can lift and move heavy ass weights. I tucked my 3 pound weights away in the closet, and my 5 pound weights recently joined them. They aren’t enough any longer. I feel like I found another supportive community outside of roller derby. I also find that even when I’m having a rough time with training, when I lift I am only competing with myself and that means little to no mental stress. Just like Insanity, Crossfit isn’t for everyone. Find SOME way to incorporate weights into your routine. Hell, you can use your skates as weights during a YouTube circuit if you want!

I find having a balance of cardio and weights has been the biggest game changer when it comes to cross training. Keep mixing it up. Keep putting in work. You can only get so far as a natural, you have to work even harder when you are not. Depending on your end goal, you might have to pump up your training and make a more difficult routine than originally planned. My routine is always changing and evolving, just like this incredible sport we love.

In the next, and last post of this series, I will provide an overview of every ingredient it takes as someone who is not a natural to keep succeeding.

Posted by Jax in roller derby

I Am Not A Natural, Pt. 4

Photo © Danny Ngan Photography

Photo © Danny Ngan Photography

This was originally written and posted here on April 21, 2015.

So what is it that drives you? What amount of time and effort can you allow yourself to put forth? Are you willing to put in that time and effort? What words do you draw power from? What type of motivation do you respond to best? The answers will vary from each person.

If you do not put in the effort, you will not receive the results. Your effort must be reflected in your own motivation. It may waver at times, everyone’s does, but it should not completely disconnect. If you feel disconnected from your motivation, it may mean it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate your goals.

Staying motivated can be difficult at times. Results will not be instant. Sometimes results take a very long time. It depends on your goal and the work it will take to achieve it. Sometimes it’s hard to notice any change at all along the way. That’s a big reason I suggest keeping notes on little accomplishments as well as compliments. All the work it takes to achieve your goal will not always feel fun. It will be tedious, and at times, unpleasant. Especially if you are not much of a natural, it can seem even more overwhelming. Stick with it. Find what you really want and push yourself.

Photo © Danny Ngan Photography

Photo © Danny Ngan Photography

Personally, what drives me includes a few different things. I want to be a double threat. I don’t just want to be a jammer; I want to be an effective blocker as well. I want to be a solid member of the charter team. I want to improve, regularly. I want a lot out of roller derby, but in exchange I know I have to sacrifice a lot (mostly free time).

Different people respond to different types of motivation. Our personalities vary and in turn our motivation style will. I need positive motivation to keep myself going. I need to have a strong desire to achieve my goals. I need to feel self-improvement. I really like recognition, but it is not a requirement. Others respond to negative motivation. Some people need fear (ex: If I don’t get up and run today, I will be penalized in some way).  Some people want to prove others wrong. Whatever it is that lights the fire within you, use it.

Lastly, when I cross train or find myself frustrated while trying over and over and over… I use a power word. I constantly remind myself of my end goal. I wanted to skate for the charter team. So in my head when I wanted to quit I would remind myself,  “BRAWLSTAR!” Even now that I’m on the team, I know that I have to work hard to stay on the team. I want to be a valuable member, so my power word hasn’t changed. It’s still the prominent thought in my mind when working hard.

On that note, I owe a lot of my progression to cross training. I will share more about that with you next week.

Posted by Jax in mental game, roller derby

I Am Not A Natural, Pt. 3

Photo © Mr. McWheely

Photo © Mr. McWheely

This was originally written and posted here on April 1, 2015.

“The game has its ups and downs, but you can never lose focus of your individual goals and you can’t let yourself be beat because of lack of effort.”
— Michael Jordan

In the recipe for being successful and improving, having goals is the ingredient that every single person shares. There are different levels to goals. It’s kind of similar to how some foods you can choose between mild, hot, or extra hot. You can have a goal be, “Have a good time while being safe” and/or a goal like, “Become an all star jammer for Team USA.”

Goals are what keep you focused. You wouldn’t pass boot camp and skate at all, if you were completely without goals. They motivate you and most importantly allow you to measure your progress.

I said it when I wrote about positivity, and I will say it again: you should probably invest in a notebook. It is much easier to keep track of any and all goals when they are written. Written goals will also hold you more accountable and give you a better sense of what you have done, what you need to do, and how long it took to get there (date those accomplishments). It also makes this next step possible.

Break them down! Big, long term goals are scary and daunting. Take your bigger goals and divide them into smaller short-term goals. This way you can see your progress and feel like the bigger goal is within reach.

A small example:

  • Spinning out of hits (semi-effortlessly)
  • Turn around toe stop to inside
  • Turn around toe stop to outside
  • Transition comfortably to inside
  • Transition comfortably to outside
  •  Mohawking
  • Extra stretching daily.

Sometimes you will find more mini goals that apply to your larger goal and should definitely add them in. For my “making charter team roster” goal, I was constantly adding lots of little goals and also some accomplishments I/other people noticed.

In my notebook I also keep my skills assessment results. I am able to look back each time I have taken the assessment and see how I have improved without necessarily realizing it. I feel like I barely scraped by in January of 2013, but by December 2013 things were starting to come together for me.

Outside of your goal notebook, it’s good to set PRACTICE, SCRIMMAGE, and BOUT goals. I wouldn’t try more than three at a time for any of these settings, less if you want. If you have too many you will lose focus and struggle to notice any improvement. Your goals could look like, “jam at least 3 times during scrimmage,” “get lower,” or “controlled positional blocking rather than swooping hits.”

Give yourself time. You will not become a charter team member overnight. You will not be able to jam every other jam without the work it takes to get your endurance there. Remember that everyone is going to meet their goals differently and at different speeds and that is okay. Allow yourself flexibility. Newfound obstacles might appear, but if it’s something you truly want, you will keep pushing forward.

If you have the drive, you can most definitely meet your goals, no matter the size. I will elaborate on that soon.

Posted by Jax in mental game, roller derby

I Am Not A Natural, Pt. 2

 Photo © Bernie Laframboise

Photo © Bernie Laframboise

This was originally written and posted here on March 25, 2015.

Roller derby is just as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. Your attitude can make or break your momentum and progress.

Negative self-talk will slow you down. Comparing yourself to others will cripple you.

These are easy habits to get into. Especially when you are starting. Especially when you are skating practices with people of various skill levels. These habits are something you need to throw in the garbage disposal and annihilate as soon as possible.

Stop telling yourself that you cannot, or you will not.

For the longest time I thought I “would never” learn a skill or ability. Specific to my own skating abilities, transitions and mohawking were my nemesis for what seemed like the longest time. Months after my fellow skaters in boot camp had learned and executed these abilities just fine I was still struggling. I was convinced it just wouldn’t happen for me. I couldn’t and didn’t give up, though. If I wanted to continue to progress I had to set goals and avidly work towards them. I spent my down time at practice trying the skills I was struggling with. I went to open skates. I spent some nights in my driveway practicing. I stretched more. I researched. Eventually at practice it happened. Not once, but many times. Today these are two of my favorite skills and the foundation in my jamming arsenal. If you catch yourself saying that you cannot, correct yourself and if you have to say something… say that you are working on it.

Never, never, never give up. — Winston Churchill

It’s hard when you feel like your progress isn’t happening as quickly as it should. It’s hard to watch people learn at different rates. But, it happens and it will continue to happen your entire derby career. It’s not just happening to you though. Everyone has felt this way about people in their lives at some point. Some people can watch a drill once and flawlessly execute it on their first try. Most can’t. Even those people you idolize mess. things. up. Those skaters do struggle and have struggled just like you!

No good will come from comparing yourself to others.

It will not help you accomplish your goals. In fact, it can damage your self worth and your progression. Look to yourself instead. Compare this practice to the last. Compare this month to the previous. Look at how far you’ve come! Remember when you could barely cross over? Remember when you couldn’t pick your leg up during stretches, or else you would fall? Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how big or small. Did you increase your 27 in 5 time by a few seconds? Great! Did you not fall when one of the hardest hitters on your team tried to knock you down? Heck yeah! Did you ALMOST land an apex jump? Awesome! You tried something a lot of people wouldn’t have the guts to do. (My first attempted apex jump went horribly awry, but NO ONE cared it went wrong except ME. Every time I do happen to land one my league mates cheer and it feels great and I wouldn’t get those amazing feelings if I didn’t try it despite past failures.) Celebrate it all.

My favorite way to stay on the positivity track is to keep a notebook.

When another person compliments you, ACCEPT THE COMPLIMENT (very important), and write it down. Try to keep the exact phrasing if you can remember. You can date it too, if you’d like. I actually kept mine dated so I could see the progress and changes I was making through other’s eyes. When you accomplish something big or small, write it down too. This will serve as proof when you feel like things are too difficult or like you are unaccomplished. Celebrate yourself frequently and all the things you’ve done and will continue to do.

Positivity has such a huge impact that I think a lot of people fail to notice, or don’t notice quickly enough. When you are in a positive mental space, it’s easier to learn and it’s easier to achieve. If you start to feel yourself get frustrated and slip, give yourself a moment, shake it off (if you practice with me, you will see me literally stop during a drill, shake my head, my arms, my legs, take a deep breath, and then try again) and start anew.

If you decide to keep a notebook, you don’t have to use it JUST for compliments. You can use it for goals as well! We can talk more about that next week, friends.

Posted by Jax in roller derby