The Not-So-Cathartic Effects of Roller Derby

If people have known me from a young age, they are not surprised to find out I play roller derby. Growing up, I was always into sports and trying out new and crazy things. However, when people I don’t know very well find out I play roller derby, they sometimes react with surprise. I’ve been told several times that I seem too nice to play derby. As I hypothetically roll my eyes, I usually respond with something like, “well, roller derby helps me get out all of my pent up anger.” Or sometimes the person I’m talking to will come to that same conclusion – “you’re so calm, I suppose you must release all of your anger on the track.”

This idea of “getting out” your anger/frustration is called the “catharsis hypothesis” and has been around for a long time (the word “catharsis” was created by Aristotle, and then later applied to psychology by Freud and colleagues). One common definition of catharsis is, “The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.” (Oxford Dictionaries  Online).

While I occasionally use this as a reason why I just seem so nice even though I play derby (ugh), I know some people feel as though hitting hard in roller derby does actually help them release frustration and anger.  However, I have some bad news…

Research has not only failed to show that catharsis is real, it has actually shown that using aggressive behavior to release frustrations and anger can actually lead to MORE aggressive behavior – not less (Gentile 2013; Bennett 1991; Bushman 1999; Bushman 2002).

So every time you think that roller derby is helping you release all of your pent-up aggression or frustration, it might actually be doing the opposite. It not only increases your stress level, it forms a habit of aggressive behavior that can lead to even more aggressive tendencies in other areas of your life. It is true that you may feel better or more relaxed after “releasing some anger” at roller derby practice, but this is more likely due to your body being tired from fighting the increased heart rate and stress levels that anger causes (Gentile 2013).  Your feelings of relief and relaxation could also be due to general engagement in physical activity which helps alleviate depression, anxiety, and physiological reactions to stress (no matter how hard you hit someone).

So if you feel like you have anger and frustration that you are trying to overcome with roller derby, it might be wise to start adding other non-aggressive relaxation tools such as mediation or therapy. In addition, playing angry might actually increase the stress on your body, limit your ability to focus, and decrease your performance. So take a deep breath, center your mind, and THEN hit hard!

References:
Bennett, J.C. (1991). The Irrationality of the Catharsis Theory of Aggression as Justification for Educators’ Support of Interscholastic Football. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 72(2):415-8.
Bushman, B.J., Baumeister, R.F., and Stack, A.D. (1999). Catharsis, Aggression, and Persuasive Influence:  Self-Fulfilling or Self-Defeating Prophecies? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 76(3):367-376.
Bushman, B.J. (2002). Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame?  Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 28(6):724-731.
‘Catharsis’ Oxford Dictionaries Online. Oxford University Press.  http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/catharsis
Gentile, D.A. (2013). Catharsis and Media Violence: A Conceptual Analysis. Societies. 3(4): 491-510.


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Roller Derby Travel Tips

Between my brother getting married and a work conference all week, I haven’t had as much time to write my blog post as I would have liked. I have also had very little time to pack and prepare for my upcoming roller derby trip to Florida. Good thing I’ve learned how to pack light and comfortable for any derby trip! So here is a somewhat silly post about preparing for roller derby travel.

Packing and preparing for roller derby travel trips can be difficult when you have to fit everything into your carry-on bags.  Even though I can usually check a bag for free, I hate waiting for bags after my flight, so I rarely pack more than I can bring on the plane with me. After going on 20+ derby trips, I feel like I’ve learned some tricks that make this a little bit easier.

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1. Put your socks and undies into your skates and shoes.  They have so much unutilized space!

2. Keep your sweatshirt out of your bag – you can either wear it if it’s cold or just tie it around your waist like a super cool kid.

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3. Keep your helmet on the outside of your bag.  If you have to leave your bag plane-side (this is different than checking your bag), you can just carry your helmet on with you and put it under your seat with your other bag.

Speaking of checking your bag – NEVER check your skate gear!  If you realize you have to check it at the gate, re-pack so all of your derby gear and jersey are with you on the flight.  If you lose all of your other clothes and toiletries, at least you can still skate.

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4. Pack individual bags of protein powder for every day you will need it and store it in your protein shaker.  Also buy your own energy bars/gu gels before you get to your destination.  This is much cheaper and also saves you the extra trip to a store to buy supplies before a bout.

5. Bring a plastic bag (or two) to store all of your dirty clothes in.  This will not only make your hotel room smell better, you can also squish down your dirty clothes when you repack for the trip home, instead of trying to neatly fold them.

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5. Don’t worry about packing anything but workout-type clothes.  I used to make sure I had one “real” outfit and maybe an after party outfit, but you can still look pretty cool in black workout pants and a tank top.  And at a certain point, nobody really cares what you’re wearing by the end of a derby trip!

 

I also have an aversion to being dirty/sweaty. Although I usually can’t stand it, derby has forced me a bit more tolerant of dirtiness.  However, here are some additional travel tips to stay semi-clean on derby trips: bring wet wipes to clean off most (or all) of your body after a bout, bring baby powder to put on your greasy hair to dry it out, shower in clothes you night need to wear again and then hang them to dry, ALWAY take your gear out of your bag to air dry your pads, don’t skimp on packing socks – dirty socks are the worst, and take off your jersey as soon as you can after the bout to give it plenty of time to dry before your next bout.

So maybe you already do most of these things, but maybe you can try out a few new ones on your next trip! Now, time to stop stressing about packing and start thinking about playing derby!


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The Hardest Position in Roller Derby

When I was in high school, one of my side jobs was being a referee for youth soccer. I took the classes, passed the tests, bought the outfit, and sewed on my official patches. I even had my own flags and whistle! I wasn’t experienced enough to be a center referee (the one that runs around in the middle of the field), so I was a sideline ref. This meant I could only make about four calls during a game.

Although this might be easy for some people, it was incredibly stressful for me. I would make a decision, stick with it, and get yelled at by a crowd of angry parents. This was U10 (under age 10), rec soccer. Not even a competitive travel league, just a hometown group of kids getting together to play soccer on the weekends. After all of my training, I only reffed a few games. Although I got paid $10 each game, I easily would have paid $10 to NOT have to ref. So I figured this was not the right line of work for me.

857996_10151568744984974_1738247101_oI think that experience has given me so much respect for our derby refs and NSOs, even if I’m just as quick to dispute a call as the next skater. They are the heart and soul of roller derby – they have to learn all of the new and evolving rules, maintain their composure during heated conversations with skaters, endure a crowd of people yelling at them, and keep the bout running smoothly.

Because of this, I try so hard not to make faces, or noises, or questioning gestures when I get a call that I don’t agree with. I strive to be like one of those skaters who get a penalty and just skate to the box. No questions asked. I’m still very far from it – especially in the heat of competition – but I think I’m getting better. It helps to watch footage of yourself (or others) and see how silly we sometimes look when we’re getting angry about a call. Let’s allow our coaches do that for us.

When you get sent to the box as a jammer, your jam ref will be standing in front of you, watching you, during your penalty. Sometimes, when I am sitting in the penalty box, I 1498074_10152155730194974_1037028665_owish I could have a quick moment with the jam ref to let them know I’m not mad.  Sometimes I want to tell a ref that even though I scoffed and shook my head when I got a penalty, I don’t think it was a bad call (yea, ok, I MIGHT have cut the track back there…). Sometimes I want to apologize for the way I reacted in the moment.  I don’t think I thank them enough for being such a huge part of the roller derby community.

BUT I’m almost 100% positive that most refs are too mentally strong to let one angry jammer bother them. They aren’t scared like I was when I reffed, and if they were, they probably wouldn’t have continued reffing derby for so long. I might be brave enough to endure getting beat up, knocked down, hit in the face, and kicked in the shin continuously, but I’m not brave enough to be a derby ref.  So next time you’re at practice or a bout, try to remember to give refs and NSOs the respect they deserve!


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Derby Travel Season: Oh, the Places You’ll Go (But Won’t Really See)

11822495_10153006715031806_504762756915716923_nWe are heading to Florida soon and I can’t wait to get my beach groove on. Laying on the beach, swimming in the waves, and enjoying that sunshine! BUT before any thoughts of beach time creep into my mind, I need to focus on the two bouts that are unbelievably more important than any Florida experiences.

This highlights one of the most difficult parts of roller derby travel – being in an awesome new place but seeing NOTHING except the inside of a skating rink or an arena. But this is how it should be – sure, you are in a great part of the world, but you are there to compete, not be a tourist.

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Beautiful Salt Lake City. This is about all I saw of the city.  Photo courtesy of Joe Mac.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while traveling:

-If you go somewhere sunny and warm – STAY OUT OF THE SUN AND HEAT! This will completely zap your energy (and dehydrate you). If you’re like me (fair skinned), you can get sunburned in less than 15 minutes. It’s not worth it. Go someplace indoors, stay in the shade, or just wait to do outdoor things until after you’ve played.

-Don’t spend all day before a bout walking around a city.  Would you run 3 miles before your derby bout?  No, I hope not.  So why would you walk 3 miles?! You are there to play derby and you should be conserving your strength as much as you can. Do a driving tour or just take a short jaunt to a fun café/restaurant and hang out all day.

-Speaking of fun cafés/restaurants – don’t decide to try something new and exotic the day before or the day of your bout. Sure, maybe every restaurant in Tucson offers huevos rancheros for breakfast, but if you don’t usually eat that – I recommend not trying it out for the first time on bout day.

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Of all of the places I have traveled for roller derby, I feel like I have only lost sight of my derby priorities twice: in Seattle/Portland, and in Las Vegas. We were just too excited to be in these locations – I spent time walking around in the sun, taking in the sights and enjoying all kinds of delicious food. Although I have a lot of “non-derby” memories from these trips, I definitely did not play my best games.

There is a way to strike a balance, however.

The easiest way is to stay in the location a few days after you are done with derby. Or even if you can only be there one extra day, don’t stay up until 4 a.m. at the derby after party. Go to bed (relatively) early and get up early the next morning to tour the city before jumping on a plane or in a car.

Another option is to find just one or two small things to do as a team over the weekend. Target one restaurant or one sight that you can see with some teammates, and then forget about the rest. Snap a few pictures, have a few laughs, then jump back in your cars and drive back to the venue or hotel.

1239343_10201988087482748_1161787614_oSure, it sometimes stinks to be stuck indoors all day when you’re in a beautiful new city, but the only reason you’re in the city in the first place is because of your competition. Don’t let them lure you into their awesome hometown in the hopes that you’ll wear yourself out looking at all the sights and getting sunburned before showing up to play them physically exhausted and mentally drained.

I’ve spent plenty of beautiful days in amazing cities, sitting in my hotel room relaxing, stretching, and eating the most basic food from the grocery store. But at the end of the day, I don’t want to lose a bout because of my poor decisions.  I just keep a long list of all of the cities I can’t wait to visit again.


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You Can’t Always Win: How to Cope When you Lose a Bout

1798633_10153301994489974_788196046788955113_nIn roller derby, teams sometimes go into bouts knowing that the chance of winning is very low. Of course, it would be amazing to win every bout, but when you’re a #30 team playing a #5 team, the odds are stacked against you. However, due to the ranking system in roller derby, you can still “win” when you play a higher level team, even if the score doesn’t show it: “We may have lost the bout, but we still win in rankings points!” These losses are generally easy to cope with.

Unfortunately, not all roller derby losses are as easy to stomach. These are the ones you walk away from saying, “We should have won that bout.” These losses hurt. They cause you to get angry and sad, and they take time to bounce back from. I have experienced quite a few of these losses over the past couple of years, and have developed a relatively consistent coping pattern:

(1) I have trouble sleeping for weeks after the bout because I keep replaying bad moments of the game in my head. Over and over and over and over.

(2) To cope with my loss of sleep, I begin to re-imagine the bout as us winning. Sometimes if I do this enough, I feel like I can trick myself into thinking we were actually successful.

(3) I can’t watch roller derby footage for a few weeks because it makes my armpits start sweating and my anxiety level rise. It usually takes me about a month before I can watch the footage of the bout we lost, and more like 2 months before I can watch the parts where I feel like I really screwed up. The pain is just too fresh.

(4) Eventually, I begin to realize I just need to move on and look to my teammates for comfort. I switch my focus to the next bout, and try to keep my focus on the bigger picture of the whole season.

The process I go through follows the same pattern as most grief. Although it is nothing compared to the loss of a friend or family member, the emotional experience is similar on a much smaller scale. For those of you not as familiar with the stages of grief, I have summarized it below:

5 Stages of Grief after Bout Loss: Roller Derby Edition

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These stages are completely normal and healthy ways to deal with a hard loss.  However, it is very important to not blame yourself for losses.  There have been a few bouts in particular where I felt like it was my fault that we lost. I remember admitting this to a fellow teammate once, and she gave me the best response ever: “Oh honey, roller derby is so much bigger than you. You’re not nearly important enough to cause that loss.” While at first, I was a bit taken aback, I realized the truth in her words.  If you find that you blame yourself for a loss, just remember that derby is a team sport, and everyone plays their part in the success or failure of the team.

In my previous post (Mental Strength to Last 2 Minutes), I discussed playing hard every jam (because every jam counts). So a less-than-stellar performance in the last couple of jams is not the deciding factor for a win or a loss. It’s the cumulative effort of blockers AND jammers for the whole hour of play.

Roller derby is such a team-driven sport, it is important not to place the blame on any one player. There were probably things we all could have done a bit better, and each moment of a bout helped contribute to the overall outcome. Remember that everyone loses games they should have won at some point – that’s what makes roller derby so exciting! Sometimes, you just have to be on the losing end of that excitement.


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I Suppose We Aren’t Getting Any Younger…

medium_Track_at_IUPUI_199When I was on the high school track team, we used to run 10 400-meter repeats every Monday. We would also have meets twice a week. It felt like it took my 16-year-old body approximately 12 hours to recover from any type of workout. However, even in college, I began to feel the effects of my age on recovery time. I needed at least 2-3 days of easy workouts before competing. I would feel tired if I went hard too many days in one week. And now, as I reach the ripe age of 30, I have found my body needs more recovery than it did even 2 years ago.

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Sometimes working out can feel like an uphill battle…

Not to depress anyone, but the peak age of performance for most sports is your mid-20s. The gradual decrease in performance as you age is due to a variety of physiological reasons (muscle mass, bone health, flexibility, metabolism, etc.). However, this does not mean you can’t excel athletically past your 20s, it just means you have to be more careful about how you reach your fitness goals.

I think we all agree that roller derby is a unique sport. One aspect that I find amazing is the age range of derby athletes. For most sports, your team consists of a very homogeneous group. In roller derby, I have been on a team with athletes from ages 20-60. Although we all practice together, everyone’s fitness capacity will undoubtedly be different.

If you’re still in your early 20s (or younger), go crazy! Work out all of the time! Do everything you want to your body! However, for people who have started to feel the effects of age on our bodies, it is crucial to “train smarter, not harder” outside of practice.

And yes, I realize I’m ONLY 30 and I am physically doing pretty well. But I have been working out or training for a sport since I was 10. So that’s 20 years of wear and tear on my body! It’s better to start thinking about how to keep myself physically healthy NOW, as opposed to 10 years down the road.

When working out begins to get more difficult, there is a tendency for athletes to do more frequent, easier workouts, such as jogging 4 miles or biking for an hour. However, it is crucial to continue engaging in high intensity workouts, just less frequently. So don’t avoid the discomfort of a hard workout (and the soreness that comes along with it), just know how much your body can handle and how much rest you’ll need afterward. It is also good to add in cross training activities on your “rest days” that don’t put as much stress on your body, such as yoga. This will also help with flexibility, which I am finding I need more and more.

12189250_10153789814634974_3050845772358269444_oBut before you give up all hope and crawl to the couch, there is also an advantage to being a more “experienced” athlete: “In sports such as tennis, golf, and baseball, or at specific team sport positions, such as ice hockey goaltender or the American football quarterback, the mental training and experience components are of greater importance to athletic performance” (Dr. Agbeko Ocloo, 2014).

So as we continue to play roller derby, our technique and strategy will have much more of an influence on our performance than our fitness level.

The hardest thing for me has been accepting the changes I must make to my own fitness routine. Sure, I can run myself into the ground (and feel tired and sore all of the time), or I can change how I work out to reach my maximum potential.

“To be elite you have to quit thinking that fatigue is the answer.” – Dan John


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Avoid Self-Handicapping — Derby is Hard Enough Already!

12984002_10156762755375150_8335123993347657587_oFor most of us, roller derby is hard.  It takes years of training, countless hours away from our families and friends, and extreme mental and physical exertion.  It is such an incredibly competitive team sport, and the success of the game lies heavily on every skater’s shoulders.  Because of this, many skaters employ coping mechanisms to avoid anxiety and deal with the competitive pressure.  While most coping strategies are healthy, some strategies, such as self-handicapping, are less than ideal.

Essentially, self-handicapping is just like it sounds: “a proactive attempt to protect an individual’s self-worth through the deliberate creation of obstacles, real or imaginary, which, although they hinder or impede the individual’s successful performance, provide a convincing alibi in the face of a possible poor performance” (Arkin & Baumgardner, 1985).

For athletes, there are two different types of self-handicapping:

1. Claimed Self-handicapping: Making a list of excuses either out loud or to yourself about why your performance might be hindered.

2. Behavioral Self-handicapping: Actually engaging in behaviors that could hinder your performance.

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Claimed self-handicapping is something even I have used. Usually it involves just telling others of some external reason why your performance might not be as great that day.  Athletes will say things like, “Man, I’m so tired today – I barely got any sleep last night!”  or “My knee has really been bothering me.  I hope I can still play through the pain.”  While sometimes these are true statements (and in roller derby, a lot of athletes do play through immense pain), athletes can exaggerate or use these statements as a blaming tool in case things don’t go well:  “It wasn’t my normal performance – everyone knew I was tired, so that is to blame.”

Behavioral self-handicapping is a much more involved and intentional version of self-handicapping.  Athletes will physically do things to themselves that they can then blame on a poor performance.  Imagine the days leading up to a big bout.  The pressure of performing well has been too much and you decide you’ll go out with friends the night before the bout.  Maybe a little dancing?  A little wine?  Eh, you aren’t too worried about it. This way, if you have a sub-par performance, you can blame it on being slightly hungover, maybe a little tired, and all danced-out.

13123040_10154215150014974_8558457594734457561_oHaving low self esteem or low confidence can lead to using self-handicapping as a coping mechanism.  If you are not confident in your abilities, you may protect yourself by creating external reasons for failure.  Self-handicapping is therefore not all bad – it does allow the athlete to maintain a positive outlook on performance in the midst of a bad bout.  Athletes can more easily brush off losses to external issues instead of their own game play, which will help maintain confidence and self esteem.  However, it is best to overcome self-handicapping instead of using it as a crutch.

So how do you stop self-handicapping?

-Be sure to set reasonable goals for yourself.  We all know that roller derby is not always about winning or losing, and sometimes we have bad bouts.  Reasonable goals should be attainable, non-outcome based goals (goals based on your performance, not on the outcome of the bout).

-Start implementing a routine to control anxiety and stay ready for the bout.  If you need more help with this, see my other post :).

-Use positive self-talk.  It is amazing how much impact positive self-talk can have on overall confidence and self-esteem.  Be nice to yourself!  Even the shortest phrases (e.g. I am awesome!  I love roller derby! I can do this!) are enough to help.

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So think back to how you cope with the competitive pressure of playing roller derby.  Do you feel as though your methods involve self-handicapping?  Roller derby is hard enough without giving ourselves more obstacles!  Although it might hard to change your behaviors and thoughts right away, it is a great first step to just acknowledge the existence of self-handicapping.


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Fear, You’re Not Welcome Here!

I am playing at the Big O tournament this weekend, and 1506691_10153789808789974_183396696895671401_nam undoubtedly a little nervous. I am confident in myself and my team, but there is always some fear that creeps in before big bouts.  It is not fear of the opponents or of the physical exertion, but fear that I will hold myself back.

As you grow as a skater, you constantly have to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself to try new things and learn new skills. My fear sometimes keeps me in that comfort zone, keeps me grounded, and keeps me doing the things I know best. However, that’s not what roller derby is about, is it?! We should be pushing the boundaries of strategy, moving our bodies in ways that don’t seem possible, and becoming strong forces to be reckoned with!

When I first started playing roller derby in 2011, I had no idea how to roller skate. I did not know the strategy or any basic skills. However, I was determined to learn, which means put any fear of falling, failing, or messing up completely out of my mind.

12371016_1057269237628361_3112820012332138143_oEven now, after playing for 4 1/2 years, I give myself pep talks before trying new and scary things. Like approaching a 4-wall at full speed, or doing a crazy maneuver on the line, or going for an apex jump. It is part of what makes this sport so great – even when you think you’ve hit a plateau, there are skaters out there doing new things and trying new strategy that you can learn, adapt to and grow from. It just takes a bit of motivation to overcome that fear and push yourself to try something new.

In general, there are three stages to learning a new skill:

Stage 1: Learning. You must identify what you want to learn and how the skill should be performed. Most skaters do this through watching teammates, watching footage, and going through the movement step by step.

Stage 2: Trying. After you’ve identified the skill and gotten down the basic movements, you must TRY to utilize the skill. This includes awkward trial and error, learning how to make your body move in different ways, utter failure (and sometimes success).

Stage 3: Mastering. After you’ve tried the skill over and over again, you should get to a point when the skill becomes automatic. You know how to do the skill without thinking and you are adept at using it in various situations. Keep in mind – mastering a new skill can sometimes take years.  A lot of failure must come before mastery.

Most of us are very comfortable with Stage 1. We love watching footage and trying new things in controlled situations. However, Stage 2, actually learning how to do the skill, is where fear can impede. I know tons of skaters (including myself) who are afraid to try new things during scrimmage because they don’t want to fail, look silly, or exert themselves too much. But scrimmages, active blocking drills, and even some small bouts are where you should throw your fear aside and GO FOR IT!

 

If you ever want to get to Stage 3, you have to learn to recognize and control your fear. So if you have a few skills in mind that you haven’t yet incorporated into your bout-day maneuvers, start adding them in! By overcoming your fear, you can become a better skater!


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Exercise Addiction: Are You in Control?

10339720_707112604160_6543443041004247479_nWhen I am training for a road race or trying to stick to a strict lifting routine for derby, I inevitably have days that I just don’t feel like working out – so I change my workout plan. Maybe I just do yoga for 30 minutes instead of running 5 miles. Maybe I do a silly 5-minute ab routine from YouTube instead of going to that 1-hour fitness class at my gym.  Maybe I just sit outside and read.

Making these occasional changes to your workout routine is completely acceptable. It should not be an excuse every day, but when my body is tired, I’m dreading going to the gym, or I just run out of time in my day, I change up my workout plan. Fitness is my friend and it will be there when I need it.

However, there was a time in my life when my relationship with fitness was not so buddy-buddy. After college, I started training for triathlons year-round.  I would frequently work out twice a day and was in line at the pool every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5 a.m. to get my swim workout in. I worked out 7 days a week and physically, I was in the best shape of my life.

For some people, this may seem awesome. Workin’ out all of the time!  Getting super buff and in shape!  Loving being sweaty in the gym 24/7!

320490_255913361108979_7315562_nBut for me, there was a dark side to this obsession with being so physically fit.  The thought of skipping a workout or changing my fitness plan began to cause me an unbelievable amount of anxiety. I would get upset when my husband wanted to take me on a date if it interfered with my workout plan. I would lose sleep and exhaust my body because I just HAD to get that long run in. I would be in tears if I had to work late or if something came up that made me adjust my fitness routine.  It became so overwhelming that I finally realized something needed to change.  I needed to take a step back and assess my relationship with exercise.

In roller derby, you have to keep yourself accountable for working out when you are not at practice.  Many people have a hard time even getting themselves to go to the gym or to go outside for a run.  So the thought of being addicted to exercise might seem far-fetched for a lot of you reading this.  However, if anything I’ve mentioned above seems to strike a chord with you, it might be a good time to consider how you can both maintain a fitness routine AND be happy doing so.

Here is an adaptation of a brief, reliable, and valid questionnaire you can take to assess your relationship with exercise:

inventory

If you scored over 24 on this questionnaire you are at risk of exercise addiction.  This does not mean you are addicted to exercise, but you might want to think about how you feel towards exercise and what motivates you to work out.  Scoring a 13-23 means you are slightly symptomatic (so just be aware if your attitude towards exercise changes). However, this is just a tool to help you assess your relationship with exercise. If you don’t score a 24 but feel like exercise is taking over, you may need to consider seeking outside help.

10565259_10152916226285219_1930754802186023157_nSo what do you do if you think you might have an unhealthy relationship with exercise? Get counseling from a professional.  Exercise addiction is just as real and important as any other type of addiction, so it should be treated with the same type of care.   If you absolutely don’t want to see a counselor, or don’t have access to one, there are help groups online.  Our lives are already full of anxiety-inducing moments.  Let exercise be your buddy, not one of the enemies!


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Why Can’t We Be Friends?

12764471_10153961490367938_2561570315516804044_oI recently visited a friend in another city, and we decided to go to a derby bout. It isn’t often that I am solely a spectator at bouts, so it was very exciting. During the second bout, one team started losing pretty badly. As the point spread widened, the teammates started bickering more and more on the track. This escalated into blockers yelling at each other, jammers yelling at blockers, and an eventual implosion of the team.  As a fan, it was awkward to watch. We were close enough to the floor to see these interactions take place – it was almost like being present for a domestic dispute.

I realized, then, that I have never been a part of a team that had such discordant feelings towards each other. Was it because my teams have all been the best of friends? Of course not. It is because I have been among women who know learning how to maintain relationships with each other is just as important as any other derby skill you learn.

Imagine the relationship you have with your teammates.  You are part of a group of women, forced to hang out with each other for 6 hours a week, usually when you are tired or distracted by daily life. Then some of you spend a summer traveling all over the country together: driving for hours on end in the car with each other, sharing a bed in a hotel room with each other, foraging for food and trying to save money, discussing bathroom habits and Starbucks orders all in the same conversation.988419_706937864189_1585898662_n

There are not many groups of people that you will share the same stress, fatigue, and competitive pressure with. These can all have an impact on emotions and reactions, especially when things are not going well. We are a group of strong women, and we don’t have to get along. However, just like any team, we need to learn to RESPECT each other and put our emotions aside every once in a while. There are bound to be a few conflicts that arise at some point. If these conflicts are handled correctly, however, the team can maintain a happy, effective, athletic relationship.                         10413321_10152812012009974_363602131230076251_n

When we are competing against another team and they begin to fight with each other, we consider that a success. If we can maintain our own calm while the other team begins to crumble, we know we have a competitive advantage. Having conflict among teammates impacts concentration, the ability to communicate effectively, and overall performance on the track. Keep in mind, this conflict doesn’t have to be between all players.  It only takes a few (or even 1) to instill a sense of unease among teammates.

So how do you keep conflict at bay?  Although each team’s needs are different, the list below contains a few tips on how to maintain good relationships, build team cohesion, and respect each other as teammates:

• Integrate team building activities into practice. There are so many easy, silly, and fun activities you can add in during practice time.  Even short activities can help.

compromise-donkey• Have a conversation with someone if you feel like they are being negative or causing conflict. It might be that they are not aware of their actions and how they are impacting the team. Just don’t forget to use “I feel” statements and be sure to listen to their responses.

• If a fellow skater has an outburst towards you, try not to take it personally right away.  Give yourself time to think on it before reacting. Sometimes skaters say things without thinking. Shrug off these comments and don’t take them personally (forgive and forget).

• Keep in mind that body language is just as important as the words you say. Rolling your eyes, scoffing, and ignoring someone will all negatively impact team cohesion and your relationships with others.

• If conflict seems to be getting out of hand, ask your coaches for help. Your team may need to have a formal meeting to address issues and get them out into the open. The worst scenario is ignoring these conflicts. They WILL come out on bout day, when stress gets high and things are not going well.

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Remember: You can’t change people, but you can change yourself. How you react to your teammate’s actions is in your control.

Resolving conflict does not mean becoming best buds with everyone on your team. It means creating a team environment that involves respect for your teammates. We are all working hard at a sport that we love. Everyone should feel like they are part of their derby family!


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