Staying Fit Through Injury

Sprained ankles are nothing new to any other derby player. It sucks, but that doesn’t mean all your cross training goes to waste.

Since I’m currently dealing with a nasty sprained ankle, I’ve been using Booty Quake’s Gun Show Workout. It’s great for first thing in the morning or something to do at practice while my teammates are warming up. (I absolutely hate sitting on the sidelines when my team is warming up at practice. I feel so useless and bored.)

One workout easily gets old, and it won’t strengthen everything. Thank goodness we aren’t the only people who deal with injuries. There are a ton of videos on YouTube with workouts around injuries.

  1. Workout around your ankle, foot, or toe injury
  2. Cardio workout for those stuck in bed
  3. Core and inner thigh workout. If you have a knee injury, you may not be able to do some of this.
  4. Cardio workout for those with knee and ankle injuries
  5. Inner thigh workout for knee injuries
  6. Total body workout while seated.

One of the worst things you can do during an injury is absolutely nothing. Once you’re ready to get back on skates, you’ll have no energy, endurance, or strength. Keep pushing yourself. You’ll be back on skates in no time.

Has this been helpful? Do you have any workouts you’ve done while injured that I didn’t cover? Add a comment.

(A key to working out during your injury is not to push your injury. If an exercise is hurting you, stop. There are plenty of other options/variations to give you the same result without the pain.)


A Chance to Vent

You have a medical issue. You go to the doctor, describe your issue, explain your derby lifestyle, only to receive some weird blanket diagnosis that clearly doesn’t apply to an athlete. How many of us have gone through this? Probably a lot of us.

I’ve had good doctors, okay doctors, and why-the-hell-did-you-go-into-the-medical-profession doctors. The first one I celebrate, the second I deal with, and the third… well, I just don’t stand for that kind of bs anymore.

I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis for a full year now. While it hasn’t kept me from skating, it has created

See! We even have shiny medals to prove it.

I just want to run marathons again without breaking into tears from all the pain.

changes to my cross training. (Basically, I go till I either lose all feeling in my foot or the pain is enough to make me cry. Neither is much fun.) On the advice of my massage therapist, I decided to go back to the doctor about a new development that she thought could be a sign of something more serious. (It isn’t, thankfully.) During my appointment, I confessed that I missed really being able to run, so my general practitioner recommended I see a podiatrist. Great! Maybe I’ll get a handle on this stupid foot thing and get back to a normal training schedule.

When I saw the podiatrist, I explained to him that while I my job keeps me at a desk most of the time, I play derby and cross train a lot. His solution: wear dress shoes with a slight wedge. What? How does that help with cross training?

Fortunately, my league is sponsored by a podiatrist who actually understands athletes, so I’m making an appointment. I’m not standing for a write-off diagnosis and neither should you. So here’s you chance to vent. Share your worst medical experience and how you reacted to it.

For your (mental) health

Photo by Five5Six Design

I made the above graphic this summer for the Savannah Derby Devils’ Instagram. It’s part of the Recspo series (a little inspiration for rec leaguers). — Photo by Five5Six Design

In derby, we talk about health a lot. What foods we eat, exercises we use, etc. One thing that doesn’t get mentioned as often is mental health.

Sure, we talk about how derby has given us confidence or made us proud of our bodies, but what happens when derby doesn’t fill the gaps? Like it or not, sometimes derby doesn’t fix everything. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, it can even hurt.

I deal with depression. Derby has done wonders for my mental health, but it’s also put me in some bad spots. It’s taken me years to figure out how to deal with the bad spots. I haven’t figured it all out. There are still bad days, weeks, and sometimes months. But I thought I’d share some things that seem to work.

1. Find an Accountabilibuddy. Find someone on your team who knows what you’re dealing with. Talk to them. Let them know when your struggling. Maybe they’re dealing with something similar, and you both can work through the issues together. Sometimes, having someone to watch out for you and recognize when you aren’t yourself can keep your mental state from degrading more.

2. Get some sleep. The training schedule and all the extra events that you need to participate in for derby can wear you down. All those commitments may be robbing you of sleep. You don’t think as clearly when you’re sleep deprived. That can make your brain play tricks on you. Clearing time to get some quality sleep, even if you think you’ve been sleeping okay, can do so much to get your brain back on track. (Here’s a good article with sleep facts that may surprise you.)

3. Say no. You hear about burnout towards the end of the season. It’s commonplace, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. If you realize you’re overcommitting, learn to say no. This one is hard for me and something I constantly have to remind myself of. Decide what’s really important and what can be handled by someone else. You aren’t Wonder Woman, and even she needs help sometimes, too.

4. Take some time off. The pressure of all the practices, the committees, the organizing can put you in a frenzy. I’m sure there are tons of things you’d like to accomplish before you’re done with derby, but derby isn’t going anywhere. Take a week off. Take a month off. Take a year off. Stepping away from something that has taken over your life can give you a chance to breathe and reevaluate. When you feel more in control, come back. Derby will be waiting for you.

After going all out with Houston Roller Derby, my husband and I had to make a quick decision to move back to Savannah. I immediately hit the ground running. I coach junior derby once a week, I head PR for the Savannah Derby Devils, and I play for the B Team. Couple that with getting used to a new sleep schedule (day-sleeping makes me feel like a vampire) and falling back into the swing of a demanding job, I’m worn out: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I took this past week off from derby because I desperately needed to sleep. The lack of proper sleep was keeping me from giving my all for my team, and frankly, making me a horrible person to be around.

The World Health Organization has released it’s first ever report on suicide prevention. First. Ever. According to WHO, more than 800,000 people successfully commit suicide each year. That number doesn’t even include how many try. Last Wednesday was Suicide Prevention Day. We don’t all get to the point where suicide feels like an option, but dealing with mental health issues sucks. I hope you’ll see this and recognize that you aren’t alone. We play derby as a team. Let’s tackle mental health as a team.

im not ok

Derby girls strike back

Winter break is over! And that means a return to the track for many derby players. As you work to shake off the cobwebs, and maybe a few extra pounds from holiday food, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Don't sweat it. Your roller derby booty will grow back soon.

Don’t sweat it. Your roller derby booty will grow back soon.

1. Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you’re like me, you didn’t do a heck of a lot during December. Feeling out of shape is typical. Obviously, you won’t be skating at the same level you were before the break. That’s fine. It will come back to you.

2. Don’t look behind you so much that you forget to look forward. If you spend all your time at practice (and after practice) berating yourself about not playing better, you will lose sight of improving.

3. Be nice. Maybe you did spend all of winter break training. That’s fantastic! But don’t make those who didn’t feel bad. Sometimes players push their bodies so hard during derby season that they really need that break to recover. Remember to encourage your teammates.

Getting back into the swing of things takes a little time. Be patient, with yourself and your teammates, and you’ll get there.

Derby Strong: Part 3. An ounce of prevention

Some derby players have an almost super human ability to stay on their feet no matter the hit. Sadly, most of us aren’t like that. As I mentioned in my first Derby Strong post, my knees took a hard hit (the floor) at the end of my first season. Part of it is because of how I fell, but I believe that if I had invested in better equipment, it may not have been as bad.

In 2006, roller derby players were still trying to figure out what equipment worked best. Some of my teammates invested in larger, thicker knee pads. Even though my knees have popped since I was a kid, I opted for smaller knee pads, assuming that larger knee pads would make skating more difficult. Worst assumption ever. Now I not only wear thicker knee pads, I also sport knee gaskets.

Knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmets and mouth guards are all required gear for derby. Some players take note of injuries and take steps to prevent them with optional gear. While some leagues believe that optional equipment, such as shin guards or padded shorts, make players sloppy, I firmly disagree. I have yet to see a player whose skill level dropped because she started wearing shin guards. If anything, it increased her confidence.

Courtesy: five5six design

Wear the right socks or leg warmers and no one can even tell if you’re wearing shin guards.

If optional protective gear won’t solve your problem, you may want to upgrade the required gear you wear. In my six years as a news producer, I aired story after story about concussions and how they can effect your cognitive abilities. In some cases, doctors believe they have changed people’s personalities. Concussions are no joke and, in a contact sport like roller derby, are all too common.

Most players wear helmets designed for skate boarders. These helmets

DBC says praise derby and hockey helmets!

are designed for multiple impacts, unlike bicycle helmets. But if you seem prone to concussions, you may want to upgrade to a hockey helmet to better protect that beautiful brain. Some Houston Roller Derby’s players have opted for hockey helmets. One of the home teams even requires them. I’ve asked several of them how they compared to skate helmets, and the only complaint was one girl who said she sweated more in a hockey helmet. Wearing a bandana is a quick fix for that. (Here’s a blog post from Wicked Skatewear about choosing a helmet.)

Opinions on mouth guards are sort of like opinions on politics. Everyone thinks their mouth guard is best and everyone else’s sucks. Before purchasing my current mouth guard, I put on my investigative reporter hat and researched. Since I’ve taken hits to the face and jaw, I knew I wanted something a little thicker than Protech Dent mouth guards that are so popular. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those mouth guards. Lots of skaters seems quite satisfied with them. But based on my face’s ability to get in the way of elbows, I decided I wanted a mouth guard with more padding that would also allow me to talk to my teammates. The solution was Shock Doctor Gel Max. It’s the same mouth guard some MMA fighters use. Aside from words that start with p or r, I feel like I can talk okay and my gorgeous teeth and jaw are protected. Since I know Shock Doctor isn’t for everyone, I highly encourage you to do your own research before upgrading your mouth guard.

Roller derby isn’t a sport for the delicate. We play hard and put our bodies and equipment through hell. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take measures to keep ourselves safe. Do your research and find out what works for you.

Don’t forget to support your favorite derby-owned businesses this Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

Derby Strong: Part 2. What to expect when coming back after an injury

Admitting you have an injury and giving it time to properly heal is tough. Every practice, every bout you are off skates can feel like a special, slow form of torture. You want the wheels under your feet. You want, no, NEED to hit people! Finally,  the doctor gives you clearance to lace up and hit the track. What happens next is unpredictable.

Some issues can’t be fixed with duct tape. You just have to work through them.

I’ve seen skaters come back from a serious injury and play as if they were never off skates. Not me. I feel as if my muscle memory jumps back to my baby skates days if I miss even a week of practice. It’s okay to feel off your game. It may take a few practices for you to feel normal again. It could take a year. Don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself to other skaters. Everyone is different. All you need to focus on is getting back to where you were before the injury.

Once you’re skating you may find moves that used to be easy are now difficult. This could just mean that certain muscles weakened during your time off skates, or it could mean  you  have a mental block. Being worried about injuring yourself  again can keep you from moving forward. Get out there and fall. Fall hard. Hit somebody. Take a hit from someone who doesn’t know how to hold back. Get it out of your system and out of your head. (I discussed getting out of your head in this post.)

A yoga instructor told me that balance is a day-to-day thing. Derby, after an injury, is the same way. Some days will be easier than others. Just remember to keep looking forward. Don’t bog yourself down with doubt or self pity. That will only hold you back.

Derby Strong: Part 1. Are you hurt or are you injured?

I am not a doctor and don’t claim to know all the answers. The information I’ve included below is based off of my experience as a roller derby player. If you ever have any doubts or concerns about something happening to your body, I strongly suggest you consult a doctor.

Derby girls are tough. We take hits. We give hits. We slide across the floor at full speed (sometimes into walls or people). Part of our core training is to immediately get back up when we fall. Sometimes, we push it too far. I’ve seen girls who were obviously injured continue to skate. Trust me when I say this does you and your team absolutely no good.

My left knee gives me grief sometimes. This started at the end if my first season with the Panama City Roller Derby league when we played the Dixie Derby Girls of Huntsville, Alabama. As the girls walked into our venue, we got the impression this was going to be a David vs Goliath bout. I swear they lined up the tallest, most solid girls on their team and said, “You, go forth and smite PCRD.” That’s certainly how it felt.

In one of the last jams, I tried to hit a DDG blocker.  Since she was too stable to knock over, I bounced off of her like a pinball and into another equally stable DDG blocker. I fell hard on both my knees at the same time.

Weeks after, my left knee was swollen and tender. I could barely skate, and I certainly couldn’t fall on it. A trip to the

While off skates, I rocked the mic as announcer.

doctor showed swelling and inflammation. Thankfully, no muscle tears, but PCRD was well into the next season before I was cleared to skate again. I could have pushed it, but skating on an injury slows the healing process and limits performance on the track.

I know some girls feel like their team really needs them. That may be true. You may be your team’s best jammer, and they really need you in the next bout. But the cold hard facts are that (a) you will not be skating at your best, (b) you could hurt yourself even more, and (c) you could hurt another player.

So what is the difference between hurt and injured? The definition varies from player to player. Since my knee injury, I’ve learned the difference between injuring that knee and it just acting up. It took a little time to define the two. If I can skate and fall without sharp, dear-god-let-me-die-now pain, I’m okay. If it’s just twinging, keep skating.

 Some good questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I skate without searing pain?
  • Can I fall without searing pain?
  • Am I still capable of delivering and taking strong hits?
  • Is my vision blurring?
  • Am I having trouble remembering basic instructions?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, I would strongly suggest you avoid skating and go see a doctor. The blurred vision and trouble remembering things may mean you have a concussion. Kamikaze Kitten of the London Rollergirls has written a good blog post on her own experience with a concussion. Do not! I repeat. DO NOT skate while you have a concussion. While I’m not a doctor, I understand that concussions are a brain injury. Why would you want to risk further damaging your brain? When in doubt, sit it out. There is no shame in putting your health first.

Leaving on a stretcher doesn’t help your team

Maybe you aren’t experiencing sharp pain or blurred vision. Maybe you are experiencing new or unexplained pain. Shin splints are pretty common for new skaters, but don’t panic if they suddenly happen after years of skating. I recently discovered that new skating surfaces can give me shin splints. The solutions that work for me are insoles for my skates and socks with arch support.

Have you suddenly started feeling discomfort in your hip or shoulder? It probably isn’t a serious injury. It could be from overuse. Try researching new stretches or exercises that target the places you feel discomfort. If that doesn’t help, go see your doctor. You may have strained something and need to rest for a week or take some anti-inflammatory medication.

What happens after you’ve established you have an injury? Keep going to practice. If your doctor says you can skate but avoid contact, ask if it’s okay to just skate during warm-ups and non-contact drills. Take the opportunity to learn the rules better. Ref during practice scrimmages if needed. If you can’t skate, show up to NSO. Maybe there’s a new skater who is looking for feedback. You can take the opportunity to watch her during practice and let her know what you think she needs to improve. A point made in a really good article about dealing with an injury is to focus on what can be done and not what can’t be done.

In summation…

  • Bruised? Skate it out.
  • Sore? Skate it out.
  • Discomfort? Skate it out.
  • Sprained? Sit it out.
  • Fractured? Sit it out.

Listen to your body and your doctor. Nothing is worth the possibility of being sidelined permanently.

In my next post, I’ll talk about what to expect when you come back from an injury. Let me know if you have anything specific you would like discussed.