Archive | March, 2013

Check Yourself: Accountability Check #1

21 Mar

I turn 31 this Sunday.  Bear with me, things are going to get a little personal.

I know that this is the blog where I give helpful advice on how best to achieve your goals, and how to keep your head about you in crazy derby space, and how to smash your training and nutrition.

I love doing those things.  But it is my birthday, and I’m going to be selfish and write a post almost entirely about me.  And goals.  And derby.  And training.  And accountability.

I had a list of things that I wanted to do by the time I turned 25.  And then when I turned 25, it was like, ‘I really wanted to do those things before I turn 30’.  Now, BAM, 31.   I made some pretty bold proclamations in a post shortly after I turned 30.

I said,

“Thirty is the year that I take that career into my own hands and try to make something of myself.  I am terrified, but thirty is the year that fear doesn’t stop me.  Thirty is the year that I have lots of new things to say to people I haven’t seen since high school. “

BIG PLANS.  Big words.  So, reality check:  How did I do?

Answer: Needs improvement.

I talk a lot about finding the bright spots and celebrating your successes. By and large, I think that’s the best way to keep yourself trying to get better each day. In the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, keep moving forward. Don’t dwell on past failures.  Revel in the small wins.

I like to send positive messages.  I compliment people when they do things well.  I work to make my criticisms constructive and to deliver them in the most beneficial way for the receiver.  There is tons of social support in both fitness and derby.  It encourages people to try things they never thought possible.  I am convinced that a large percentage of the amazing things that happen in the gym, or on the track, happen because of a shared community ideal to push your limits and get better.

Positive self-talk and a strong community are great tools to use against your internal fear when it needs to shut up and get out of the way.


If you’re up against a wall (of blockers, or a metaphoric wall), thinking about how strong the wall is, and how you’ll never get through, and how tired you are is NEVER going to help you get through.  Find your people, talk yourself up, and just keep pushing.

So, why then do I mark myself as Needs Improvement if I’m all about positive messaging and relying on the support of your community?

Positive thinking doesn’t get you a free pass.

When you get down to it, positive messaging is a tool.  Community strength is a tool.  Self-help books are a tool.  Education is a tool.  Coaches are a tool.

You still have to take your tools and build something. 

Deciding to do it doesn’t make it so.  Putting it on your to-do list doesn’t make it so.  Even blogging about it doesn’t make it so (sigh).  Only doing it gets it done.

A good friend of mine always tells me to feel the fear, do it anyway.

That’s where I stumble.  And then procrastinate, and then say I’m working on my business, and then find all sorts of little things I can do to feel productive so that I can ignore the really big, scary thing (quitting my day job, so that I can ACTUALLY focus on what I love doing).

Which leads me to refine my steps to goal success:

Celebrate the small wins, but don’t lose sight of the big picture.  If you want to be a first-string jammer, celebrating your awesome blocking accomplishments will help you to be in a good head-space, but you still have to jam some jams.

Have a plan to get where you want, but not a plan that’s so locked into place that you can’t see opportunity.  Being deeply mired in the way that you think something will turn out often closes you off to other potential outcomes which may be even more amazing than the one in your mind.  Just like on the track, have a game plan, but be flexible.


I’m currently reading Small is the New Big, by Seth Godin.  In it, he talks about “Zooming”, which he basically describes as embracing change without pain, so that you can be open to all the opportunities that surround you.  Pain is inherent in change – just don’t dwell on the pain.  Example; a new training program will introduce you to new training stresses and you will be sore.  Do you focus on the looming soreness so much that you never get around to starting the program?  Or do you imagine how awesome you’re going to look/feel/be once you have some mastery of the program?  If you’re a zoomer, likely the latter.

Lastly – be accountable.  Which brings me back to my Needs Improvement.  I can post all I want as a fitness and derby advisor on the internet.  I can train clients every night and weekend, and every single spare second I have.  I can take every course and certification out there.  I can do all of that, and be reasonably happy about where I’m at.

But, if I’m honest with myself – I have to decide if this is my full-time job, and how I want that to look.  I have to put my goals out there and be responsible for achieving them.

In my year-end post, I listed some goals.  I didn’t give them deadlines or touchy-feely reasons, because putting information like that into the public sphere (instead of keeping it inside your head) adds pressure, both internal and external.  Now they get some:

  • Finish my Precision Nutrition certification – BAM.  DONE.
  • (new) Pass my Strongfirst Level 1 Certification – November 15-17, 2013.  I love kbs, I want to be the best teacher and practitioner that I can possibly be.  Strongfirst will help get me there.
  • Develop a solid business plan (which goes hand in hand with really having a clear idea of what I want my business to look like) – September 16, 2013.  This isn’t just a random date.  My day job has a big event every September – this date lets me be involved, not leave them hanging, but clarifies an exit plan.
  • Quit my day job – see above.  Also, maybe quitting isn’t quitting, maybe it’s going to part-time.  Or maybe it is quitting.  Either way, I’m going to take steps each day to clarify what I want, and grow in that direction.
  • Captain the Tramps to a winning season – ending Oct. 2013.  This is likely my last season as the Tramps captain, I want more than anything to totally smash it.
  • Solidify Plan B’s place in TCRG (and amongst other similar B-Teams) – ending Oct. 2013.  We’re a new team, with a new outlook, I want us to help the league grow and make a name for ourselves.
  • Jam a full game as a primary jammer – April 20, 2013 – I’ve never jammed a full game, I think it would be awesome to try.
  • Deadlift double bodyweight – KB training is my focus right now, and will be until after the SFG.  Deads are still a part of my training, but I’m pushing this one back to December 2013 – I’m currently at 195lbs, which is over 150% bodyweight, so I’m on the right track.
  • Find a mentor – ASAP.  Like, yesterday.  Since I’m not super clear on what I want my life in fitness to look like, I am sometimes too quick to look past opportunities.  You know what I’m saying – it’s often easier to know what you don’t want than what you do.  I want to be more open to internships, guidance, any experience that lets me learn and gets me closer to knowing where I might fit in.

Those are my goals.  With deadlines.  And reasons to accomplish them.  Out in the world.

Social support doesn’t just mean cheer-leading.  Sometimes it means asking your friends what they did to get a little closer to their goals each and every day.

So, friends, what progress did you make today?


I Hate Mornings (or, How I Eat and Get Out the Door Without Becoming a Monster)

14 Mar



Garfield and I have a couple of things in common. First off, we both hate mornings. Secondly, we both love lasagna. Unfortunately (fortunately), now that I am a grown-up and am committed to building my business, I need to free up some extra time. And when better to do that than first thing in the morning? Ugh.

In the past, my mornings generally went like this:

  • (starting the night before), I say to Slim as we’re going to bed, “I’ll totally get up with you at stupid early o’clock”.
  • Stupid early o’clock arrives, I roll over and tell Slim to have a good day, that I’ll see him in 10 minutes, and hit the snooze button. (This was actually progress, since initially, I would just reset the alarm for an hour or two later).
  • I hit the snooze again.
  • I hit the snooze again.
  • I hit the snooze again.
  • Slim leaves , I drag my sorry ass into the shower to wake up, get dressed, boil the kettle, drink tea, leave for work.

This type of morning did not leave me with the sort of energy and sense of accomplishment that I’d like to start my day with. To be clear, I have NEVER been a morning person. My parents used to have to drag me out of bed as a child, in University I scheduled classes in the morning so that I wouldn’t just sleep the entire day through.

To manage this paradigm shift, I had to do a few things. Let’s refer back to Switch – I had to direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path. To shape the path (or change my environment), I became accountable to more than my alarm. Nowadays, when Slim wakes up, he bugs me until I actually get out of bed. Another way to shape the path would be to move the alarm clock to Slim’s side of the bed. We haven’t done that yet, but it would work.

Next, to direct the rider (or appeal to my logical mind), I gave myself a morning task to accomplish. I don’t train optimally in the mornings, I’ve tried, I just get cranky, so that couldn’t be the thing I did every morning. Instead, each night, I make a list (surprising!) of the tasks I’d like to complete and have them ready for me tackle in the morning. If they’re there staring at me, the desire to get them done will override the desire to snuggle in bed.

Finally, I needed to motivate my elephant (engage my emotional self). Lists are all well and good, but having random tasks on them wasn’t enough, since I didn’t actually care about accomplishing them. Without emotional engagement in the task, the snooze button/crap morning TV began to look more and more attractive.


I thought back to University, and even though I hated every second of the waking up early for class, once I was in the classroom I didn’t feel so bad. And by the time it was done, I felt like I’d accomplished more that day than my friends who were still tucked in their beds. So these days, I focus on my continuing education stuff every morning. First thing is when I watch videos, take online classes, study, and plan. I feel awesome when I can check things off my list before I’ve even finished my first cup of green tea.

Let’s recap: I wanted to make more time in the morning to get stuff done and feel good about myself. I am not a morning person. I changed my environment to help me along, I gave my logical mind a reason to get up and a task to accomplish, and I gave my emotional drive a reward (pride) to look forward to. Fantastic! I am most of the way to not hating mornings. Until the night that the dog barks for no reason for hours, or the time changes, or I was up late the night before.

I recently passed my Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coaching certification (for which I studied almost exclusively in the morning), and I learned a TON. One of the huge takeaways was the power of habit versus the power of intention. How many times have you decided that you were going to eat healthy/workout every day/start getting up earlier/etc. etc. only to be derailed when things get busy or you have a tough day?

I often have tough mornings.

Habits will carry you through (or drag you down) in the tough times. Don’t assume that your life will always operate under the best-case scenario; plan for things to get hairy once in a while. Take the time to ingrain healthy habits to replace less healthy ones, and you’ll be much better equipped to manage when things go pear-shaped.

To nail down my getting-shiz-done-in-the-morning habit, here are my actionable steps:

1) Wake up at roughly the same time every day (even if it’s a weekend). This helps more than you think it will. And you get TONS done on your days off, since you don’t spend half of it sleeping.

2) The Saturday Ritual (PN calls this the Sunday Ritual, but I have derby on Sundays) – Use whichever day you have the most time to commit to the task and give over a couple of hours to writing a menu, grocery shopping, and prepping your food for the week. You can chop veggies, cook proteins, make batch meals – like chili (or lasagna!), make dry mixes for shakes. Meal plans don’t have to be complicated, or detailed. For example, I have a shake for breakfast and a salad and a protein (usually eggs or cottage cheese) for lunch – I don’t really have to over-plan those, because they don’t change. Devote a couple of free hours that you would have spent on facebook, and you’ve got healthy meals for the week, and a WAY less stressful morning.

3) Eat Breakfast. I didn’t. For a very long time. I had myself convinced that breakfast made me feel sick and sluggish all day. So I just didn’t eat it. As I dug deeper into training and nutrition, I figured I should probably try a little harder to eat in the mornings, but it was so challenging to find the time that I’d end up just having instant oatmeal or a bagel. With no fruit or veggies. Or protein. So, not ideal. Enter the Super Shake. It’s an easy way to eat well in the morning that literally takes about 2 minutes. Here’s what you do:

In your blender, mix:

  • ice – 1-10 cubes depending on the consistency you want
  • a fruit – I like banana, it thickens up the shake
  • a veggie – kale, swiss chard, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potato, beets (roast first), celery/cucumber (make sure to use less liquid because of the water content in these), greens powder
  • a protein powder that you digest well – whey, rice, hemp, pea, or other
  • a nut or seed – walnut, flax, hemp, chia, cashew, almond, nut butter
  • a liquid – almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, green tea, water
  • a topper – coconut, cacao nibs, dark chocolate, oats, granola, cinnamon

Yummy shakes, all the nutrients you need, no brain power required. My fave – 4 ice cubes, a banana, pumpkin puree, unflavoured (or vanilla) whey protein, almond butter (or crunchy peanut butter), almond milk, cinnamon. IT’S LIKE PIE FOR BREAKFAST.

4) The Power of Proximity. If you want to make healthy choices, make them the easiest choices to make. I know mornings are where I fall down, so my green tea is the foremost tea on my shelf, my blender is right out on the counter, and I don’t have bagels, or instant anything, in the house any more. This totally works if your issue is not breakfast, but rather post-work or late-night snacks too. Just have the healthy snacks in plain view. Don’t have questionable snacks in the house if you can manage it. If you’re actually hungry, you’ll go for the easy (healthy) choice.

I’m trying to be a little less Garfield-ish these days. I’m still a grumpus when I first get out of bed, but I’m getting out of that bed with a plan, some steps to take, and sound morning habits to support me.

I’m not going to stop loving lasagna though. Case in point, here’s a PN coach’s recipe for lasagna using zucchini strips for noodles (scroll to Anytime Lasagna) – genius!


Fresh to Death: Three Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Fresh Meat

7 Mar

TCRG just had its latest Fresh Meat intake on Monday. What a charming and enthusiastic group of girls! They came in all bright-eyed and hopeful for what was the first time on skates for some of them, and they all performed admirably.

Every time we have an intake, I hearken back to the days long, long ago when I was fresh meat, and didn’t know my ass from my elbow – but definitely fell on both of them – and I reflect on the things I wish I’d known.

Here are three things I wish I’d been told:

From Nike+ Training

Hope Solo, From Nike+ Training

You Need to Train Like An Athlete

I’ll tell you what I told my new freshies on Monday – Derby isn’t the workout. Train outside of derby. Seriously. It will make a world of difference. This is probably the area that I get the most questions about since people know they need to cross-train, but haven’t a clue where to start. I’m a little reticent to give blanket workouts, since everyone has their own set of challenges, imbalances, and patterns. Your best bet is to find a trainer who knows a thing or two about bodies move, talk to them about your goals, and get them to write you a program. Or get a trainer to come up with an off-skates plan for your league. If that’s not the way you roll, no worries, you’ll just need to do a bit more research to find a plan that works for you. Try to get a professional to look at your form periodically though, there are few quicker ways to invite injury than repeating a faulty movement pattern over and over. Also, if something hurts (actually hurts – not is sore from exertion, learn the difference) – STOP DOING IT. Don’t keep plugging through something just because you think you have to be a bad-ass, pain is the body’s way of telling us something is up. What might be perfectly safe for others might not be a good idea for you (like I said, we all have our own challenges). Don’t ignore your body’s signals.

All of that disclaiming aside, here are a few key points to keep in mind when you get started with your cross-training and a basic plan to get you on your way:

In the derby, generally (very generally) our quads (the muscles on the front of your thigh that control extension at the knee, as well as flexion at the hip, along with your hip flexors) get crazy strong and muscular (hello, none of my pants fitting in the thigh anymore). Sometimes the left is slightly stronger (because you balance on it all the time turning left). Strong quads are great, but we need to encourage balance amongst the muscle groups, lest your quads take over everything. I wrote an entire post about training your glutes. Don’t neglect your posterior chain – it’s the most powerful mover in your body and you should give it some love.

When you start skating, oftentimes you find yourself with a host of new aches and pains (and bruises, but we’re not really talking about those), pay attention to them. If your low back is hurting, it could be that you need to work more on your glutes and hamstrings, it could be a lack of core strength, it could be something clinical. Track your pain and see if it gets better or worse as you get stronger. Bring a foam roller with you to practice, and roll out your shiz before (and after) practice – rolling out your calves often helps with shin splints, rolling out your quads often helps with posture.

When you’re training, if one side is stronger, only do as many reps of an exercise as you can do with good form on the weak side. On that note, meet yourself where you’re at. Don’t do exercises just because you think they’re cool, do them because they’ll give you the appropriate training effect. Don’t jump into something advanced before you are ready, there are tons of ways to regress an exercise (inclines, band assistance, lighter or no weights, smaller range of motion, etc.) – make sure you can perform the exercise with perfect form before you progress into a more challenging variation.

You can use a few simple multi-joint exercises – both upper and lower body, save time, and get a great training session. Here’s an easy template you can quickly adapt to a derby off-skates training regime. In any given session, you can include:

Upper Body Push – horizontal: eg.) push-ups, chest presses; vertical: eg.) military presses, push presses

Upper Body Pull – horizontal: eg.) rows – inverted, seated, alternating; vertical: pull-ups, chin-ups, lat pull-downs

Lower Body Squat Pattern – eg.) front squats, back squats, wall squats, goblet squats

Lower Body Deadlift Pattern – eg.) deadlifts, glute bridges, hip thrusts, romanian deadlifts (also kettlebell swings to a certain extent)

Lower Body Unilateral – eg.) split squats, step-ups, lunges, 1-leg RDLs, bulgarian split squats

Core – (I’m a big fan of stabilization here) – prone planks, side planks, woodchops, birddogs, get-ups

Agility and/or Endurance – I’m a big fan of interval training, going hard for brief spurts, recovering, going again. I find it carries over nicely into the energy systems you use in derby, takes less time overall, and is less boring than steady state cardio. Start with a working pace you can maintain and a challenge pace that is actually challenging. Be creative with your cardio. It doesn’t have to be treadmills and bikes – it can be sled pushes, swings, heavy carries, ropes, hill sprints, jumping, dancing – the only limit is your imagination (and your threshold for fatigue).

Pick 4-6 exercises, 3+ sets (depending on what you’re doing and what you want to accomplish), set appropriate rest periods – don’t skip them, have a dynamic warm-up, plan a cooldown, and go to town on your off-skates training!

Again, I restate – make sure you’re moving well, that nothing gives you pain, and that you have a plan. My most favourite advice, from the incomparable Grey Cook, ‘First move well, then move often.’


You Need to Eat Like An Athlete

(Hopefully) Gone are the days where your pre-bout meal was a slice of pizza and a large Coke. Poor nutrition all week will manifest in your derby performance, so it’s important to eat well. General sound guidelines (and I mean general – I am not a doctor or nutritionist, just someone who tries to eat well and help skaters to do the same):

Eat whole foods as often as you can, local or organic when you can swing it.

Eat lean proteins, veggies, and healthy fats (oils, nuts, seeds) with each meal.

Save your starchy carbs for post-exercise meals.

There are a raft of additional tools that you can use to help you dial in your nutrition, and to make sure that you are getting the energy you need to support your sport. I use (and love) Precision Nutrition – full disclosure: I’m a certified PN coach, so I’m a tad biased. If you struggle with this sort of thing, or are curious about nutrition – talk to someone! There’s so much nutritional information out there, some of which is helpful and some of which is bunk – instead of trying to sort through all of it, find a professional out there who can give you some tools.


The Trainers Critique You Because They Love You

I mention this because I am one of those trainers. I’ve had newly graduated meat tell me they thought I was picking on them. I’ve had girls break down because they think they’re never going to master a skill. I’ve had girls harbour negative feelings about trainers LONG after they joined the league. It’s a tough position – you are learning something new and challenging. The trainers are there to help you, not belittle you. We do, however, have to tell you when you are doing something that might be dangerous, and give you tips on how to refine your skills. If we’re giving you lots of feedback, it’s because we believe in you. If we’re only giving you negative feedback, it’s because there are more girls than trainers, and that’s all we have time to give. Know that when the trainers get together afterwards, we all talk about the great things you did and how far you are coming too. If you have an issue with the way a trainer critiques – talk to them. Let them know how to teach you best. We’re all in this to get better and bad-asser, so let’s help each other do it in the least emotionally-fraught way possible.

Finally, a couple of extra tips that make a difference in your Meat Experience:

Derby Takes Time to Change

Whenever you join a new organization, it’s easy to see the flaws. You have a fresh set of eyes, and you can see where people are dropping the ball, where there’s room for improvement, and where you can help out. I highly recommend only publicizing that last one. When new skaters come in with energy and the desire to pitch in wherever they can, managers love it. When new skaters come in with a laundry list of changes that should be made, we don’t love it quite so much. Have your great ideas, document them, and start work on a committee that interests you. Once you know a little bit about how the committee operates, and how the head of the committee likes to manage, pitch your idea – and say that you’ll do the work to implement it. This saves a lot of undue stress. We all want our leagues to be the best possible machine they can be – just sometimes the gears grind slowly, and you have to apply the grease gently.

Don’t Forget About the Things That Were Important Before Derby

Before you join derby, presumably you have friends, maybe a life partner, pets, a family, hobbies, a job. Don’t forget that these things exist just because you have a shiny new thing that you do. Derby will take up A LOT of your time if you let it, so have a plan to keep some balance. Make dates with your friends, family, and life partner and keep them. Try to keep things in your conversational reservoir that are not derby-related. People will want to hear about what you’re doing in derby – it’s a pretty cool thing to do – but don’t forget to ask about them and what they’re doing, they might be doing cool stuff as well.

Finally, The most important part of joining a roller derby league is finding your own way.

I can give you lots of helpful tips and tricks, but you need to learn who you are and where you fit into derby. There are lots of people ready and willing to help you along the way, just ask them. Vets aren’t as scary and insular as you think. They’re like bears – just as scared of you as you are of them. Most of us join derby because we’re social misfits to begin with – take the first step and introduce yourself to people you think you’d like to get to know. Come into derby with open ears, a willing spirit, and a determined heart and it’ll be no time before you find where you belong.