Friday, January 29, 2010

Addiction, Muscle Atrophy & Fat Bulges (on top of the fat bulges I was already OK with)

The other day I was just asking myself why I have been feeling content running only once a week, when just several months ago I was driven to run every day. And then after my 1st scrimmage practice back it hit me: I was driven to run out of sheer shame for how slow I naturally am on skates. Fuck.

Okay, okay, that’s not really the truth. I know I feel better when I exercise regularly and it’s THAT feeling that drives me to run every day, but shit, right now I’m just beginning to transition back into an active lifestyle, and I have to tell you: it’s hard. I’ve gained 15 pounds since September, my muscle mass has been replaced by an extra layer of laziness (aka, my fat rolls have fat rolls), and when scrimmaging the other day I felt as if I was skating through mud. I couldn’t physically make my body move laterally the way I expected it to – the way I’m used to my body following my brain. I was like, “OK, I need to be there”, and by the time I was mid-movement, the small window of opportunity for my being there to do something was already over. And, I was sucking wind.

I suppose the good news is that I know it can get better. I look back over my participation in sports as a kid and I really think that I never broke through either level where you get a second wind, because I just never pushed hard enough. For one, I would bitch and complain until my coach let me stop whatever was tiring me, so I never got that single athletic session second wind. At least in part because of that, I was never able to get the type of second wind you get over time either – the one where you actually kick your own athleticism up a notch. Then came derby and I broke my own barriers. And now I’ve let myself fall to shit. At least a little bit.

The problem right now is that I’m stuck in this transition from one drug to another. “Drug?” you say. Yes, drug. I firmly believe I have addiction issues – pussy ones – but issues nonetheless. When I injured myself and stopped skating and then got depressed about my dog and my not skating, I substituted food for exercise. Both cause a similar chemical reaction with serotonin in my brain. Both give me an immediate reward. Both drive me to keep using them to get that serotonin surge. And because my dog is ill and I feel guilty for leaving my house, it has been WAY easier to choose food than exercise for the last 4 months. The bad news is that excess food consumption that drives my serotonin habit also supplies fat rolls to my fat rolls, while excess exercise that drives my serotonin habit makes food a lot less attractive to me, because I already have my fix. Problem is, I’ve made a habit now of getting my fix from food, and it’s really hard to pull myself away from that. Regardless, I know it can be done. It just sucks royal donkey dick. Make that two royal donkey dicks.

Getting back to practice is a motivator for me to exercise more, and I’m doing both (going to practice and exercising more), but it feels like a long, slow journey, when I really want it to happen like I want everything else to happen: now. Well, fuck me, the world doesn’t work that way? Sorry, sometimes I forget iPads aren’t available to stop all my hemorrhaging wants in life. I need some zen in a big bad way, people. Some motherfucking zen.

At this point, I need to just shut my mouth and take some old advice I’ve given many times on here: just do it. Less talk, more action. I can do it. I will do it. Stay tuned.

In other news, the city of Baltimore has officially named tomorrow Charm City Roller Girls Day! This is in no small part due to an avid derby fan (and CCRG superfan) who just so happens to work for the mayor. Thanks to him, we’ll be receiving an official citation from the city at tomorrow night’s bout. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a “day” named after me before. It makes me want to break all sorts of rules and then stick my tongue out at the rule enforcers and taunt “But it’s Charm City Roller Girls Day, so I can do whatever I want!!!”. Although I envision myself jumping off the hood of a car with cans of spray paint in my hands and a road of mass destruction behind me as I say that, I’ll probably wake up and have a pretty normal day tomorrow. Something like this does put things in perspective though. Don’t sweat the small shit (which I do all too much). Enjoy the victories.

Happy Charm City Roller Girls Day!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Does Wheel Hardness Matter for Big Girls?

I occasionally receive questions from y’all via email or comment, and I usually respond the same way, however I felt I could expand on this question and post it here! I am certainly not a skate “expert”, but I have been rolling for 5 years now, and if you know me, you know I’m always more than happy to give you my opinion about pretty much anything. So, if y’all got any more questions, keep ‘em coming and I’ll address them to the best of my ability every now and then!

Q: Wanted to ask of the girls on my team said something about some type of wheel that is better to use if you're heavier. Something about how the material is harder. Do you know what she was talking about? Since I can't play right now, I'm gonna get my derby fix by ordering gear I can't use. (Sinead O'Clobber)

A: Wheel hardness is a personal preference and only one of several variables that work together to enhance how you perform on a pair of skates (the skate surface share equal weight with wheels, IMO, and plates and bearings play supporting roles too).

Let’s start with a little overview of wheels in general:
  • Most indoor derby wheels are a standard circumference (62mm)
  • Wheels are rated and listed by firmness, and this is usually denoted by a number followed by the letter “a” (e.g., 90a) – the higher the number, the firmer the wheel
  • A general range of firmness for derby wheels is 86a to 98.5a, softer to firmer
  • In general, firmer wheels are faster wheels (this is why jammers often wear firmer wheels)
  • The firmer a wheel, the less “grip” it has on the skating surface
  • Wider wheels provide better grip and more stability (e.g., Hyper), while narrower wheels (e.g., Heartless) allow a skater to be more agile
While wheels are an important component to this equation, you can’t decide on a wheel without first considering your skate surface. Doing so would be like packing a suitcase of clothing without knowing if you’re headed to the North Pole or the Caribbean. The type of wheels you use depend on the surface on which you’ll be skating, which also has its own grip-factor. Polished concrete is generally the slickest surface, and sport court generally provides the most grip, while wood lies somewhere in between depending on its condition.

Wearing an 86a wheel on sport court (especially tile) would make you go the slowest (and keep the most contact with the floor), while wearing a 98.5a on polished concrete would allow you to go the fastest (if you could keep a grip on the floor and not wipe out at sharp turns). What many skaters do is adjust for the floor by changing their wheels. For instance, if a person used to skating on wood with a 90a may want to switch to an 88a if skating on polished concrete or 92a if skating on tiled sport court.

When I first started skating, we all wore really grippy skates because our muscles weren’t conditioned to keep us firmly planted to the floor, and we’d easily lose control around the turns. As time went on, I feel like the jammers started experimenting with the firmer wheels first, the full-time blockers second, and the bigger girls third. This is completely contrary to what your teammate said, which is why I was so intrigued by this question. In my experience, I think I stayed with a more grippy wheel longer than most people, because I wanted the stability. I now know I like a wheel with more grip because it allows me to dig into the floor better to make a really hard hit. And please realize these trends I mention of jammers versus blockers and small girls versus big girls are very broad generalizations. I know plenty of tiny, svelte jammers (Flo Shizzle) who refuse to skate on anything other than Witch Doctors (a soft wheel). It all comes down to personal preference!

Another thing skaters do is mix and match wheels of different firmness. I’ve never been a big fan of this, but many, many skaters swear by the combo, so try it and see what you think. While this is a popular thing to do, I often see people doing it wrong. The idea here is to wear the wheels with the most grip on the left-hand side of each skate (if you have them on and are looking down at your feet). Why there? Because those wheels make the most contact with the floor for the longest period of time while you’re skating. Think about it. Prior to crossing over with your right leg, which wheels on your right foot touch the floor last? The ones on your instep – the ones to the left. When your left leg is passing behind you to form the second motion of a cross over, which wheels on that skate are the last to leave the ground? The ones on the outside of your left foot – the ones to the left. By putting the grippier wheels here, you’ll make the most contact with the floor, thus elongating your stride and causing you to use less energy to skate at the same speed.

Like anything else, picking a type and firmness of wheel is a personal preference. If you have the chance, try out your friends’ wheels. By trying out as many different types of wheels as possible, you’ll get to know what you like by how it feels. Bottom line: there is no hard and fast rule for wheel firmness as it correlates to body weight. As you gain more experience as a skater, you’ll get to know what you like more. Be patient and listen to your body instead of the trends, because the only thing that’s going to make you a better skater is you, and you’re going to have to be comfortable in your skates in order to do so. No harm in trying a trend, but pay attention to how YOU feel.

I’m actually really excited, because I just purchased a pair of Heartless Creepers yesterday, and tonight will be my first time skating on them. After having skated for 5 years, I feel confident enough to try a skinny wheel that’s slightly more firm than I’m used to wearing. I’ll keep you posted on how I like them. Best of luck in finding a wheel combo that’s good for you!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You Put Your Left Foot in, You Put Your Left Foot Out

Shoes: what girl doesn’t love them? I am, of course, no different, however my taste has seemed to change wildly over the years: from sneakers to vintage platforms to heels to platform heels to flats. Yet, there’s one pair of shoes that I’ve always come back to for the past 16 years: a pair of red and black wingtip mary-jane Docs.

There are so many reasons I like these shoes, but until now I haven’t consciously attempted to articulate them. I guess I like them because they just feel right. I wear them pretty much every day to work, and I’ve also been known to wear them with jeans on my day off or with a skirt and tights. No matter what I’m doing or what is going on in my life, these shoes fit, and I love that about them.

Sometimes I don’t take care of them as well as I should. For instance, right now they could really use a polish. I’ve known this for a while, and I’ve meant to do it, but I just haven’t gotten to it.

Sometimes the elastic attaching the buckles wears and breaks, and I’ve gone the remainder of the cool months not ever taking the shoes to get fixed. Sometimes more than a year goes by. Sometimes it’s only several weeks. Over the years, I’ve put $80 of repairs into this pair of $85 shoes. I obviously love them, yet every few years I feel like I should abandon them and find something new – more modern and more like what I think I should be wearing today – but I always come back. Who am I kidding?

Ah, how shoes and derby are so much alike!

This winter I did the same thing with derby as I do to these shoes: I put derby on a shelf and told myself that it was time to get something new – to do something else – but every day was torture.

I didn’t realize until I came back to work from an 11-day vacation (which was preceded by a 14-day vacation three weeks earlier) that derby was my love. Over the past five years I’ve made it through the daily grind by telling myself that it doesn’t matter if I don’t love my job, because I love derby. Then I came back and realized I no longer was doing anything I loved. I made the mistake of mentally trying to put a greater emphasis on my job, but that only made me feel worse. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great job that really uses my talents well, but I don’t love it like I do derby.

The past few months have been torture. I’ve been thinking a lot about other things I want to do in my life (write for $, garden), and it’s hard because I’ve made derby my entire life for close to five years now. I left no room for anything else, and part of me feels like I backed myself into a corner. In a perfect world, I’d win the lottery and not work, but unfortunately life doesn’t work like that. So what else do I have to barter for time? Derby.

I made the decision early this winter to not try out for the All Stars this year. The impetus for this was a winter and spring full of publishing conferences that would have me already traveling once a month and taking up my time on weekends. There’s just no way I can work this, and part of me thought “If I can’t play with the All Stars, then I don’t want to play with anyone”. Luckily, when I tried to quit my home team for the second time last Friday, my captains said “Too bad – we’re keeping you on the roster”. I think it was their second refusal that made me think this was a sign that I need derby in my life. I gave in and decided at that point that I would commit to the 2010 home season. And I’ve been happy about it ever since.

I’m spoiled and I know it. I want everything, and I don’t like being told no, but I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson that I don’t have to view life (or derby) as all or nothing. It’s easy for me to go balls out or retreat completely. My main goal for 2010 is to live a more balanced life, and although I fought against myself for the past few months, I think I’m finally on the right road.

While I spend derby focusing on our home season with Speed Regime, I’m also going to be focusing on doing some other things I’ve wanted to do. This year I want to plant a small garden, and I want to bring several articles and story ideas I’ve started writing, but never really dedicated enough time on, to fruition. And although this is the hardest part, I’m going to try and not feel bad about doing what I ultimately want to do instead of what I think I should do.

Looking at my shoes this morning reminded me that it’s okay to love something that doesn’t always make sense and it’s also okay to put something on the shelf for a while and come back to it after you try something new.

It’s going to be difficult to view a community I’m so used to being a part of from the outside (the All Stars), but I’ve got to know that compromise hurts less than regret. And at least I’ve found a way to work that thing I love back into my life while I continue to grow and find other things I love too.