Tuesday, September 20, 2011

my kid: personal trainer

With my ongoing efforts to address my lapsed fitness as of late and test some of my fresh meat fitness training before I actually insist anyone else doing it, I've added some daily resistance training to my life.  Me and exercise, we go way back.  When I was a kid my mom used to rock out to Jane Fonda and her aerobizing ilk.  I learned to associate a rhythmic bass beat with leg lifts and climbing invisible stairs.  I was surprisingly old before I discovered that not all dancing involved a one-two side step and kick, hand ups, whooo!  To this day, when dancing at the after party, I still struggle with my need to point my fingers up at the sky and count and six, and seven, and whooo!

Though, maybe in derby, this isn't really odd enough behavior to deserve commentary.

In middle school I did a fair amount of long distance running.  Couldn't sprint worth a darn (today my quick feet today always look like I'm skating through knee high syrup) but, man, I could go and go and go.  My favorite place to run was around the 1/4 mile track.  Round and round.  Seems a familiar pattern somehow...

And then when I was older I... wait... Nope.  I have no particular sport or enthusiasm that I can claim I did consistently.  A bit of running, a yoga class here and there, mostly just trying to keep up with life.

So, this is me now, on the wrong side of thirty, humbling myself daily doing push-ups, sit-ups, planks and squats on the living room floor.

With children around it is phenomenally difficult to find time to do a consistent exercise routine.  Or to find enough space without conking a miniature person on the head (no free weights here before the kids' bedtime).  I know that children keep you busy and certainly exhaust you thoroughly, but it's not the type of activity that enhances fitness.  It's more of a shuffle-y, bent back series of minor disasters and the type of servitude associated with scullery maids in fairy tales.  In the end I'm more likely to have a back ache rather than any appreciable gain in cardiovascular endurance.

Trying to integrate a bit of intentional exercise into my day has me working hard in short bursts during serendipitous times when I'm suddenly involved in a game of tag or the kids are jumping on me and I can do some leg lifts with children as weights.  I'm becoming good at sneaking fitness in through bits and pieces.  The stairs done twice, once with the kids wrapped around my ankles and back up again with the stroller, the skipping demo, the looong walk with an exhausted preschooler riding piggyback. 

I'm always on the lookout for the extended cardio workout.  Something that will get my heart working harder without having to stop every two seconds to untangle children from my feet or put them into time out.  Today I was particularly excited because I noticed how fast my three year old can scoot on his tricycle.  When I had to run to catch up to him in the yard, I thought there might be an opportunity for both of us here.  If we hit our most excellent local walking trails, he can ride and gain a bit of freedom, and I can run and gain a bit of endurance.

I wasn't entirely certain I could keep up with him if I let him out of our enclosed yard, since he has endless energy and I am, sadly, finite in the stamina department.  Still, to test this, I put on my running shoes and sports bra while the boy put on his helmet and grabbed his trike, and we headed out to pick up my older child from school.

I am impressed at my kid, pedaling what amounted to twelve blocks of distance.  It was his first real extended ride and it's pretty obvious he is born to it.  Of course there were a couple of rest stops, some jumped curbs.  And after we picked up my older girl and our young neighbors, the ride became more like an episode of Jackass, especially between my son and the neighbor boy, who together at ages three and four are already adept at ramp jumping and have come up with some extremely bad ideas involving swinging large sticks and ingesting non-traditional sources of protein.   

My experience was more a series of sprints than a regular jog, but as the boy becomes used to open spaces and I get him a bike with larger wheels, then I can see some real possibility for a full out extended run.   

Yay!  Aren't wheels great?

I was thinking that I'd throw both kids' bikes into the truck later today and pop down to the high school track.  Then I can keep my eye on them while we all go our own pace. 

Round and round.


Monday, September 12, 2011

and go

So, I was writing this post and then I wasn't and then I got all confused and didn't know what I was saying anymore except that it contained a surprising lack of expletives, a whole of self pitying whining and Molly Ringwald.

You can thank me now for erasing the lot of it.

But I will give you a synopsis:

When I was a child, I thought I was fat.

I wasn't.

When I was a teenager, I thought I was fat.

I wasn't.

When I was a young adult, I thought I was fat and making stupid decisions.

I wasn't and I was.

When I was a thirty something, I thought I was fit.

Wait a minute...

So close, but not quite.
Photo by Richard Lowes

While I no longer give a damn about being fat, I do care about being fit.  And I'm not quite at where I'd like to be.  Roller derby, my friends, only gets you so far.  When you first sign on derby can kick start your fitness (and your ability to survive high speed barrel rolls) but at some point you need some extra work to move to the next level.

I began... not fit.  Actually, I have some of my sordid journey through fresh meat here on this blog (check out the archives, though I warn you it's not pretty).  My body has changed, of course, but I haven't dropped a single pound through any of it.  Some parts are higher, some parts are harder.  I still have a good layer of crash padding around my muscle, though, so it's hard to tell.

Why one should never give up peanut butter and chocolate.
Photo by Richard Lowes.

However.  Through life's little bumps (and fucking craters), my own personal fitness line chart has reached a plateau as of late and I'm feeling somewhat embarrassed.  Particularly since I am putting together the fitness portion of our winter fresh meat program and it's becoming glaringly obvious to me that I may not be the best example.


So, what to do?

Practice what I preach, probably.


Here's the thing.  It took me over thirty years to find a sport I like.  My previous sports experience was skate boarding when I was thirteen years old and bar hopping from fifteen to twenty five.  I get very bored and discouraged doing the things that make for good fitness.  If my brain can't get into it, it doesn't stick.  Derby is brilliant because there is no chance of getting bored.  It has the complicated strategy of war games, the senseless violence of video games, and the visual appeal of a burlesque show.  On wheels!

How in the world do you find fitness-making activities to compete with all of that?

Yep, push ups and planks during commerical breaks are good and should be done.  Running around the neighborhood with Sir Mix-A-Lot in my ear, s'okay.  But, really, if I'm going to do a bit of cross training to help me break my skills plateau and go up a level, it has to be soul enriching the way that derby is.  Because I'm a busy person with kids, an income to earn, a fresh meat program to plan and two freakin' blogs and I don't have time to climb pretend stairs at the gym.  If I'm going to climb stairs, they'd better take me someplace pretty damn awesome.   

Just give'r.
Photo by Richard Lowes

So, dear derby reader, time for you to talk to me.  I'm looking for some suggestions for happy fitness activities that are smart, inexpensive, entertaining, kid friendly, and do not chafe.  Bonus points for anything that won't break my leg and screw up my chance to hit me some jammer in October when we play the indelibly attractive Gas City Rollers.

What kind of side activity does a person who likes to hit other people (on wheels!) for fun do?   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

derby orphans

Friday last week, I was sitting at the dining room table of the most indomitable Stitch Rip-Her along with jammer killa Lacee Long Stalkin', having a bit of derby meeting and chit chat, while Stitch's four year old son and my boy played around us. Lacee, as much as she'd like to think of it as being out of character (though it's not so much while we're allowed to call her 'Lacee'), dropped the F-bomb shortly into the meeting. Immediately afterwards she registered the young ears in her presence and began to apologise to Stitch and I. To which we said, 'Phhtt, whatever.'

I don't want to make light of this, but the word 'fuck' isn't going to rattle either me or my kid.

Don't let that scare you.

I have a normalish family. We're actually pretty nice vegan nuclear-type, a boy and a girl, two cats, who mow their lawn and vote 'n shit.  The Man works out of the house and I work in it so I can be with our children.  I bake muffins and come up with clever ways to turn empty ketchup bottles into craft supplies.  It's all very Leave it To Beaver, assuming Ward and June had tattoos, facial piercings and enjoyed the occasional zombie apocalypse on the big screen.

In addition to being mama, wife and pack mule, I also am an athlete.  Okay, I don't look like Sporty Spice and I don't wear yoga pants on the school run but I do play a sport and spend a ridiculous amount of time practicing, thinking, writing, studying, and playing it.  Under all this mama softness is some serious muscle.

Me NSOing.  Rudeness comes complimentry to the main service.
Photo by Anthony Canada

So, okay, my sport is sort of on the fringe culture-wise.  There are many things said about derby and the most often used terms in the media are fishnets and bitches.  Of course, us skaters know better.  I have met many smart, dedicated and insanely tough women (and a couple of men too) playing derby but I've yet to meet a 'rollergirl', that vampy cartoon nurse/housewife turn violent vixen at night.  So, it's a good thing derby kids live with real women, not caricatures, because then they truly would be orphans.  Even if real women (shockingly even ones who do not play roller derby) do say the c/f/s/d-words occasionally.

Kids come along with derby like stink comes with wristguards.  Sometimes they're at the arena but mostly they are at home watching mom do planks during Sponge Bob, or rifling through the derby drawer trying to find just the right fishnets to play ballerina dress up.  They are the witnesses to the behind the scenes action.  The hard work involved in moving butt cheeks two inches higher during the first six months of practice, the healthy breakfasts and protein smoothie snacks.  They are the ones failing to give mom any privacy in the bathroom while she reads the WFTDA rule book.  They hear the long laments about how no body can figure out how to make tights that don't cause muffin-top and see the hours doing paperwork, phoning sponsors and vendors, stuffing goodie bags or whatever it is that mom does extra for her league.

Hard work, reading rules, healthy eating, exercising... uh-oh, derby might start losing its bad-ass image if I keep revealing its secrets.

Stitch Rip-Her on the jammer line
Photo by Argent Dawn Photography

Alright, kids also pick up a few other things.  Derby orphans may occasionally hip check their friends as a sign of affection.  They tell grandma that mama can't come to the phone because she's halfway stuck in her sports bra, getting ready to hit some bitches.  The may decide to play 'blocker' to you when they don't want you to walk away from them and 'jammer' if they don't want you to catch them at bedtime.  They may decide to poke your bruises to get back at you after you make them shampoo their hair.

Kids always learn from sports.  Playing and watching.  Think of mainstream sports like hockey, wrestling, baseball and football.  They learn teamwork, hard work, preparation, self esteem, humility, how to sweat and give an effort to be proud of.  They learn they are strong and capable.  And they learn other things.  Like smack talk and disrespect of officials and bullying of weaker players.  They learn their job is to 'Kill!'  Oh, and do their best.  They learn to run out in the streets and randomly trash shit because their team lost.  Or because their team won.  It's a religion, it's the only way to make a parent proud, it's another way you'll never fit in.

Roller derby has the potential to teach any of those things to our youngest people.  It can be good or bad.  Usually it's a mix of both.  But it is up to us, the kids are paying attention, and even if there is no child around, you are probably talking to a mama (either now or in the future).  What impression are you giving?  What's your main message?

It's up to us, bitches.  How's it gonna be?

Here's my suggestions:  We show them our sweat leads to more play time and our dedication leads to self respect.  We show them how to fail gracefully and then pick themselves up and try again.  We show them how to work cooperatively to run a league and to respect strength and integrity in others, whether they be your teammates or not.  We speak well of each other, focusing on encouraging and raising spirits, and not worrying if the occasional shit or fuck works its way through the conversation.

All this positive stuff and we get to hit bitches too?  How fucking rad is our sport?!

The boy assuming his camera pose.  Wonder where he got this idea from?
Photo by mama