Tuesday, July 9, 2013

adult onset athletics

Today I did our travel team's version of the Filthy Fifty they used as a fitness measure for their tryouts and ongoing as a friendly competition between teammates.

 In twenty minutes I did:

50 burpees
50 squats
50 lunges
50 push ups
50 sit ups
50 tuck jumps

And then I went downstairs to my basement where my washer and dryer are to do as much laundry as possible because I know my legs are going to seize up tomorrow and I won't be able to get up and down those stairs for a few days.

I need to be practical.  I've had experience with this.

I know I've talked about this a few times here already but I am still sort of shocked that I reached my mid-thirties before I managed to find something that I could do to help me be more fit.  Coming from a non-athletic background, I was a little surprised that it turned out to be a sport (on wheels!) that became the workout I could stick to.

And then at some point, I started working out so I could play the sport. 

Sneaky, roller derby, very sneaky.

I can't talk about how I rank against other athletes in sport.  I still feel weird about thinking of myself as an athlete.  There is a whole spectrum of bodies and fitness levels and I have found it to be quite self-destructive to get all judgey and compare myself to others.   It's so easy to think that a person who is lapping you in burpees has some sort of natural burpee gift, comparable to super strength or long eyelashes, and was granted to her by the gods for good deeds done in a past life.  Or for having a famous father. 

But there is no such thing as a burpee gift. If it was true, it would be a good enough reason to just toss in the towel in this life, spending the rest of it making sacrifices to the gods to be granted the gift of easy burpees the next time around.

 More likely than a gift from the gods, you are seeing a culmination of sweat, good eating habits, and dedication.  I want to go on here about youth being a bit of a leg up as well as body composition and a childhood full of sports but I might end up convincing myself there actually is a gift of easy burpees and I'll end up all pissy about it and miss the point I wanted to make here.

The point, I think, is not to measure your fitness against others (except in tiny inspirational doses) but to measure your fitness improvements against yourself.  Especially if you are coming into roller derby with adult onset athletics.

You really need to measure and track your own trajectory.  This is vital to keeping yourself motivated while learning how to workout and, even harder, how to stick to it even when gods, genetics and time conspire to deny you the burpee-ready body.

I have a set of personal motivators that I use to keep me going whenever I don't feel like putting in the effort.  For me, it's very specific memories of three years ago when certain parts of my body that did not look or feel like something that should be a part of me.  Like how my stomach used to actually fold over onto itself after my second baby arrived.  And my ass formed a gentle slope from my hip bones down to the tops of my legs without any discernible muscle tone. 

Now I know, given how much I abused my body with neglect and cookies prior to roller derby, that I am not going to get into super shape.  But despite how it looks - and it does look better - I feel ten thousand times better than I did three years ago when I couldn't stand up from the floor without using my hands to brace myself. 

That feels so weird to me now, that I couldn't raise myself off the floor without using my hands.  But yet, that is the fitness story of most of my life.  Lacking that muscle left me with a sprained ankle on my third derby practice ever and many more injuries in my knees and back until I developed the strength to hold myself up.  No small feat.

The other day I found a couple sheets of paper photocopied from a magazine of an interval workout I had tried three years ago.  I remember getting to the fourth set of seven (three minute cardio, one minute strength and one minute core sets) and then having total muscle failure in my legs.  Yesterday I did the whole seven sets and it wasn't really that hard.

Not travel team hard anyway.

Beyond burpees and how to get off the floor without using my hands, I did learn a few things about what it means to push myself beyond my perceived barriers.  First of all, there is a point beyond 'I can't - my body won't do it.'  If you push beyond there, it turns into 'I can - and holy fuck it hurts.' Also I get shaky and this sort of weird all over body cold feeling that probably isn't good, but it is completely possible to push myself far beyond the point where I thought I had stop.

I've learned I cannot dehydrate to the point of death in an hour workout, no matter how sweaty I get.  So water breaks are good and necessary, getting a bit thirsty is not a good reason to break my concentration.  Best to just maintain an overall good habit of daily hydration.

I've learned that when the burpee gifted are running circles around me and taunting me by being all good looking in Lycra, I need to tuck my focus inside myself and do what I need to do.  Don't judge and don't quit.  I'd rather beat myself up with push ups than with self defeating comparisons.

I've learned that getting light headed with lots of up and down movements means my blood pressure is low and I could very well pass right the fuck out.  I improved my chronic low blood pressure with better eating habits and cutting down the stimulants (sugar and caffeine). 

I've learned that cross training is my friend.  I like yoga, running stairs and bike riding.  If you go from sedentary to exclusive training with derby, you end up having a lot of sore joints and unnecessary injuries from overdeveloping certain muscles while others are left behind.  Learning to be an athlete later in life is hard enough without developing all wonky.  Even it up with cross training.

Getting out the door for a workout is the hardest part.  It is so tempting to opt out and avoid the workout, especially knowing it will be tough.  Even tough enough to make your legs and shoulders ache for days afterwards.  But if you can make yourself start, it gets easier.  Mentally, I mean, not physically.  That workout shit is hard. Unless you have the burpee gift.  Once you are there and moving and your only choice is to push through to the end, you will glad you did it.  Eventually.  When you're able to walk downstairs again not looking like a badly strung marionette.

I think that you could probably classify this as developing mental toughness but it is probably more a fear of slowly becoming ever more slumpy as I age and slipping so far down a slope of unhealthy habits that I will never be able to recover from.  There is so much to be gained from improving one's fitness - more energy, physical play with the kids, kicking ass with greater efficiency at roller derby.

It is a case, for those of us who spent more time cultivating our baking skills rather than our bodies, as better late than never.  We all must start from where we are at and realize that over time it never gets easier even though we do get better.  My one hundredth workout felt as hard as my first one.  But I am a different person.  And hey, look! No hands!

And if you discover and that you do, indeed, find burpees to be oh so easy and suspect you have a god-granted gift for them, do me a favour and don't tell me.

Friday, July 5, 2013

I think I have the crazies

One year ago I was playing with our league's travel team, chairing a board position, coaching fresh meat and a part time ref.  Since then I have:

a) Gotten injured.  Busted my tailbone when I fell on my skate during a warm up for a game.  It is as painful as it sounds.  For the record, I still played the game.  I think I might have been in shock.  But we won, yay!

b) Did no contact practices for a bit and focused on learning the reffing better.  Spent non-derby time trying to figure out how to sit in chairs without actually having my ass make contact with the seat.

c) Returned to active duty.  Then got sort of overwhelmed and angry.  With everything and everybody.  And my ass still hurt.

d) Decided I needed a derby break.  That lasted about two nanoseconds.  But I did manage to not run in the next board election.  Actually, that's not true.  I did run, became VP and then had a panic attack at three am that night worrying about having to do it all if the president quit.  It's not an irrational fear.  Our presidents should go on the endangered species list.  I resigned at four am. 

e) Resigned from the travel team as well.  Played a couple games with our B team.  Love those ladies.

f) Decided I needed a derby break again.  Found fresh meat another coach and resigned from the B team.  That lasted about two nanoseconds.

g) Became a full time ref.  Filled my head with all sorts of finicky bits of rules and protocol until I couldn't be near the track without nearly having a nervous break down from the continuous infractions committed by players who seem blithely unaware that they are breaking the god damn rules all. the. fucking. time.

h) Realized that reffing was turning me into an anal retentive middle manager and that is exactly not why I'm in derby so decided to take a break.

i) Which lasted two nanoseconds.

j) While retaining the reffing break, I was somehow convinced to start coaching fresh meat again and play a game with the B team.  I heart fresh meat and missed their innocent, unjaded optimism. 

k) I learned that 'unjaded' isn't a real word. 

So, here I am, transitioning from ref to player again.  I feel a little like what it must be like for a cop who was framed and sent to jail.  Except for all the ass raping.  I hope.  I mean, my ass did hurt but for an entirely different reason.  Sorry to put that all into your head.

The point is, as a ref, when I said you done did wrong, they had to pay a price.  As a player, when I point out the broken rule, they just say, 'Suck it, bitch!' and do it again.

Not. Fair.  I get distracted by my rage at the injustice of it all and fail to protect myself.  Never mind actually play the damn game in any sort of half-ways effective manner.

As a ref, I learned to deal with an infraction by yelling at it and sending it off the track. Given that this is my normal sort of reaction in everyday life, I feel quite comfortable doing this.  I'm what you might call a natural hall monitor.

Remembering to react physically by, oh I don't know, hitting somebody back, is more challenging.  Especially this is the second bloody time I've had to do and it's not any more intuitive now than it was three years ago when I was fresh meat.

Thus, the work now is to go through my head and root out all those parts that feel hard done by and indignant and pissy about what is happening around me at the moment.  In other words, I need to learn to let go.

People say that when you play a sport it never gets easier no matter how good you get because you are always moving up to the next level and making and meeting new challenges.  I think in roller derby, particularly for women without sports backgrounds, we not only have new challenges but we end up having to redo our old ones again with a different mind.  Because our brains are filled with all sorts of imprinted self-regulating social garbage and the lesson isn't truly learned until we can develop new instincts that don't involve us invoking feelings of victim hood.

I have no protocols on how to do this.  I just need to stop itemizing every little low block and directional before I lose my mind. All I can figure out is to keep going to practices and work on shutting my face and moving my feet instead whenever I see a penalty happening.  And to give myself a thousand burpees whenever I make the WTF arms at a refHonestly, I've wanted to do that to players for awhile now anyway. 

I am trying to approach it all again with a beginner's mind - clearing away all that I think I know so that I can react to what is happening at the moment, without judgement, and just play some derby.