It’s that time of year again.
A time for incessant year-in-review posts (OK, secretly I actually love those). A time for “new year, new you” blogs and heinous fitspo imagery. It’s a time for the devilish and often sexist marketing ploys of the fitness and diet industry to take your money in the coming year. And it’s time for Booty Quake’s Annual, No-BS, Here’s What is Actually Worthwhile post. Say sayonara to resolutions, and instead start investing energy into effective, worthwhile habits and practices.
But first I’d like to point out that January 1st is a rather pointless and arbitrary moment to decide to turn over all of the new leaves, all at once. So feel free to take my list below, shred it to pieces, pick up the bits that make sense to you and your life, and try adding about one system per month over the coming months.
Last year I told you that goals are for losers, and SYSTEMS are for winners. My friends, it’s all still true! With that in mind, here are 6 systems I intend to maintain or implement in 2015, and I think you should too.
Make a Pro-scuse list. Yes, I just made up that word. Face it – we are all really good at making EX-cuses for why we shouldn’t do something that is part of our system and our plan. The ability is baked right into our DNA. The couch feels so good. I’d rather be reading/cooking/drinking/doing laundry. I’m tired. It’s not that big a deal if I miss that thing today, etc. etc. etc. So we need to have an arsenal of PRO-scuses in place to help us over the hump and build momentum in the direction we really want to go.
I’ll give you a current example. I injured my wrist outside of derby, and I’m in a brace for 3 weeks; no weight bearing, no flexion. I’m also struggling with some knee pain when I run, and 2 months of physiotherapy hasn’t made much of a dent. It would be SO easy to excuse myself from my broader goals while I excuse myself from my normal training routines as a result of my injuries. But instead have made a list of the things I can do – my pro-scuses.
I can do stair workouts! I can ride the bike! or take spin classes! – in other words, I can switch my focus to cardio fitness at this time, in the absence of most of my usual strength training options. It would be easy to say “I can’t do yoga, because of my wrist!” Instead I’ve focussed on a style of yoga that doesn’t do a lot of downward dog, and I modify along the way where needed. My pro-scuse is that I’m getting 90% of the benefit of the class, instead of 0%. How great is that?
Here are some more pro-scuses for you to choose from. Add these to your own script:
I have never regretted DOING a workout / eating healthy / insert other goal here, but I’ve often regretted NOT doing so.
- Even though I’ve run out of time to do the full workout I wanted to, I can still do something.
- Although I’m tired right now, I’ll feel energized once I get started
- By working hard at following through, I am building something that I really want.
- When I do X (work out, plan my week, go to practice, get to sleep on time), I get to be rewarded with Y (health, less stress, BEER!)
I want you to take out a notepad, or a digital notepad of some kind, and actually WRITE DOWN your pro-scuses. 95% of readers will skim through this thinking, ‘that’s nice, I should do that later,’ and later won’t come. Just do it now, and then refer back to it any time.
Plan and measure everything you have a vested interest in improving. For me, it’s my weekly priorities at work, my fitness training, and my meditation/visualisation habits (more on those below). I haven’t the patience nor the inclination to measure anything nutrition-related, but that might be something that matters to you. Choose the things that are critical to making YOUR systems work, and plan them each week or month. It could even be about planning your rest days, or time spent on non-derby pursuits. Find a simple method to plan and track. Then stick to it.
An aside: I’m dying for an app that will allow you to not just log a workout, but actually schedule or plan it in advance. I’ve been searching unsuccessfully for two years. If you’ve got one, please tell us about it in the comments! Know someone who likes making apps or programs? Please get in touch.
I’ve written extensively on the topic of planning and tracking before, including in last year’s New Year post, so I won’t belabour the point here, but I think it’s so important that I’m saying it again! Measuring your progress and setting milestones through your plan is likewise important to help validate all your hard work. If you want to get started benchmarking your derby-specific fitness, check out the RDA Standardized Roller Derby Fitness Test.
Practice yoga as a part of your health system. If you think that yoga’s not for you, bear with me and keep reading. I’ve never been one of “those” people either – the yoga aficionados who look all serene and limber and yogi-er than thou. I’ve hit up the odd down-dog session to spice things up, but have never built “a practice,” as they say. I once read a yoga instructor’s profile on the studio website where she said (I’m being serious) “I want to teach your heart to dance with your breath” and I wanted to punch things! But I’ve come to the gradual realization that yoga might just save us all.
Let me back up. As you know, I provide sport-specific roller derby conditioning through this forum. There’s a lot of jumping and squatting and sweating. And when I write about the workouts, I write in terms of how these things will make us fierce warriors on the track. But secretly, one of the most important things I try to provide to my readers and viewers is injury prevention. The foundation of a cross-training program for any sport should be injury prevention, certainly in a sport as ballistic as roller derby. I’ve come to realize that yoga can help with this, big time.
I’m a person who is prone to chronic injury, usually as a result of some muscle imbalance or other. When I go to yoga out of the blue, I’m ridiculously sore for days afterward, in a part of a muscle I’ve rarely ever felt before (and that’s how I know it’s working!). Yoga helps straighten us out, uncoil our crusty old springs, and wake up some important muscles we otherwise forget to use. Plus all the balance poses are freakin’ fantastic for foot and ankle strength and safety, and proprioception in general. So I’m committing myself to a weekly yoga class (or at-home video) this year to keep things aligned left to right, keep my back and hips in good working order, and work out all the kinks that derby knocks in. I strongly suggest that you do too! You can find some great derby-specific yoga content at Flat Mat Roller Derby.
Don’t worry – I won’t tell anyone if you’re secretly trying to “win” your row in class, like I am…!
Learn from other sports. Roller derby is not the first sport ever invented (gasp!). There are amazing coaches and athletes competing and pushing boundaries in tons of relevant sports, and most of it is televised or YouTubed for your viewing pleasure. The top three sports I think we can learn from in game play and training are NFL football, ice hockey, and short track speed skating, in that order. Sit down with someone who really knows the game of (American) football, and watch a few plays in slow motion. Watch the offensive line try to protect their jammer — I mean, the quarterback, or the running back — by blocking the other team. Our blockers can use that. Watch the running back dodge and weave through the line and evade tackles. Our jammers can do that! Watch players set picks and try to break each others’ “walls.” Watch the defensive line hold back 350 pound men. There are so many parallels, and such fantastic athleticism on display, it’s a goldmine for subtle physical and mental shifts in the way we can play the game. I’ve included just a couple of highlights below so you can see what I mean.
Same goes for ice hockey – watch the skating, the changes in direction, the playmaking, the footwork and body position. Watch the speed skaters’ stride, body angle, and crossover pattern in a race. Check out youtube for videos of training routines for all three sports. There is so much to be learned and applied to roller derby!
Watch more roller derby footage. But watch it better. I’ve written about how to Watch Footage Like A Champ before, so I won’t go into great detail here. But I think when we watch we need to be watching with purpose. Watch a successful blocker with subtlety – not just where the blocker was, but how her skates were positioned, how her body was angled, where her hips are, how exactly she’s positioned in relation to her other blockers. What strategies are both teams employing? Is one more successful against another, but not against a third strategy when they play another team? Watch men’s derby too – everything seems different, and that’s a place to learn from. You can improve your own game so much by analyzing derby footage in detail. And what a great resource we have for understanding small but significant strategies and moves in the aptly-named “You Should Be Watching More Rollerderby” gif hub, plus there are nearly 500 archived bouts at WFTDA.tv
Get in your head with meditation and visualisation. This system is twofold. Fold one: it will keep you mentally and emotionally healthy. Fold two: it will improve your game.
Gobs of research points to daily meditation as a goldmine of mental health benefits, and even maybe some physical ones. It may seem tremendously counter-productive when you are overtired, over-worked, and over-scheduled to carve out yet another chunk of time for some airy-fairy BS involving chanting and crystals (um, no offense to my readers who love crystals?). But the time spent will actually make it easier to hit all the other targets you’ve got in your day. So let’s make a brief pro-scuse list. Meditating for as little as 2 minutes a day will:
- Help me be more focussed during the rest of the day
- Reduce un-beneficial stress (anxiety)
- Shake me out of negative thought patterns
- Help me to sleep better
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, spiritual, or time-consuming. Here’s Leo Babauta’s often-quoted post on how to create a meditation habit in 2 minutes a day. (What he doesn’t say: set a timer and turn your phone off or to ‘do not disturb’ mode!)
Once you’ve started to build your ability to focus and calm your mind, start to occasionally use your meditation time for sports visualisation. I wrote about how to imagine your way to a win last year, and how to stop sucking the year before that. Make this effort a part of your system for success for derby for this coming year. It really couldn’t be much easier to get better at something than by just sitting and thinking about it, in a particular way!
Does it seem counter-intuitive that my top list of 6 things didn’t include working out more, or harder? OK, I did suggest that you could try to win at yoga(!), but otherwise no.
Here’s the deal: conditioning is a tool to achieving your goals in life and in derby – but you already know that because you’re here reading this. If improving your fitness and learning to plan and track things ARE a part of your systems for 2015, then by all means, come join one of our training programs, or become a Roller Derby Athletics All-Star. Our Holiday sale, in collaboration with Pivostar, is on for just a couple more days!
(But don’t do it just because it’s January 1st)
Here’s to a healthy and successful year ahead – whatever system you’re on.
xo Booty Quake
OK, your turn. What’s something new you’re going to try this year? Something you want to get better at (with a system of how to get there)? And don’t forget to comment if you’ve got a great fitness planning app to share!