Roller Derby & water based fitness

Roller Derby & water based fitness

If you’ve been doing roller derby for a fair amount of time, you will know that to be the best at what you do, you need to have an all-round fitness to match… this can’t be done by just going to derby practices, you need to do something else as well… and seeing as many people joined Roller Derby to get away from the gym, the thought of going back to the gym (or starting going to the gym if you have never been) will suck a little.

So my suggestion is an alternative to that… exercising in water. It is well known that swimming gives you an all over fitness, working out all your muscles and giving you a good cardiovascular exercise to keep your heart pumping. It is also great for your lungs, as you learn  to breathe correctly… this is something you might not think about too much in Roller Derby, but breathing correctly can really impact your skating!

Another excellent reason to swim is that is doesn’t put strain on your joints… it gives them a rest from impact while you are still exercising hard… great if you are injured / have problems with your knees (as many derby players do!).

I actually go to a specialist symgym, where you have your own personal little pool, with adjustable water currents that you swim / run / excersise into. But, you don’t need to go to one of these, a regular pool will do if you don’t have one of these in your area. If you have a wave machine in your local pool, even better!

So, while swimming yesterday I decided to write up some of the exercises I do in water in the hope that it will inspire others who also hate regular gyms!

A little bit of history of me & my love of water:

Me slalom canoeing
Me slalom canoeing

I grew up by the sea and so learn’t to swim and canoe really early on (had my own canoe at 2 – it was green and had a picture of snoopy on it!), then when I was 18 I became a lifeguard for a local pool and lake. I also became a canoe instructor and was a Division 2 slalom paddler (that’s going through gates on white water in case you were wondering – see pic of me in action!), so my upper body strength was pretty great.

I was a lifeguard for about 8 years, so did a heck of a lot of swimming and watching the various activies that a pool has to offer, including aqua arobics. During this time I was really toned and trim, a perfect 10 and a constant 9 stone. I stayed like this right up until I got a desk job… all down hill from there then!

How does Roller Derby come into it?

Me playing Roller Derby
Me playing Roller Derby – photo by Peter Troest

Well, like I said, to play roller derby well you need to be FIT! I started to notice how out of breath I was getting on track (apart from the asthma side of things) and realised that if I wanted to get any further I had to sort it out! I hate running and I hate the gym… so I thought I’d get back into the pool!

I started out just doing lengths, I did some aqua-fit and aqua-arobics and then discovered the swim gym near my work, this is sooooo perfect for me, it gives me an all over fitness, keeps me toned and eases my muscles after a hard training session!

The thing with roller derby is that you’re not just using your legs, you’re using every muscle you didn’t know you had! So you need to do exercises which reflect that. Also, when swimming you can strengthen your upper body as much as your legs… all the better to hit you with my pretty! Plus you are working on your cardio too.

If premiere league footballers & Rugby players do it, why not Roller Girls?
To prove how important water based fitness is, I have a few examples from my life as a lifeguard to hopefully inspire you…

When I worked in Middlesborough, players from the M’bro football team would come in when they were injured and they would go into the 50m kiddies pool and run or walk up and down it… as it reduces the impact on your knee joints, but gives you a great drag to fight against. Water is brilliant for reducing the impact on joints, so if you struggle with this, then training in water will really help.

Then when I worked at Wigston pool, the Leicester Tigers Rugby team would come in and tread water at the deep end… they would do timed ‘runs’ (they wore these cool floats round their waists so that they could run freely). This mean’t that while they were running they had the resistance from the water making it more difficult for them, doubling or trippling the effect a run may have, but without the impact on their joints.

A few things to try next time you hit the pool:
So apart from swimming some lengths, why not try running the width of the pool? OK, start by walking, then try jogging, start at waist height and then go a bit deeper… no more than chest height though! If you have some friends with you, start running in a circle together… then after about 5, change direction! You will have your own little current going which always makes for a bit of a laugh ;-D

Stomach crunches:
This one is my all time fave… there are two ways to do this depending on how confident you are in the water. It can be a bit tricky at first, but is amazing when you get it!

If you are confident, go to the deep end and float on your back. Then with your arms stretched out either side to support you, pull your knees up towards your chest while turning to the left (keep your knees together for the whole of this exercise)… then push your legs back out and turn to the right, pulling your knees back up to your chest.

Do this for 5 on each side to start with and then build it up… or time yourself until you can do it no more!

If you are not so confident in the water, go to the side of the pool and turn your back to it, stretching your arms out on either side to support yourself. Then do what I have described above.

Please let me know if you have tried any of these and I will add more exercises soon x Slam x

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