Knowing when to stop

I’m writing this because recently I’ve come to the realisation that maybe I don’t know when to stop.

Photo by Shirlaine Forrest

As mentioned before, I’m a ruminator and an obsessive one at that. I chew over situations and interactions that have affected me in a negative way but rarely come to a helpful conclusion. It’s a problem. Often the closest I get to closure is allowing the emotion to fizzle out, sometimes with a bit of rationalisation helping the process along.

Roller derby is a strange sport. It feels as though there’s some unspoken rule that if you tap out for whatever reason, e.g. minor injury or exhaustion, you will be judged as weak but I’m aware that it’s most probably just me seeing it that way.

I don’t like getting upset in front of people because it shows a vulnerability, perhaps that comes from growing up as the only daughter among two brothers. Showing that vulnerability to people brings about frustration and anger at my own weakness. This is also how I feel expressing those kinds of emotions in roller derby. Yet if someone else cries or taps out I don’t think ‘What a weakling…’ so it seems odd to be so hard on myself.

Listen to your body

Recently I’ve been running myself into the ground. Mouth ulcers, not sleeping well, feeling down, repeat injuries, eye infections and all the gross stuff.

People always say ‘listen to your body’ but they don’t tell you how to do that. At what point should you rest? How do you differentiate an actual need for rest from the times when you can’t be bothered or just feel a bit tired?

Photo by Mike Gatiss

This Runner’s World article goes through 10 Signs That You Need A Rest Day. Apparently if three or more of the signs raise a red flag you should consider a few easy sessions or days off. Oops. Consider me told.

My attitude to the times where I ‘can’t be bothered’ is to just power through anyway — to give excuses no air time. Unfortunately, this approach carries over to the instances when my body really needs to rest, i.e. the exact opposite of listening to your body. My default response is to carry on regardless, after all ‘your mind will give up before your body’ right?

According to this blog on the Huffington Post about The Guilt of Rest ‘being well-rested lowers stress by decreasing abnormal levels of cortisol’, which is probably pretty useful in our sport given the repeated cortisol and adrenaline spikes we experience during every jam. Rest also ‘boosts brain function and allows for better concentration and focus’, but how many of us in roller derby embrace rest time and just allow ourselves to relax?

To skate or not to skate

The pressure that comes from being a crossover at this level makes it very difficult to make the right decision. Competition even against your own team mates is intense — if you’re not skating you lose out on a chance to show what you can do and how reliable you are, and if you skate when tired/injured you run the risk of just looking a bit shit.

Last Sunday I skated when I should have rested and in hindsight honestly felt that I’d made the wrong choice. It wasn’t helpful for myself or my team. Sunday training runs from 3.30pm to 8pm, with All Stars training and scrim until 7 followed by B/C team scrim until 8.

Photo by anokle

You want to show your best self in All Stars training, even if you’ve played a game the day before, whilst still having enough left to put in a respectable performance for B team scrim. Usually by about the last half hour though I’m of no use to anyone.

Consistency

One of my team mates shared an interesting NY Times article the other day, entitled Why Our Champions Are Getting Older. It talks about what it takes to keep training into your 30s and beyond. This year I turn 32 so naturally it grabbed my attention.

Roger Federer made a sports-comeback at 35, beating Rafael Nadal to secure his 18th Grand Slam title. In the article, David Epstein reveals that Federer felt ‘bringing more consistency to his training — rather than ramping his training way down and then up just before tournaments — helped him temper back problems as he got older’.

The article advises starting slow and building to consistency, as well as resting when your body says so. What I struggle with, aside from listening to my body, is how to build to consistency whilst also allowing time for rest. Does powering through all the time count as consistent?

Right now my performance seems to benefit from carrying on, but how long will that last and could it be even better if I learnt to stop when my body says so?

Introducing some rest into my routine throughout the season definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing. Perhaps building up to consistency is about gradually adopting a consistent routine — making some incremental life changes as The Guilt of Rest put it.

Just stop

I experience a strange kind of guilt when taking a break or calling it a day in training. To me, the concept of your body telling you when it needs a rest feels a bit like religious people talking of how they believe God speaks to them. How can you be sure you’re not interpreting it wrong?

So far these posts have been a stream of consciousness typed into the ether, but it would be great to get some input from other athletes and not necessarily just roller derby skaters.

How do you incorporate rest into your routine? How is rest viewed in your sport?

Dog.