The Roller Derby Athlete

My new book The Roller Derby Athlete is out today!

Featuring useful advice about fitness, training and nutrition especially for playing roller derby. Includes a Foreword by Suzy Hotrod, strategy articles by Bonnie D. Stroir and Pitchit Davis, on-skates training with Kamikaze Kitten and profiles of many of your favourite skaters including Raw Heidi, Red N Roll and many more!

Get your copy here!




Interval Training

Interval training is something that has helped me a lot recently–especially with jamming. It is perfect for roller derby because it enables you to perform at your maximum capacity for short periods of time and then recover quickly. Interval training is a type of training that involves short periods of high intensity exercise followed by periods of low intensity exercise for recovery that are repeated during one exercise session. It can be done using most types of cardiovascular exercise but running, cycling and rowing are most common.

How interval training works

Interval training uses both the aerobic and anaerobic system as fuel for the body to exercise. During the periods of high intensity, the anaerobic system uses glycogen stored in the muscles as fuel. The anaerobic system fuels your muscles without oxygen and produces lactic acid. In the periods of low intensity, the body breaks down the lactic acid that has built up.

It is thought that by performing high intensity intervals that produce lactic acid during training, the body adapts and burns lactic acid more efficiently during exercise. This means athletes can exercise at a higher intensity for a longer period of time before fatigue or pain slows them down.

In roller derby, a bout is made up of two 30-minute periods. Each period is made up of a series of jams, which can last up to two minutes with a 30-second break in between. Ideally, we need to train so that the body is able to cope with the worst case scenario under these circumstances. The worst case scenario is that each jam will last the full two minutes and that skaters will be required to go on in consecutive jams. This means that skaters need to be able to exert themselves at maximum capacity for a full two minutes and recover in 30 seconds and keep this going for a period of 30 minutes before having a substantial break. In reality, this would rarely happen as jams often get called off before the full two minutes and skater line-ups are switched so that each skater gets enough time to rest. It is possible to train for this using interval training.

The benefits of interval training

Interval training helps to improve performance and increase speed and endurance by increasing the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles, which is also known as cardiovascular efficiency. It also produces an increased tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid. It also helps athletes to increase the intensity of their training without over-training and therefore helps avoid injuries caused by repetitive overuse. Many sources also claim that more calories are burned during periods of high intensity exercise as opposed to slow, endurance exercise. It is a great way of cross training for many different sports, roller derby being only one of them.

Interval training routines

Every person should work out their own individual interval training routine based on their level of fitness and what they want to achieve from their training. It is best for beginners to start with shorter periods of intensity and longer periods of rest and gradually build up the level and duration of intensity, duration and frequency of training, and reduce the periods of rest to speed up recover time.

Safety tips for interval training

  • Always warm up for at least 5 minutes before any interval training
  • You should be in good health and have a good level of basic aerobic fitness before performing any type of high intensity training. Interval training is very demanding on the heart, lugs and muscles
  • Set yourself realistic goals based on your level of fitness
  • Start slowly with longer periods of rest between intervals of high intensity
  • Build up the intensity and duration slowly over an extended period of time
  • Always cool down and stretch after training

Cross Training for Roller Derby: Snowboarding

After spending the last week on the slopes of the French Alps, i find myself even more in love with snowboarding than ever before. While I was out there I realised that this was the first time I had been snowboarding since I started playing roller derby and it immediately became obvious that the sport is a great way to cross train for roller derby.

Snowboarding was developed in the USA in the 1960s to 1970s. It was inspired by skateboarding, sledging, skiing and surfing and became a Winter Olympic Sport in 1998. It began in 1965 when Sherman Poppen invented a toy called the ‘snurfer’ for his daughter by fastening two skis together and attaching a rope to one end so she would have some control as she stood on the board and glided downhill. The snurfer became so popular among his daughter’s friends that Poppen licensed the idea to a manufacturer and began organizing competitions for poeple all over the USA.

During the ’60s and ’70s, skateboarder Tom Sims and surfer Dimitrije Milovich consequently invented the first snowboards using improved designs based on the original ‘snurfer’. It was, however, Jake Burton Carpenter who invented the first snowboards with bindings in 1977 and then founded Burton Snowboards that same year.

Jake Burton Carpenter

During the 1970s and 1980s as snowboarding became more popular, pioneers such as Chuck Barfoot and Mike Olson  also came up with new designs for boards and mechanisms that slowly developed into the snowboards and other related equipment that we know today.

In 1982 the first National Snowboard race was held near Woodstock, Vermont and the first World Championship halfpipe competition was held at Soda Springs, California in 1983. Snowboarding was recognised as an official sport in 1985 and the first ever World Cup was held in Zurs, Austria.  The International Snowboarding Federation was founded in 1990 to provide universal contest regulations and snowboarding has now become so popular that high-profile snowboarding events like the Winter X Games, Air & Style, US Open, Olympic Games and other events are broadcast worldwide.

Shawn White

While I was snowboarding last week, I realised very quickly that snowboarding uses all the same muscles as playing roller derby, especially as it involves maintaining a squat position much like derby position for the majority of the time. The quadriceps and hamstrings play a large part in snowboarding and maintaining that squatting position requires and trains strength and muscular endurance in these areas – perfect for roller derby.  And, similarly, the lower you are the better you balance will be.

As with roller skating, the hip and glute muscles are used to help you steer and carve so snowboarding is a great workout for these muscles as well. In fact, as with roller derby, the lower body does the majority of the work in snowboarding.  However, this doesn’t mean the upper body is neglected. As with skating the core provides the root of all stability in snowboarding so it is also a great one for core strengthening. Balance is a key part of snowboarding as well so it provides excellent proprioceptive training.  This is being able to sense the position, location, orientation and movement of the body and its parts, another vital aspect of all skating sports.
And, above all, it is awesome fun and I would highly recommend it to anyone.