So the last blog I wrote for this series was April 21, 2015. Honestly, I never finished Part 5. Not because I wasn’t cross training, but because I got side tracked by other league responsibilities.

The good part about this is now I have the advantage of telling you about ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF CROSS TRAINING!

Before roller derby I was pretty out of shape. I had just graduated college and most of my free time I was working or playing video games. When roller derby became a (what I thought would be a far future) goal of mine, I started working out again. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, though. I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill on a high incline. This eventually evolved into a slow jog with less of an incline. Weights REALLY intimidated me. I had no idea what I was doing and I honestly didn’t take the time to learn. I knew cardio. The sports I participated in growing up were just that. Running. Slow, slow running.

Then Ann Arbor posted about boot camp and I joined sooner than I anticipated. I stopped going to the gym because at the time I thought I should focus on the basics of skating. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I could have mastered things quicker if I had the strength from the start. Live, cross train, and learn!

It was very apparent that nothing was coming naturally, or would come naturally to me. But I was madly in love (and still am very much so) with everything roller derby. Despite all the hurdles, set backs, and struggles I was willing to show up to practice and work for it. Love is crazy like that.

After I passed my skills assessment I started to dip into cross training and changing my eating habits. I started with work out videos and MyFitnessPal. I first picked up Insanity, got through the initial warm up, turned it off and gave up. That’s just the warm up?! How the hell am I supposed to keep going for 30 minutes after that? I reevaluated and ended up starting with Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. I had seen people get great results all over the MyFitnessPal forums. It was just 30 days. 10 days of level 1, 10 of level 2, and 10 of level 3. It seemed less daunting than Insanity. It was still a tough start. I was using 3 pound dumbbells and because I have neglected my arms my entire life, they felt incredibly heavy. Some days the work out felt okay, other days it felt so difficult. Even though it was the same work out 10 days in a row, I never knew how my body was going to respond to it I felt like. If you can get past Jillian talking about looking good in a swimsuit, while not participating in the work out at all, I would recommend this as a cheap intro to cross training. It was a good work out in 27 minutes, scaleable for your fitness level… and if you want to make it more difficult, WEAR YOUR SKATES! That’s right. While getting comfortable in my skates, I wore them on the carpet at home and did 30 Day Shred. You can too.

Eventually I was able to revisit Insanity and it is probably the one work out video series that has made me felt super accomplished every time. I still revisit these videos in my regular training schedule. It’s great to build leg strength, endurance, and ESPECIALLY quick twitch muscles. Which are so important in roller derby! It definitely isn’t up everyone’s alley, but I still find it as a useful training tool today.

When I got a full time desk job and started coaching, sometimes fitting my cardio in was hard. I branched out to another Shaun T workout called T25. T25 has a variety of non-stop cardio circuits for 25 minutes. I’m a huge fan of these, although they don’t kick as much ass or work you as hard as Insanity does by any means.

Unfortunately, those videos cost money (unless you are a pirate– no judgement here), but there are so many incredibly options for free on YouTube as well. I run a cross training facebook group for the team I coach and I am frequently posting videos from FitnessBlender, POPSUGAR Fitness, and LiveStrong as suggested tools. Aside from that you can find so many free work outs on YouTube by just searching keywords like: HIIT, Plyo, Circuit Training, etc.

Here’s the thing– cardio can only get you so far. It will help your endurance. It will help your leg strength… to an extent. It can assist in building your quick twitch muscles. But roller derby has moved away from everyone racing and big holes for jammers to just juke right on through while avoiding hits. We are seeing more and more TIGHT walls where jammers have to push and be ready to explode when they find the tiniest bit of an advantage point. Blockers are having to sit, contort, and dig deep to hold together and prevent scoring passes. Low and slow. Gone are the days where just juking and speed make you a good skater. Now you need to have an expansive tool box and strength.

It was a rude awakening for me when I realized I couldn’t just jump around the outside every time any longer… I now have to push and still have energy and slip around and sprint away as quickly as possible when opportunity arises. This means more than cardio. I found my saving grace in Crossfit. There have been significant changes in every part of my life. I feel pretty cool that I can lift and move heavy ass weights. I tucked my 3 pound weights away in the closet, and my 5 pound weights recently joined them. They aren’t enough any longer. I feel like I found another supportive community outside of roller derby. I also find that even when I’m having a rough time with training, when I lift I am only competing with myself and that means little to no mental stress. Just like Insanity, Crossfit isn’t for everyone. Find SOME way to incorporate weights into your routine. Hell, you can use your skates as weights during a YouTube circuit if you want!

I find having a balance of cardio and weights has been the biggest game changer when it comes to cross training. Keep mixing it up. Keep putting in work. You can only get so far as a natural, you have to work even harder when you are not. Depending on your end goal, you might have to pump up your training and make a more difficult routine than originally planned. My routine is always changing and evolving, just like this incredible sport we love.

In the next, and last post of this series, I will provide an overview of every ingredient it takes as someone who is not a natural to keep succeeding.