Next up on the OWG Blog, Diz tells us about how she came to find Roller Derby, the impact it (we, this amazing team 😉 ) had on her life, and how her body learned to adapt. 

Before I started skating, I was struggling to find balance and energy in my life, sometimes quite literally; for me this is the reality of living with chronic conditions. I felt like I was older than my years (which are somewhat advanced anyway!), I was beginning to lose trust and confidence in my body. When I signed up to roller derby I was looking for a new sport, but this time a team sport as I find it easier to keep motivated when other people are involved. I wasn’t put off by the fact that I hadn’t skated for about 20 years, instead I thought “hell, why not!” (as I’ve gotten to know people, I have realised that a lot of us started with this sentiment!). I was looking forward to doing a contact sport again, I kind of missed the impacts (I know, right?!).

So there I was, on a taster day (encouraged by my friend in OWG), I put skates on, pootled around the track, spoke with a couple of people, felt super on wheels and my friend says to me “the girl can skate”…well, that’s all the positive reinforcement I needed, I was enjoying the feeling of wheels on my feet, and it was confirmed that I wouldn’t be out of place or completely rubbish (hello new glimpses of self esteem and confidence!).  The rookie course was fantastic, I was looked after and taught the basics, and met some wonderful people who I actually felt relaxed around. I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of learning a new way of moving my body, I ached a lot though after the sessions though; there were muscles that were waking up after many years of neglect!

When I joined the main training sessions, I was driven at first by the excitement of a new sport, a new skill, a new group of friends. When I realised that I had some muscle memory from the skating I had done as a kid, I thought this was something I could push myself hard with. The ambition to get “contact ready” gave me something tangible to focus on, something that I could do, that someone else was grading (therefore easier to know how I am actually doing, and not some negatively skewed self perception). The harder I pushed myself, the more I had to learn how to prepare and look after my body. The early months of my derby experience was a steep learning curve, in so many ways. I learned how to fuel so that I didn’t crash as a result of training hard. My legs re-learned balance and strength. My lower back stopped hurting as much, as my core, and especially my glutes got stronger. I was in less pain daily, this was unexpected, this was wonderful!

Working hard at a contact sport has encouraged my body to re-wire some of its pain pathways, I am better at distinguishing pain and injury, and trusting my brain not to turn one into the other. I understand my body’s fuelling requirements so much better now, and use this to prepare for all kind of hard days ahead, not just sport related ones. Yes, I still have my chronic conditions, and yes I still have to limit myself at times, but on these occasions I am more confident in standing up for the needs of my body, and allowing rest to happen, with confidence that, again, I will bounce back, raring to go. Oxford Wheels of Gory has opened these doors for me, the team and the coaches have been fantastic at encouraging and supporting both the Go and the Stop aspects of my skating journey. I am stronger, I feel better (added bonus…I feel younger!). I found my holy grail.