Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Eternal Struggle with Derby

Sometimes I see a really great post on Facebook and I ask the author to let me repost it on my blog. I think a lot of people who play derby need to read posts like this every once in a while. This lady has a lot of information to pass along, and you can read all about her in her bio. 

Barbara "Queen B" Dolan, one of the original members of the Windy City Rollers in 2004, created the new market category of Fitness Skating when she founded Derby Lite, LLC in 2007.  With over 25 weekly classes nationwide, Derby Lite brings the friends, fun & fitness of roller derby to women 18-75 by teaching them to skate and providing a new way to exercise that’s never boring.  Queen B, 51, lives in Oak Park, Illinois with her partner Ben, their sons Levi, 15, and Drew, 12, dog Fido, cat Francey Pants (yes, named after *that Francey Pants), and an endless parade of foster kittens.

Barbara "Queen B" Dolan, President & Founder, Derby Lite, LLC. Robyn Davis photographer
Having been in derby for over 10 years and a member of this [the Derby Over 40 Facebook] group since its inception, one repeating theme I see is "I'm hurt/tired/disgruntled but I don't want to quit."  

Photo by Brigette Supernova
First, a little brain lesson:  Roller Derby - especially all the awesome stuff you experience when first joining - is creating new neural pathways in your brain.  They're fast, smooth, new roads directly to your pleasure centers.  Dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin are flowing through your system on a regular basis.  It’s like falling in love!  And when accompanied by adrenaline, experiences are even more permanently and vividly imprinted on your brain… that's not a dirt road you've forged, that's a monorail! 

In simple terms:  We're addicts.  One part of our brain has learned that derby makes us feel gooooood.  "DON'T STOP!"  But over time, for most of us, there's another part (logic? reason? fear? menopause? finances?) that says, "This might be a good time to stop."  Care to guess which part is usually affected by traumatic brain impact?  The voice of reason.  (But that’s beside the point.)

Changing strong behavioral pathways is hard.  Just *thinking* about changing them is hard – our brain can resist its own thoughts (ponder that for a moment).  But the good news is humans can use tools – including advice from peers, like this group – that improve our reasoning abilities.  The ability to make choices contrary to what might be the easiest/most fun/instantly gratifying makes us human.  Hooray for the evolved brain!

And that’s the thing:  There doesn’t need to be an existing road for you to head that way.  The brain creates new pathways merely by thinking/doing something enough.  Derby was an unknown to your brain – a destination on the other side of a dense forest – until you started going there enough that the road changed from a two-rut dirt path to your sexy sleek monorail.  Even the stink of pads and the bruises on your body triggered a little zip along that line to the part of your brain that registers rewards.

But at some point, for many people, those stinky pads, bruises, aches & pains, money constraints, relationship issues… all the stuff that’s not *really rewarding, start to add up.  Think of them as stops along your monorail.  The train keeps traveling that road but it’s not a smooth trip anymore.  Some of those stops start creating their own new roads because you’re spending so much time there.  The original destination – our derby brain, yelling “DON’T STOP!” – remains loud… it got used to the dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin and adrenaline and wants more (hello derby addict).  But “This might be a good time to stop” gets louder every day.

The good news is:  You were able to forge new pathways in your brain when you started derby... you can forge new ones again.

The first step is acknowledging that the stops along your pleasure train are starting to make the ride less enjoyable.  That’s usually what prompts these posts. 

The next step is deciding what pleasure you’re still getting from your derby destination.  Is it the challenge of strategy?  The power of impact blocking?  The social connections?  Make a list.
And then list the things that are not working for you:  Late bedtimes (because you have to work early), bad diet (because you have no time to shop/prepare/eat), money woes (because you’re expected to socialize and travel, or have big medical bills from a serious injury), or pain.  Sometimes just the daily ache-o-meter is enough to say ENOUGH.

And then start listing your options.  People on this board always have great suggestions for what we can do after we are no longer fully in love with the original derby destination.

In my case, I loved the women I skated with.  I loved how fit and strong my body was, and I loved getting out of the house and doing something just for ME when I had a five- and two-year old at home.  Over time, I didn’t love the injuries I was seeing happen to my teammates and I didn’t love the time obligation.  And the ache-o-meter on my 42-year old body (which had never participated in a sport before) was stuck in the red zone.  I knew I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing, but in 2006 there weren’t many options for somebody who wanted to keep skating but not be on a competitive team or go in endless circles at a roller rink.  So I forged my own road.  I created Derby Lite as a purely selfish means to keep doing something I loved, but with a format that works for me.  Turns out, it works for lots of other ladies, too… and what started as a way for me to keep skating, stay fit and spend time with awesome women became a business.  (What’s that about ‘do what you love’?)
[Sidebar:  I always feel a little advertisey when somebody posts about their stop/don’t stop conundrum and I mention Derby Lite.  It’s as much about sharing the love of what we’re doing as giving you another option that might fit your needs better, and providing the link makes it easier for those who don’t know what DL is, to find out.  I try not to be obnoxious about it.]

So – after you’ve figured out what you do love, what you don’t love, and what options there are to align the two – map a new road.  Choose a new destination – even if it’s on the other side of a dense forest – and start heading there. 

Change your thinking and you change your brain pathways.  It doesn’t always happen fast, but you can do it.  You can transition away from that which no longer serves you.  Today, at the glimmer of autumnal equinox, we have the perfect time for this reflection.  You’ve sown all summer and now it’s time to harvest.

And tell your brain to pipe down.  YOU’LL be the boss of you, thankyouverymuch.

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