Saturday, 24 May 2014

Week 46: Whip It Good!

Yeah, it is a bit of a jump from Week 43! I had to miss a few sessions as I was moving house and I got a new job! All excellent, but it all happened in the space of 2 weeks so everything was a bit manic! Needless to say, I was so pleased to be back on skates! It was a little weird, but it was great. :)

Our first skill of the day was pushes. I have never actually done pushes but they covered them the week before, so I was in good hands. They are exactly as they sound. You skate up behind someone, get nice and close, and then give you them a good steady push which should result in them picking up speed, and you coming to a stop. The initial increase in speed took me by surprise, but I soon got used to it. Derby stance is definitely key, though, as occasionally I would lose my balance a little bit and wobble before skating out of the push. I also never knew if I was pushing enough. I came to a stop, and the person I was pushing built up speed, but it never felt like I was actually putting any kind of force into it. It was very frustrating but I was reassured that I was pushing.
Next we moved on to whips. These are probably the most famous "move" in derby, thanks to the film Whip It! and due to the fact that it looks super awesome when carried out well (especially leg whips! Although, they really are only for show!) First off, we started with outside whips. These are used when your jammer is looking pretty knackered, there is a nice gap, and you can give her that extra force to help get her through the pack. They're really effective but I found them so hard to do! Taking a whip is the easiest, most fun bit. Your partner sticks out her arm, offering to you, you grab hold with your right hand, pull on it and then use her force to pick up speed. And you pick up a lot of speed. It's great! However, giving is not as fun or easy. You need to hug that inside line, yet keep an eye out that you're not going to cut track. You then have to offer your right arm, keep a fist so as not to hold on to your skater (it's up to them to decide when to let go), then go into a lunge style stance so as to not trip up your partner, and then you use your force to whip them round (using all your core muscles, not just your arms), creating a small plough stop at the end that should bring you to a stop. My issue was the same with the pushes. I didn't feel like I was doing anything! I felt like I wasn't using any of my muscles, and my lunge stance was awful. I have really long legs, so I have to keep them in, but I couldn't manage it.

It turned out a lot of people had this issue, so we had a weird little paceline where we ended up practising the correct stance and doing slo-mo whips. It was really helpful but it must have looked so bizarre to an outsider! After doing this for a while and giving outside whips another go, we moved onto inside whips and were introduced to the "boob tray" or "boob shelf".
Inside whips are used when your on the inside line, your jammer needs to get through, and you're essentially saying "Here, take my spot" and giving them a helping hand. Essentially, to give an inside whip, you have to wrap your right arm across your body quite tightly. Kind of like making a tray or shelf for your boobs. If you're receiving, you skate up behind your partner, grab their arm, and then step over their leg and skate off. If you've giving, you offer your boob tray, keeping a fist, and then use your whole body to help them through. Unfortunately, when I was giving, I kept grabbing hold of my partner, rather than offering a fist, and, again, I still felt like I wasn't even helping! When I was receiving, I kept grabbing their hand, rather than their arm, so my wrist guard kept digging in. Whips may look awesome, but they're so hard!

After whips, we had a quick go at toe-stop runs. I am terrified of toestop runs. It makes absolutely no sense to put all your faith in a tiny bit of rubber. I'm also scared that I'll fall either flat on my face, or flat on my arse. I'm not gonna look at my feet while I'm running so I'm scared I'm going to over-shoot it, miss the toe stop completely and break my ankle, or I'm going to undershoot it, land on my wheels and fall backwards. There was a quick demo and then speed laps were done. I completely wimped out of that and pottered about in the middle of the track. I was told that you should lean more forward than back, so at least you can fall on your knees, and that the lower you get the easier it is. I tried it for a little bit, but I still found it scary.
It was then our turn to move off to track and make our way to the end. Here we started to work on duck runs. I remembered duck runs from Level 1 training ages ago, and remembered enjoying it. It makes more sense to keep all four wheels on the ground, to me, than relying on your toe stops. I also read an article about leagues in America that refuse to use toe stops and so the duck run is their choice of acceleration. It's also a common technique used by speed skaters who don't have toe stops to reduce their weight. Unfortunately, due to the goofy lookingness of them, they received a lot of mocking this session. You start with your feet in a V, almost like position one in ballet, and then push out, creating friction with your wheels and using this friction to push yourself forward. You're running, not skating. I love doing them and find them a lot more comfortable than toe stop runs, but there was a lot of laughing which made me feel a little bad for duck runs.

We then moved on to practice skills like transitions and stepping. I even got to demonstrate 180 degree knee slides, which I haven't done for ages. We learnt them really early on in Level 1 but I so wanted to see if I could still do them so I offered to demonstrate and totally nailed it! I was so chuffed! Maybe a little too cocky, though, because after a few more, I ended up pulling a muscle in my thigh. I tried to skate through it, but knee slides were out of the question, so I ended the session being taught derby stops (where you transition to backwards skating and then stop on your toe stops. It looks awesome. If only I was good at transitions...) and I had another little go at walking on my toe stops and then I called it a day and stretched.
I didn't have my usual derby high at the end of the session, though. I felt like I hadn't really achieved anything. I learnt some new stuff, but I wasn't that great at it, and I didn't really have a breakthrough with anything. Admittedly, this doesn't happen every week with derby and I should be happy that I got to skate, learnt new things, demonstrated an awesome 180 degree knee slide, and was back at derby after 2 week! Sometimes, though, it is hard to remind yourself of these things at the time.

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