How Roller Derby Taught Me To Listen To My Body

Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Jess Carlson.

The following post is only one woman’s experience of Roller Derby, and does not in any way represent the sport as a whole. It is not written with the intent to slam the sport, or offend or dishearten any Derby girls or fans.

“Go inside and listen to your body, because your body will never lie to you. Your mind will play tricks, but the way you feel in your heart, in your guts, is the truth.”

~ Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

When you love someone you listen to them. You take in their thoughts and feelings and you give them consideration when you need to do something, take an action, or make a change in your relationship. Sadly, we don’t extend this to our own bodies most of the time.

We’re taught to “suck it up”, “pain is weakness leaving the body”, “push through the pain”, and “feel the burn”. If you’ve ever played sports you know this all too well.  

A few years ago, I was taking private skate training to begin playing roller derby when the next season started. I had two leagues I was talking to about playing. Before making a decision about a team I opted to take some private training so I could relearn how to skate {I hadn’t been on skates since I was probably 12} and also so I could get a feel for what derby skating would be like. It’s completely different, by the way, and really a strain on the body. If you play derby I have the utmost respect for you!

The coach of one of the teams I was interested in invited me to come watch a practice to see how the team functioned from the inside, an invitation I was very happy to take him up on. I sat at the back of the rink space and watched the girls do drills, practice falls, and the illusive blink-and-you-might-miss-it Passing Of The Star, where the point scoring skater, the Jammer, switches helmet covers with the main defensive skater, the Pivot, while skating, to switch positions temporarily.

Pi c3

During one of the star passing practices the Pivot and Jammer fumbled their pass. This caused a pile up on the track and one of the other skaters got her skate stuck on another girl’s skate and did an almost full body flip… except one leg was stuck when she was falling. It was painful to watch and she clearly hurt her knee and ankle.

Most of the skaters stopped but the practice jam was still going. A few girls tried to help their fallen teammate off the track but the coach threw his baseball hat he was wearing, began jumping up and down screaming “KEEP GOING!! DON’T STOP!!” I couldn’t tell if he was yelling at the girl who fell or the girls who stopped to help.  

He was yelling at the girl who fell. He walked over to her as she tried to crawl her way off the track and he began cursing at her, telling her to get back up and finish the jam. She was crying, clearly in a lot of pain, and hardly able to stand, never mind skate. She ended up siting out the rest of the practice but not without getting multiple earfuls of shit talk from her coach about being weak.  

This was my introduction to the harshness of derby training. The irony was what happened to me two weeks later at my own private practice.

I can’t backward skate very well at all, which is a problem because it’s critical for derby. I was with my teacher practicing and I was set to spend a full 30 minutes, with a few breaks, just backward skating the track. I managed to do 10 minutes before I got one skate caught on my other skate, tripping myself. When I fell, I twisted my left ankle in a way that I didn’t know was even possible. I heard a loud pop that told me I was done with practice for the day.

My teacher thought otherwise. He told me to ice it for five minutes with my skate on and then go back. As the five minutes came to an end I could feel the throbbing only getting worse. When he came to get me back on the track, I told him I was done for the day and I was going to take off my gear and head home. He told me if I did that not to come back for my next session because we were done – I clearly didn’t have what it took to play derby.

Thus my derby playing career ended before it began. Instead, I served as a non-skating official  for a year or so. I had to quit officiating because all the standing on concrete at the bouts and practices caused my ankle to get worse. After 24 MRIs and four sets of x-rays, I was diagnosed with nerve damage that three years later causes my left leg and hip to randomly go numb.  

I listened to my body and knew it was time to call it quits, despite my deep desire to be part of  roller derby. Today, I have a very different relationship with my body and have learned to accept the limitations that I have.  

I accept that, when I’m tired, I need to sleep, even if it’s a weird time of day or I already slept for eight hours. I eat when I’m hungry and I don’t if I’m not. Most of all, I’ve learned to accept that my body is never going to be a size four because that’s just not what it wants no matter how much I diet or exercise.

When I listen to my body I’m in harmony, but when I listen to my Ego instead, everything goes haywire.    

When you’re feeling like something isn’t right with your body, you have to listen.

Your body will always tell you what to do to make it better.

Your body is an amazing vehicle that transforms and changes on a daily basis, and it has amazing self-healing power deep within it, but only if we allow it the time to do it’s thing and we listen to what it’s telling us.

Here’s the simple process to really love your body by listening:

Feel How You Feel

Breathe deep, go slow, and be in the moment. Feel the pain, feel the stress, feel the weakness… or feel the lightness, the joy, and the energy!

Whatever you’re feeling, good or bad, just be in the moment and really feel it without trying to push through or dull the feeling. What does the feeling say to you intuitively? What does your body want next?

Accept The Messages

Hard as this is, learn to not judge that first instinctual answer your body gives you. Just feel it and accept it.

Your Ego is what does the judging but your message from your body comes from a higher source that needs your attention.

Be Open + Trust Your Body

Your body always knows what you need better than do you. If your body is telling you that you need rest, then rest. If it’s telling you you need to go for a run, go for a run.  

This doesn’t mean to drop all healthy routines, but to be open to changes and always remain fluid and trusting in what your body tells you it needs.


Jess Carlson - Bio picJess is a spirit-centered intuitive coach, reader, and lightworker. She has studied spirituality, magic, hoodoo and shamanism for 25 years and loves using her spiritual gifts and knowledge to help people shift from just surviving to happily thriving. Jess can usually be found tinkering in Photoshop, reading a book or painting, all usually done while listening to Dead Can Dance or The Cocteau Twins.

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