Many times in this blog, I’ve mentioned my dual love of roller derby and hardstyle kettlebell training, but I’ve never really dissected why I think the two are a good fit.
What does StrongFirst kettlebell training have in common with Roller Derby?
Both celebrate (really) strong women.
“At StrongFirst, we know what women are capable of. The bar is not set low for men, and it certainly isn’t for women, either. Why strive to be strong as hell? Because being physically strong is incredibly liberating, very healthy, and immensely empowering.” -Laura Nepodal, SFG
A great many derby skaters get interested in the sport because it gives us a chance to be strong – stronger than we ever thought possible in some cases. Derby gives us incredibly strong female icons to look up to in the sport. Skaters (especially those who don’t come from a sports background) have their eyes opened to the incredible feats that they could achieve. StrongFirst has a ton of super-strong female instructors, and encourages them to always be pushing the bar of accomplishment. Strength does make a difference in your life – especially if you’re female. It changes way you carry yourself, and molds what you believe yourself capable of. Being a physically strong-ass woman really does help you become an all-around strong-ass woman.
Both meet you where you’re at, and encourage you to practice.
For the most part, roller derby leagues have various skill level groups, and room for any skater to progress. It’s not an all-or-nothing, you’ve got it or you don’t mentality – it’s an environment where if you put in the work, you’ll improve. If you come to practice and have an open mind, you’ll get there (wherever there is for you) eventually. StrongFirst is the same – through measured practice, you become physically stronger than you believe you can. When I began training for my SFG snatch test (100 kettlebell snatches in 5 minutes), I could barely get an 8kg bell up in the air, much less for reps. I thought, ‘there’s no way I will ever pass.’ 12 months later, nailed it. Patience and practice are the cornerstones of skill – whether you’re on skates or not.
Both foster community.
There are derby leagues all over the world. So, no matter where you travel to, you’ll always have a practice to drop in on and learning to share with your derby sisters. Tournaments feel like family reunions (after you’re finished playing each other) and there’s a sense that we’re all in this together. As an SFG, I can reach out to my strength community for advice, coaching, or a gym to train at when I’m on the road. In our wired world, bonds are often fleeting, and we say we’ll keep in touch more than we do – these are two communities that actually walk the talk.
Both encourage service, respect, and grace.
Derby leagues don’t run without service, both within the league and in the community. We all make a priority of representing the sport well in our neighbourhoods and representing our league well in the derby-verse, because without fans to watch, other teams to bout, and a network of volunteers to keep things running a league cannot stay afloat. Derby is still a small sport (comparatively) and we all do our best to contribute to its positive growth. Leagues that are successful and established often offer guidance to newer leagues, big superstars still take the time to respond personally to fans. We know that without teamwork, respect, and the support of many, we’re just jerks skating around in an empty arena.
“The mightier the rice becomes, the more it bows its head.” – The Blue-Eyed Samurai
Following my SFG certification, I was both proud and humbled. I was proud of myself and my fellow Toronto SFG participants for pushing ourselves and reaching new heights. And I was humbled by the depth of knowledge and passion that I encountered from every single person I met. StrongFirst emphasized that being a beast in the gym is nothing if you’re beastly in the rest of your life – that you must conduct yourself with quiet professionalism and be both a student and teacher of strength.
“Really strong people have class. They never bully the weak. Do not give the noble pursuit of strength a bad name by acting like a jack. Let your conduct inspire the weak to be strong. -Pavel Tstatsouline, Chairman of StrongFirst
Both in derby and training, how you carry your strength, your skill, and your self matters.
Both give you a great-looking backside.
Yes, they do.
Additionally, kettlebell training is a fantastic, efficient, and effective modality to get your posterior chain firing. Which is often precisely what derby girls need. You can take a kettlebell anywhere, even on a derby roadtrip. Kettlebell training teaches you to focus on what’s important and to streamline your form. When I swing or snatch a kettlebell, all I focus on is what my body is doing in space, when I need to be tense and when I need to relax – kind of like when I need to clear an opposing player. When I’m executing a heavy lift, I think about where I need to generate tension and how I can root into the ground – kind of like pushing through a wall of blockers. StrongFirst teaches strength as a skill, something we are all capable of rather than something you have or don’t have. If you’re derby girl trying to find a cross-training program that works for you, reach out to a local SFG and see if kettlebells are a good fit for you.
If you’re an SFG, go see a derby game. The athleticism and strong-ass women will astound you. Bring your business cards.
For more info about how you too can fall in love with kettlebells, visit stongfirst.com