Being a member of the Rockford Rage roller derby team used to be about getting out, doing a little bumping and looking as good as possible in fishnets. Warmups were whatever you did on your own. Practices were punctuated by frequent smoke breaks. It’s a far cry from the organized dynamic stretching, calisthenics and plyometrics — with not a cigarette pack in sight — that now dominate the first 30 to 40 minutes of the Rage’s three-times-a-week practices.
Being a member of the Rockford Rage roller derby team used to be about getting out, doing a little bumping and looking as good as possible in fishnets.
Warmups were whatever you did on your own. Practices were punctuated by frequent smoke breaks.
It’s a far cry from the organized dynamic stretching, calisthenics and plyometrics — with not a cigarette pack in sight — that now dominate the first 30 to 40 minutes of the Rage’s three-times-a-week practices. Nicotine hits are replaced by gulps of water as skills get honed, and weight and inches get lost.
“I joined in December of 2006, and as I watched my first practice, about halfway through they took a smoke break,” said SwedishAmerican Health System exercise physiologist Tanya Eikstadt, better known as “Sinful Sally” to the Rage’s fans. “To be honest, I raised a stink. I said we needed to be in shape if we wanted to compete and I said, ‘exercise is my job, and I’ve worked as a personal trainer. Let me doing something about this.’ ”
As the competition they faced improved, Eikstadt’s teammates took her offer to heart and she developed a program.
Among Eikstadt’s biggest supporters is Jan Fosse, who goes by the skate name Sleezecake, who has shed 40 pounds.
“We’ve really come a long way,” Eikstadt said. “We’ve been working on strengthening and calisthenics for a long time, and now we’re in a dynamic stretching program so we’re not having to waste a lot of time stretching after we warm up. It’s all kind of included in one big piece.
“A lot of leagues are asking us to play, and if we had been invited to skate against them three years ago, there is no way we would have been able to compete. Many of these girls have been skating a lot longer than we have and it’s really nice now to say that we’re in decent shape. We still have a ways to go, but we’re actually able to run with the big dogs.”
Amy Brach, a quality-control technician for a ready-mix cement supplier who skates as “Eve Almind,” said she thought the Rage worked hard when she joined up last August, “but progressively, it has gotten more intense as we’re playing more and more serious teams. It seems that we’re putting more on ourselves to learn, to get more exercise and to be more fit with more endurance so we can be more competitive.”
Jennifer Sharos, a generator operator at the Byron nuclear power station whose skate name is “Chyna Syndrome,” welcomed the workout changes.
“I got into this, really, for the sporting aspect of it,” Sharos said. “I used to dance, I used to do volleyball, I used to do softball and so I wanted a sport that I could continue doing.
“I haven’t been in this great of shape since I was dancing competitively in high school and college, and I’ve really had a lot more fun with this. I know, for a lot of the girls, this is just the greatest weight loss thing they have ever done because it’s hot in here, and you’re working up a sweat. But you’re having fun doing it.”
Even though the workouts are intense, Eikstadt said the team has another goal to keep them motivated.
“There is a national Women’s Flat Track Derby Association that we are applying to get into. They hold regionals and nationals and have rankings throughout the country. We want to be a part of that.
“We have a lot of girls, who when they first started, had never been out for a sport. When the league first started, it was all about getting dressed up and having a lot of fun. We still do that but now the girls are actually seeing strength gains, weight loss, you name it. And they’re starting to incorporate fitness into their daily lives and they want more.”
Mike DeDoncker can be reached at (815) 987-1382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.