The first rule of roller derby is: roller derby does not keep you fit, you keep fit for roller derby.
Before last month, the last time I put on rollerskates was at a pub crawl around Bognor Regis. My friends and I dressed up as a roller derby team because we'd seen Whip It and thought, man, those girls are cool.
I'd gone to roller discos as a kid, weaving around school halls to S Club 7 and Steps trying to impress literally anyone that was watching, mainly my mum. At one point, I got really good on rollerblades, but as they say in derby: fuck in-line skates.
All I knew about roller derby I'd learned from Whip It: that it was scary, that it looked hella fun, that you could wear cute, kick-ass outfits and make-up like war paint, that you got to pick your own badass name and no one, NO ONE, would mess with a roller derby girl. That maybe there'd be food fights and that you needed to be strong, but not built like an athlete.
I loved everything about roller derby but I just didn't know it existed, or was as big, outside of the movies and America and the 70s. I am not sporty. I hated sport at school. The only exercise I liked was yoga, where I could lie on the floor and was encouraged to take a nap at the end. I am very competitive and I don't like losing, so sport can bring out the worst in me. I once got angry at a boyfriend because he was better than at me at bowls. BOWLS. The softest, loveliest sport of them all.
But one day last year I saw an advert for a London Rockin Rollers game and I went and I fell absolutely head over heels, tattoo your initials on me, let's run away together in love. I saw Jack Attack blitz between every single skater on track and I joined everyone as we high fived the teams afterwards. These girls were my idols. I wanted to be like them; strong and sassy and idgaf and powerful and sexy as hell.
So I signed up for LRR's three-month Fresh Meat course, and it's tough. Right now, it's about learning the basics. How not to use the wall to stop and waking up muscles that you've never used before (my inner thighs, ohmygod). It's learning how to lemon and bend your knees, lead with your tits, for a long time, constantly, while you're skating. It's T-stops and sticky skating and push starts. It's pain.
But it won't always be like this, one girl tells me as she watches me almost fall to the floor because my back hurts so much, and I'm counting on that. Like the This Girl Can ad, you don't need to look like Sporty Spice – you use your shape and size to your advantage. Small and fast? You can be a jammer. Big and heavy? Be a blocker. Never in my life have I been this motivated for a sport. I've never gone to the gym twice, three times a week, every week, and wanted to stay there to build muscle. Never have I wanted muscle. Never have I wanted to be as strong as I want to be, as fast, as agile. I see these girls and I think: I want to be you.
So that's what I'm going to try and do. I'm learning new skills and teaching myself endurance and power. I'm bringing out the punk ass me. I don't like losing. So this time I won't.
"The night that I fell in love with a roller derby queen
around and round, around and round,
the meanest hunk of woman that anybody ever seen"