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Rollergirls require speed and agility to play both offense and defense at once. Terminal City Rollergirl Andi Struction tells us how it's done
Before a bout, Terminal City Rollergirl Andi Struction goes for complex carbs and plyometrics
Roller derby has always been about entertainment, but as the game gets faster, more demanding, and more popular, its players have turned more of their focus toward fitness – hockey-style.
Vancouver’s Terminal City Roller Girls are using techniques used by NHL players to propel themselves toward the top of their league. And they’re working. The All-Stars team recently made the biggest regional rankings jump in Women’s Flat Track Derby Association history (23rd to 16th in the West).
“When we first started in 2006, it was very much a hobby,” says Terminal City Rollergirl Andi Struction, left (Andrea Fraser-Winsby to her mom), about how she and her fellow rollergirls stay in fighting shape. “Any girl from any background of any size or shape could show up and play. But as time has gone on it’s gotten more competitive and now we have tryouts.” Struction has always been interested in sports and fitness as well as dance, “so none of this is new to me,” she says of the physical demands of the sport.
An ideal rollergirl workout concentrates on lower body strength for the skating, much of which is in performed in a crouched position. “I’ve been doing a lot more running,” Struction says. “It’s the easiest and best way for lower body and cardio fitness. It takes care of so many things.”
Struction says the rollergirls have taken some cues from hockey players by concentrating on plyometric exercises. These target the muscles that are essential for speed and the ability to stop and start on a dime. “And interval training has been helpful in staying in shape too,” she says.
As for fuel, she says that the diet description of “meat and cocktails” claimed on the Andi Struction TCRG website bio isn’t entirely accurate.
“I have a sweet tooth, but in the week leading up to a bout I cut down on all that business – the desserts and white flour. The night before, we all get together to load up on complex carbs – lots of vegetables, not pasta. It’s really just an excuse to eat some food together. And I’m bad for drinking water so I concentrate on that.”
After a bout, the rollergirls break out the beer and burgers. In the days following, the battered and bruised might seek out the help of an acupuncturist, or go for a Shiatsu massage. “People are using less North American medicine,” says Struction. “We do rely heavily on physical therapists. Recovering from injury is very important.”
It’s a rough sport, but injuries happen more often in practice than in bouts, says Struction. “It’s about the same risk as playing high-level hockey. You do start getting pretty banged up, though.”
Images courtesy Bob Ayers
On June 9, The Terminal City Rollergirl All-Stars take on Seattle’s Rat City All-Stars to see which city has the baddest, maddest, sassiest rollergirls in town. The clash at the Minoru Arena in Richmond is a rare chance for Vancouverites to see this fast-rising team at home, since most of the All-Stars’ games are out-of-town. And Vancouver has a pretty good chance of coming out on top.
There might not be any actual injuries, but “someone’s going to at least get a good bruise or twist,” says Struction, who’ll skate for the TCRG house team Faster Pussycats in the first bout.
Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 advance. Tickets for kids five and over are $10; children five and under get in free. Doors open at 5, first whistle at 6.