Getting fit and falling in love with roller derby along the way
WHEN CATHERINE DWYER WANTED TO GET FITTER, ROLLER DERBY HELPED HER ACHIEVE HER GOALS – AND FIND A SPORT SHE LOVED IN THE PROCESS
‘In my primary school years, I was pretty active. I grew up in northern Victoria and in small towns you played sport because there wasn’t much else to do for entertainment. I tried netball, tennis and badminton. During high school I did taekwondo for a few years, but I never stuck to anything.
After high school I worked as a retail manager. I was a relatively average weight but when I met my boyfriend and we were together for five years, I gradually put on weight. I wasn’t eating well and I wasn’t doing any physical activity. I worked 10 or 12-hour days and by the time I arrived home I was too tired to cook, so I’d buy KFC or Mcdonald’s.
I was sick of how I looked. I was a size 14 to 16 – not hugely overweight but I felt uncomfortable in my clothes. My boyfriend would buy me lollies to cheer me up!
When I tried to go for a run I could only manage a couple of hundred metres. That was a wake-up call - I realised how unfit I was. But I couldn’t find a way to get fit that I enjoyed… until I found roller derby.
When I was about five I tried on my sister’s old roller skates and I wanted to roller skate from then. Later I’d see roller derby on American TV shows and it always looked exciting. I remember seeing a show like NCIS and watching a scene where a woman was in a roller derby team and she was ‘jamming’ – skating fast and ducking and weaving. The speed and the sensation of gliding just looked like fun.
About seven years ago I was visiting my family for a few weeks and saw a poster advertising roller derby in the local shopping centre. I called the number and the next weekend I joined about 30 other women for my first training session. Most of the women already had their skates and one of the girls let me borrow hers. I put them on and I was in love. The first game I played was a fundraiser. I didn’t know anyone on my team and I was incredibly nervous. There was a moment when I thought ‘What am I doing here?’ But it was a lot of fun – although it finished a few minutes early because someone put a hole in the floor! I’ve never seen that before.
I filled in for different teams and got a lot of experience doing that. I’d go to boot camps and practice games; I played as often as I could. I started off training twice a week – a session goes for about two hours. Now I live in Melbourne I’m with the Kingston City Rollers and I train three times a week. I’m a jammer or point scorer
– I fight through the pack and there’s a lot of speed, agility and endurance required. In 2015 I played in my first Grand Final. Growing up I never thought I’d play in a Grand Final or win a trophy. That was a massive highlight.
The sport is hard work but because I love skating, it doesn’t feel like a chore and I didn’t even notice I was building my fitness. But gradually I could do things more easily, like run. I can run 8km now and further if I want to. I also do a lot of plyometric work – high-intensity exercise that builds stronger core and leg muscles. I’ve had no major injuries, just some bruises and a few sprained ankles.
I cut out a lot of the junk food. Most mornings I have eggs and I love tuna salads, lamb and stir-fried vegetables and healthy soups that I make myself. I snack on dark chocolate, nuts or carrot sticks with hummus. If I need something quick, I have a chai protein drink. I do have a sweet tooth but I make low-carb brownies or whizz frozen strawberries, stevia and lemon juice in a Nutribullet – it tastes like sorbet.
I’m now a size 8/10. I enjoy shopping and buying clothes and feel much better about myself. I’m a lot more confident than I was.
It can be hard to start a new sport when you lack confidence and get nervous. That was me. But when you persevere there are so many benefits. Next on my list is dancing and parkour – roller derby is just the start…
one of the girls let me borrow her skates. I put them on and I was in love It’s hard work but because I love skating, it doesn’t feel like a chore