Working out — exercising, cross-training, whatever you want to call it — forces your body to adapt to the demands you put upon it. Think about it this way: when you first started skating, practices felt like long, hellish slogs uphill where everything was on fire. Once you’d been skating for a while and/or passed your minimum skills, the same practice that had you puking your guts out at first now feels relatively easy.
The physical demands of your roller derby practices produced specific adaptations to your body. Just because you can now make it through an entire Fresh Meat practice easily, however, doesn’t mean that you suddenly have the endurance to run a marathon. Yes. You probably have BETTER cardio endurance than you did before, but that adaptation is specific to the cardio demands of a roller derby practice. Not the cardio demands of running a marathon.
Whether you know it or not, that’s proof that you’re living the SAID Principle. SAID stands for Specific Adaption to Imposed Demand and it’s a foundational tenet of exercise training. This principle is also one of the reasons why effective cross-training for roller derby can seem so hard.
Most of us, when we set foot in a gym or into our office “workout room”, have an intention of making a change (adaptation) to our body. The exercises or workout that we choose to do that day (imposed demand) is designed, at least to some degree, to elicit the change we want to see. Cardio bunnies run on treadmills because they have a specific goal. Bros at the gym grunt and throw the weights around because they have a specific goal. However, at it’s most basic, the SAID Principle is “practice makes perfect”. Meaning, if you want to get better at skating, you have to skate.
Does that mean you don’t have to do ANY cross training at all!? No. Not really.
But, this IS why the idea of carryover is so important. Carryover determines how well the workout you’re currently doing, and the adaptations your body is making, will help you reach your fitness goals. (For me, that goal is usually to be a derby badass.) You always want to ask yourself: Does the workout I’m doing have carryover to roller derby?
And here’s the thing, that can be hard to determine.
Lance Armstrong, who holds one of the highest VO2MAX scores ever recorded (which means he has a shockingly low resting heart rate and uses oxygen as efficiently as a robot — an oxygen dependent one, obviously), decided to run marathons after he retired from cycling. He ran his first marathon in under 3 hours (2:59:36), which is great for a novice. Lance Armstrong, who has crazy good cardio endurance and won 7 TOUR DE FRANCE TITLES, ran a marathon in a time typical for a well-trained runner. (For reference, he finished 89th.) How can this be? Cycling as an exercise doesn’t have a high carryover to running as an exercise.
Training for any skill specific sport requires a tremendous amount of skill specific work coupled with cross training exercises that have the highest carryover rate possible to the sport. Is your hour spent running on the treadmill 3 times a week a good carryover to derby? Is your 45 minute grueling HIIT routine? What about your yoga practice?
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