You Have To Know How Much You Need To Skate If You Want To Know How Much You Need To Cross Train

Sorry about the World’s Longest Title, but before we can talk about cross training for roller derby, we need to talk about regular training for roller derby.

The kind that you do with your skates on, in the rink, on the track, at practice. “At practice” is a key element to this. Yes. Session skate is a great place to get some extra wheel time in, but it’s probably not going to be the place that challenges you enough to make you better. At least not to the degree that you want.

There’s prevailing wisdom going around roller derby that goes something like this:

“ If you’re practicing twice a week, you are maintaining your skate skills.

If you’re practicing 3 or more times a week — you’re improving.

If you’re practice 1 or fewer times a week — you’re losing.”

This is an oversimplification, but it’s actually pretty helpful for determining how much sport specific work (i.e. practice time) you should be participating in each week dependent upon where you are with your skating abilities.

In order to determine your cross training routine, you have to determine your regular training routine first.

This next bit might be a tad unpopular, but hear me out.

If you’re a new skater, you should be attending AS MANY PRACTICES AS POSSIBLE. Period. For real.

If your team/league offers practices every day: Go. To. Them. The things that you need to get better at in order to be an effective member of your team (and a decent skater) are things that need to be learned on-skates. THINK: moving in a wall, track awareness, listening/communicating with your team, locking in your form, and automating your skills.

You will need to do some off-skates cross training as well, but this needs to be focused mainly on helping your body keep up with the new demands you are putting it through, avoiding the typical imbalances of a  derby skater, and staying injury-free.


Particularly the complex skills like transitions, positional blocking, and effective plow stops. This, in particular, is an unpopular view. That means if you’ve been skating for 3 years, but still legitimately struggle to coast on one leg, plow stop completely, and/or complete a full and safe transition, you are a new skater. Go to practice.

If you’re an intermediate skater, you should be attending as many practices as possible with an eye toward branching out into serious cross training. The things that you need, to continue a trajectory of improvement, are a combination of real-life scenarios (like scrimmages or team drills) and off-skates work that will get you stronger and sturdier.

INTERMEDIATE SKATERS are masters of their minimum skate skills and have enough track awareness to start anticipating situations rather than simply reacting to them. Intermediate skaters don’t necessarily need to be huge communicators — that comes later — but they should be able to see, as Bobby Fischer put it, “5 moves ahead”. Okay, maybe 2 or 3 moves ahead.

If you’re an advanced skater, you should be attending as many practices as possible where you are working on higher level skills that are required for higher level play.

This may sound elitist, but don’t kill yourself going to 2 additional fresh meat practices per week. Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs to work on their basics, but you’ll find that the bang for your buck out of those 2-4 hours is minimal, at best. Kill yourself at your high level specific practices and then cross train like a mofo. You need to lock in your higher level skills and build on your strength and power.

ADVANCED SKATERS have mastered all of their minimum skate skills, have a high level of track awareness, and are typically running the show out on the track. These skaters also have a high number of advanced skills automated (like hockey stops, apex jumps, etc.) and are – usually – on their league’s version of an A-team.

KILL YOURSELF is metaphorical. Please don’t kill yourself.

A lot of the above categories are also dependent upon what type of league/team you skate for and what type of skater you are on that league/team.

Not every league can offer advanced skaters room to grow. It’s unfortunate, but true. If you are an advanced skater, you may find that your opportunities for on-skates growth are minimal because you are in a small league and are always practicing with new skaters that need to move more slowly. If this is the case for you, you have two options: move somewhere bigger with more high level skating opportunities or get your growth primarily through individual skating sessions and cross training.

Let’s recap:

New Skater All. Of. Them.



Some Strength

Intermediate Skater A lot. Especially those focused on scenarios and teamwork. Strength


Advanced Skater Highest Level Practices

Others as desired




In practice that might look like this:

In a league where there are 4 practices per week, a new skater should be attending 4 practices per week as often as possible.

An intermediate skater will likely want to attend 3, but this can be determined by what specific practices are held on each practice day.

An advanced skater will likely attend 2-3, again determined by the specific practice held on each day.

(For example, in a league where 1 day is basics, 1 day is endurance, and 2 days are team practices, intermediate and advanced skaters want to prioritize the 2 team practices. The intermediate skater would choose a 3rd practice based on their need — or alternate between the other 2. The advanced skater COULD choose a 3rd practice or get in an additional day of cross training. Or any combination thereof.)

Since we’re all here to play roller derby (or most of us are, I assume), it’s important to determine your cross training schedule around the base number of practices required by your league, but also the base number of practices YOU should be doing to maximize your effectiveness as a skater.

Pull out a calendar that shows the whole month at a glance. Write down all the practices that you need to attend and voila — you’ve just created the beginning of your Intelligent Cross Training schedule. Now that you have your base schedule, you can begin creating a rough draft of your cross training plan by using a little thing called “carryover”.

Want more?

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About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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