Brawlstars skaters Strawberries 'n' Scream and Slamlet, looking to crosstrain and build strength in the off-season, began weightlifting and last month competed in their first strongwoman contest. In this interview, they talk about their journey so far.
When did you start lifting weights?
Scream: I started training at HALE Strength and Shape in July 2013.
Slamlet: I attended my first session at HALE Strength and Shape in July 2014.
Scream: I wanted to get better at derby! Our team went to the midwest Brewhaha the May before I started and watching the girls who obviously did cross training kick butt on the track inspired me to find something. Someone suggested strength training and I found HALE so I went to try it out and loved it!
Slamlet: Scream dragged my skeptical self along! Before derby, I NEVER used to exercise. I just hated doing it, so I didn’t. Derby was the thing that got me being active and I wanted to cross-train to get better at derby. I never dreamed I’d find an off-skates exercise that I loved, but I was hooked after my very first session. I found myself texting Scream on rest days saying, “UGH. I wish we were lifting today!” I will never be able to thank Scream enough for demanding that I give it a try! Game changer.
What do you like about lifting?
Scream: I like the challenge. Every workout challenges me, and it’s fun! If I could deadlift every day I would.
Slamlet: I feel very accomplished when I lift. You get to work with weights that lots of people would find intimidating. When you succeed, especially when it’s a challenge to get there, it’s such a high. You also get to see your progress--there is nothing better than finding that you can lift heavier things than the month/week/etc. before! Not to mention that it’s very cathartic--I love lifting and letting the stress from other things in life melt away.
What interested you in being part of the strongwoman competition?
Scream: I watched a few girls from my gym compete last summer and after that I decided I wanted to try it.
Slamlet: When Scream first told me that she wanted to compete in a strongwoman competition, I simply didn’t see the appeal. Sure, I was enjoying lifting, but why compete? Then she showed me the video footage of the women she knew who competed over the summer. I found myself cheering out loud for them as I watched them push themselves, and I suddenly thought, “Oh. I really want to do this.” Surprise!
What was your training regimen like? Did you ever have to choose between derby and strongwoman?
Scream: I did my regular strength training 3 times a week plus strongwoman training 2 times a week. We started training for the competition in December. The strongwoman training consisted of working with the specific implements for the competition, we’d work with a few different ones at each training session. Luckily the majority of the training happened during our off season so I didn’t need to choose between the two. I actually found that I skated better on days that trained for strong woman.
Slamlet: I also attended strength training and strongwoman training every week in preparation. Learning to use the new equipment was really interesting and a fun challenge. Since training was in the morning or afternoon, it almost never conflicted with derby. We were almost always able to schedule the two around each other.
What was the strongwoman experience like?
Scream: When I first got there I was really intimidated. We were lucky to have our trainers there with us to help us through it. Once we finished the first event I felt way more comfortable and remembered that this was fun!
Slamlet: I was incredibly nervous when we first arrived at the event. I had practiced all of the events during training, but now there was a big crowd watching and all of the equipment was just slightly different from what we had practiced with. My nerves got the best of me during the first event, but I was able to shake them off after that and had fun trying my hardest in each event.
Would you compete again?
Slamlet: Absolutely! Especially because now I feel like I know what to expect on the day of the competition.
Have you seen a change in your derby skating as a result of this cross training?
Scream: My skating feels so much better since I started cross training, I’m definitely a stronger blocker and jamming isn’t so terrible anymore.
Slamlet: I definitely feel more solid on the track. When blocking, I feel better able to stand my ground and resist getting moved around. When jamming, I feel like I could get hit with a freight train and still stay on my feet 90% of the time. Also, since my arms are stronger, my bracing and assist-giving has improved a great deal.
Do you do any other cross training?
Scream: I’ve been going to cardio hip hop lately, last summer I rode my bike to the gym a lot and every once in a while I go for a run.
Slamlet: Lifting is definitely my primary form of cross-training. I am working on sprinkling in some other activities, such as running, yoga, and other classes at HALE (like the cardio hip hop and barre classes I recently tried!). I tend to be more active in the summer when it’s easier to find opportunities to run, bike, and swim.
Is there something you get from lifting that you don't get from derby? Something from derby you don't get from lifting?
Scream: HALE is like that escape from everything else in my life. Playing on the all-star team plus being the Vice Chair of the league can get stressful. When I go lift it’s like I can forget about all the other things I need to get done that day! Plus the community at HALE is great, we had nine girls competing at the BeYon Strongwoman Competition and we had about 20 others there to cheer us on! Strength training has also changed my body in ways I didn’t know were possible, I’ve lost 20 pounds since I started and I have muscles!! With derby, I have my team that I love. Nothing is like that.
Slamlet: I have to second everything Scream just said. Lifting is a no-strings-attached kind of catharsis. Also, my muscles have transformed (especially in my upper body) in a way that derby alone isn’t able to facilitate. I can flex my biceps without it being a silly joke now! But what is far more appealing to me about roller derby is the extreme intricacy of the game. With lifting there is form, technique, etc., but at the end of the day you are picking something up and putting it down. Granted, I still have a TON to learn when it comes to lifting, so my view is still limited. But for me, it just doesn’t match up to my first love. The dynamic gameplay, the intense teamwork, the evolving rules, the developing strategies--yummy. And while lifting has introduced me to a new community of badass women I never knew existed, I have to echo Scream and say that nothing can replace the support system and family that is a roller derby league or team.
Do you have any words of wisdom for derby skaters who are interested in lifting?
Scream: Go lift things! Getting strong is so much fun!
Slamlet: Definitely give it a try! I’ve come to think of cross-training like a mushy philosophy about romance. Not every attempt at a new activity is a winner, but there are plenty of fish in the sea. There’s something out there for everyone. And sometimes there are multiple somethings! You just have to keep looking and trying until you find what works for you. If you haven’t tried lifting, give it a shot! You might fall in love.
Photos courtesy HALE Strength and Shape. See more images from the strongwoman competition in this photo gallery.