Skate Fast, Turn Left: How to Improve Speed on a Roller Derby Track

Posted on February 13, 2011 by


Numbers are the bane of my existence.  It seems they are used to define you – your weight, height, age, bank balance, fitness, health, your SPEED!

My latest numerical challenge is 30 in 5.  In roller derby terms this means being able skate 30 laps of the track in 5 minutes.  League entry requirements only require 25 in 5 but I’ve never been one to be satisfied with mediocre.

During my first round of Raw Meat Testing in 2010, when trying out for ADRD league, I achieved 27 laps in 5 minutes, my best to date.  I’d developed this slap-dash, mad-scramble system which was based on using the shortest path around the track.  My combination of force and fitness worked for this method of tearing down the straight then sliding around the apex.  However, this method has been only able to take me so far.  It appears to be inefficient as I’m expending a lot of energy but with unequal reward.  I think the problem is that I am able to effectively accelerate down the straight but then lose that advantage of speed and power on the apex only to have to find it again for the next straight.

I have watched others carefully and listened to Em and the trainers who advised of a more circular (or diamond) route which enables the use of the cross-over skating technique for the full lap.  I notice when others follow this technique they appear to be expending less energy making the journey look effortless and graceful, unlike my own crazy dash n slide!  And, despite taking the longer route, they are faster.

So I’ve adopted this method and been working like mad on my cross-overs and seem to have the technique slowly developing into something somewhat more graceful.  However, the downside of this is that my speed has dropped with my maximum laps being only 26 which is frustrating the hell out of me!

I am more efficient in that I am using less energy and power.  However, I’m nowhere near as puffed at the end which tells me I’m not trying hard enough – I have more in the tank!  I need to be able to utilize my fitness and strength to ADD the power back in to enable a faster pace.  When I try to do this I find that either (a) I feel like my feet are going to fly out from under me and deposit me shamelessly on the floor or (b) I lose the technique and circular path.

I know I can do better.  So, I’m putting it out there to any jammers, speed skaters or other speed freaks to help me out.

  • Where should I be accelerating?
  • How can I generate more speed and remain upright?
  • Can your arms be used to improve speed like in running or should they stay out of the equation?
  • How do I achieve my goal of 30 in 5 and beyond?!