Fresh Meat Diary – Florence Nightinhell

Read about one of our newest member’s experience of our Fresh Meat Course, and why she feels like it was one of the best decisions she has ever made…

Florence Nightinhell
Florence Nightinhell

Well, what can I say… I decided to sign up to learn roller derby.

There was a moment where I thought “I want to do that”. I am not going to lie; this thought may have occurred during my first viewing of Whip It.

Years later, a night in a pub with a friend, after a glass of wine (or four), I expressed an interest in wanting to try something new, get fit, meet people and basically have a new hobby. She skated with the Hell’s Belles Roller Girls and told me to come along for ‘Fresh Meat’. Due to my limited knowledge (again, my only reference at this point was Whip It), I did think that the name ‘Fresh Meat’ made it sound like we were being called in to be prey… and potentially annihilated. Despite this, and with a bit of Dutch courage, I said ‘SURE!’ 

About Me

  • 28 years old
  • A&E Nurse
  • Skating Experience: 1/10 – my last roller skating stint ended pretty abruptly aged 10 with a broken arm.
  • A self evaluated risk of injury: HIGH – I have broken both arms twice, my leg once and suffered two concussions – all separate occasions… (a bit of insight as to why I choose a career in A&E as I spent a lot of time there, I felt I should give back to the NHS).
  • Fitness level – 4/10, I spend A LOT of time on my feet, with the occasional run followed by a work out… I pride myself in being a previous gym attendee (I am going to use the reason for leaving the gym as financial, but between you and I… I just couldn’t be arsed).

Getting ready to rumble

With the thought of becoming prey, my depleting fitness ability and a newly assessed injury potential in mind I trotted off to Double Threat Skates in Kings Cross to get kitted up, ready for my first day. After a LOT of help, mostly with trying on skates, and then attempting to stand on said skates in the shop, (a near face plant in the store nearly ended my stint in roller derby before it had even started) I was ready to rumble.

Florence Nightinhell

It is safe to say, I was bricking it

I had been invited to join the Fresh Meat group on Facebook so we could get advice before we had even started. “A good breakfast is key” was one piece of advice. So, the morning of the first day, I went all out with regards to prepping (please see photo below #artisticlicense).

It was safe to say I was bricking it. It wasn’t as bad as that first day of school feeling but it was pretty close. I was mainly worried about making a dick of myself. I had even prepped by skating (well, rolling) back and forth from my kitchen to living room in a desperate attempt to practice, using my husband to stop me before I hit anything. I felt about as prepared as I was going to get.

I rocked up to the session with my squeaky clean equipment and the ability to walk (this will be become clear) to be greeted by a whole bunch of friendly faces and a slight air of nervousness from the other Fresh Meat ladies.

We eventually got kitted up (who would have though that putting knee pads on would be so hard??) whilst watching the Hell’s Belles finish their practice and oh my, they were amazing… I couldn’t believe people could actually skate like that in real life (I mean obviously Drew Barrymore can… right?). They were banging into each other trying to knock each other over… people were falling, it was noisy from skates and bodies hitting the floor. I thought “S***, this looks brutal”.

Kitted up, paperwork and registration completed, no going back… time to start Fresh Meat. We were introduced to the Belles, the first thing I noticed was how incredibly friendly everyone was. A minute ago they had been doing some hardcore skating moves and hitting each other with force, now they were just casually chatting, cheek to cheek mouth guard smiling, laughing. I felt instantly relaxed, even though I appeared to be rocking back and forth, this was due to my lack of balance and maybe a bit of nerves. They went round and checked that we had all the right equipment and that it was on correctly as they shouted: “SAFETY IS SEXY!”

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And then, off we skated (imagine Bambi on ice). I thought “this is cool, we just skate round and round…” Beaming, I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement to be on skates and managing to go in the intended direction of travel. But alas, we started to learn actual skills, on the first day? Are they trying to kill us? Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t put my skates on, do a lap and all of a sudden I was jumping over benches… There was a LOT of falling over but we were taught to fall properly (fall forward, all your protection is on the front). In my naivety I also hadn’t realized that we would spend two hours in the squatting position, a.k.a. ‘the derby stance’. Now, this really tests your physical strength.

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During the session we had members of the Belles skating around with us, chatting, giving us advice and encouragement. This has been my experience from my first day on skates until now. The end of the session came all to quickly as it was so fun, but I was shattered physically and mentally! It takes a lot of concentration to skate. We were warned that we may feel pain in muscles that we probably didn’t know existed… My arse… no literally, my arse… they weren’t kidding. Simple things like walking became a challenge, and stairs, oh the dreaded stairs became my nemesis for a week after our first session. People gave up their seats for me on the Tube in pure pity.

Exercising was fun, who knew?

I can’t believe that my first day with Fresh Meat was back in September, the time flew by. Week by week we developed new skills and became closer as a group. I felt physically challenged to a whole new level, in a way that was so enjoyable that I didn’t give a s*** that I was sweating so much that I looked like I had been swimming. It was fun – exercising was fun, who knew?

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I’m not going to lie, there are times when you are just frustrated with yourself. This may be because you didn’t quite get the 27 laps in 5 minutes, can’t skate on one leg or for some reason you just can’t plow stop! I have felt this frustration mainly with the latter, I just carry on rolling into things/people/floor. The frustration builds, but then you have one of the Belles or a fellow Fresh Meater, express overwhelming encouragement and support for you, the frustration eases and you power through. The sense of achievement week by week is amazing, whether you complete a skill or not.

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It was also wonderful to get to know the other ‘Fresh Meat’, we are all women who didn’t know each other at first, but have developed a bond. The support and love I felt from them made the sessions enjoyable, we have all ended up in a heap on the floor together at some point during training, now that’s bonding!

Graduation

When it came to graduating from Fresh Meat I felt so proud of us all. I told everyone (literally everyone, whether they cared or not) that I did it! I did have a moment of THE FEAR that I wouldn’t graduate and what would I do with my Sundays?!? But we did it, we all freakin’ graduated, bumps bruises and all! We even had a ceremony and awards were given out!

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I may sound totally corny (I don’t care), and as if I am being paid to promote roller derby (I’m not), but it was truly one of the best decisions I have ever made and it is life changing.

I am now at intermediate level with my previous Fresh Meat crew and a whole new bunch of awesome people. I look over to the advance Belles during a scrim, and one day I would like to be at that level. But for now… I would love to be able to stop.


Find out how you can sign up for our next Fresh Meat course for beginners!

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