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Stay Fit, Stay Strong:

It’s easy to get fat between now and Christmas. And then Christmas, New Year and the whole silly season rolls around and it’s just sloth, gluttony and a litany of other sins. So with the rugby season over, and the RFC men moving into off-season training, we thought we’d share some best practices. Get into good habits now, push them through the holiday break and return to school ‘sohotrightnow’.

The key to off-season training is variety. By this we mean, variety in types of exercise (e.g. cardiovascular vs weights vs skills) as well as variety within a type of exercise (e.g. running vs swimming vs cycling for aerobic fitness). Now the real experts on all this are at Shad, so do consult them for very detailed advice. However, here are some thoughts to get you started in each category:

Strength training
There are some ‘core lifts’ that are important to build strength, especially for sports that require explosiveness or power. Your exercise should focus on these, and you can work in other lifts and muscle groups as you see fit. It is recommended to lift on at least a two day cycle per week. To improve strength for most sports, here is what a typical basic program could look like:

Day 1 (Monday):
Standard Bench Press (4 sets x 6 reps); Close-Grip Bench Press (3 x 8); Lateral Dumbbell Raises (3 x 10); Lateral Pulldowns (3 x 10); Squats (4 x 6); Cleans (3 x 8).

Day 2 (Thursday):
Standard Bench Press (4 x 6); Triceps Pushdowns (3 x 10); Shrugs (3 x 10); Squats (4 x 6); Deadlifts (3 x 8).

These lifts will cover the most important major muscle groups, and you can add exercises for any additional muscle groups you’d like to include.

Some people prefer to lift on a three day cycle. If so, go for Day 1 (above) on the first day, do a lighter day on the second day (some core lifts, and whatever other exercises you like), and Day 2 (above) on the third day.

Variety will make your program more interesting, and work muscle groups slightly differently. For instance, you can change the bar you use on the lat pulldown machine, or use the seated row for more of a change.

All this lifting talk can be daunting at first, but there are plenty of good books out there to explain it all (as well as giving advice on technique) and don’t be afraid to consult the helpful and knowledgeable staff at Shad.

Cardiovascular Training

While it might be easy to say ‘run, run, run’ here, that misses the point.

First, you have choices about how you run. Most people advocate some type of running pyramid:

* 10% highest intensity: That is, sprint training (discussed below).
* 20% high intensity: Something like Fartlek running where you run for 30 minutes, but intersperse five to ten sprints of b of bet of 15s to 60s each.
of between 10 seconds and 30 seconds.
* 30% medium intensity: Solid middle distance running (say three miles) at a moderate pace (varies by person).
* 40% low intensity: This is the fabled ‘LSD’ or ‘long slow distance’ (say six miles) at a slow pace (again, varies by person).

Second, cross training can be as effective as running, and makes workouts less monotonous. And you are spoilt for choices here – skip a running session in favor of laps at Blodgett pool, cycling, rowing, elliptical training and so on.

Speed Training

This portion of your training has two critical components.

The first is to build the explosive power that will assist you with your speed. Doing weights for your legs is a start, but there are better options known as ‘plyometrics’:

Stadium stairs:
Run up the first set, and down the next and repeat until you can’t do it any more; work up to doing the whole stadium. Start by hitting every step, then on later sets go two steps at a time.

Bunny hops:
Jumping forwards on two legs, on one leg, or on alternating legs, for around 30 yards at a time. Concentrate on exploding as high as you can, and don’t worry about how fast you go.

‘Skiing’:
Sideways or forwards/backwards jumping across a line for around a minute at a time. Work on quickness, and stay light on your feet.

The second is to get into the habit of actually using your full speed. Some ‘fun’ options include:

Regular sets:
Pick a distance, sprint it, and then walk (or preferably jog) that same distance. Do this until you can’t do it any more. As a suggestion for starting out, 20 x 50s or 10 x 100s might be the way to go.

Ascending, descending or mountain sets:
An ascending set is a 25 yard sprint, 25 yard jog, 50 yard sprint, 50 yard jog, 100 yard sprint, 100 yard jog, 200 yard spring, 200 yard jog, 400 yard sprint, 400 yard jog. A descending set starts with the 400 sprint and works backwards from there. A mountain set starts with the 25 yard sprint, works up to the 400 sprint, and back down to the 25 yard jog.

Suicides:
A very tough drill that is not for the fainthearted as you sprint, but also do lots of tough acceleration and deceleration. Start at the end of a basketball court. Run to the near free throw line, touch it, run back, run to the halfway line, touch it, run back, run to the far free throw line, touch it, run back, run to the far end, touch it, run back. Rest for two minutes. Do this as many times as you can.

Skill Training

If you are part of a sporting team, then you’ll know what particular skills are relevant for you. However, if you’re just keeping fit, then pick exercises that work on your foot skills and hand skills.

For foot skills, you are only bound by your imagination. A couple of options include:

Jump rope:
Lots of variations are possible to get your feet moving, and your heart pumping. Try jumping on only one foot at a time, or alternate feet. Try to go for several minutes at a time. To improve your coordination, work on increasing the speed.

Box drills:
5 yard shuffle right, 5 yard backpedal, 5 yard shuffle left, 5 yard sprint forward. Focus on quick change of direction.

Indoor soccer:
Even one-on-one soccer will get your feet moving, but the precision of passing to others will really improve your coordination.

For hand skills, you also have many options:
Table tennis:
A great way to unwind, as well as to improve your hand to eye coordination.

Juggling:
Surprisingly easy to learn, and a great way to build your dexterity.

Catching/Passing:
It sounds simple, but throwing a ball (tennis ball, rugby ball etc) and catching it does wonders for your spatial judgment and coordination.

Get a partner, set goals, and you’ll find you push yourself much harder in all of your workouts. And most importantly – enjoy!

November 15, 2004
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