Friday, July 17, 2020

On the Mats

Our last couple posts have been – and maybe some of our next couple posts will be; posts on exercises from the summer camps we are running now.

A lot of our morning activities are conditioning and work out activities.

None of them are individually too intense. The fencers are doing several work out activities throughout the day so each one is pretty reasonable and doable.

Whether you're a fencer or not, these are largely activities you can do at home. You can give them to your fencer to do to keep them working out while they're not at their salle. You can do them with your fencer so you both get some exercise. You can use them however you like.

Today's set is really simple, very standard stuff that many people might be doing already. At the very least you've probably done most of these exercises.

You'll need a yoga mat, a jump rope, and a timer.

Working with athletes of various ages and fitness levels we use a timer instead of a number of sets or reps. The athletes are told to do their best and break them down how they need to. If you have a more controlled group or are working individually you could either set yourself based on time or based on reps and sets. Using a timer you can measure against fitness tests that require as many as you can in a set amount of time.

We do 2 minutes, but you could vary the time per exercise depending upon your comfort levels. If you're keeping the short time and not doing this with another work out you can repeat the cycle.

The exercises are:
Sit ups
Standard Push Ups
Leg lifts
Triceps (Diamond) Push Ups
Jump Rope

Sit ups are pretty straight forward. Crunches are an option here too. The big thing to pay attention to is moving by flexing your stomach muscles not by lifting your shoulder and rolling your back.

For standard push ups one of the tips that has come up routinely is keeping the elbows back unless you're using a wide base for your hands. Younger athletes might need to do the push up from their knees. Athletes may need to be reminded to keep their backs straight. There is a tendency for young athletes to just dip their shoulders instead of actually doing a push up. For more developed athletes a way to prevent them from only going partially down is to require that the chest touch the ground and the hands come up from the ground. For younger, or less in shape athletes, give them space to go partially down and back up while they work on getting strong enough to go lower and lower in their push up.

For leg lifts, there are a lot of ways people do them. For this we're doing them to work the stomach, but you'll work the legs a bit too. Lift from your stomach muscles. Your legs, while fixed straight, should come about 15 to 20 degrees up from the ground. While they're up, spread your feet apart and make a V with your legs, then bring them back together. Lower them, try and keep them about an inch off the ground when you lower them. Repeat the motion from that slightly elevated position.

Diamond push ups or triceps push ups work your triceps. This is super important for fencing because triceps are extensors. They help the arm extend instead of contracting to pull the arm back. That extension is a big part of fencing. You don't necessarily need bulky triceps but you need the muscles to be trained for speed and endurance. These are a more difficult push up for most people because they aren't used to working these muscles. You'll do this much like a normal push up, but the arms are pulled in close, aligned along the torso, with the hands brought together under the chest so your thumbs and pointer fingers make a diamond or a triangle.

Jump rope is pretty self explanatory. Jump rope for the time allotted, try and maintain your jumping as best as you can. Restart if you fail.

Burpees. Most people are familiar with burpees these days. If you're not I recommend checking out YouTube for examples. Sometimes the push up in the middle of the burpee is viewed as optional, but we consistently include it. For this, instead of a timer, we just have everyone do two sets of five. But you can modify that for your own needs.

Our list includes meditation. The boys in our camp do running, kinetic stretches, a footwork focused work out and then this work out each morning, so by the time they're through a recovery activity makes sense. You could use various options for this. More stretching, yoga, light movement, all are options. We use a breathing meditation because our fencers work with it periodically as a way to help focus and collect themselves. It can be a useful in the stress of a tournament when you only have moments to calm yourself or to shake off a strenuous bout, or anger over a bad loss or a difficult referee. Having a way to shift focus while calming the body can be super important.

The breathing exercise we use is called four-fold breathing. You inhale for a count of 4, hold in for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4 hold out for a count of 4. While doing this try to focus your thoughts only on your breathing and the count of your breath. Doing this for a few minutes will help bring everything down, you might feel some tension initially but then it will release into relaxation. Focusing on the breathing can help pull attention away from stress and create calm.

Thanks for reading!

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