I had to take this week off from Friday league play, but on the plus side it allowed me to go to the cycling class at the gym that is always at the same time so I usually miss it. I would ALWAYS rather be golfing though, so even though it's a pretty great class, that works fine for me.
Being a stay-at-home-mom has turned me into a bit of a gym rat, I'm a little embarrassed to admit. Over the winter, sometimes going to the gym was literally the only thing I would accomplish that day other than the standard tasks of caring for the little one. At first I simply signed up to get a little "me time" in my day, and to get the kiddo out of the house and socialized. I still didn't know if I would be healthy enough to play golf this summer (although exercise did help me out tremendously) or if I would be able to find a way to make golf work financially.
As a result I became the type of exerciser that just wanted to be good at exercise. I treated being at the gym like a sport. There was no point to it other than to try to feel like a badass in front of complete strangers. I dove deep into the fitspo pool on Instagram and Pinterest. I had workout plans from body building websites and tried to emulate the training routines of fitness models I found on Pinterest - but all it did was make me more anxious about whether I was going to see the same results as professional fitness models. It was nice to feel sore, but I didn't feel like the function of my body improved such that the quality of my life improved. I mean no disrespect to actual body builders or fitness models by sharing what I experienced, it just wasn't for me. But at the very least it got me in the habit of going to the gym 4-5 days a week.
My gym experience took a major step in the right direction once I made the plans for my golf season, which was about two or three months before play would begin. Suddenly, I had an outside-the-gym purpose for my workouts. Exercise felt once again like a supplement to my sport, not the sport itself, and this awoke anew the athlete in me and really refreshed my intentions for working out.
Tour pros are workout fanatics. Conditioning has become a fact of professional golf life. It is also hugely important at the collegiate level too, which was a challenge to schedule with the players as their days were already very packed with golf, classes, and school work. But stronger bodies are able to withstand the elements and play better golf. Many college tournaments involve walking 36 holes in a single day (in heat, humidity, rain, wind, cold...you name it) and a player who hasn't been exercising hard will not last.
And so, having a very good base level of fitness can tremendously help even an amateur golfer. For me, I chose to retool my workouts to prioritize cardiovascular endurance and functional strength. I dropped much of the heavy lifting since I didn't want to risk an injury from over exertion (although I do like to still do a few sets of squats with a decent amount of weight, 75-90 pounds). This isn't to say I allowed myself to work less hard, I just gave up the idea of working out like a body builder in favor of working out like a golfer. I also had to release myself of the vanity aspect of exercise; it no longer mattered whether I achieved a certain "look" anymore. All that mattered was whether my body felt better while performing on the course.
So here's a look at what my week of workouts entail now:
- running at a slightly difficult pace for 1.5 miles on a treadmill, which works out to about 15 minutes for me. I do this 3-4 times a week.
- Barre once a week. Wait, you might be asking, didn't you say you didn't want to achieve a "look" anymore? Isn't barre for girls who want to be super skinny? Well, you're right that barre is very popular among women who want to be long and lean like dancers and the barre subset of fitness does try to promote that as a reason to go. But golfers have a lot they can gain from this form of exercise, too. In particular, barre emphasizes glute, hip, and core strength, and also posture, which makes for a strong swing. By being barefoot I can feel my feet getting stronger and balance improving, which helps with golf as well. Plus, to get that dancer look you have to go to like, four to six classes a week and do basically no other exercise. I go once a week, and lift as heavy and push as hard as I can. This beefy lady ain't turning into a waif-like dancer anytime soon, but it's valuable functional fitness and makes me happy.
- At least one day of some sort of cardio interval training. My favorite is to run and row. On a treadmill, I run .5 miles. Then I row 150 meters on the rowing machine. Then .4 miles on the treadmill and 150 meters on the rower. Then .3 miles run/15o meters row, .2 miles run/150 meters row, and finally .1 miles run/150 meters row. I time it and keep track week by week to see if I improve. Some times I push harder when I run and use the rowing as a break, other times I sprint through the row and bring the heart rate down during the run.
- Squats, lunges, deadlifts, in many varieties. When done properly, these are great strength builders for golf. I keep it pretty basic and do 3 sets of 10-12 reps. I also listen to my body and don't push to lift heavy if I'm just not feeling it that week.
I also think yoga and Pilates are great exercise for golf, but I haven't the time to attend those classes. I also found that my wrist injury prevents me from enjoying yoga fully, as I can't do vinyasas as I used to.
This plus sensible eating is a good plan for me. I may not be as thin or fit as I was at 18, but for an amateur golfer with a toddler it does the job well and my game feels great.
Some may disagree with me, but golfers should avoid the type of workout that pushes you to complete the exercise even if it means sacrificing form or risking injury. This includes CrossFit. Several years ago I did CrossFit regularly with my husband, and the impressive short-term strength gains were not worth the risk of joint injury. I lost count of the number of CrossFitters I knew (both at our gym and others) that had some sort of shoulder, knee, back, foot, etc., injury that they incurred from CrossFit itself. Those are the types of injuries that wreck a golf game, sometimes for good, and I just didn't think it was worth it. I prefer the holistic, slow-gain approach to fitness that preserves my body for the sport I love.
Finally, if you don't know where to start, I highly suggest finding a trainer even just for a little while to get you going. Explain you want to be a stronger golfer and ask for functional exercises over sculpting exercises. Don't expect results overnight but stick with it and track results over time.
Do you have any exercise tips for golfers? Share them with us!
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