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Staying in shape over break key for Pioneer success

Beth Tsuha ’17 trains with her childhood swim coach over breaks. Photo by Tela Ebersole

Sam Curry

Beth Tsuha ’17 trains with her childhood swim coach over breaks.  Photo by Tela Ebersole
Beth Tsuha ’17 trains with her childhood swim coach over breaks.
Photo by Tela Ebersole

When Grinnell’s student athletes are on campus during the school year, they have the friendly confines of the Bear to keep them focused and in shape, but as soon as classes end and winter break begins, athletes must use different facilities and their own motivation to stay fresh.

Certain sports are especially difficult to train for in the off-season. Swimmers, without access to consistent pool time outside of Grinnell, for example, may have trouble maintaining the same fitness levels at which they practice during the school year. Beth Tsuha ’17, however, works around this problem by swimming for a club team at home in Hawaii during the off-season. Although training regimes may be slightly different in these different environments, they prove sufficient to maintain fitness.

“I swim with a club team back at home and then I try to run at least a little bit. [The club team] is a year-round swimming program that has two distinct seasons: a short course … and a long course,” Tsuha said.

One might think that runners lose motivation during the cold winter months as they retreat to the fluorescent lighting and droning sounds of the neighborhood gym, but according to women’s cross country coach Evelyn Freeman, Grinnell’s runners are able to stay motivated, and oftentimes stay outside during winter break.

“The distance runners [are] a pretty disciplined bunch. We’re usually not too worried about them getting in the training, because running is just part of their day,” Freeman said.

Although Grinnell’s coaches are among the finest at what they do, the deep connection provided by a hometown coach can provide a boost in the offseason. Tsuha, for example, has kept the same coach throughout her entire swimming career.

“I’ve had [this coach] in middle school through high school [and in college],” Tsuha said. “He calls me the daughter he never had.”

Grinnell’s athletes aren’t left completely on their own during winter break. Many teams return to campus early to prepare for or continue the season, as is the case with the men’s and women’s basketball teams. These early parts of season, even after students return to campus, are useful for integrating members of the team who have been away, such as runners who go abroad and have not run competitively in a while.

“Many of our juniors haven’t run for two years because they were gone last spring, so everyone’s getting back into the sport,” Freeman said.

Even if these runners take a while to get back into shape or first-years struggle to re-enter college after their first winter break, the emphasis is on constantly improving and moving forward without too much stress.

“It’s a process of learning and growing and getting fit,” Freeman said.

Other teams take trips to even friendlier and warmer destinations than the Bear, such as the swim team, which travels to Florida for training every winter break. These trips can provide a welcome change of scenery and temperature from the monotony of Grinnell, as well an opportunity to improve as swimmers.

However, staying on campus during winter break does bring its own benefits, especially in the opportunities it provides for bonding, as well as focusing solely on sports, without the distraction of Grinnell’s academically demanding schedule.

“It’s when the team gets closest. There’s no other four-week period where the rate of acceleration of our collective closeness goes up like that,” said Alissa Hirsh ’16, a member of the women’s basketball team.

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    Daniel PittFeb 4, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    I’ve always found it easier to run when it’s cold. I just like generating a buffer against it via your own body heat during exercise.