Athletes lifting their way to success

MITCH RIPORTELLA | Staff Reporter weightlifting

The Butler football season ended in November, but, apparently, no one told freshman defensive back Jake Balder and his teammates that.

Balder and his teammates have been training four days a week since season’s end, already preparing hard for next year.

The athletes’ days start at the crack of dawn, where they report to Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for their morning weight training.

“I’m in the 6:15 a.m. lifting group,” Balder said. “Today was an upper body day, so we hit that hard for about 45 minutes.”

The lifts are rapidly paced, leaving as little time between sets as possible. Balder said the frantic pace is one of the biggest transitions he has had to make coming out of high school.

“When you’ve got four people in a group and you’re constantly having to change weight, it can get pretty tiring,” Balder said. He then added, grinning, ”But thankfully, I only had two in my group today so we had a bit of a breather.”

After the morning lifts, the team reconvenes at 6:30 p.m. for its off-season conditioning runs in Hinkle, and Balder said “even the warm-ups (for the conditioning) are pretty tough.”

During these workouts, the team breaks off into stations ranging from agility work to sprints, stairs, cardio and everything in between. Each player is expected to get in as many reps per drill as possible to work their “fast-twitch muscles.”

“Everyone is screaming and just trying to get everyone motivated,” Balder said. “It’s a good time and a good way to get us better.”

The drills are sometimes competitive, as teammates will often race each other in several of the activities.

“It’s a great way to push ourselves by making it into a game,” Balder said. “We’re obviously a bunch of competitive guys, so this just makes us work even harder.”

Though the team’s next season does not begin for some time, these workouts are as intense as it gets for the team.

“During the season, you are just trying to maintain the strength you built in the summer.” Balder said, “Right now its all about trying to push ourselves to the higher level, and that’s the teams focus really.”

Freshman swimmer Abby Cutler may also need a refresher on what “offseason” means.

The women’s swim season, which started in September, finally wrapped up with the Big East Championships last Saturday, where Butler took sixth.

Cutler spends over two hours a day in the pool drilling, practicing strokes and conditioning, and estimates she swims in the ballpark of three to four miles per practice.

On top of normal practices, the women have “land” practices every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, focusing on conditioning.

Practice starts with a 40-minute lift in Hinkle, rotating from station to station to do different lifts, Cutler said.

Immediately following the weight training, the team moves on to what Cutler referred to as “dynamic core exercises.”

“It’s basically a lot of planks, push-ups, sit-ups and crunches,” Cutler said. “You just keep moving the entire time. You never stop.”

Immediately following that is the cardio.

“We’ll do running, and we do stairs sometimes,” Cutler said. “But usually it’s just a bunch of running, especially at the beginning of the year.”

Saturday mornings are by far the toughest for the team, Cutler said.

“Saturdays we do threshold sets, which is basically sprinting over a long period of time,” Cutler said. “So it’s like running a seven-to eight-minute race, but you have to do it around 10 times.”

Running more than two miles in 15 minutes can be a work out. To freshman track and field  sprinter Lauren DeShaw, that is merely a warm up.

DeShaw and her teammates begin each practice with a 15- to 20-minute run to “loosen up.” Following the run, the team engages in “activation drills” or “active stretching,” which are several stretches designed to stretch the athletes and keep them warmed up at the same time, such as walking knees or lunges. They finish their warm ups with speed drills, which usually consist of exercises like high knees, butt-kickers and stride outs..

Following their lengthy warm up, DeShaw and her teammates break off into their respective events to train for. DeShaw, who runs the 800-meter-event, spends the majority of her practices “sprinting around.”

DeShaw will do two to three miles of sprints depending on the day, and also depending on the type of conditioning they must endure.

According to DeShaw, the most agonizing of the conditioning drills are 600-meter sprints. The sprinters will break up into groups and run around six to nine sets of these, and DeShaw said the later sets can be very difficult.

“They are hard mentally because they are so fast paced, and it you’re pretty much always moving,” DeShaw said, “but it is also kind of physically tough, because 600 meters is such an awkward distance to run for me.”

The team finishes up its practices with a two-mile cool down, putting DeShaw at close to eight miles completed in a typical practice.

“You always have to chug a Gatorade and eat an apple or a granola bar after practice so you don’t die,” DeShaw said.

“It’s a lot of hard work, and, no, it’s not always fun,” DeShaw said, “But it’s what we have to do to get better, so that’s what we are going to do.”