Brock student-athletes stay fit with unique off-season training programs

The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced Brock University student-athletes to trade their squat racks for bodyweight exercises in the living room, yet Brock Sports Performance (BSP) staff are keeping the Badgers in peak condition through virtual workouts.

“We have to become extra creative,” said BSP coach Dave McDowell. “We have our athletes exercise with things they may not have considered to be exercise equipment such as backpacks, soup cans, couches, towels, or even the staircases in their homes.”

With Brock’s fully-loaded Performance Centre closed for the foreseeable future, staff have designed workouts to push Brock’s varsity athletes as they workout in their living room or backyard.

“This is clearly an unprecedented time for all of us,” said McDowell. “We have never quite encountered a challenge like this. Our athletes have had to train away from us during the summer when many of them go home, so most of them are used to following our programs from a distance. There are challenges with fitness facilities and gyms being closed, but our athletes are finding ways to stay engaged and social.”

BSP coaches are using online strength and conditioning software, TeamBuildr, to send daily workouts and videos to their athletes while tracking their progress and compliance throughout the week. The app tracks each athlete’s individual exercises, including reps and time.

They are also having fun on Strava, a social-fitness app, for team challenges such as virtual races and time trials.

“Creating home or bodyweight-focused programs is something we’ve had to use in the past, but not on this scale or for this length of time,” said BSP coach Vicki Bendus. “Normally, programs like these are for young athletes with a low training age or a short-term solution if a player has limited gym access, is traveling or injured.”

All-star women’s soccer goalkeeper Marilena Spagnolo is taking advantage of these self-isolation workouts as she prepares for her final season with the Badgers.

“Training at home is definitely an experience,” said Spagnolo, a Kinesiology student from St. Catharines. “It’s harder because I’m doing the workouts in an environment that I associate with relaxation. I try to maintain my intensity as I would in the Brock Performance Centre. I try to put my full efforts into the training program, so that I can fully benefit throughout the season.”

Instead of standard bodyweight workouts like push ups or squats, BSP’s virtual workout lists are full of exercises with titles such as bear crawls, rear foot elevated split squats and incline T raises.

“It was funny at first because my parents would check in and look confused with the types of exercises I was doing, and the computer screen filled with people doing the same thing,” said Spagnolo.

Men’s soccer captain Andrew Baldin, who missed last season due to an injury, said the most productive days are the ones that emulate a regular school day of training and studying.

“It’s a tough adjustment for any athlete, mostly because of our love for routine. Athletes want to know what time we’re working out, when practice is, when the bus leaves, when we’re eating,” said Baldin. “Putting that responsibility in our hands is a tough challenge. It’s one that I’ve tried to embrace by getting up early every day and having a good balance between studying, working out, eating properly, and practicing good habits like reading, going for walks, or socializing with family.”

Spagnolo and Baldin aren’t allowing COVID-19 to dampen their expectations for the upcoming fall Ontario University Athletics season.

“My dedication still remains 100 per cent,” said Spagnolo. “My focus is on the upcoming season, playoffs, OUA Finals and, hopefully, nationals. It’s motivating to see other teams such as women’s basketball and women’s volleyball do so well last season. It motivates me personally to work towards the same results. I want to contribute to my team as best as I can.”

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