Winter… also known as the off season in Canada and the northern United States. For many golfers this can be a depressing time of the year and can mean up to a 6 month layoff from the golf course. Turn that into a positive! This is the perfect time to work on your golf fitness.
The most important aspects to golf fitness, in my opinion, are balance, flexibility and core strength. I am also a big proponent of cardiovascular endurance which many people think has nothing to do with the game of golf.
I had the opportunity to recently interview former LPGA Tour player and Canadian A.J. Eathorne. I completely subscribe to her thoughts on cardio training. “Many players just hit weights. You have to do cardio too. Raise your heart rate. If I feel like I could go for a 3- 4 mile run after my round, not like phew I made it to the finish line the 18th hole, you are going to play better. It is stamina beyond the 18th, hole not just to the 18th hole. Once I figured that out I was a lot better off. “
Balance and Flexibility
The best activity I have found for working these two aspects of training has been Yoga. I scoffed at Yoga for a long time and thought it was a bit too “granola” for me. I have been pleasantly surprised with the results.
There are a variety of Yoga types and fantastic classes readily available. I am a huge fan of working out at home too and there are excellent Yoga DVD ‘s on the market.
Yoga will include balance postures (tree pose, crane, crescent pose, etc..… ) that will improve your overall ability to balance yourself which will translate to helping you to keep stable throughout your golf swing and hold your positions better, such as the ever important finish position. This will lead to improved ball striking and solid contact.
Flexibility is imperative to preventing injuries. Tight muscles strain easily and can cause pain and discomfort. By increasing your flexibility not only will you prevent injuries but it will also allow you to make a better turn (rotation) in your golf swing which will lead to increased power and distance.
Yoga has many postures that work on rotation (ex: prayer twist) which is fantastic and also incorporates general overall stretching exercises that will work on everything from your shoulders, to your back, to your glutes to your hamstrings and everything in between.
Additional benefits from Yoga that also improve your swing are strength training (vinyasa), core strength (such as planks and side balances) along with the ability to calm your mind. I am someone who at times has let a million thoughts race through my head on the golf course. Yoga has taught me to slow down and breathe which has led to increased focus.
Proper instruction is imperative for Yoga so I recommend a class or DVD before following from a book. The only equipment needed is a yoga mat available at department stores and fitness centers.
There are many exercises that target core strength. The core consists of a system of muscles in the lower trunk area including the lower back, abdomen (including the obliques) and hips. These muscles work in conjunction with each other to provide support and mobility.
There are a variety of core exercises that are easy to perform with great golf benefits. There are classes (such as Pilates) available at all local gyms and fitness centers along with some great programs and DVDS. A great starting book/DVD is the “Anatomy of Fitness” available at most Costco’s and bookstores (http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Anatomy-Fitness-Core-Dvd-Kit-NA/9781743087398-item.html?cookieCheck=1) .
Various exercises include stability ball work. Stability balls are available from any fitness store and can even be found at the local Walmart. To hit it longer definitely make sure to perform exercises that target the oblique muscles as they will assist you in creating more power in your turn.
As Eathorne mentioned having athletic stamina is vital to golf. You don’t want to be running out of gas on the 15th tee. As long as you are moving your body continuously and keeping your heart rate elevated for a minimum of 20 minutes 3 times a week you will see notable gains in your cardiovascular endurance. Tread mills, elliptical trainers, stationary bicycles and stair masters are all great for the indoor season and those brave enough to battle the frigid temperatures can take their running/power walking out doors.
For those golfers who are at a high level of fitness I recommend doing the Beachbody program P90x (http://www.beachbody.com/product/fitness_programs/p90x.do) I have started my last 3 off seasons with this rigorous work out regime that is a 90 day fitness and nutrition program. It works on overall strength and conditioning from back, biceps and shoulders to plyometrics, stretching, martial arts fitness and Yoga. Be warned that there is a high level of time commitment of approximately an hour and a half a day, 6 days a week and the instructor Tony Horton can be very grating…but it works. It has been a great foundation for me.
Go hard this off season and look forward to improved performance on the links in 2013!
By: Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk
Lisa is the 7-time Canadian Long Drive Champion for women, a golf entertainer and a motivational speaker. Lisa can be reached through Claudio (The Traveling Golfer) at firstname.lastname@example.org.