Kimberly Garrison: 2 teammates find physical challenge through rugby

Posted: August 26, 2010

I FIRST SAW Emily Tunney and Emily Record at the gym, doing what appeared to me to be a wrestling or extreme fighter-type of routine. I was floored when they told me that they played on a women's rugby team.

Tunney, 26, a Temple University graduate who works as an administrative coordinator at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and Record, 29, a computer programmer and Drexel grad, met and are now teammates on the Philadelphia Women's Rugby Football Club, a Division 1 league.

Both have enviable, indeed, phenomenal physiques that could easily grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Though I knew very little about rugby, I did know you have to be one tough cookie to play it. I was intrigued and immediately wanted to learn more.

"How did you become rugby players and why do you love it so much?" I asked.

"I like that it's a team sport. I like how physically tough it is," Tunney enthusiastically explained. "It is the most physically challenging sport I've ever participated in. It's both physical and mental. There's a strategy involved moment to moment."

Record said she loves rugby because "it is not only physically challenging but also helps to build confidence and cooperation," skills that are quite handy in one's professional and personal lives.

As a child, Tunney studied tap, ballet and jazz. But at age 9, a neighbor turned her on to soccer. Once bitten by the soccer bug, Tunney put down her toe shoes for good. She went on to conquer swimming and softball and even become a competitive wrestler in high school.

Record grew up in an athletic family. Her father introduced her to soccer, basketball, baseball and softball as soon as she was able to walk, she recalled.

So where does the sport of rugby fit in here?

Rugby is like football's older, tougher brother. Played with two teams of 15 people, it originated in 19th-century England and is notorious for its physical roughness. Even the lingo sounds rough. A scrum is when opposing players push against each other for possession of the ball. Other rules of engagement include plays called rucks and mauls. Of course, there's also plenty of running, diving, covering and kicking.

As you might expect, the rugby workout is no cakewalk either.

Strength training, Fartlek full-body aerobic drills, wind sprints and circuit training are all in a day's work for serious rugby athletes. A typical strength training routine for Tunney and Record consists of Olympic-style lifts (explosively lifting maximum weight), plus pull-ups and push-ups to failure.

Their workouts are full-body and intense. That's right, you'd better bring your big-girl shoes for this!

Both Tunney and Record eat a healthy and well-balanced diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. With their rigorous training, they also can enjoy the occasional biscuit or slice of pizza, too.

They are not obsessively eating three ounces of grilled chicken with two broccoli florets every two hours, either. Portion and balance are the key to their diets.

Think you can handle it?

The rugby season began this month and continues through November. Local games are held in Fairmount Park. The 26th annual Pumpkinfest tournament, the oldest and largest women's rugby tourney on the East Coast, will be held in Fairmount Park Sept. 11-12. Find out more about the Philadelphia Women's Rugby Football Club at www.pwrfc.org.

Said Tunney, "Surprisingly, after seven years, I'm still out here doing this. I just love it!"

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com).

E-mail her at

kimberly@1on1ultimatefitness.com. Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!

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