Golfer fitness at the fore-front

Posted: June 13, 2013

THE USGA is staging the U.S. Open at our humble, though historic, Merion Golf Club. It's been 32 years since the last Open at the Ardmore course, and everyone is buzzing with excitement about golf.

Personally, I know little about the game, so I decided to learn more by chatting with Sean Cochran, a golf fitness coach.

Cochran is at Merion this week, offering fitness tips and swing analysis for beginner golfers at the American Express Championship Experience, part of a hands-on fan fest that travels with the tournament.

Although weekend duffers don't have the same skills as players on the pro circuit, they have the same body dynamics to contend with, the 41-year-old Chicago native told me.

"Everyone can benefit from learning the particular strength and flexibility exercises they'll need to improve and execute their golf swing and overall game," he said.

In general, Cochran said, men need to improve their flexibility and mobility, while women need to work more on strength and power. Isn't that always the case?

Here is one pre-round exercise that he suggests for warming up to swing a golf club. It will gently warm you up and improve mobility in your ankles and hips.

* Stand about 10 inches away from a wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes facing the wall and arms braced on the wall to help balance.

* Lift the left leg in front of you, with knee bent until thigh is parallel with floor, then gently lead with your knee from left to right across your body so your left leg and hip swing in front of your torso like a gate.

* Do 10 to 15 repetitions on the left, keeping heel of right leg planted on the floor, then switch to the right leg.

Golf is also a great family activity - especially when everyone walks the course instead of hopping a ride on those carts. Cochran told me that there are even wee golf clubs sized for preschoolers.

For older children interested in competitive golf, Cochran said the best conditioning approach through the middle-school years would be to "concentrate on overall athleticism, and focus on jumping, throwing and running activities." At age 14, those who want to get really serious should start with strength and conditioning exercises, along with practicing their game.

Don't be fooled by the seemingly effortless strokes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and other Open competitors. Golf, like any sport, requires dedication, concentration and endless hours of practice. Cochran said the typical pro practices 6 to 8 hours daily, in addition to working out at the gym with a trainer.

Golfers don't get a free pass at the all-you-can-eat buffet, either. "Nutrition is very important for any athlete, regardless of sport," Cochran said.

"Food is fuel," he noted. "Nutrition is a major component for performing and competing."

Hear, hear! I second that notion! To be winners, on the golf course or anywhere, daily exercise and proper nutrition are a must.

And here's something fun for those of you who can't make it out to Merion for the sold-out tournament. The U.S. Open also is hosting an interactive fan fest, this one called the U.S. Open Experience, on Independence Mall.

There are educational exhibits open daily, and big screens will be set up Saturday and Sunday (starting at 9 a.m.) to televise the championship.


Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia.

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