How Fitness Fits Into Your Game

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People still have a hard time getting used to the idea that peak golf performance requires fitness. After all, good golfers cover a whole range of shapes, from Tim Herron to Tiger Woods, from Laura Davies to Annika Sorenstam. (Quiet, unassuming person that she is, you wouldnt expect Annika to be a muscle woman. But rumor is, she can lift your Volkswagen. The Passat wagon, I mean. With the kids and your mother-in-law in it.)
 
But whatever shapes these people present, they are all golf-fit. They have identified the muscles that need to be strengthened, stretched, saved and soothed. They get help when they need it. They pay attention to nutrition. (Well, theyre not martyrs. Even golf-fitness expert Gary Player admits to the occasional slice of bacon.)
 
Perhaps the best reason to make sure fitness is in your bag is that it makes golf more fun. Feeling energetic near the end of a round can lead to surprising performances. Finding extra yards without extra swing effort is eminently pleasing. Knowing you can get fitness gains no matter what your age or experience level makes it even better.
 
I know it sounds like an old saw by now, the its never too late bit. But it happens to be true with golf fitness. Even if you dont feel as if you can gain a lot of strength, flexibility is arguably more important as you and your game age. That said, lets review some basic golf fitness concepts.
 
Strrrrretch. As mentioned, being flexible is a big key to a successful swing. Teachers are constantly talking about the value of a full turn, which is obvious to any student of the game. Old or young, there are ways to lengthen and loosen your muscles to make them perform better. Seek the help of a fitness expert, and be patient. Getting muscles to behave after a long layoff can take time.
 
The right muscles. Big biceps are nice, but they wont necessarily get you extra yards. There are plenty of trainers now who know golf, and they understand that certain muscles, such as the big ones in the back, support the swing more than the so-called show muscles. It pays to get expert advice.
 
Its a lopsided sport. For this concept, I owe Jackie Garland of Mod Bod Pilates Studio here in Orlando. She noted that we always perform our sports definitive move from the same side ' naturally, were right- or left-handed. Compare tennis players, who have the opportunity to balance themselves before receiving a serve. Because of this, golfers have to pay special attention to their workouts to make sure they dont become too strong or flexible on one side ' or more accurately, not strong or flexible enough on the other. And balance in general serves a good swing. Witness the on-balance, picture-perfect finishes of players such as Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie and the late Payne Stewart, to name just a few.
 
Speaking of Pilates Try it. Or try any new exercise program that will focus on strengthening your core (torso) muscles and hold your interest. Heck, even martial arts arent out of the question. A little variety will keep you in the game and even improve your golf.
 
Overdont it. This is the hard part. Sometimes you just have to lay off. Its a basic of fitness in general that sore muscles are giving you a signal. Err on the side of caution, and youll be sitting out for two rounds instead of five.
 
Eat it up. Watch good players on the course, and likely youll see them munching from time to time. There are all kinds of energy foods you can eat to keep your attention and strength throughout the round. Some people like trail mix, others eat applesyou can do it too. Experiment and see what works for you. Two provisos: Drink water to stay hydrated and help your body absorb nutrients (especially important with energy bars, which can be rather thick), and dont overeat. Hard to make a golf swing when you feel heavy or bloated.
 
By the bye, raisins and gingersnaps seem to do well for me.
 
What have you got to lose? Finally, the overriding concept in golf fitness is, why not? As long as you dont exceed your capabilities, theres only upside. An investment of a little time could lead to a lot more fun in your game, be it in extra yards or extra energy. So whether you take to the gym or simply take the stairs more often, to coin a phrase, justget on with it.
 
Next week: Thanks for joining us. For our next show, well discuss how to get the best out of golf instruction. Thats Wednesday, July 9 at 10 p.m. EDT. See you then.