News & Politics

Finding Your Peak Performance

“In the pros, you do whatever you can to stay in shape. One drill that is helpful for conditioning is running on the treadmill, working up to a sprint. You start at level 4 and go up a level every 30 seconds, to level 12. Then you come back down to 4. You go from jogging to sprinting in a matter of seconds, which is similar to what I’m doing on the court.”

—Alana Beard, Guard for the Washington Mystics

“Before a workout, I eat something my dad used to make on weekends. We call it ‘the Webb.’ It’s toast with peanut butter and applesauce, open-faced. The peanut butter stays with you, there’s fruit, and I use whole-grain or some other wholesome kind of bread.”

—Alan Webb, US record holder in the mile and Reston resident

“I’ve been very flexible since I was in high school. It adds to a player’s longevity in the game. I try to get on the floor every night in front of the TV to make sure my muscles are loose.”

—Andre Carter, Defensive end for the Washington Redskins

“Listen to your body. If you start getting hints that something’s not quite right, take a few days off rather than letting it become a bigger injury down the road.”

—Margie Shapiro, Professional triathlete from Herndon

“I always have to focus on my form—my stride or my pedal stroke. As soon as I start to lose my form, I’ll get tired and my legs will start to hurt a lot faster.”

—Dave Gaudette, Falls Church resident who completed a triple Ironman triathlon (7.2-mile swim, 336-mile bike, 78.6-mile run) in 52 hours in 2007.

“Find something that’s low-impact and aerobic—like the StairMaster or the elliptical machine—and really embrace the aerobic nature of the exercise. Don’t try to push your muscles as hard as they can go. Just start slowly and then try to get yourself out of breath. That’s where you can get to steady state. It feels really easy when you first start, but it can yield huge benefits in terms of fitness.”

—Jamie Schroeder, Olympic rower and member of DC’s Potomac Boat Club

“I do a lot of balance work. You need it when you’re cutting and dodging. An easy drill is standing on one leg and lifting the other leg half an inch off the floor, right next to your standing leg. Then you can move up to doing a one-legged squat. Keep your chest up and your back straight. If you feel it in your back, you should stop because you’re probably bending your back too much.”

—Josh Gerber, Attackman for the Washington Bayhawks lacrosse team

“I have a horrible back. It ended my ability to play full-time on the tour. If I could have done one thing differently, I would have focused on the core. A combination of yoga and Pilates is the best way to build flexibility and core strength. It’s not just for injury prevention; it all translates into becoming a better athlete.”

—Justin Gimelstob, Retired from the American Professional Tennis tour and member of the Washington Kastles pro tennis team

“Once you get to the professional or elite level, it’s almost all mental. Your confidence has to be very high. You have to tell yourself, ‘I deserve to be here. I’ve done all the hard work.’ Don’t let nerves or a little mistake make you think the whole plan has gone to hell. It’s just a matter of making it happen. That’s the difference between champions and everyone else.”

—Matt Cooke, Professional cyclist who lives in DC’s Palisades neighborhood

“I preach prevention. Get strong, stay strong. Back and shoulder problems are prevalent in golfers, so I stress core strengthening to prevent overuse injuries. I had a shoulder injury early in my career. It was a blessing in disguise because I got a lot stronger and then didn’t have many shoulder problems later on.”

—Kris Tschetter, Ladies Professional Golf Association tour player who lives in Fairfax

“I do something called imaging: You picture yourself playing the game in advance. I’ll do it throughout the week leading up to the game. Even if it’s just for ten seconds, your mind is on the game so that when the game comes you’re not only physically ready but your mind is prepared. As I get older and I’m not as fast as I used to be, that’s how I get the mental edge.”

—Ben Olsen, Midfielder for DC United

This article first appeared in the March 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.