So You Want Your Child to be a College Athlete, Part 2
How is it possible for a Division 1 athlete after 4 years from graduation to be at her PEAK fitness? That’s right, Erica Morales says today she’s in “the best shape of her life”. In today’s culture, you may think you’re more likely to see Big Foot riding a unicorn down King Street than find a 26-year-old in a healthy relationship with her body, how she fuels it and moves it.
Erica shared her journey in Division 1 collegiate sports with us for part one of this series and now we focus on her evolution to wholeness and, yes, amazing fitness. Erica navigated the world of Division 1 collegiate sports and is sharing her education and experience with us. Wouldn’t it be a gift to save your children years of struggle? Or imagine your kids as young adults who move properly, eat and sleep well and love their bodies. It’s achievable as we learn from Erica. You may even pick up a workout tip or two for yourself.
If your child dribbles a ball or swings a stick, it matters who he or she chooses to follow. Our kids need good role models. Look no further than our own Erica who, along with Remi Rory and Alex Jones, who are the anchors of FOR’s Student Athlete Program.
Remi gives his athletes a gentle approach. He says, “Training kids is great to me because they are the future. If you can instill proper movement patterns in them at a young age, it’s less we have to correct when they get older!” He continues to work with youth basketball teams near his home in Prince George’s County.
Alex works as a coach in high school and college sports as a Strength and Conditioning and as a Performance Coach. He brings experience in rehabilitation and Physical Therapy which can help our Student Athletes learn how proper movement prevents injury.
While Erica reflects fondly on her days playing Division 1 soccer for UVA, she recognizes that her strength sessions in the weight room weren’t fun. She’s found a way to shed the stress and have fun with her current workouts. If you’re asking whether you and Erica define “fun” the same way, she points to her new love of mountain biking – which she can do with her newlywed husband, Ivan, to get in an endurance workout that’s fun.
Ivan, a seasoned mountain biker, introduced the sport to Erica and taught her the basics. It was challenging, yet she stayed with it to share his passion. She gained confidence, fell in love with it and later invested in a bike that fits her perfectly. The fit couple made it a part of their honeymoon last year and rode at one of the top bike parks in the world – Whistler Mountain Bike Park in British Columbia.
Erica and Ivan agree that strength training helps their performance on the bike as well. She hopes more parents and teachers will make an effort to keep sports enjoyable, strength training and mobility non-negotiable and movement fun for their kids – especially when things are hard.
As a Division 1, elite soccer player, Erica ran A LOT. She says “I’m built for sprints”. She had to put in time and effort to improve endurance while in college. If she runs these days, it’s uphill intervals: up for 45 seconds, down for 2 minutes. Its never ever at a steady pace as she did in the past. She strives for balance that lies between being in killer shape and listening to her body and knowing when its time for rest.
Erica’s Routine NOW which has made the difference
Kettlebells are key: Most of Erica’s workouts include kettlebells, which were totally new to her when she joined FOR. Her favorite is the one leg deadlift. In addition, she mixes in “lots of swings, chin ups, plyometrics, shuffles and jumping”.
More core: Erica acknowledges she didn’t have a strong core as a college athlete. Kettlebells and hollow hold exercises have changed that. She “squeezes the heck out of” her core when doing kettlebell or barbell deadlifts.
Go with the flow: Mobility and flexibility are now high on Erica’s list and she feels “a million times better”. She warms up before every workout “with hip openers, hamstrings, and shoulder packing” and even does a flow on “off” days. She’s consistent with her mobility flow and has noticed a dramatic difference in her workouts and how she feels generally. She emphasizes this especially with student athletes experiencing growth spurts.
Her approach to nutrition also has evolved since college. She maintains a very healthy diet – because she gets the connection of her fuel and her workouts, energy level, mood. But now she doesn’t deny herself and practices balance. If she wants a burger, she’ll eat a burger. It’s about a balanced lifestyle.
She encourages parents and coaches to talk to their kids about healthy options and take the steps to teach them healthy food can taste good. She wants her student athletes to understand how proper nutrition affects their performance. She was fortunate to have an assistant coach in college who had experience in sports nutrition. He invested time in Erica, brainstorming with her on how to fuel her body for competition.
According to Educated Sports Parent online magazine, “Young athletes are growing and maturing in addition to placing a great deal of physical stress on their bodies, and this places them in a delicate situation. It is critical for parents and coaches to monitor eating habits and ensure that all children are getting adequate nutrition.”
Erica’s goals have changed since her days as a student athlete. She sets only a few. In her words, it “keeps things simple”. She’ll achieve these and draw up another list. For now, it’s handstands, which she considers her biggest challenge. She wants to keep improving her mountain biking skills. She loves this time with Ivan and “just wants to keep up with him.” Rounding out her list is a backbend.
There is one more priority. Erica is putting her heart into working with student athletes – beginners, advanced, all levels. She explains her commitment; “I was in their shoes at one point so I understand the challenges that come with being a student and a dedicated athlete.” Now that’s a role model.