January 15, 2018

Common Sense Physical and Sports Fitness

Common Sense Physical and Sports Fitness

As I have announced on the From the Rough Facebook page, two cable TV networks have secured the rights to broadcast our film, BET Network and The Golf Channel.

We are pleased to report that BET Network will air From the Rough on February 17, 2018, at 7 pm Eastern time, 6 pm Central, 5 pm Mountain, and 4 pm Pacific.  That BET Network sought distribution rights is not surprising, both because of the film’s quality and the star power of Taraji P. Henson, who plays the lead role of Coach Catana Starks.

That The Golf Channel chose to secure broadcast rights is also not surprising.  The PGA Tour, First Tee, and the LPGA enthusiastically embraced the film because it focuses on the life skills golf promotes, through the lessons Coach Starks imparted to her athletes in real life, which the film briefly sketches.

However, as we built the story for the film, we wanted to communicate that golf is a sport in which resilience, tenacity, and emotional and mental maturity and balance are critical to success.  That is why the theatrical tag line is “It’s All About Believing.”  That is also why the title is “From the Rough.”  In a pivotal early scene, the Coach meets the athletes and talks about the importance of drawing strength from their adverse life experiences.

We also wanted to make our audience understand that golf requires an intense and relentless focus on physical fitness.  Great golfers have to be great athletes.  That is why, in the first practice, the Coach starts with a medicine ball exercise before she gets the golfers started with swinging a golf club.  The real Dr. Catana Starks earned a PhD in Human Performance and Sports Science and eventually became the Department Chair after leaving her golf coaching position in 2006.

Along the way, we discovered many sports-focused fitness programs, but one stood out for me.


There are many great insights in this program.  The limited time we had available in the film enabled us to focus on only one: the need for golfers to develop a strong focus on core strength and flexibility.  The Sport Fitness Advisor program has a specific section on this.


The golfing industry, like many sports industries, has strongly embraced great technology with respect to clubs, training tools, and even golf grips.  I am on the Board of Eaton Corporation, the manufacturer of the Golf Pride line of golf grips, which make a surprisingly large difference in golfer performance.

Technology tools, used by someone focused on fitness, athletic skills, and good golfing technique, can make golfers far better.  However, although it is energizing to see what is happening with advanced technologies, such as those showcased at the recently-concluded Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas or what is likely to be showcased at the upcoming PGA Show in Orlando, much of what makes us healthier and better able to function in life or in sports does not require us to employ the latest and greatest technology.

In fact, we can do a great deal with very basic, primitive assistive tools or no tools at all if we understand the goals of physical fitness.  I have religiously adhered to a 10,000 steps a day program since 2004, and have exceeded 10,000 every day for several years.

I use a basic Timex pedometer, which I attach to my belt.  There are much fancier pedometers, such as the FitBit device, but they are too complicated for me to use.  The goal with the 10,000-steps-day program is to stay active.  To do that, I walk around as much as possible, even when I am on the phone, and I read while on the move to increase the number of steps.  I even move around while I am in a waiting room, rather than sitting down.

I have had many role models for using basic tools for fitness.  The wife of one of my lifelong friends stays in incredible shape by using a jump rope one hour a day.  A woman I dated on and off through college took plastic half gallon milk bottles with handles and filled them with sand or water to mimic the effect of a kettle ball.  A physical therapist with whom I consult  from time to time recommends an elastic band for strength training and a Bosu to help with balance.

Why do I focus on walking?  The reason is that the difference between gaining weight and maintaining a healthy weight is measurable in less than 100 calories a day either burned or not burned.  That incremental movement makes all the difference, as does the improved blood flow and alertness it enables.

I am a particular fan of the programs created by Steve Amos, the Founder and CEO of Healthcode.org, whose walking programs combine rewards and fun to get people to move around more.


The other principle that guides my physical fitness routine, which the Sports Fitness Advisor notes in its principles of physiology, is to avoid overtraining.


I increase my level of training intensity a little bit at a time, and do not believe that pain is a good outcome of training.  We have to listen to our bodies.

Overtraining all can occur by playing a sport over too many months a year.  I believe that, although many people debate this question, single-sport specialization for young people risks more injuries.


However, as the Sports Fitness Advisor notes, athletes participating in a sport have to be attentive to the particular fitness challenges of that sport.  For example, although, at first glance, golf does not look like a particularly demanding sport, professional and even younger competitive golfers have to focus on core strength and flexibility.  Every sport makes particular demands on the body and the training has to be tailored to minimizing those demands.

I have used the same fitness trainer, Jill Franke, for 22 years. Many fitness clubs do not allow private trainers, because they want to secure the revenues from the members of their employed training staff.

I believe strongly in the value of working with the same trainer, particularly one who stays current, as Jill does, on the latest research in human performance and sports science, and who understands my strengths and limitations.

Finally, relative to most of us, but particularly those of us who are over 65, focusing on exercises that strengthen our balance is critical.  Other than those who die from an acute care condition like cancer or a heart attack, one of the most frequent sources of shortened life is that traumatic effect on our system from falls, especially for more frail men and women over 80 years old.  However, balance is important for athletes of all ages.


In virtually every sport in which an object is thrown or swung, whether it is a golf club, a baseball bat, a hockey stick, a baseball, a football, or a basketball, the best athletes have mastered the skill of perfect and balanced weight transfer from the strongest muscles to the point at which strength needs to be applied to an action.   Being completely balanced is critical to success.

As this article points out, weight transfer is particularly important to what is called “the short game” in golf, where precision is needed for chips near the green.


Parting advice relative to fitness

As we enter the New Year, this is my parting advice:

  • Start slowly and build intensity gradually in a workout. Do not over-train, especially when starting out.
  • Have a few simple goals that make everything else work better.
  • Stay active and avoid prolonged sitting or standing. Remember the quote by Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic: “Sitting is the new smoking.”  You can read, watch TV, listen to music, speak on the phone and carry on conversations with others while walking.
  • Work with fitness trainers who have been in the field a long time and who stay current in the research on health and fitness. Whether you can afford a trainer or not, study a site like Sports Fitness Advisor, because it presents a lot of common sense advice.
  • Recognize that each sport has particular training requirements and be focused on the stresses and strains those sports will cause.
  • Focus on balance and flexibility, regardless of whatever else you do.