No summer vacation for college-bound athletes

Athletes must continue to train even though the summer is in high swing. Prep stars with college scholarships must keep to a grueling training schedule if they expect to be ready for college in the fall.

A group of 30 recent Parkview graduates and their parents went on a cruise several weeks to tropical waters.

Between stops in Cozumel and the Cayman Islands, the group planned plenty of eating and relaxing by the pool. As is the case with most cruises, the passengers plan on gaining a few pounds.

The Parkview group can't afford that luxury. Like most college signees, cruise members Sara Geiger, David Brown, Matt Raettig and Tim Gustafson face a brutal summer workout schedule to prepare for college athletics. A vacation cuts into their scheduled workouts, which are set up each summer by colleges to keep their signees fit over the lazy days of summer.

"You've got to keep going with (the workouts), especially when you go on vacation," said Brown, who has signed with Columbus State's baseball team.

"It's real hard. I'm going on the cruise and it's going to be tough to keep up with it while I'm on a cruise boat. But I've got some friends to keep me going on the cruise."

After weeks of following an intense workout schedule, the athletes don't want to regress with their regimen. Colleges send them detailed, day-by-day exercises in packets, and the signees do their best to complete the routine each day. Even if they're on a boat in paradise.

"We checked ahead of time to make sure they have a weight room on the cruise," said Raettig, also a Columbus State baseball signee. "It's not just the weight room you have to keep up, it's the conditioning too. You have to keep up with it so you don't get behind.

"If you take it off, you just get farther and farther down the line. If you take off one week, that's one week you'll have to make up."

Taking time off from the exercises also means sore muscles. In terms of soreness, it's frequently like starting over after a week off.

"It's always tough at the beginning," Brown said. "You've got to work through the sore muscles and everything. Just like every year with football, you take a couple of weeks off and you're hurting when you come back."

The weight work laid out in the college manuals is difficult, but most athletes deal with it better than the cardiovascular work. They find it tougher to motivate themselves to run, particularly with no coach there to push them.

Georgia football signees Trey Chandler and Mikey Henderson of Buford are among those who don't enjoy the lonely summer runs.

"The running is it," Henderson said. "The running is the worst."

The two Wolves said a typical day of running is 8 to 12 100-yard sprints, lateral exercises, six 40-yard dashes and six 30-yard dashes.

"It's tough to go run," Chandler said. "You've got to have a lot of discipline. You want to go to the lake with your friends. But if you want to be good, you have to work."

Chandler has seen great improvements from following Georgia football's workout book, which also includes descriptions of meals and snacks. An in-depth list of the proper foods to eat each day and in what portions also are included along with snack ideas. The 6-foot-6 Buford lineman is up to 278 pounds from his senior playing weight of 240.

Henderson and Chandler, like Parkview's Zeb McKinzey and Dacula's Des Williams, are preparing for extremely difficult college workouts.

"I think we've already got in our minds what to expect (from practices at Georgia)," Henderson said. "Something we've never seen before."

Gwinnett athletes also are fortunate to have good weight rooms at their schools. Most fieldhouses have open hours during the summer, allowing recent graduates to do their workouts without forking out money for a gym membership. Brown, Raettig and Geiger, along with several other Parkview athletes, regularly use their school's fieldhouse for workouts.

"You've got a weight room like this, you've got to put it to good use," Brown said. "This is better than most college facilities." Even with nice equipment waiting, the Parkview trio admits it's tough to pick the weight room over the pool. But working out in groups is the key.

"It's hard to be disciplined," Raettig said. "But that's why I'm working with (Brown), just so we can help each other and encourage each other to work harder, to make sure we do all our sets. Like it says in the book, if you're supposed to do 10 reps, do 10 reps. Don't do eight or nine."

The summer workout packets vary from school to school and from sport to sport. Some fitness schedules are in extreme detail while others are general.

Brown and Raettig spend much of their time in the weight room while Geiger's work to prepare for Samford's soccer season is more focused on running and agility drills.

"A couple of other girls on the (Parkview soccer) team have a lot more vague workouts," Geiger said. "It just says run for 30 minutes today and do ab (abdominal) exercises and weights. Mine is so specific.

"My book is the toughest I've seen and I've seen football, baseball and basketball books."

Tough or not, Geiger and other college recruits manage to stick to the workouts. She balances her baby-sitting job from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every week day with her exercise schedule.

Geiger wasn't baby-sitting this week on the cruise, but she expected to cast the other distractions aside for her workout schedule. Like her fellow seniors, she understands the importance of fitness.

"It's a big advantage for everyone," Geiger said. "If we get (to college) and we're in shape, the coaches only have to work on the soccer stuff. They don't have to worry about getting us in shape."

This story is reprinted courtesy of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

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