Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It couldn't be hotter

Since the arrival of my beach volleyball partner Ray Sewell and our physiotherapist Eric Rispens, everything in Rio has been going superbly aside from the crippling heat.  We have set up camp in our wonderful apartment just off Ipanema beach and have a full time physiotherapy clinic for ourselves as well as for other full time international beach volleyball athletes training in Rio.  With the level of activity and training that we are going through, daily massage and athletic therapy is necessary to stay healthy and strong.

There is so much happening here in Rio as emotions and events culminate for the epicenter of Brazilian culture "Carnaval" which will start next weekend.  It is a massive festival of indulgence as Brazilians prepare for 40 days of lent. The festival takes over the entire city with Samba music and street parties and the festivals epicenter revolves around an enormous Samba stadium where Rio de Janeiro Samba schools parade and compete against each other for a massively important performance title. This entire event takes over the lives of all locals and overflows onto the beaches during the day; not allowing us to train for just under a week.  Luckily for us it won't be too hard to find activities to do while we break from our intense training regime!

Another event which happens here in Rio is the "King of the Beach" which involves the top 8 players on the Brazilian Banko Tour in a large televised championship on Ipanema beach. It was a pleasure to spectate the 14th annual edition of this event and watch current beach volleyball legends battle it out in 35 degrees.  My very close friend, World Tour point champion and Ipanema born and raised local, Pedro Solberg Selgado won the king title over his new and current partner Pedro Cunha.  Both were the youngest to compete in the event and demonstrated the athleticism of the new generation of athletes filtering into the sport.  It was a superb event and truly demonstrated the significance of the beach lifestyle in Rio de Janeiro.  It would be such a treat to have a beach volleyball following of that magnitude in Canada. Having the fan base and corporate interest would expose the truth of it being the most exciting summer sport! 

Ray and I will be playing the top Dutch team training in Rio tomorrow morning and I hope to post a highlight video of that game by this weekend. I have also posted a few other highlight videos of our 2008 season games and will post those links soon.

Sending the excess warmth of the southern hemisphere north to Canada where I hear it is a tad bit chilly.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Hard Work!

My second incredible week has passed here in Rio and I am well rested for this coming week of hard work both on and off the sand. Last week was high paced and exhausting as we pushed my fitness as far as it could go.  This season I brought with me a Polar hear rate monitor to learn more about my body and make my training more scientific and precise to my needs. It was a humbling week as I thought I was far fitter than I actually was but served as an excellent lesson, indicating I am poor at quantifying my physical output during activity.  
In this week's sand training we trained between 70-90 percent of my hear rate maximum for 1 1/2 hour sessions. With a constant monitor on my heart rate, we are able to set more precise training tempos and recovery/resting times set specifically to my body's needs. It is also early in the pre-season so I am not jumping to allow for beach leg development and keep my injury risks to a minimum. Over 6 sessions I performed over 1200 hand sets, 600 bump sets, 800 transition sets, 800 blocks, 400 block peel digs, 1000 digs cross court and line and passed close to 1500 balls.  My coach is very regimented so we perform each task separately as to improve on the finest details and not complicate drills.  
Beach Volleyball is a game of errors and the more I train here in Brazil, the fewer errors I make. When I first got here 3 years ago I thought my skills were perfect.  I then was put into a setting drill and found out that 1 out of every 3 sets didn't go to the perfect spot.  Now with hundreds of thousands of isolated repetitions, I am setting 9 for 10 for both bump setting and hand setting.  The biggest difference from 3 years ago until now is the preparation and body base prior to executing the skill.  Making sure the proper foot is forward with a deep and balanced base while facing your target and being there on time are all steps which play their part in the end result and proper execution. If I can give any advice, it is to concentrate on the small, basic movements of a skill to secure the foundation and decrease the chance of error.
Aside from sand skills training, I went to the gym 6 times (1 1/2 hours per) throughout the week and did 3 afternoon running interval sessions.  Each interval session consists of 12 repetitions of 1 minute running and 1 minute of rest. We are building my fitness so my cadence is set to 165-180 beats per minute during the running.  As my fitness progresses, we will increase the cadence and then drop the rest and running times to an optimal 30 second sprint at 90% of my maximum with 30 seconds of rest which will target my anaerobic energy systems since most of volleyball is played in 6-15 second bursts.  
To keep my shoulder strong I am using a program call "The Buchbeger 12" which is a specific non surgery rehabilitation program for overhead athletes (it was created for MLB baseball pitchers).  A leading researcher and scholar in athletic shoulder therapy developed a 12 exercise program involving the rotation of 6 exercises per day.  It is a miracle program and I have not suffered from shoulder pain since I implemented it into my training. You can check his site out at
Well my partner lands tomorrow along with our physiotherapist!! I am very excited at the thought of training with a partner and improving together. So far everything has gone to plan and the World Championships are closer than ever.
I am going to go for a nap now and regain some energy for this afternoons interval and court movement training.  Have a fabulous week and I will check back in shortly!!