Tag Archives: physical activity

You Are What You Eat

You-Are-What-You-EatToday’s post kicks off a new category for our blog, Food and Nutrition. After witnessing some of your eating habits at the last tournament, I feel compelled step in and offer some advice and suggestions on foods and snacks to help keep your energy up for a tournament without weighing you down. After all, by becoming a member of our club and making a commitment to learn and train in fencing, you are an athlete. It’s important that you fuel your body to peak physically and mentally.

Seeking out some expert help, I recently interviewed Toni Kuhel, certified personal trainer and founder of KuhelGirl Fitness, to ask what suggestions she might have for our high school fencing club. She had the following advice:

You are a product of whatever you put in your mouth. You eat like crap, you feel like crap and you certainly cannot perform at your very best, which likely means you perform like crap.

Sometimes the choices for tournaments, or being on a road trip, are not great. All it takes is a little planning ahead of time, only moments out of a day, to ensure that you have quality fuel for your next event. Toni offered some things to keep in mind when choosing foods:

If it had a mother or grew in the ground, you are probably in good shape. Anything that never spoils is a bad idea. Read labels – 5 recognizable ingredients or less is the rule. Even ‘healthy’ products can fail these rules, so educate yourself.

As you continue to eat clean food, you lose the taste for excess fat, salt and sugar. Your body does not want this stuff, but it’s gotten used to it. Once you’ve broken the cycle, you’ll find that when you taste those things again, you’ll think they are too salty, sweet or greasy.

As some of you have learned by now, your performance in fencing is entirely up to you. How well you do on the strip depends on no one else but you, so make the best choices both on and off the strip to make sure you can perform at your best. Additionally, a well-balanced, nutritious diet can help you keep physically fit and mentally alert not only during and after fencing season but all year round.

Look for the next article in Food and Nutrition where Toni will offer some suggestions on how we, as a team, can work together to keep properly fueled for our next tournament.


Dynamic Stretching for Improved Performance

dynamicroutinemar200What is dynamic stretching?
The short definition of dynamic stretching is “stretching as you are moving.” The opposite of dynamic stretching is static stretching, such as reaching down to touch your toes and holding for many seconds.

Recent research in sports movement and kinesiology has changed the way athletes warm up and prepare for training and competition. Athletes still stretch but they no longer stretch cold muscles. Just about every athletic team in the country, from little league to professional sports, performs dynamic stretching before exercising. Watching the athletes warm up at the Sabre World Cup in Chicago was fascinating! Their warm up routines were specific but simple to perform.

Now for the long answer… Dynamic stretching is active movements of muscle that bring forth a stretch but are not held in the end position. This is an excellent full body warm-up done prior to any type of intense activity, whether you’re about to play sports or lift weights. Dynamic stretching will be beneficial to your performance and will set you up for the training or competition ahead.

If you’re asking why this is critical and important, here’s the science: Your body has many mechanisms that need to be activated and stimulated.  When you put your body through a series of stretches while in motion, it sends signals from the brain to the muscle fibers and connective tissues in that area to prepare to do work.  Your body’s temperature begins to rise and blood is pumped to the working areas of the body.  Getting good blood flow to the area of the working muscles is very critical in order to supply the area with energy needed to do work.  Along with getting proper blood flow to the working area, the muscle fibers and connective tissues will gain more flexibility and range of motion.  Many studies have shown that dynamic stretching can help increase power, improve flexibility, and increase your range of motion.

In other words, by doing dynamic stretching after your warm-up and before your workout, you are going to feel stronger and work up to a greater demand on your strength and endurance. Your range of motion and flexibility will also be greater. Another point to remember is that dynamic movements are sport-specific, or tailored for your sport, and in our case that sport is fencing.

For additional information on dynamic stretching, read the article on WebMD, New Ideas on Proper Stretching Techniques (http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/new-ideas-on-proper-stretching-techniques).

Proper Jumproping Technique in Fencing

I hope that you all have a great summer or great new beginning after graduation! For those of you interested in starting a personal training program in the off-season, I’ll continue to post information over the summer to help keep you going. The following is a video done by Damien Lehfeldt, a competitive fencer and an assistant volunteer coach at DC Fencers Club in Silver Spring, Maryland. Damien was the coach of a London 2012 Olympic Athlete in Modern Pentathlon (Suzanne Stettinius). He is an A-rated epeeist and foilist and a national champion who is a mutt of multiple awesome fencing coaches (Janusz Smolenski, Mario Jelev, Robert Suchorski, Boyko Krastevitch, Alek Gromov).

Summer 2013 Clinics and Camps

Looking to continue with your fencing training during the summer? There are many opportunities, most of which are with universities with established fencing programs. So, the choices are not limited to this list; these are the camps that are closest to us in West Lafayette:

University of Notre Dame
June 16-22, 2013

Northwestern University
Competitive Fencing Camp: June 20-21, June 22-23
Summer Clinics: July 10, 17, 24, 31; August 7, 14, 21, 28
Open Fencing Camp: July 29 – August 1

Ohio State University
Summer Camps: June 17-23, Jun 24-28, or July 15-21

University of Pennsylvania
Junior Fencing Camps: Jul 14-20, Jul 21-27

Summer Fencing Camp at Fencing Center of Chicago (Park Ridge, IL)
July 15-19

If you are looking for something more “local” or closer to home, let me know. I can see if we can pull together something with some of the other coaches in the area, but it will depend on their availability and willingness to give up some of their summer vacation. If you are interested in some casual practice over the summer, as a group we may be able to arrange something as well. Contact me if you are interested.

An Aspect of Safety

Seeing as we are now starting a very early flu season, we are all at risk of doing serious damage to ourselves. As we’ve watched 7 people in Indiana die from the flu due to immune deficiency, we all have to understand what risk we are at. A study of the effects of athletic activity and immune response has shown that our body is weakened internally for weeks after serious strain on our bodies.


To combat this, I recommend we all be sure to have plenty of citrus fruits and watch sugar intakes. I am battling something and I am bogged down nightly trying to make it to school the next day. I am working out a small pre-practice  warmup and exercise regimen to help us reach physical fitness and approach full potential.

As for basic physical ailments, my knee is seriously messed up. My kneecap hovering on a joint of fluids and cartilage, tendons, and muscles has been fractured every so slightly because of my failure to warm up and protect this valuable joint. This made it impossible to put a shoe on today and I am wearing a knee brace as I speak. We should all take into account that we are not invincible and push ourselves to properly warm up and limber our joints so that I, or the next person, won’t be forced to sit and hope for a swift recovery.

So I ask at practices we take a fifteen to twenty minute period to follow me in a set of exercises intended to avoid the risk of destroying our bodies. I am not fond of pain, and I am especially not fond of seeing people in pain.

Keep it all in mind, and Lunge Hard.

Why Fencing?

Once in a while when talking with someone who is unfamiliar with the sport of fencing, I’ll get the question, “Why fencing?”

Not intending to be a wisecracker, my initial response usually would be, “Why not?”

There are dozens of way to stay active and to exercise, even hundreds. However, I’m one of those people who doesn’t enjoy exercising for the sake of exercising. I could never run just to run. I needed a soccer ball to chase after in order to run. I like to be mentally engaged in my physical activities, and if I happen to get physically fit in the process, so much the better!

Fencing improves flexibility, reflexes, speed and agility that provides a well-rounded form of mental and physical exercise essential for total health and wellness. Additionally, fencing promotes sportsmanship and fuels the desire to excel in different fields of life. A fencer is able to make quick and strategic decisions and has a better focus and level of concentration.

I could go on and on, but in the end you should find your own reasons and your own answer to the occasionally repetitive question “Why fencing?”