I need a nap: Michigan basketball puts the media through an abbreviated workout
The long white rope with black handles, wrapped around a piece of weightlifting equipment, sat peacefully on the ground.
It’s intention, though, was anything but. It was in this moment where I couldn’t help but look around and wonder what, exactly, I had gotten myself into. It was just a 45-minute training session with Michigan basketball strength-and-conditioning coach Jon Sanderson, offered as an inside look to how Division I basketball players train.
It started simple enough with stretches and agility ladder drills to get the heart rate up.
Then out came the rope - for an exercise known as battle rope slams. And with it, any pretension of Sanderson and his assistant, Adam Fletcher, keeping it easy went out the window.
The goal is to essentially throw your body - while staying in an athletic stance long since disappeared from most sportswriter’s ability - as violently as possible to slam the ropes on the ground.
For 30 seconds.
It didn’t seem like much. Until Fletcher slammed the ropes repeatedly, making it look like a seismograph crashing the ground.
Then members of the media tried.
At 10 seconds the ropes got tangled.
At 20 seconds my arms burned.
By 30 seconds, when the buzzer sounded signaling the end of the set, I wanted a nap.
The Michigan basketball team changed its preseason conditioning workouts this year, foregoing the yearly track workout that had been a John Beilein staple in favor of more basketball-centric motions and injury prevention techniques. Among them are the battle ropes.
And in the battle, the human lost. The white ropes won.
Before the workout, each of the media participants attached a heart rate monitor just below the pectoral muscles.
Purple, where I started the workout with a heart rate fluctuating between 70 and 80, was resting. Yellow was slightly resting. Green was a good workout. Red meant you were working your heart rate at 90 percent capacity or more.
Beilein joked afterward that most members of the media were in the red after stretching with a foam roll.
“It was good,” Beilein said. “I love wearing it myself and pushing it myself as much as I can into the red.”
As I walked over to a balance three-way reach stepping on a half-bubble meant to strengthen the ankle to prevent sprains, Beilein came over and pointed to the screen. Earlier, my heart rate had gone down quickly after each exercise.
Thirty seconds after the battle ropes, my heart rate was still red.
I laughed. A Division I athlete, I am not.
As part of a shortened circuit, Sanderson had us go through the battle rope, balance three-way reaches, another ankle strengthening exercise called tri-stretch crossovers and side tosses against the wall with a medicine ball while standing in an athletic stance.
He said afterward he tried to cram a bunch of different days of workouts in to give an idea of different things he does with Michigan basketball players. In-season, the players usually work out for a half hour a couple of times per week. In the off-season, the workouts are more intense and usually last an hour, focusing on different parts of strength development, flexibility and preventing injuries.
The easy assessment after one half-hour session - all of them are hard, at least for those of us not in Division I athlete shape.