• Michelle Howell

Postcards from Training Camp

An athletes paradise located in the sleepy city of Bradenton, IMG Academy was home for the past two weeks.

Winter is a very foreign concept to me. Snow? Shoveling? Ice? You can keep all that, thank you very much and leave me with balmy, Florida Decembers any day. Yet, here I am on my couch after spending a half hour slogging, slipping, perhaps a mixture of the two through powdery snow. Moving to the North, I knew this day would come, but thanks to a training retreat this is the first day I've had to deal with reality.

For the past two weeks I've been at an "adult" camp. I use the term camp, but in reality the only activity of our camp was running. All other activities (sleeping, eating, biking, swimming) were centered around what we planned to run that day and the time when none of the above was happening you'd find us laying around by the pool or sneaking in some time at the on campus training room for treatment.

A Day as an Adult Athlete

When you arrive at IMG the first thing they do in give you an ID card that reads Adult Athlete. The card hung on a blue lanyard is your access key to all the perks the campus has to offer and in our cases helps us make the case that we are in fact adults and no longer in high school like most other campers on the premises.

Our life revolved around working out so it was only natural to start the day with some stretching, rolling, and a light breakfast before hitting the track or the trails. From our villas a tram service escorted us from the one side of campus to the other. On easy days though it was just as nice to stroll the half mile or so that separates the two.

IMG Academy was built for athletes in mind and it shows in the facilities through and through. It's no wonder people from around the world send their children to train here and why so many professional athletes do the same. Walk anywhere on campus and you'll find athletes practicing or engaging in some activity related to their sport. This culture so focused on success, competition, and excellence is unlike any training environment I've ever been in- it feels like being at the NCAA championships every day. Apart from regular students, campers are in attendance year round eager to test their abilities and learn.

The track in accordance with everything else on campus, was perfectly bouncy and devoid of any imperfections (apart from the hole I accidentally made within the plastic grates covering the drainage sites circling the blue oval- sorry). Baby blue, lined with palm trees and shade tents for relief from the sun it was a nice change to the public and high school tracks surrounding DC. The only catch? That baby blue leaves some marks- literally. The white tread of my shoes is now the same shade of blue. Thanks to Ryan Sterner we also got some really amazing photos at the track some of which you can peruse below or on his own personal website.

After our workouts on the track the manicured fields of turf and grass surrounding the baby blue oval provided more then enough routes for warm ups and cool downs without the worry of stray lacrosse balls or any other flying projectiles- a very real concern that's come from having workouts at the same time as the lax team in college.

Wrapping up our sessions on the track the next camp activity was almost always visiting one of several weight rooms on campus. The best one being dedicated to the day-in-day-out student athletes just next to the track. This massive complex is equipped with a meditation room, yoga studio, and training room and more squat racks then I could count. It's also attached to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, a lovely place where we were treated to free Gatorade products whenever we visited the complex. I'm now particularly fond of the mint chocolate protein bar.

Main Gym

When we weren't on the track running we were in the pool that was nestled in the middle of our villas or off campus getting in longer miles.

The Long Run

If you've ever been on a run and come to the end only to realize it's not where you started then you know how Claudia and I felt during our unexpected long run at Emerson Point Preserve. Only a short drive from campus the preserve offers miles of soft surfaces from a bouncy rubberized trail to crushed shells and packed sand.

Fifty minutes into our run the sun was high in the sky and I decided to coast in the last mile while Claudia, got in a bit of extra mileage. Sun drenched and thirsty, I made one final push to the parking lot where we had started the morning, where I knew ample amounts of water, a protein bar, and my air conditioned car awaited. Where I thought Ryan, one of our assistant coaches, would be waiting with water and snacks was a stranger attempting to lather on sunscreen. Where I thought my car would be was a plethora of empty spaces.

I was lost. I had no idea where I'd lost my way and as we all know the only thing worse than being lost with someone is being lost alone. I walked up to the man that was layering on sunscreen and asked if he knew the direction of the other parking lot. Still half asleep he yawned "I've heard of it, but I've never been able to find the entrance". He would not be the only one to give me that answer, in fact it would happen at least two more times while wandering the trails. Luckily not long into trying to get un-lost I ran into Claudia who was also quite lost. Lost together, we spent the next mile slogging around and when we realized that the next nearest parking lot was not in fact the one we'd entered we spent the next hour or so walking about attempting to find the mystery lot.

Luckily for us after realizing neither Claudia or I was ambitious enough for a two hour "long" run, the boys had sounded the alarm- or at least attempted to. As it turns out, the park rangers had no clue what to do because, well, apparently no one is ever reported as being lost at Emerson point preserve. That didn't stop Que, David, and Ryan though from stopping every park goer and asking if they'd seen two women walking around the park and eventually running the trails again themselves to find us.

You can be sure we treated ourselves to some Smoothie King after the ordeal and spent the rest of the day napping.

All in all, the past few weeks have been a dream and as we all know dreams come to an end. It's back regularly scheduled winter training here with our first meet at the end of this month.

As always a very big thank you to the District Track Club for opening up these opportunities and to Under Armour and IMG Academy for making this trip possible.

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