Mason athletes turn the playground into a workout

It’s every college student’s dream to play on a playground for exercise. For Mason athletes, this dream became a reality with the recent remodel of their weight room.

Mason’s weight room now has plenty of space for running around like a kid again and for allowing athletes to complete exercises. It even includes climbing ropes and monkey bars. The playground-style weight room is meant to help athletes focus on using their own body weight to improve strength and stay in control of their bodies.

John Delgado has been working with the women’s lacrosse team for the past four years. When the weight room was renovated, he and the rest of the staff were excited about the prospects it brought to weight training.

“It allows us to be more versatile and it makes [the athlete] flow through the workout. They’re able to do things as a team,” Delgado said.

The idea of the playground-style weight room came from Head Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Robert Handerahan. He saw children on playgrounds and wondered why more people were not utilizing this style of workout.

“Our athletes when they come to us have been playing their sport for so long they lost their basic functional movement like when kids are playing on the monkey bars,” Delgado said.

The monkey bars and ropes give athletes a chance to move and feel like kids as they workout.

Two of the program’s main goals are to reduce the chance of injury and help athletes understand body awareness and proprioception.

“We’re trying to bring out their full athletic capability. We’re not going to make you better at the X’s and O’s of your sport. We’re trying to help you be the best athlete you can be,” Delgado said.

Delgado said the lacrosse team has been able to work out as a team more frequently. Players have embraced the whole-body workout and have taken strength training beyond the weight room. The team takes various classes together, such as rowing, boxing, and core strength classes, to help players utilize a variety of muscles.

Sophomore midfielder Kirstin Morgan stayed at Mason over the summer to train in the new facility with her teammate Elena Obregon. Morgan is an advocate for the variety of workouts the team completes and thinks it will give them a leg up against competitors.

“I think a lot of the competition we go against is very single-minded and they don’t do the things that were doing. [Coach] Jesse came from a program where they’re intense and she knows what works. We’re going to know mentally that we can do anything,” Morgan said. “We’ve put ourselves in uncomfortable positions across the board and when we’re in an uncomfortable position in a game we are going to overcome the other team.”

Last year, players could use stretch bands to help with pull-ups and chin-ups; now they must complete each task without assistance. The team exercises in the weight room three times a week.

“It puts you in a different environment and situation. It’s not the same type of difficult. When you have to carry your own body weight for a certain amount of time it’s very difficult,” Morgan said.

The women’s lacrosse season does not begin until February, but players are already looking ahead, excited to take on competitors. Morgan believes that the team has made incredible changes over the course of the year, and players are heading into the season with their eyes on the prize: competing in the NCAA tournament.

University of Massachusetts has been one of Mason’s biggest competitors in the past. This coming season, Mason is looking for a win against Massachusetts in addition to one over VCU, who recently entered the conference.

Morgan is looking forward to seeing how she and her teammates stack up to these teams. “We’re ready to fight. It’s not going to be easy, but every girl will say . . . we would do anything for each other and we’re ready to make each other and our coaches proud,” she said.