A New Kind Of Testing Ground For Ultimate Players

Photo: Ren at work in the field. With permission from Renfitness.net

We opened the RenFitness Gym this year in large part because we felt that having a dedicated facility would help us in our mission of furthering the sport of ultimate. We’ve found so much more value than we even hoped for, and we’re excited to keep using the gym as a test ground and research hub for new protocols for the sport! Along with training ultimate players for strength, speed, and agility, we continue to also focus on injury education and prevention. 

An article was recently published by Gabriel Cabrera calling for more research and development around the sport of ultimate (read the full article here). He raises a lot of good points, noting the lack of clinical research on injuries and health in ultimate and comparing the amount of support ultimate receives to the attention paid to other more well-known sports. 

“The lack of awareness in regards to injury and health of ultimate players poses a major issue for not only the advancement of the sport, but the establishment of its legitimacy," Cabrera writes. 

We really couldn’t agree more. Ultimate players need to train like athletes and treat themselves like athletes if they want to do athletic things safely and perform their best. That may seem like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of ultimate players (even at the highest levels) that don’t lift, refine running and cutting techniques, eat well, or prioritize recovery. If we want be seen and valued as a legitimate sport, we need to demonstrate a willingness towards athletic discipline!

He also points out that “a sizeable number of training regimens, stretching programs, and injury treatments utilized in ultimate are geared for sports which only share parts of their kinesiology with ultimate” and asks where the studies are for ultimate.

My talk with Dave Swedler about research in ultimate last year helped me realize that amount of person power for creating and managing these kind of studies is absolutely massive. There are so many variables, and getting teams and individuals to report back in a scientific way is very challenging. In my opinion, the type of research and development we’re able to do at the gym —while not conforming to any scientific protocol— is a great stop-gap for this lack of formal research. Because so many ultimate players come through on a daily basis, we’re able to try out new programming with a variety of audiences and find out what works and what doesn’t. This is a young sport and it requires an organic approach — we can’t just slap soccer ACL prevention protocols or baseball throwing training onto our athletes and expect them to excel. Our gym is a great testing ground for refining of S&C methodology for ultimate!

Cabrera presents several solutions to these problems. One is education of young athletes about preventative care and training, and another is warm-ups and cooldowns specific to ultimate that would reduce the risk of injury. These are great ideas and ones that we are working hard to develop resources to address. Not many teams can afford to bring strength and conditioning coaches in on a regular basis to work with players, and there aren’t enough of us focusing on the sport to have one in every city as of yet.

I believe that we have to coach the coaches and continue to put tools in the hands of ultimate players themselves in order to see a shift towards greater athleticism and lower incidence of injury. RenFitness partners with local organizations like DiscNW, AGE UP and high school teams to give young athletes access to age-appropriate training as well as self-care and recovery tools. Much of my work traveling around the country and the world focuses on delivering information at the level it can be integrated. That means I use different approaches based on training age, access to facilities and competitiveness. For individuals and teams who don’t have good insurance or money to burn, small things can become big things — a little hamstring strain is played through and ends up causing an ACL tear without proper attention and rehab. It's my intention to give people knowledge (especially at a young age) and practice what we preach, so that we’ll see a shift towards greater athleticism and more legitimacy!

Cabrera claims at the end, “There is no easy way to change a sport, especially when attempting to institute a paradigm shift related to the culture of the activity. In recent years, though, various individuals and companies have come out attempting to drive such a shift.”

And here we are! RenFitness has grown from just me, doing what I can on a local level and writing articles, to include two other incredible individuals (Bert Abott and Kira Morin) who use their expertise, their passion and their drive to make a difference in the lives of ultimate players. We opened our gym on January 1st, which was a big bet that we could convince more of our community to start training like athletes and prioritizing their health and wellness.

Just this month, we've entered new territory: we’re opening a virtual gym to bring content developed at our facility to people all over the world!

We want to put information in the hands of ultimate players as soon as we get it, and expand our sphere of influence much further than I ever could traveling around the world alone. We'll be providing awesome resources like warm-up and cooldown videos, virtual access to some of the cutting-edge workshops we run at the gym, and the opportunity to interact in real time with coaches. We’re beyond excited about the potential this will afford us to interact with athletes and refine sport protocol. We hope you’ll check it out and consider joining us on this awesome journey!   

Ren Caldwell is a longtime partner of the Ultimate Athlete Project, an URCA Speaker, and proud business owner. Her new facility is located in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle, WA. She's also a social media maven. Reach her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or watch her many helpful videos on YoutTube

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