Though I’m sure other fitness trainers — even regular sessions at the local gym — could be effective, I like how the program focuses on becoming fit for golf. As TheraGolf founder Skip Latella tells me, “If you do even 10 minutes a day of flexibility exercises and other aerobic conditioning and some strength training, you can retard the natural aging process. But there’s a difference between being strong and having certain flexi-bility and being specifically fit for golf.”
TheraGolf, Latella says, develops strength, balance and flexibility through a complete range of motion for golf.
Sign me up, I say.
A month into my workout regimen I make a startling discovery: My car has a backseat! Before, whenever I shifted into reverse, I could swivel my head just enough to glimpse the rear window. Backing out of the parking space after one of my 40-minute, thrice-weekly workouts (see below), I’m able to turn my upper torso around so far that I can see all the way to the candy wrappers on the backseat floorboards. This is major progress.
My golf game is also rounding into shape. I’ve broken 80 twice this month, lowering my USGA Handicap Index from a shaky 12.7 to a cocky 9.4. And it’s not just because of a hot streak with my usually balky putter. My drives, at least for me, are booming, and I feel stronger through my stomach, which gives me a feeling of solidity, even confidence, when I set up to the ball. So far, Eanna tells me, I’m 20 to 40 percent more flexible in the major golf muscles.
Watching me go through my drills at TheraGolf one day, an older man working out next to me says, “My wife did that. In three months she gained 20 yards and lowered her handicap from 34 to 21.” I smile to myself, envisioning the looks of my office mates when I finally win the office golf tournament this fall. “What got into you?” they’ll wonder.
After working out for three months steady, I get overconfident. I get lazy. I figure it won’t matter if I miss a few exercise sessions. I get out of the habit of working out. Then I go on vacation, stop stretching altogether and play horribly. My self-discipline takes a further blow when, during a visit with David Leadbetter, I mention my hard-won gains in flexibility. “That’s nothing,” he replies. “I’m working with a guy named Bob Prichard, whose clients are getting up to 300 percent increases in range of motion from a type of connective tissue massage. It’s unbelievable.” (See sidebar, page 218.) I’ll say. Here I’ve been working my tail off (at least I was) to get a measly 30 percent more shoulder turn, when I could be turning into a golf Gumby without even breaking a sweat. It’s just not fair.
After skipping a few more sessions — and finding out that Prichard’s massage table was booked for the summer — I resume my workouts. I owe part of my rededication to Tim Mahoney, a Golf Digest Schools Instructor. Talking of fitness while on a photo shoot, he says, “If I don’t exercise for a while, I lose my sense of ‘structure’ in the swing, and I have less power through impact.” That “structure,” I realize, is what I have been missing in my own swing.
Backsliding among exercisers is not uncommon, Latella tells me. Three months or so into the program, he says, “the easy gains have been made.” The good news, he adds, is this: “You’re not going to lose much range of motion after a short layoff. You’ll get it back.” Working out regularly again, I set personal-bests for flexibility — and, it turns out, stamina. I play four rounds in five days. Used to be, I’d be in traction after that much golf. Now I’m ready for more.
Played in our office championship. From tee to green I strike the ball better than ever. Unfortunately, my new power game is betrayed by my puny flat stick. (The hacker’s eternal lament!)
After having my “after” measurements taken, I make plans to continue my fitness regimen in the off-season. erhaps I’ll add some weight training for more strength, and speed-of- movement exercises to jack up my fast-twitch muscle fibers. I could use another 10 yards next season. Then if my putter could only start pulling its own weight .