Thursday, October 7, 2010

Training for Water Polo

When my son first started playing water polo two years ago, I knew little about the sport other than what I had seen on the Olympics. Patrick played football, basketball and track in high school, but water sports were a whole new venture.

For those not familiar with the sport, here’s a crash course:

  • Water polo is played in a pool, with each team fielding six players and a goalie.
  • It’s like soccer in that the object is to get the ball into the net, which is guarded by a goalie.
  • It’s like basketball in that every player plays both offense and defense. Plays are run on offense, with each man being guarded by a man from the opposing team.
  • It’s like football in that it’s an extreme contact sport, with the defender doing whatever they can (including almost drowning their opponent) to cause a turnover.
  • Players (except the goalie) cannot touch the bottom of the pool, and can handle the ball with only one hand at a time.
  • The team that scores the most goals wins.
Sound tough? It is the most physically demanding sport I have ever seen. Speed in the water matters. Strength matters.

Training season is intense. My son’s team practices twice a day in the pool – for two hours each. One session is swim training – laps, sprints, speed training – while the second session is water polo practice – running drills and plays in preparation for game play. They lift weights in between pool sessions.

Of course, all this training means lots of calories are burned. It’s tough for the players to maintain their weight, and they are eating four or more meals a day. It’s tough for the average player to get enough calories, but when you have multiple food allergies, it’s even tougher. Yes, my food bill from the college is double during water polo season than any other time of year.

To help meet his higher calorie needs and to ensure high quality calories, my son likes to add protein shakes. Living Harvest’s High Protein formula is the best we have found on the market. Soy and whey formulas are not suitable due to his food allergies, and while rice protein formulas can be found that are free of food allergens, they tend to leave a grainy aftertaste. Better still, Living Harvest’s high protein formula has almost double the protein of most formulas (which is important for building muscle mass), and has a high dose of potassium (to help avoid cramping).

Pat usually makes himself a very simple shake, combining protein with hemp milk, after his weight training session for the day. Even if your kids aren’t athletes, protein shakes can make a great snack. Mix the Living Harvest original with chocolate hemp milk, or the vanilla spice with vanilla hemp milk for a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up!

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