LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 18, 2012) — As the University of Kentucky men's and women's swimming and diving teams prepare to officially open the 2012-13 season this Friday afternoon, Oct. 19 hosting Tennessee and Indiana, the student-athletes have been putting in hours and hours of practice in the Lancaster Aquatics Center pool and diving complex. But that's not all -- Among the dry land training activities the squad engaged in this fall is a series of cardio kickboxing classes led by fitness instructor Allison Perry, who also happens to be a senior information specialist for UK Public Relations.
"The coaches wanted to introduce a little more fun and variety into our cross training and cardio work so they brought in Allison to work with us one afternoon a week for about an hour each time," said Blake Freeman, a junior biology major from Palm Harbor, Fl., who specializes in the butterfly and individual medley events for the men's team.
"To be honest, she's done a real good job of kicking our butts," added Freeman, who then talked about the benefits of the fast-moving, hard-driving workouts. "I definitely feel more fit and confident after doing the kickboxing training. You need to have a strong core if you want to be a top competitive swimmer and Allison has really helped us with that."
Derek Perkins, an assistant coach on the staff of longtime UK head coach Gary Conelly said, "One of the main connections I wanted our athletes to make is how the kickboxing relates directly to swimming and how your hips are connected with the rest of your body. Every time our student-athletes would throw a punch, Allison would tell them to turn their hips. The power from the punch is generated from the hips and it is the same with swimming. The more you can coordinate your arms to the movement of your hips the more connected your swimming is going to be."
Senior accounting major Megan Eppler of Exeter, California swims backstroke and freestyle for the women's team. "This is really a new and challenging way to help us get ready for the season," said Eppler. "We do a lot of weight training and running stadium steps in our conditioning program, so this is something very different and I think most people on the team enjoyed it."
Perry has been in group fitness for nearly four years and teaches cardio kickboxing and other fitness classes six times a week once her regular UK work day is over. She credits Carrie Davidson, the UK Health and Wellness program's group fitness instructor, with suggesting the idea, after Davidson was contacted by Perkins.
"The elements in kickboxing utilize multiple muscle groups, often in unexpected ways," said Perry. "A cross or a hook needs major core rotation to be executed properly because of the twisting movement. A bob-weave works your lower back and legs but also your shoulders because you have to keep your guard up. An uppercut will work your shoulders and upper back, but the power behind the punch has to come from your lower body. Side push kicks not only work your glutes and outer hip, but also your obliques and the stabilizing muscles of your core because you're balancing on one leg. And those are just a few examples."
An observer who took in one of Perry's kickboxing sessions with these highly- conditioned collegiate student-athletes remarked to her that the workouts seemed like a real test of endurance and stamina for many of them.
"I think it was a test for them just because the movements were so different than anything they had done before," said Perry. "And because I knew they were already in excellent shape, I incorporated some interval training by doing anaerobic drills throughout class to try and get their heart rates way up…Interval training, which is making the heart rate go up and down, can build up cardiovascular endurance better than just exercising at a more moderate pace with a steady heart rate."
Perkins believes the experiment with cardio kickboxing already is a success for the UK swimmers and divers. "Getting them out of their comfort zone and challenging them in new and different ways. I think moving forward we will try to expand on that concept and take it a step further."
So, if you attend this Friday afternoon's meet or one of the several other home contests for the Wildcats this season, just remember that throwing lots of imaginary punches may have helped these student-athletes touch the wall of the pool a little faster or made their takeoff from the diving board that much better.
And, what about the possibility of cardio kickboxing being employed for fitness training by other UK sports teams?
Allison Perry said she is ready. "I would just like to state for the record that I am available to teach the men's basketball team should John Calipari be interested in such an endeavor."
MEDIA CONTACT: Carl Nathe, (859) 257-3200; Carl.Nathe@uky.edu