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|| News Item: Posted 1999-09-27

Healthy Work Habits For Sports Photographers
How Not To Go On Disability

By Sam Mircovich, Reuters

Although we aren't highly paid athletes, our job as sports photographers frequently demands physical strength and stamina to keep up with the action. Sadly many of us (myself included) aren't cut out for the job. You see it every weekend, photographers running downfield lugging 40 pounds of camera gear, huffing and puffin, all the while trying not to trip over the TV cables. Yeah, running backs have it easy, because they only have 300-pound linemen to dodge.

I am not a trainer, a nutritionist or a "Body by Jake" clone. I'm not a ripped bodybuilder, or an endurance athlete. I'm just a guy who likes to lift weights and work out, and was asked by Mister Hanashiro to write some things down.

These are opinions, not gospel. But if it makes you want to get up and do something for yourself instead of your assignment editor - great!

Perhaps with some basic knowledge of strength and conditioning will make us better suited to carry out our jobs. Couldn't hurt: the trade-off being laid up with a sprained back or torn shoulder. This series of articles will address these issues and hopefully give you ideas on how not to get hurt on the job.


When it come to back injuries, weak abdomens are just as guilty as a weak back. The two muscle groups, lower back (the Lumbo Dorsal Fascia) and abdominals, work together to support the upper torso. A strong back is worthless if it is being weighed down by the results of years of developing your "Beer Muscle"

You know the beer muscle. It's the one that hangs over our belts, grows rapidly during a post game meal and reminds you the next day (along with his cousin, the headache) that your not getting any younger. The beer muscle is an equal opportunity kind of muscle; women develop them just as easily. I know a few women that can drink me under the table, and they have very large beer muscles.

I decided years ago that I am never gonna have a six pack (except the kind you get at 7-11) But I can keep my abdominal muscles strong, to help my back and to survive the demands of covering football. When you are caught in the middle of a scrum at the end of a championship game, the twisting, pulling and stress you put on your back can leave you with problems for the rest of your life.

Here are a few ideas to having a strong back/abdomen.



Athletes do it all the time. Why do you think that is? They don't want to get hurt. They have their million dollar talents to protect. OK, so your talents may not be worth that much, but it's not about THEM, it's about YOU.

You can stretch anytime before the game starts. Use the time to prepare yourself, instead of BS-ing with your friends. Five minutes before the start of the game can help you in the long run. My dream is for everyone to meet in a group before a game and go through an entire stretch session, led by Richard Simmons.

Oooohhhh. Don't tease me.


Grab a pole, rail, anything sturdy, with both hands. Place your feet about parallel to you hands and bend at the waist, making a V. Lean back on your heels, toes up. FEEL THOSE? Those are your back muscles and they probably got the shock of their life They are screaming, "Hey tubbo what ya doin' to my atrophied self? Now lower your center of gravity and try to feel a tug in your lower back. That's the Lumbo Dorsal Fascia. Really. Don't tug too hard because you just want to stretch, not rip out the ligaments.

Now slowly swing your ass around from side to side -leaning left, then right. Feel that tug along the side of your back? Those are your obliques. They run from your waist up your side and connect with your lats and serratus anterior under your arm. They help support the torso; otherwise your heart and lungs would spill out.

Not really.

Continue this stretch, five times per side. Don't fall over, people are watching you. Don't want to embarrass yourself, right? Stand up. Don't you feel better? Try a few trunk twists. You remember them-arms out, turn from the waist, left, then right. I think we called them propellers or windmills in grammar school. These work the obliques as well. Tense your stomach muscles as you do them. You should feel it directly and it should
limit the range of motion. If you have a broomstick handy, place it over your shoulders and behind your neck. Place your hands on the ends and TWIST. Don't jerk from side to side; try to flow, like gentle flower in the breeze-think pleasant thoughts. BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT. If you don't have a broomstick in your travel kit (like me) then call room service. They don't have much to do anyway).

Now find a wall, preferably away from the crowd because you don't want to moon them or give them a view of your bald spot. Rest your -dare I say- ASS against the wall, feet out about 8 inches and bend from the waist. JUST HANG, let your head fall. Don't try to touch your toes or anything, no one will be impressed and you might not be able to straighten up. The idea is to stretch your back, your hamstrings, and your gluteus, your shoulders and neck.

Feel the pressure building up in your head? That's blood rushing to you head because it's lower than normal and gravity rules. Don't worry, when you stand up it'll all go back to where it belongs. We can't have all that blood rushing around your brain, you might think straight.

(Editor's note: Part two will be published next month in Sports Shooter v.13)

(Sam Mircovich is a contract photographer for Reuters based in Los Angeles.)

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