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|| News Item: Posted 1999-10-22

Part II: Healthy Work Habits For Sports Photographers
0R "How Not To Go On Disability"

By Sam Mircovich, Reuters

BACK STRETCH (For the privacy of your hotel room because no one wants to see you roll around on the ground like a kitten).

Remember the cat stretch? If you ever took a yoga class before (and what are the chances of that) then you remember this one-on your haunches, bent at the waist, arms out in front of you. Press down with your chest as you lower your glutes. Feel the stretch in your lower back, glutes and shoulders. Feel like purring? Do you feel like wearing a latex cat suit while I...?


A good exercise that will strengthen the back as well as the abs -the for lack of better term- is belly raises. Lie on your stomach, arms stretched out above your head. Arch your back toraise both your straightened legs and chest off the surface. Don't try to bend like a twig, Just raise both to get them off the bed. Do 2 sets of 10 reps. You should feel this in your lower back and abs.

Another variation is that yoga move, I think they are called Good Mornings? You have seen baseball players do this one. Lie on your stomach and use your arms to raise your torso, keeping your legs flat. Stretch those abs, and back, keep your head up and think happy thought about your boss.

Speaking of yoga-if you u want to do something really difficult, then take a class. I did once and it kicked my ass. Unfortunately I couldn't stop laughing and joking to make up for my poor balance and strength. Needless to say I didn't go back, as it damaged my machismo.


Unfortunately there is no way around it-you have to do crunches. You don't have to have ripped abs to have strong ones. And it's not as if you don't have the time, lying in bed watching the Spice Channel. You are in a prone position anyway, so why not take advantage of the situation. The perfect crunch means raising your upper body no more than 6-10 inches off the bed AND constricting your ab muscles at the same time. Think of it as tightening the beer muscle. If you are in your room watching an hour of TV before bed, then you have at least 4 opportunities, maybe more, to do one set of 25 crunches per commercial break. Challenge yourself. Instead of changing the channel, do the crunch set. Try to spend that one hour before bed strengthening your body and investing in your well being. When 25 gets to be too easy, try 50. Keep adding 25 more each time you need to push yourself.

If you cant get into it that way, and you are lucky enough to have any sort of real life, i.e. a relationship, then get your partner involved. Yea I mean as in foreplay. I don't have to spell it out for you, do I? Crunches lend themselves to many types of foreplay, but if you cant figure it out, then email me for some ideas. Be creative, push yourself each time, and

There are many variations to the crunch. Find one you like.

Feet flat /knees up

One knee up/one leg crossed over knee (repeat on opposite side for 1 set)

Lower leg crunch- Raise lower legs 6-10 inches off ground -keep back flat-real good for lower abs

Double crunch- When you crunch your abs, bring your knees in to your chest. Works both upper and lower abs.

Side crunch- One leg over the other; lower body sideways, upper body flat. Both sides. These are good for obliques

Part of having strong abs is the conscious effort to carry them as we walk. Yea, I mean to suck in your gut. Surprise, it helps to tighten them and to help you walk more upright. Makes that old chest stick out and your spine straighten up. Get in the habit of holding the in that gut and you are halfway to helping that back problem. Plus the ladies-or guys-will give that once over more often.


Shoulders are my weak spot and a recurring problem. I have dislocated by right shoulder several times by falling down the rickety steps in my studio (anyone who has been to my Xmas party knows 'em). Another time, at a water park, I foolishly held on to the inner tube thinking it was gonna keep me from getting dumped. The inner tube had other plans, and lets just say that it launched behind me and tried to take my arm with it. Ouch.

The rotator cuff is the series of muscles and ligaments that hold the top of the arm bone (the humerus) into its socket. And it should be your first priority. You have seen ballplayers warm up their shoulders and you should do it too. You may not have a 100-mph fastball, but often you have your hands above your head for long periods of time. And that doesn't include those stops by the LAPD. Your equipment most likely will be draped over your shoulder and you have to use those shoulders to fight your way into and out of a scrum. You have to shoot those Hail Mary shots, while trying not to get trampled r trip over TV cable. You have to use those shoulders and arms to pull yourself up over a rail for a better higher angle. Take care of them because you have to place your burdens somewhere.


I can't believe I have to write this out because we have all seen it done. Perhaps when Mark McGwire does these, it just makes a better picture and we don't pay attention to technique. Ok here goes:

Pull one arm across your chest, keeping it straight, and push in from the elbow, gently. You are trying to stretch, not pop it out of the socket. Repeat on other side, three sets each side.

Another variation combines shoulder/chest stretch. Do the above stretch while gripping a bar, using it for leverage instead of pushing your elbow. From there, turn outward and stretch arm back to stretch the chest muscle and front of shoulder. Yea feels great (but I'm into that kinky stuff).

2) Pull your arm from the elbow behind your head. If you bend your arm at the elbow and let your hand drop behind your head, then you got it. Just pull your elbow in toward your head


Nowadays before I do any shoulder exercise at the gym I make sure they are properly warmed up. The warm-up consists of using a 5-10 pound weight to strengthen the tendons of the shoulder. I prefer to use a 10-pound plate rather than a dumbbell. Maybe it's a macho thing (senior Mircovich es muy macho) but a ten-pound weight painted turquoise doesn't fly for guys in my gym.

You can substitute the plate with anything in the 5-10 pound range that u can grip- heavy lead candlestick, large votive candle, any heavy blunt object.

The first exercise requires the elevation of the elbow. In the gym, a preacher bench elevated to shoulder height works fine. In the hotel room, look for anything that will support your arm bent at a 90 degree angle, a shelf, another chair (if seated) Take your weight, and with your arm at 90 degrees, lower your forearm forward, then bring it back. Don't move the elbow anywhere, just let the forearm pivot. Do three sets of 10 reps for each side-in a few weeks you could up the weight, but you don't want to go too heavy. You want to strengthen, not build muscle here. By the third set you may feel the burn, baby. Relish it. Learn to make it your friend. Don't be a baby. You're not gonna break anything-yet.

A variation of this requires you to stand, keeping your elbow next to your body. Bend the arm at 90 degree angle and rotate the forearm outward from your body. Make sure you keep your elbow in, and do three sets of 10 reps each.

Finally I do a windmill with the light weight. Take the weight and make large circles forward and backwards, stretching at the top of the rotation. Ten reps forward and back, each arm.

If you are consistent with these exercises (as in, more than once), your shoulders will stay strong and hopefully injuries free. Three times a week during the upcoming season is a small price to pay for the continued use of your shoulders.


I'm not sure how to prevent that occasional tweaking of the neck. Anyone who has felt that sharp pain run down you spine and up to you brain when you twist your head suddenly while loaded down with gear know what I'm talking about. Again there are some things you can do to strengthen the neck muscle to prevent injuries.

The neck is a real touchy subject at most gyms. Machines designed to build huge neck muscles have all but disappeared, pulled out fear of litigation from the kid who overweights the machine and breaks his neck. When I started working out it was cool to have a big neck or no neck at all.

Still there are things that are safe that u can do. Rolling your head around your shoulders slowly, in both directions, will warm it up fine. Pay attention to those pops and cracks when ya do it, and if there is any pain, stop and see a doctor.

Grab a hotel towel out of the bathroom, a face towel or bath towel. Drape it over your head and hold the ends in your hands. Bend your head forward, and using the towel for resistance, raise your head. This will help strengthen the muscles in the back of the neck- but this is a 4 sided muscle group. You can do this resistance exercise in all directions, side by side and from behind. Just offer enough resistance to strengthen, not sprain.


If you even try a couple of things mentioned here, you might be on track to do this job into your 50's and 60's (God knows why you would want to). Future articles will deal with strengthening your legs and arms, then maybe get into the atrocious diets of sports photographers and the vices we battle to relieve the stress of the job. Take everything I say with a grain of salt. I'm not an expert, just someone trying to fight off old age. And
have some fun in the process.

(LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Consult a physician before undertaking any type of physical conditioning. If you hurt yourself in the process-take Hanashiro to court, not me! I have nothing!)

(Sam Mircovich, an iron pumping fool, is a contract photographer for Reuters based in Southern California.)

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