First steps toward return

Penguin players work on cardio

Staff photo / John Vargo YSU women’s basketball players, from left, Mary Dunn, Mady Aulbach and Emma VanZanten run the length of Cafaro Field during a voluntary workout last week. The women’s basketball strength and conditioning coach Jake Tuura watches from the background.

YOUNGSTOWN — Three medicine balls were on the one end line at the new Cafaro Field behind Ursuline High School on the Youngstown State University campus.

Mary Dunn, Mady Aulbach and Emma VanZanten saw 100 yards ahead of them.

The team’s strength coach Jake Tuura gave them the all clear to start as they made their way the length of the field turf with black, rubber pellets flying in their wake.

It was one of many high repetition cardio workouts the three Youngstown State University women’s basketball players did Monday morning last week.

Senior Mary Dunn, who recently received a medical redshirt and was granted a fifth year by the NCAA, hasn’t worked out with her team since being hurt in mid-November when she tore her meniscus.

Dunn was cleared to go during March, but YSU and all schools around the country were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said she’s excited to get back and not just be working out as she’s done at her western Pennsylvania home for the past couple of months.

“This is high-tempo stuff,” Dunn said. “I’d rather go in the post and just run. The hardest part is probably motivation for the team, not just myself. Now I’m working for the whole team. That makes it harder, but it makes me work harder.”

The cardio work is exactly what Tuura wanted to help ease the players in to weight training.

Currently, workouts are voluntary. These three are five players currently on campus working with medicine balls, sandbags, stretch bands and running.

“Right now is to get their heart rate higher,” Tuura said. “If you’re in bad shape and go into heavy lifting, it’s going to beat you up really bad. Right now is the time, for two or three weeks, to keep the heart rate elevated for about 60 minutes and doing the basic movements we do in the weight room, which are squatting, hinging with the hips, pushing, pulling, single-leg work.

“It’s kind of a progression where we start light with higher reps, a lot of blood flow. Then we go push it in the weight room. Hopefully, we can get back in there next week. Then we’ll be able to train a little harder, in terms of weights at least.”

Aulbach’s brother, Jack, is going to be a freshman at YSU this fall — part of the cross country and track and field programs.

Mady kept running with Jack once she returned home to western Pennsylvania, keeping her in shape.

“I haven’t been using a lot of weights since I’ve been at home,” she said. “I had access to body-weight exercises and done a lot of cardio. Even some of the squats and different things using the heavy med balls, my body is a little sore just adjusting to using heavier weights. That’s something I’ll have to get used to.”

VanZanten didn’t have access to a gym, like most people, during the pandemic. She has been running 3 to 6 miles Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while going 5 to 8 miles on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

“It’s just finding a different stress reliever,” she said. “Not being in that place. That’s my happy place. You have to find different happy places. Right now it’s on the turf. Hopefully soon we can get back to the gym.”

The key for the players is to build their aerobic base and not breathe as hard. Workouts become easier, faster and have a quicker recovery time.

“The end goal is hopefully reduce the likelihood they get hurt in the weight room or hurt in the sport and they optimize their performace,” Tuura said. “They’ll be able to push so much harder and recover faster between each bout. It’s really general stuff, but those are the things we’re after.”


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