By Miles Montgomery | Photo by Anil Jergens
Since mandatory state stay-at-home orders swept across the U.S. in March, normal life has been turned upside down. Many students returned home from their colleges into a new world, one that required unprecedented lifestyle changes. Their favorite restaurants were shuttered, public parks, usually teeming with activity, were roped off overnight, and social gatherings suddenly morphed into social distancing. For members of the Colorado College men’s soccer team, the country-wide closure of gyms and athletic facilities at home presented a dilemma: without constant access to specific weights and machines, how were they going to maintain their strength and fitness levels?
Enter 27-year-old Derek Savage. After graduating the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2019 with a Master’s Degree in Sports Medicine and Strength and Conditioning, Savage recently began an internship in CC’s Strength and Conditioning department, working with both CC’s Division I and Division III athletes, under the tutelage of highly acclaimed and experienced Director of Strength and Conditioning Scott Caulfield. As COVID-19 quickly shuttered many of CC’s operations in March and shipped student athletes back to their hometowns, Savage sprang into action.
“My first thought was if the seniors that are involved in winter and spring sports would get an opportunity to compete in their senior seasons,” Savage said. The heartbreaking news would come just hours later, as the NCAA formally cancelled all winter and spring sports on March 12, abruptly ending the collegiate athletic careers of CC’s winter and spring sport senior athletes. However, in the absence of the spring season and weekly lifting, Savage had to design a new fitness program that the non-graduating members of the men’s soccer team could follow in order to stay in shape at home.
When asked what the primary focus of the quarantine program was, Savage highlighted the importance of flexibility. “My main focus when programming was to keep my athletes moving,” he said. “In order to do so, I tried to provide the men’s soccer team with enough material that fit everyone’s situation.” Since many members of the CC men’s soccer team do not have access to a wide variety of weights or exercise machines, the program relies primarily on body-weight exercises, and creatively substitutes household items for exercises that usually require weights, such as the single arm shoulder press, or bent over row.
Designing a program that would work for every member of the team in their specific situations was far from easy. “The hardest part of programming was not knowing what equipment was available to everyone,” Savage said. “I didn’t want to create something that the players couldn’t do.”
Due to Savage’s ingenuity, members of the men’s soccer team have been able to continue to add muscle mass and experience the benefits of a professionally designed workout program, despite gym closures countrywide.
“Obviously a huge benefit of the quarantine training program is that it is a structured way to keep fit, so that we are prepared when [our] season does finally start,” midfielder and captain John Schuler ’21 said . “My favorite thing about the program has been that it allows me to break up my day and stay active. It’s nice to step away from everything else, and it makes me feel more productive and just happier.”
Defender Noah Johnson ’23 also appreciated the organized and well-designed quarantine program. “It’s hard to find the motivation to work out some days,” Johnson said. “But, knowing we have a program and knowing my teammates are doing the same thing is encouraging.”
Johnson also expressed a deep appreciation for the work of Savage and the rest of CC’s Strength and Conditioning staff. “The staff does an excellent job of making everything accessible and keeps programs specific for what we need,” he said. “When everything is said and done, I feel very satisfied once I complete a workout.”
Although workouts in living rooms and garages are a far cry from pumped-up sessions in the undeniably impressive Jerry Carle Strength and Conditioning Center, it is most certainly a luxury to even have the ability to work out in any capacity during these uncertain times.
“One positive I hope the CC athletes take away from this quarantine is to appreciate what you have in life,” Savage said. “We start to take the little things for granted, and I hope this quarantine helps our athletes realize that.”