It’s here, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here!!!! It’s finally here! Happy spring everyone!!!
OK, so we still have some cold and crappy days to deal with (a couple came this week), but we are finally putting winter in our rear view mirrors. One week ago today was the official first day of spring. I can’t wait for indoor putting practice to become a fall back for rainy days only. I sorely miss getting up every morning and heading to the course for my daily practice sessions.
For the folks in warmer climates, spring doesn’t hold near the significance for you that it does for my cold weather brethren out there. And it means even more for some of our European disc golf brothers and sisters. The sun is finally coming back out and actually staying out long enough to go play.
In addition to the meteorological signs that it’s spring, there are lots of other signs too. If you like college basketball, March madness is here and bracketology is in full effect. The clocks have been changed and the Sun isn’t going down until after 7pm! For me, one of my favorite markers of spring is the soreness I get the day after my first good, solid day of playing disc golf at my home course for the year.
We’ve all been there. We have the day off of work or school. The weather is nice. The ground has dried out. It’s that perfect first real day of spring goodness outside. We grab our bag of discs, dust them off, and head out to the local course with our buddies intent on playing until our arms fall off. Oh what a glorious and wonderful day that is!
The next day, though. Oh that next day. For the disc golfer who hibernated for the winter, it’s a painful day. Muscles ache. It’s hard to walk. It’s tough getting out of bed. It’s on this day that we pay the price for being sedentary and not throwing a disc all winter. If you’re really unlucky, you are now starting off your season injured.
I have to admit, I know this pain from experience. More than once I’ve come back from a disc golf hiatus of some type and just plain done too much the first day back. I’ve pulled my lat, strained my shoulder, blistered my hand, and strained a ligament in my elbow. Not all at the same time, of course, but each of those things has happened because I over did it on that first day back on the course after a break.
It’s because of these injuries that many years ago I started using a gradual process of easing back into things. A sort of spring training for disc golf if you will. Even if you’ve been playing during the winter (I usually do and this year was no different), this is still a good idea. Fair weather golf is just a different animal than snow golf.
Even with my continuing preparation for the the GBO, I started this spring ritual 2 weeks ago and it ends today. Tomorrow I have my first tournament of the year. I’ve found that starting 2 weeks prior to really playing seriously is enough time to safely get back into the swing of things in a healthy and injury free manner.
First, before we address the daily plan I follow, I want to stress the importance of staying limber and stretched out. A while back, I wrote a post about the stretching routine I follow daily. Whether you use that one or another, daily stretching should be a big part of a disc golfer’s life. As I learned the hard way, jumping out of the car and heading straight to the first tee is not the best idea.
Once you have that general baseline nailed down, it’s best to ease back into things. The following is what I do every year. It’s not the only way to approach this, but it’s worked for me for quite a few years and it might work for you too!
I take my practice basket to an open field. The goal is to just get into the swing of throwing again. I’ll start with 20-30 practice putts. Then I’ll start throwing approaches. I start close (50-100 feet). On these days, I’m not looking to throw very hard at all, just knock the rust off. Each day I move progressively further back until I’m about 200 feet out. I’ll never throw more than 60%-70% power during these first 3 days. I putt out every approach. The goal is right around 100 approaches thrown each day.
Rest. Yep, rest. I’ll typically do a bunch of mobility work this day. I might practice putting, I might not. This is strictly a forced “ease back into it” type day. This is the first of a few days I give my body to recover and build strength. This is probably the hardest of all the days. I stay in a field the first three days so I’m not tempted to just go throw a round. By day 4 I’m itching to play on the course pretty badly.
More field work. Here I take my basket to a football field. I’ll repeat what I did on day 3 as a warm up (200 foot putter approaches). Then I’ll break out my mids. The goal is to stretch back to 300 feet with my mids, but never throw full power. I don’t have a set number of throws in mind. I’m just trying to groove in a nice smooth throw and get my mechanics back. I’m also putting out from every throw on these days too.
Rest again. On day 7, I’ve worked up to throwing 75-80% power. I can usually start to feel some soreness again by now. Another day of mobility work is really useful here. I definitely practice putting this day.
Time to reward myself with some actual play on an actual course. Here I take three neutral mids and 3 putters to my local 9 hole practice course. It’s a great place to practice and never has many people on it. I play 18 holes of 3 disc golf. I play each mid individually and I putt out 3 times from each one. This is one of my favorite practice drills overall and this is a really fun day for me.
I always feel like this should be another rest day, but at this point the itch to throw plastic is undeniable. So, it’s back to the field with my putters. Here is when I start to try and push some distance out of them. As a note, almost every throw up until this day has been a stand still throw. Day 10 is when I add my xstep in. Using putters really shows any issues I might have and allows me to work on correcting them. Weather and time permitting, I’m throwing a couple hundred up shots with my putters and putting out all of them.
Time to break out the fairway drivers. Typically I’ll pull out a straight (used to be Leopards, now it’s Visions) and a stable with fade (used to be Teebirds, now it’s Riots – also trying the Stag out this year). Back to the practice field. I like to eliminate putting on this day. It’s my first day out with drivers for the year and I just want to get some reps in. I start at about 50% standing still and gradually work my way up to about 80%-85% power with a run up. This is more about regaining muscle memory and working on smoothness than anything else. It’s also prep for Day 12….
Huzzah!!!! It’s finally time for a real round on a big boy course. Still no high speed distance drivers, but fairway and down is fair game. Depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll play 36 holes on this day and book end it with putting practice inside the circle. I play real rounds with no practice or second shots. I try to simulate a tournament as closely as possible. This is typically a few days before my first tournament of the year so if possible, this practice is done at the same course I’m playing that weekend. This is the first test of the year as to whether or not I’m ready for competitive golf. It’s also when I look back at the previous 11 days and thank myself for the self discipline. I’ll typically be feeling really good about my game at this point. More importantly, I know I won’t end up injured.
Rest. I’ll typically beat myself up pretty good on day 12 and will be feeling it. More mobility work and a lot of yoga on this day. I will practice putting a lot on this day. Probably 500+ putts.
This is usually my first tournament of the year. A good night’s sleep, yoga in the morning, a couple hundred practice putts, and arriving early enough to practice the holes I think will be challenging that day.
So there it is. My version of disc golf spring training. I’m smart enough to know that most people won’t do any of that. Once the weather is nice, most people will just hit the course and start playing. I totally get that and completely understand wanting to just play until the ole arm falls off.
For what it’s worth, this has worked extremely well for me and I did it again this year (today is day 13). I truly believe that if you work your way back into your season similarly to this you really set yourself up well for health and success. There’s nothing worse than starting the year injured. Hopefully you can take at least a couple of useful nuggets from this plan that will help you prevent that.
Regardless of how you get ready, I want to wish the best of luck to all of you in this year’s disc golf endeavors. Whether you are a tournament player, a league player, a casual player, or once a week one disc wonder, may all your discs fly true and may your birdies outnumber your bogies. I truly hope that this is your best disc golf year ever and I’m thankful that you allow me to be a part of it!
Here’s another thing that will help you play better this year, subscribe to the Mind Body Disc blog! We’ll send you a weekly newsletter rounding up all of our posts for the week so you never miss a thing.