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Research On Crews, Others Yields Startling Results

Friday, February 01, 2008

Photo: John Crews

Elite Series pro John Crews found he burned an astounding 4,300 calories in 1 day last year fishing Smith Mt. Lake.

(Editor’s note: This is part 1 of a 2-part story about a new trend on tour – training and nutrition. Part 1 provides an overview with pro John Crews. Part 2 will be a Q&A with program creator and trainer Ken Hoover.)

Question: How grueling is a day of competition for a bass pro?

“Pretty tiring” would likely be the answer most BassFans give. That’s why it’s so surprising – shocking even – that recent research suggests that pros burn as much as 3,600 calories during a day of competition.

That’s equivalent to a 23-mile jog at 12-minute miles. In other words, a few miles short of a marathon – a distance only a few of the best-conditioned athletes can run.

What’s even more surprising is that the man conducting the research – Ken Hoover of Athletes Outdoors, a lifelong fisherman and former guide who’s helped train everyone from pro athletes to olympians to world-champion bodybuilders – found that only part of that calorie-burning is due to athletics. The rest, he said, is a factor of mental engagement. The pros are so intense during competition that their heart-rate is accelerated, which leads to additional caloric burn.

It’s widely known that too many pros eat little, if anything, during a day of competition. That alarmed Hoover, and the pros he worked with. Because once a body runs out of food (or “fuel” as Hoover calls it), it begins to eat into itself to create energy, which results in the loss of muscle mass.

The pros are left with a body unable to repair itself by the next morning of competition, and the result is a downward spiral of lost energy and mish-moshed mental focus – disaster for athletes in the middle of do-or-die competition.

This is the story of that research – how it began, who was involved, and what was learned – plus the future: Hoover’s new enterprise to help support Bassmaster Elite Series pros and their families on tour.

It could very well be the start of a new era in the sport – one in which pros don’t just talk about themselves as athletes, but monitor and care for themselves just like pro athletes in other sports. Hoover’s support trailer will be a regular fixture at Bassmaster Elite Series stops this year, and if the recent buzz is any indication, many more pros might adopt his training program as early as this season.

Crews in Control

Virginia’s John Crews is one of the fittest anglers on tour. At 5’9″ and about 165 pounds, his max bench press is 315, and his max squat’s about 350.

He’s very attuned to his body mass, and became concerned a few years ago when he began to lose weight during the season. For someone with his body type, that meant he was losing muscle.

At the end of the 2006 season, he was 15 pounds lighter than when the season began. But with Hoover’s guidance, things improved and after the most recent season, he’d only lost 5 pounds.

“Last year, Ken tracked about 10 or 15 guys,” Crews said. “We wore heart monitors during the tournament day so we could track how many calories we were burning. That’s very important so you’re able to stay focused, and you body’s continuously able to replenish itself out on the water. You don’t want to go into starvation mode and do bad things to your body.”

Along with Crews, the study included pros like Jason Quinn, Gerald Swindle, Peter Thliveros, Shaw Grigsby, Randy Howell, Alton Jones, Mark Tucker, Kelly Jordon and Todd Faircloth, and will expand to at least 20 families this season, including possibly everyone on Team Toyota.

“Our average heart-rate, as you might imagine, is very elevated throughout the fishing day,” Crews said. “The pressure and competition makes you burn more calories than if you were just going out and taking it easy.”

And what was most surprising to both Crews and Hoover was how many calories Crews burned through last year at Smith Mt., where he finished 8th.

Photo: Ken Hoover

Crews consults with fitness and nutrition trainer Ken Hoover about the day’s heart-monitor results.

Crews described the discovery like this: “I’m not a huge guy – my average body weight’s about 165 pounds and I’m 5’9″. One day at Smith Mt. I burned 4,300 calories in a 9-hour stretch. That’s a ton. My average for a regular tournament day is about 2,500 to 2,600 calories. So when the pressure’s on, you really can burn a lot of calories. And if you’re not replacing them, you’ll be completely drained after 1 day.”

Countermeasures

Hoover’s work with the pros involves several layers. The first, and perhaps most important, is food intake. Pros, he said, need to eat enough of the right kinds of food to replace what they burn through. So he provides them with a bag of “fuel” for the boat each day.

He also coaches them for strength and conditioning. But during an event, the pros typically don’t work out – it would just be too much. In that case, he coaches them on stretching exercises. In part 2 of this story, he’ll discuss the support trailer he’ll bring on tour.

One angler who especially benefited from Hoover’s nutrition guidance was Peter Thliveros. “Peter T. had a great result,” Hoover said. “He probably started in the worst place – he’ll tell you he had terrible habits.”

Those habits, Hoover added, involved a big breakfast, barely anything to eat on the water, then a big dinner. Now, Thliveros eats his fuel during the day.

Alton Jones is another example of the positive effects of good nutrition, according to Hoover. “Alton’s wife Jimmye Sue told me, the first day Alton took a bag of fuel, he got home with a pop in his step. He was able to be a father to his boy and girl. That’s big stuff to me.”

About his fuel, Crews said: “We like to have a variety of things. We don’t like to eat anything that’s overly processed. One of my standards is good old PB&J, plus fruit, granola bars, protein bars – those are kind of the staples of my diet. I sometimes drink those little Ensure drinks. They’re designed for older people who don’t have the appetite, but need the calories.”

And along with the nutrition and pre-tournament stretching, Crews said he and Hoover are also working up a regimen of fishing-specific exercises, in part to help stem the increase in fishing-related injuries among pros. The regimen includes fishing movements with weights and resistance to help prevent most overuse injuries like tennis elbow and carpal tunnel.

What Crews Thinks

Crews, now 29 years old, has been a workout and nutrition nut since college. But over the past 2 years, and especially since his heart-rate experiment and training with Hoover, he truly feels it’s all made a difference in his on-the-water performance, which is the ultimate check-sum for any pro athlete.

He described his results as having three components. Here they are, followed by his comments.

1. Physical – “When you work out, you’re essentially breaking down your muscle, then it rebuilds itself stronger that it was before. When we fish an exhausting tournament, our bodies break down. You hear guys talking about how their backs are sore, or their feet are tired. For anybody who works out on a regular basis, they (instead) feel like it’s their body recovering. And the quicker your body can recover, the quicker you get rejuvenated for the next day. You’re not going to be tired from the day before. My body recuperates every night. That’s probably the most important side of it.”

2. Mental – “Fishing, in my opinion, is about 90% mental – maybe even higher. If you’re confident, you’re going to do better. And if you’re working out, and eating right, your body feels good – you feel strong. It gives you more confidence in everything you do – not just in fishing, but in your entire life.”

3. Lifestyle – “The third aspect of it is, if you’re fully involved with your workout program and you’re in that type of lifestyle, I wouldn’t say you watch what you eat – you know what you eat, especially you know how many calories you need. So you’re not overeating. You’re eating the right amount at the right times.

“I think (working out) has improved my fishing through my confidence and through the fact that I don’t feel like I get tired after two or three events,” Crews added. “And this whole nutrition enlightenment is fascinating. I think that it definitely helps for the rigors of the tournament trail.”

Notable

> When not on tour, Crews described his home workout routine like this: “It’s pretty much exclusively weight training. But every couple of workouts, I do a very high-paced workout where I’m only resting 30 to 60 seconds in-between sets. I get completely drenched by the end of the workout.”

> To check out Hoover’s site, visit AthletesOutdoors.com.

> A video that features Hoover was published late last year on ToyotaFishing.com (titled Basslethics).

– End of part 1 (of 2) –


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