Washington Spirit players at training camp in early March
Washington Spirit players at training camp in early March Credit: Bernie Koelsch/Washington Spirit

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Home Gym is a series by City Paper writers looking at the different ways D.C. is working out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay updated on our coverage of the global health crisis, and visit the CDC website for information on how to practice safe habits during this time.

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Washington Spirit players have been passing the time with their season on pause. Many of them live in the same apartment complex in Rockville and have had to get creative with their workouts. 

Just because they can’t train as a team doesn’t mean they’re lounging around waiting for organized soccer to begin. Being professional athletes, they’re wired and motivated to stay in fit regardless of the situation, and I admired how players like Paige Nielsen and rookie Ashley Sanchez incorporated regular household items like one gallon water bottles and cardboard boxes into their daily workouts, which the team’s high performance director, Michael Minthorne, supplies via the TeamBuildr app.

“They run four days a week: two linear days, and days of multi-directional drills in there,” Minthorne tells me. “Mondays are speed days, when they’re freshest, going as fast as they can. Tuesday is multi-directional day. We probably have a theme, whether it’s lateral shuffles, cross step movements that we incorporate into the drills. Wednesday is usually a recovery day, and Thursday is a linear day. It’s not going to be speed-focused, depending on the athlete, but Thursdays for the most of them are longer interval runs … Friday we have another multi-directional workout component … We target different things on different days so we’re not having to overtax the same muscle groups and energy systems.”

I wondered if the average person could adapt one of these sessions into their own home exercise routines, so I reached out to Minthorne, who emailed several options that included a strength training session, linear and multi-directional speed workouts, and a detailed warmup. 

Even though the sessions are modified to fit the lack of exercise equipment I own, the workout I received from Minthorne looked far more complex than anything I, an amateur long-distance runner, have ever done as typical weekday exercise. (The full workout is listed below.) I spent most of the night before attempting the workout Googling specific stretches and drills. What, for example, does “SL RDL with knee punch” mean?

After some consideration, I decided to attempt the multi-directional workout, which includes elements of “speed, but the focus isn’t just straight ahead speed,” Minthorne says. “You change directions, you get in and out of certain body positions and angles and you’re expected to change speed from those body positions.”

He says that it shouldn’t take more than an hour. One of his athletes, Minthorne adds, would take 30 minutes, “but you’re having to learn the exercises and learn the name, so I’d say an hour.”

I roll out my mat in the dining room and start doing the warmup exercises. Minthorne splits them up into prehab, movement prep, general movement, dynamic mobility, movement integration, and neural activation.

Each portion of the warmup is meant to activate a different part of the body. It’s far more comprehensive than any of my workouts. I move to the small area behind my apartment to do the dynamic and movement drills, and in all the warmup itself takes me about 20 minutes.

Now it’s finally time for the actual workout.

I gather two pairs of shoes to use as cones for the agility box. I find a few empty visitor parking spots, and space the shoes about four meters apart (Minthorne recommends anywhere from three to five meters).

It feels strange to change directions so rapidly, and I can instantly tell that my running shoes were not made for this. My heart rate starts to increase, and I feel a little self-conscious about how I look. No one would be mistaking me for a pro soccer player or elite athlete of any kind. 

By the time I finish my final agility box drill, about 32 minutes have elapsed. I make it just under the one hour mark that Minthorne predicted—a minor victory. About a fifth of that time was spent looking up how to do specific workouts.

“The purpose of this, in this pseudo off season we’re in, is to keep athletes at a high level so they don’t lose too much and are ready to start team training when we get the green light,” Minthorne says. “It’s also low enough with whatever technical training they’re doing, that it doesn’t overtax them. It’s fairly conservative, so I know what to expect when we start up again. The closer we get, it may be more aggressive.”

Typically, Spirit players would do a workout like this earlier in the day and then add on a strength training component after a brief break. As I head back to my apartment, I think about how the players do a similar workout every day, in addition to soccer specific training. None of them know when or if the season will begin. But being a pro means that no matter what, the work doesn’t stop.

Prehab (two rounds)
-Shoulder taps (30 seconds)
-Glute bridge marching (8 reps each)
-Knee to wall soleus stretch (8 reps each)
-Deep squat with reach (4 each)

Movement Prep (Glute Activation)
-Glute bridge double leg (10x) Click
-Glute bridge marching (10x each) Click
-Knees bent modified side lank (6 breaths) Click

General Movement     
-Jog / backpedal (2x 10 meters)
-Skip with arm circles forward/backward (2x 10 meters)
-Shuffle left/right (2x 10 meters)
-Carioca left/right (2x 10 meters)
-Walking lunges every third step (10 meters)
-Squat every third step (10 meters)

Dynamic Mobility   
-Knee hug      
-Leg cradle     
-Walking quad stretch   
-Elbow to instep with rotation     
-SL RDL with knee punch 
-Lat lunge with adductor stretch     
-Calf stretch

Movement Integration 
-Lateral march (2x 10 meters) Click
-Lateral skips (2x 10 meters) Click 
-Shuffle and touch ground forward (2x 10 meters) Click
-Carioca with high knee punch (2x 10 meters each) Click

Neural Activation
-Squat drops DL (2x)     
-Rapid response fast feet (2x :05)

Movement with Enough Space to Run (Multi-Directional)     
-Lateral bounds (2x 4 reps each)     
-90 degree rotational bounds (2x 4 reps each)     
-Lateral push to base, single step (2x 8 reps each)   
-Lateral push to base, double step (2x 6reps each)
-Lateral shuffle with pause *5 meters* (8 reps each)
-Lateral shuffle and back *5 meters* (8 reps each)
-Agility Box (6 reps each / each variation) 
-Forward / shuffle / backpedal / shuffle
-Diagonal run / shuffle / diagonal run / shuffle
-Start in middle of box, shuffle to each cone and back to the middle and sprint out