National Team Kick Off 2019 with Vigorous Physical Training Camp

By Matt Hetherington | Jan. 09, 2019, 10:02 p.m. (ET)

The New Year kicked off with sore bodies and plenty of challenges for the 2019 US National Team players. A group of invited players attended a tough physical training camp from December 30 to January 5 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. 

During that week they would undergo morning and afternoon sessions each day, combining challenging physical conditioning and table tennis training. 

Throughout the camp it was clear that the players came together to support each other and, across the many photo and video updates from Colorado Springs, the team were unified under a common goal.

From the 2700+ steps to the top of the Manitou Incline, to boxing training, ropes, agility, stamina, and of course table tennis, it was an amazing effort from the team to push themselves to their limits. 

Rachel Yang was able to give some inside perspective on the camp, not one to underplay the vigorous schedule and also the benefits of the week of hard training.

"It was a very tiring camp, there were challenges like changes in weather and lots of muscle aches. We woke up early each day to jog and eat breakfast and then a heavy schedule for the day. It was definitely an eye-opening experience to test your capabilities and also to see what can be improved as an athlete," says Rachel.

"I was not so great at the running stamina on the first day, so I had to go on the treadmill three days straight. On the third day it was so much easier compared to the first day and I finished my 45 minutes easily," explains Rachel as she notes the improvement across the week, "My stamina actually improved a lot, even in a short space of time."

Despite the tough schedule there were plenty of fun moments scattered in between for balance. 

"Even though it was a difficult camp with a hard schedule, Coach Joerg also added fun activities like bowling on New Years eve, and we went to watch a basketball game," says Yang.

The variety of different training mechanisms was evident, with the Olympic Training Center facility providing everything needed for an intense physical training camp, from equipment to staff. 

The reviews were positive from the players, who appreciated the opportunity to push their boundaries to the limit. Tia Hsieh gave contrast to the challenges and benefits of the camp:

"Our week at the Colorado Springs Olympic Compound did not only consist of a series of workouts that improved our physical strength, endurance, speed, and agility, but it was also a trip that made us push our physical boundaries as athletes and bond as a team. By working through obstacles together, such as helping each other up the slippery Manitou Incline, or even just by sharing music with a teammate during a jogging session, we encouraged and motivated each other to do better.

Personally, I suffered from altitude sickness and was unused to the lack of oxygen for the first two to three days. Instead of acting as a handicap, it encouraged me to push my physical boundaries and persevere; my improvement in performance was evident to me by the last day of the camp. Once gasping for air by the thirty minute mark on the treadmill, I was now only gasping for air after forty five. The unexpected altitude sickness improved my stamina through encouraging me to persist through the nausea. I was also able to persist knowing that I was there surrounded by my TTTeam USA teammates and that we were in this together.

Altogether, it was an amazing experience that readied us for the competitive year of 2019 that is to come."

The boxing aspect provided an interesting insight for the players as they were taken under the guidance of US Boxing Head Coach Billy Walsh. From the fast short bursts of footwork, keeping on their toes and of course the similar weight transfers of boxing, there were many lessons and transferable skills to be learned by the table tennis team. 

With a week over, the team had completed all the hurdles thrown at them, all in the altitude of Colorado Springs. They would head home to recover, with many lessons learned and improvements to be made to their own physical training schedules. USATT would like to thank the Olympic Training Center and its staff in Colorado Springs and USOC High Performance for their support in arranging this valuable event for the US National Team players.