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A Day in the Life of a Fencer

The sport of fencing doesn’t receive much attention. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t involve a ball and high dollar ads attached to it. Or, maybe it’s because it’s a game of wit and doesn’t captivate our need for brut strength on a field with lines and numbers. But, make no mistake; fencing is a serious sport that requires extraordinary wit and physical strength. It takes mental power and focus to triumph over your opponent.

At 52 years old, my younger sister Gayle is a multi medal-winning fencer. In July, she’s headed to the USA Fencing National Championships in Reno, Nevada. I asked her about how she’s preparing and training for this prestigious event and she clued me in on her daily regiment.

Michelle: What is your secret for being in top physical shape for this event?

Gayle: I fence as much as I can, sometimes almost every night of the week if I can manage it.  I hike 5-6 miles at least twice a week.  Before fencing, I do a warm-up of light running around the gym, followed by some assorted footwork, eg: lunges, “Frankenstein” kicks, leg circles, etc.  I might also go up and down the length of the gym doing advances, retreats, lunges, etc.

I now save my “passive” stretching for after sports, as was recommended to me by a coach recently.  He claims it’s better to actively warm up because it prepares the body better for aerobic activity.  I’m careful though not to burn myself out!

Michelle: How are you nourishing and hydrating yourself during this particularly intense training period for the Nationals?

Gayle: I eat when I’m hungry, mostly salads, veggies, stir-fry’s, and lots of soups.  Growing my own food helps greatly with this.  I also love bread, pasta and crunchy things but I try to limit my consumption during intense training. I don’t care for or eat much meat, but I do order it occasionally when eating out…I don’t like dealing with it raw!

I keep water handy and drink tons of it.  I often make simple teas with garden stuff…lemon grass, lemon balm, mint. I just boil the water and throw it in…very refreshing.

Michelle: What categories are you fencing in at the Nationals in Reno?

Gayle: I’m fencing women’s vet foil, woman’s vet epee, and I’m fencing in two team events in both foil and epee. The Foil team is “sassy wahine” and epee is “s&m”…smoke & mirrors. I’m told team play is a blast so I’m glad to have the opportunity to play.

Michelle: What is your motivation for taking your fencing to the next level?

Gayle: While I’ve attended the Nationals once before, I have never competed in them. The experience alone, to fence against those from all over the country, will be worth the trip. But, give the girl a piece of pretty metal and she’ll fight her heart out!

Michelle: What is it about fencing that draws you to the sport?

Gayle: The fact that it’s a game of strategy and wit first but also a game of extreme physical focus. Your physical discipline needs to be so intense or you’re a goner. There’s a fine line between having self-confidence in your skills and over-estimating your abilities during a match.

If you’ve never explored the world of fencing, maybe it’s time! Check out the 2011 USA Fencing National Championships July 1 – 10 event at:

Photo by uwdigitalcollections



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