While many still wonder how a lacrosse program in the Midwest can be as dominant as the one Kelly Amonte Hiller has established at Northwestern, those who have watched an Amonte Hiller-coached team know the Wildcats’ success starts in the gym. For proof, look no further than junior Erin Fitzgerald.
A high school attacker, Fitzgerald transformed into an attack/midfield hybrid in Northwestern’s fast-paced offense. Knowing the position switch necessitated a conditioning boost, Fitzgerald as a freshman started working out twice a day while switching to a protein-based diet.
It paid off. Rather than tiring as the season progressed, Fitzgerald played her best at the end of the year. The Mt. Sinai, N.Y., native worked her way into the starting lineup by playoffs, and in four postseason starts she tied for the team lead with 12 goals. But the Wildcats that season would up blowing a six-goal lead in a loss to Maryland in the 2010 NCAA championship game. With the collapse fresh in their memories, Fitzgerald and her teammates took their conditioning to a new level in the ensuing offseason. The workouts stayed the same — hard sprints mixed with strength and conditioning — while the intensity increased.
“Our workouts got 10 times harder,” Fitzgerald said. “Everyone was pushing each other because we had something to prove, and we were all kind of pissed off.”
The Wildcats responded, outscoring their opponents by a whopping 121 goals and avenging their loss to Maryland in the 2011 NCAA championship game for their sixth title in seven years.
Staying in shape is nothing new in the Fitzgerald family. Erin’s parents, sister and brother all played sports at the Division I level. She mixes up her workouts with spinning, running, kickboxing and even boot camp as her schedule permits.
“The feeling I get after a hard workout is probably what I look forward to most and what gets me through my workout,” said Fitzgerald, who works under the guidance of Northwestern Director of Sports Performance Jason Pullara. “Just knowing that I’m going to be in top shape and able to compete at my best on the field.”
Q&A with Erin
What’s your favorite workout?
My favorite workout would probably be sprints into some plyometric things — whether it’s squat jumps or mountain climbers — just to keep my heart rate going.
What music do you like to listen to in the gym?
I just like to mix it up a lot, whether it’s rap or rock, I just like to change it up. I’m a big Nicki Minaj fan.
What is your diet like?
I try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and I also make sure I always have protein, whether that’s chicken or salmon or peanut butter. I try to stay away from deserts, but I’m a big candy person.
- This exercise builds lower body power and explosiveness.
- Use one dumbbell. (Fitzgerald uses a 25-pounder.)
- Start by getting in a Romanian dead lift (RDL) position, with your hips back, shoulders over the dumbbell, back flat and slight bend in your knees.
- Grip the dumbbell at about knee height.
- Extend through your ankles, knees and hips quickly, simultaneously keeping the dumbbell as close to your body as possible.
- Raise it until your arm is extended over your head, with the dumbbell in alignment with your ears.
- Finish in a quarter-squat position.
- Repeat four times with each arm for 3-5 sets.
- This exercise builds lower body strength, specifically in your glutes, hamstrings and quads.
- Hold a barbell in front of your body on top of your shoulders.
- Begin in a standing position and squat (pushing your hips backwards) until your thighs are parallel with the ground.
- Explode back up to a standing position, keeping the bar on top of your shoulders.
- This exercise strengthens your core muscles.
- Use one exercise ball.
- Assume push-up position with your hands on the floor and feet resting on the ball.
- Slowly roll the ball forward until your body is fully extended. When executed properly, your body should form the shape of a triangle.
- After your rear has reached its highest point, roll the ball back to its original position.
- Fitzgerald recommends three sets of 10.
A version of this article appears in the November issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Previous Gym Rats features have included UMBC coaches Kelly Berger and Amy Appelt, and Team USA goalie and Marquette assistant coach Scott Rodgers. Check back to LaxMagazine.com for tips from Mercyhurst’s Ian Wild. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 350,000-plus members today to start your monthly subscription.