Pool prepa­ra­tion

Par­a­lympic swim star Huot helps Jays catcher Martin get in shape

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY MELISSA COUTO THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

When Rus­sell Martin de­cided to take up swim­ming as an off­sea­son work­out op­tion a year ago, he was amazed at how quickly he pro­gressed in the pool.

It didn’t hurt that his coach and train­ing part­ner was a nine­time Par­a­lympic gold medal­list.

The Blue Jays catcher, who was born in Toronto but raised in Mon­treal, has trained along­side Longueuil, Que., na­tive Benoit Huot for two straight off­sea­sons at the In­sti­tut Na­tional du Sport du Que­bec (INS).

“I never re­ally prac­tised swim­ming in my life, I was never re­ally that in­ter­ested in it, but as I got older my body was chang­ing and I felt I needed to do some dif­fer­ent things to stay in shape,” the 34-year-old Martin said Tues­day at the Blue Jays spring train­ing fa­cil­ity.

“I just wanted to find ways to bal­ance out my body a lit­tle bit bet­ter and turns out Ben is a re­ally good coach — in one ses­sion I got a lot bet­ter with just a cou­ple tech­niques he showed me. And he’s a tremen­dous com­peti­tor.”

Huot, who was born with a dis­abil­ity in his right leg com­monly known as club foot, won three gold medals in his first Par­a­lympic Games in Syd­ney in 2000 and fol­lowed that up with five more in Athens in 2004. He has a to­tal of 20 Par­a­lympic medals, in­clud­ing a bronze from the Rio Games last sum­mer.

Martin first met Huot years ago through a mu­tual friend. The two had spo­ken about train­ing to­gether in the pool but Martin didn’t take Huot up on his offer un­til last year when Huot took him to INS Que­bec for the first time.

Martin said he was amazed at the Mon­treal fa­cil­ity, which helps de­velop a num­ber of Cana­dian Olympic ath­letes in var­i­ous sports. He also met short-track speed­skater and four-time Olympic medal­list Charles Hamelin there dur­ing one of his ses­sions with Huot just be­fore spring train­ing.

“That guy (Hamelin) is a stud too,” Martin said while pulling up a photo on his In­sta­gram of the three ath­letes pos­ing to­gether in the INS weight room.

“Charles just hap­pened to be there one day. And Ben knows ev­ery­body, he’s the nicest guy in the world, so he in­tro­duced us. I met him and I was like ‘hey, you’re pretty cool, you won three gold medals, can I take a pic­ture?’ And he was like ‘hey you’re pretty cool too.”’

Martin played 137 games last sea­son — and nine more in the play­offs — bat­ting .231 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs while deal­ing with a left knee is­sue for most of the year.

He un­der­went arthro­scopic surgery in Novem­ber to re­move float­ing torn car­ti­lage from the knee, a pro­ce­dure he said he’s fully re­cov­ered from now.

While Martin’s knee had “mostly healed” by the time he got in the pool with Huot, he did say that swim­ming helped in his re­hab process and he worked with his phys­io­ther­a­pist to come up with a work­out plan he could do un­der­wa­ter.

“I’d start with very easy stuff and I would do them and get back to (my phys­io­ther­a­pist) and tell him it felt good or it felt worse and we’d work to­gether from there,” Martin said. “We got more ag­gres­sive each time and the next thing you know the knee just started to feel awe­some.”

The ex­er­cises, which are listed on a chart Martin still keeps in his locker, con­sisted mostly of dif­fer­ent types of squats sand­wiched be­tween a warmup and cooldown of walk­ing in waist­deep wa­ter.

Martin said it was easy to train and do his pool-based re­hab while sur­rounded by Olympic-grade ath­letes.

CP PHOTO

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Rus­sell Martin stretches dur­ing base­ball spring train­ing in Dunedin, Fla. on Wed­nes­day.

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