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Rios helping Sun players find ways to stay in shape

Gyms may be closed, but there is no excuse not to lift when a backpack filled with canned goods does the job.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to adjust on the fly. One needs innovation and a DIY (do it yourself) attitude now more than ever to get things done.

Analisse Rios, the Connecticut Sun’s new strength coach, has had to come up with new ways for players to stay in shape despite limitations caused by the pandemic. Not everyone long ago converted half of their garage into a home gym like starting point guard and team captain Jasmine Thomas.

“Use a big case of water, like the 24 plastic bottles (packages) and use that extra weight to help you squat, or press up, or even doing bicep curls,” Rios explained with a chuckle. “'We’ve (recommended) that. Some of the coaches have had fun with that, too.

“A backpack with heavy stuff has worked for a few of them. ... I think those are the most DIY ones that we’ve done.”

Rios has grown roots in southeastern Connecticut after being born and raised in Bolivia (she played soccer for the country's national team). She had visited America a few times and enrolled at Connecticut College in 2004 despite never stepping on campus until her first day in New London. She competed in soccer and track and field and graduated in 2008.

Rios has been a strength and conditioning coach at Conn College as well as an assistant women’s soccer coach the past four seasons. The Sun hired her this offseason, although she will continue to work at Conn.

Ordinarily, WNBA players wouldn’t need anyone to send them an offseason workout program because they’re playing overseas. They’d arrive at training camp still in game shape. Some might even need a little rest, especially those who had their overseas seasons end shortly before — or during — camp.

These are obviously not ordinary times. Players arrived back in the states early this WNBA offseason because leagues across the world canceled their respective seasons due to the pandemic.

Players will have even more off-time after the WNBA announced last Friday that it was postponing the start of the regular season. It was scheduled to start on May 15. The league will hold a “virtual" draft next Friday (April 17).

All those changes required Rios to get to work early with the players.

“As soon as this started happening,” she said, “I got right to writing a full-bodyweight workout because I knew that many people would be at home with nothing other than their body weight. And even though you may not be lifting pounds-and-pounds on squat racks, doing bodyweight stuff does make you strong and keeps that strength and builds a lot of muscular endurance.

“I’ve been able to reach out and provide the players with different bodyweight workouts, limited equipment workouts. I’ve texted them and asked them, ‘what do you have at home? Work with what you have. What can we make?’ ... I think that’s kind of shifting how we think about working out, or how I think about working out.”

Curling a weighted backpack may help one stay strong, but can it be as beneficial as working out at a gym?

“I think it can,” Rios said. “This is a time where we’ll all kind of finding out. But to tell you the truth, I’ve been doing bodyweight workouts for the last, what is this, week four of COVID, and I feel as strong as I ever have. I think it’s just about programming it and making sure that you’re getting all the major muscle groups and working on that strength endurance and working with whatever DIY-stuff you can at home to add resistance. I feel good. I feel good and my athletes and players have been reaching out to me saying that they feel good, too.

“They’ve (some players) been texting me and saying the no-equipment program is leaving them sore and feeling strong. That’s a huge positive.”

Rios has also reached out to the world and led 15-minute workouts Monday-Friday at 9:15 a.m. on Instagram at @plantsandburpees.

Rios said, “Everyone always says, ‘I don’t know how you do it, but in 15 minutes, you get me sweating and burning at least 200 calories.’ I love it.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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