Even after a photo shoot, decked out in a full face of makeup, Skylar Diggins is not afraid to sweat. The former Notre Dame women's basketball star says it was “no secret” that she underperformed during her first year in the WNBA. But the 5-9 shooting guard for the Tulsa Shock focused her mind and trained her body in the off-season, and as a result, earned the league's Most Improved Player award for the 2014 season. Despite that accolade, this off-season is no different.
"I start working on my core strength and balance right after the season, using kettle bells, medicine balls and battle ropes," says Diggins. "I really want to strengthen my body and get ready for my individual workouts and for the season."
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Sand workouts -- using giant tires, ropes and sledgehammers -- help Diggins to develop strength and quicker agility. Because the beach sand yields easily to pressure and makes it more difficult to move at a fast pace, the workouts force Diggins to activate her muscles and push harder. While she loves quick, high-intensity workouts (like the one featured below, from her trainer Rick Freeman at RIX 3602 Fitness in South Bend, Ind.) that don't require a lot of space or equipment -- "you could do it in a closet" -- Diggins says the only way to get in basketball shape is to play basketball. Her go-to drills involve high repetitions with minimal rest. "I like to start at half court, take two dribbles to get inside the arc and make a jump shot, over and over," she says.
The 24-year-old also focuses maintaining a healthy diet and uses an approach called carb-cycling -- on heavy training days, her carbohydrate intake increases, while on rest days or light conditioning days, she will cut back. Diggins' typical day-to-day meals include eggs or oatmeal for breakfast and chicken or fish with vegetables, like broccoli and asparagus, and sweet potatoes or quinoa for later in the afternoon and evening. And her top choice for a cheat meal that doesn’t fit in her plan? Pepperoni pizza.
Diggins also uses nutrition to fuel her body before a workout and to help replenish it for better recovery afterward. She typically trains five days a week and likes to rest her body on the weekends.
"Hydration is so important, and what's more important is what you put into your body before the workouts and for me BODYARMOR is my go to," says Diggins, who is a stakeholder in the sports drink company, along with Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman, Sydney Leroux and others. "It has vitamins and coconut water and just a great taste."
While she has motivated female athletes with her accomplishments on the court, grueling workouts and good nutritional habits, Diggins says that she’s looking to influence a more widespread audience.
“I want to inspire and motivate athletes – not just females, but athletes in general – to raise the bar,” says Diggins. “At the end of the day, it’s all about discipline, hard work and self-motivation. One more rep, one more workout, one more healthy choice.”