Last week I was scrolling through the LHRL Athletes page on FB when I came across a new member who was introduced as Alina Duran, an All-American Hammer Thrower who aspires to compete in the Olympics. Now I have met some interesting people who do some pretty interesting things, but a competitive hammer thrower is hard to top. I couldn’t help but be intrigued as to how one goes about becoming a hammer thrower, let alone an All-American. Being that I am officially the absolute worst shotput and discus thrower to ever compete in a varsity event, the only thing I know about throwing heavy objects for distance is that I am terrible at it. Having seen some athletes who excel at field events, I also know it takes a helluva lot of quickness, power, strength, and co-ordination. The window of opportunity for which to let loose all of that power amidst the grace is miniscule, and it is a thrill to watch. Alina is incredibly humble, especially given all of her achievements, and we are pleased to have her be a part of the LHRL community. It will be fun to follow her, support her, and watch her as she chases down her goals and makes her dreams a reality. Alina was kind enough to share with us a little bit about herself, her history, her training, and her life. Thanks Alina!!
The life of a hammer thrower can be summed up into three words: throw, drill, and lift… and eat. OK, maybe four words. Hammer throwing is a combination of speed, power, coordination, and a heck of a lot of patience. A hammer thrower must successfully spin with a 4kg steel ball (7.26kg for men) inside a 7ft circle and hurl the implement as far as they can through the seemingly narrow opening in the massive safety cage. While the technical aspect of the event is obviously a crucial component to a successful performance, lifting is what prepares a thrower to withstand the wear and tear of the sport. Hammer throwers spend a considerable amount of time pumping iron. It’s the lift in a hammer thrower’s routine that allows them to develop power, coordination, quality of muscle contraction and speed.
A typical week of training for me contains three throwing sessions and three lifting sessions. I typically aim to get about 120-140 throws in per week. My training in the weight room is broken down into the following groups of movements.
Main lift; usually snatches or cleans
Dynamic Strength Drills (twists, jumps, etc)
“The same, but different.” This is a phrase my dad uses to describe the use of similar exercises in a training program, but with varying loads, sets and reps, or movement variations. For some throwers, Olympic lifting movements are also modified to avoid rack and overhead positions. This will vary from thrower to thrower but is usually done to avoid unnecessary injury and excessive joint impact. The important parts of the snatch and the clean, the explosive pull, is what matters. My lifts are generally set up in a similar fashion for every phase. This promotes adaptation and advancement of the specific muscle groups and movements I need to be more efficient in the circle. It also helps to avoid soreness and the negative impact that would have on throws practices. As the competition season gets closer this allows me to maintain training quality and focus on throwing technique while maintaining a certain strength level.
I have been lifting for almost half of my life. My father has been a personal trainer for decades and taught me how to lift at the age of 13. He started me off with general conditioning/bodybuilding type programs to help me tone and condition. He quickly progressed me to olympic lifting, his bread and butter. We started with low weight, fixed barbell and hang position cleans and snatches. I quickly progressed past the 100lb fixed barbell to the olympic bar, and it’s been one hell of a ride since then. I first became interested in throwing as a freshman in high school. I was significantly larger than the girls at my high school. My father suggested I take up the shot put to utilize my size. It wasn’t until a junior in college, 6 years later, that I found my passion for the hammer. That winter I attended a training camp in Myrtle Beach, SC. The clinic was hosted by the world record holder, and a well-known U.S. coach. Some of the top throwers in the country attended that training camp. Watching the elite hammer throwers was like watching a poetic rendition of the athlete’s speed, power, and coordination as they spun around so beautifully, so forcefully. I wanted to be one of those athletes. After that 4 day experience (and getting my butt whupped by the coaches) I have been dedicated to throwing the hammer and have been working to improve my distance ever since. In the years following that first real exposure to the hammer I became my school record holder, an NCAA qualifier, a conference record holder, and finally an NCAA all-american. Since graduating I have qualified for USA Track and Field National Championships, and I am currently working towards a USA Olympic Trials qualifying mark.
Off the field and outside of the weight room I spend my time working as a civil engineer, specifically construction support for bridge rehabilitation. I have recently gotten into yoga as a means to improve mobility and recovery and have really enjoyed the challenge of holding some of the positions. It’s really been helping me recover more efficiently as my training intensity increases leading up to the competition season. I spend most of my time training or working, but make an effort to relax as much as possible. And eating, of course.