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Friday, May 27, 2011
The next evolution in Kara Lawson's game

By Kara Lawson

I'm down at training camp and it's hard to believe this is my ninth year in the WNBA. I remember my first day of camp with the Sacramento Monarchs in 2003. I walked into the practice facility, looked around and saw stars like Yolanda Griffith, Ruthie Bolton and Ticha Penicheiro. We had a veteran team with strong leadership and I was excited to get started. Fast forward nine years: I'm starting my second camp with the Connecticut Sun and I look around the gym and see Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery, Danielle McCray and realize, in 2011, I'm the veteran. Wow, evolution at its finest!

Training camp is a little different for me than it is for most other WNBA players. While a good portion of the league's players travel to a variety of countries and continue playing year round, I stay here in the U.S. covering men's and women's college basketball for ESPN. I have a pretty set routine that I do each year to maintain my fitness. Because I don't play oversees I can't afford to take too much time away from the gym. (Side note: The first thing people say when they meet me is often, "Wow you're so much skinnier in person." Yep, TV adds 10 pounds, or based on some people's reaction, maybe 30.) I'll take a few weeks off once the season ends, then get right back into it with a new set of goals in mind.

This year, I decided to make a rather significant change to my diet. My husband and I have kicked around the idea of giving up meat for quite awhile. Over the last few months we've removed it from our day-to-day eating habits and have relied on whole foods such as nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables to be our source of energy and recovery. We've always eaten healthy and have been very conscious of what we put into our bodies. We thought it would be interesting to see how we felt after this change. We're not vegetarians. We're not vegans. We're just looking for the next evolution of our nutrition program -- just like I'm looking for the next evolution of my game.

Training camp offers a great chance to play around with new ideas you'd like to implement for the coming season. One perfect example: We played our first preseason game against the Chinese national team on our fourth day of camp. I decided to show up to the game earlier than I had in years past. I've always been one of the first ones at the gym, but this year I've adopted the Ray Allen routine. Instead of arriving two hours before the game, I arrived three. I extended my warm-up routine on the court and spent 45-60 minutes stretching. It worked beautifully. I felt great before the game and I felt great after the game. Again, evolution!

Last week, we had six straight days of practice, one game and a couple of two-a-days. Sunday was our first day off. What did I do with my day off? I slept in! There's nothing an athlete loves more than sleep. And I needed it. This week we'll have two games against San Antonio, two bus trips, plenty of practices and we close camp with a scrimmage against New York. After that, the team gets picked and we'll start our next evolution, as a team.

Go Sun!