Diet & fitness

How Texas Sen. Wendy Davis (should have) trained for her filibuster

June 26, 2013 at 3:46 PM ET

On the day after a historic filibuster in Texas, where a bill that opponents claimed would virtually ban abortion in the state failed to pass, there are two lingering questions on the minds of many.

How does one physically prepare for the rigors of an estimated 12-hour voting session where you can’t sit down or take a potty break? And what kind of running shoes was Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, rocking?

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth
Eric Gay / AP
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, filibusters in an effort to kill an abortion bill, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in Austin, Texas.

To recap: The only way Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate could defeat the measure was by not letting it come to a vote on Tuesday, so Davis had to conduct a marathon discussion of the bill and why she was opposed to it. She had to stand and speak nonstop and on topic, so she filled the hours analyzing the bill and telling stories of those who didn't get to speak before a Senate committee discussing the measure last week.

By all accounts, Davis made it through her marathon legislative session intact, except for a few aches.

"My back hurts. I don't have a lot of words left," Davis said when it was over, according to The Associated Press. "It shows the determination and spirit of Texas women."

But her feat of standing isn’t a record. The longest state and national record for a filibuster clocks in at 43 hours, by former Democratic Texas state Sen. Bill Meier.

But how did she physically, actually pull it off?

The 50-year-old Davis, an avid runner and cyclist, held court in a pair of Rouge Red/Apple Green Mizuno Wave Rider 16s, along with a floral dress and long coat, which covered the back brace she wore to endure the session.

Like many things Texan (think land mass, hair), filibuster rules are big. As the Texas Tribune explains:

“During a filibuster, a senator is limited to topics relevant to the bill being discussed and cannot eat, drink or use the restroom during the speech. The rules also prohibit sitting or leaning on a desk or chair under any circumstances when the senator has the floor and is speaking on the bill or resolution.”

A former Navy Seal and fitness expert has an idea how Davis -- or anyone planning a filibuster -- should get ready for a very long day at the office.

Dan Cerrillo, who is owner of Crossfit Bellevue, in Bellevue, Wash., thinks Davis likely hit the gym for some core work.

“The number one thing you should emphasize on is your core muscles and lower body muscles, because standing for long periods of time is really going to wreck you back,” Cerrillo advised, and also commended Davis for wearing the back brace. “I would have someone do a lot of squatting, no weights. Lots of sit ups to get your core strength up to a high level.”

Cerrillo said he’d suggest a “nice, long yoga session” the day before you have to do so much standing. “You want your muscles as relaxed and stretched as possible before you do an endurance event. That’s what [Davis] did, an endurance event. I would put it close to a half marathon.”

In his 14 years as a Navy Seal, Cerrillo has done his share of not eating or drinking (or going to the bathroom) for a stretch of many hours. He would have advised Davis to hydrate fully 48 hours before but start to taper water intake 24 hours before, much like a wrestler does before a weigh-in. In the 24 hours before, you “take a few sips of water or eat ice chips, just enough to hydrate but not enough to urinate.”

As for food, Cerillo says going without it for 11 plus hours, as Davis did, is “not a big deal,” but he would have recommended that she eat beef jerky in advance.

“On the Seal team, I’ve been in dry suits for a long period of time and eating beef jerky always worked for me because it’s high in protein, salt, and nutritional value,” he said. More importantly, Cerrillo says, the body breaks it down slowly, so by the time it gets through the digestive system, there is not much left of it, so you don’t have to go to the bathroom.


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