For Women's Health Week, fitness tips from a pro athlete

portrait of Sharon Tsao, cutter for the Seattle Tempest women's ultimate frisbee team


In this article:

  • Ultimate Frisbee player Sharon Tsao, a player for the Swedish-sponsored Seattle Tempest, maintains her fitness with a workout schedule and recovery days.

  • She shares that sports can build confidence and provide other benefits for women and non-binary people.

  • Fitness is about mental health, too — taking care of your mind and being kind to yourself are essential.

During Women’s Health Week and a lot of us are thinking about our own health and fitness. Maybe we’re thinking about our fitness goals and looking for inspiration to get us back on track.

For some fitness advice from a pro, we caught up with Sharon Tsao (she/her) a cutter for the Swedish-sponsored Seattle Tempest women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, which finished their regular season 6-0 and is the top seed for the championship tournament.

Sharon has 12 years of experience in the Ultimate community, as the sport is now known. In 2013, she competed in the Ultimate Frisbee U23 World Championships with Team USA and won gold in the process. Sharon has also coached the women's team at Rice University in Texas to a national championship in 2015. She became interested in the game in high school when her friends would play during lunch. In her free time, she loves to travel, do animation, design logos, play pickleball and spend time with her dog.

What do you do to help maintain your level of fitness for ultimate frisbee?

On a good week in season, I have two weightlifting sessions and two sprint conditioning sessions outside of the two weekly practices. Instead of arm day vs. leg day, I like to do a full-body workout each time I go to the gym. For my sprint conditioning, I like to do tempo runs and high-intensity sprints. There are many weeks where I do much less than that. Ultimate is tough on the body and unplanned rest days are necessary to prevent injury.

Can you share some of your recovery routine?

I love spending time in the sauna and getting in a stretch session while I'm in there. The deep stretches and breath work I do during yoga help me stay flexible and less stressed. Hands down the most effective piece of my recovery routine is getting enough sleep. I aim for eight and a half hours in bed to get about seven and a half hours of sleep, since I'm losing about one hour of sleep to disturbances. I have a clear picture of my sleep hygiene and habits because I use [a digital fitness tracker] every day.

Do you have tips for the average woman or girl who aspires to a sport or to become more athletic, in general?

My tip for someone who aspires to become an athlete is to go for it with everything you've got! You may not always win or come out on top, but you can be proud knowing you tried your absolute best. Surround yourself with people that hype you up and support you through the journey.

How do you care for your mental and emotional health during the on- and off-season? Do you have tips that non-athletes can apply for emotional self-care?

I practice meditation as much as I can without being too prescriptive about it. I aim for 10 minutes a day, but I have to admit weeks may go by before I pick it up again. I think the important part for me is to practice moments of mindfulness during my everyday life. I tend to move fast while my emotions try to catch up to me. So, sitting with myself helps me tune into and process my mental and physical state. Journaling is another way I can make some sense of my inner world, a way I can wrangle my thoughts. My tip would be to be curious with yourself and be kind to yourself.

Why is it important for you to represent female athletes/women in sports?

There is an abundance of representation for men in sports, so I want to contribute to creating an environment where non-men can also see an abundance of representation of themselves in sports. It's said all the time but "if you can see it, you can be it" is real, so I think being visible and being loud about our ability and the space we want to take up in sports goes really far.

Who encouraged your sports career? Why is it important for us to make sure we’re encouraging women and girls to get involved in fitness/sports?

I had a basketball coach in middle school named Jeff Hollinger who taught me how to be disciplined and how to be a good team player. He instilled in me confidence and an ability to perform under pressure.
It's essential we encourage women and non-binary folks as well as girls and non-binary youth to get involved in sport because as more folks get involved, the better the foundation is and the more accessible it is for everyone. Playing sports is fun and healing. I feel powerful when I play sports. I feel like I can push past my comfort zone when I play sports. I love building intentional relationships within my ultimate community. There are so many benefits, and we want everyone to be able to participate.

Do you have a message for women and girls about the importance of taking care of their health?

When I remind myself that my body is the most incredible gift, a rush of gratitude fills me up. I think it's important to remember that this is the only body I've got, and it's taken me so far in life. It's how I engage with this world - how I see the people I love, how I eat the food I love, how I experience joy and sadness. It's not always easy to love my body or instantly find gratitude. But when you choose to practice a relationship of gratitude with your body, taking care of it becomes vital and even a delight.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about improving your fitness, contact Primary Care or the Center for Health and Fitness at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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About the Author

Whether you are seeking gynecological advice, need help navigating your way through the menopause stage of life or researching a recent breast cancer diagnosis, the Swedish Women's Health Team is committed to helping women find the information they need to live happy and healthy lives.

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