Featured

The Decisions You Make Today Determine Your Performance Tomorrow

Although I came into pro ball with a lot of talent, it took me almost four years to approach my potential as a power pitcher. In my first season with the Angels, I was 19-16 with 39 starts, 20 complete games, an ERA of 2.28, 9 shutouts and 329 strikeouts in 284 innings. I had 17 games in which I struck out 10 or more batters. But something more important happened that year that would affect my performance for the next 25 years – I discovered the weight room in Anaheim. It hadn’t been installed for the Angels, because back then it was believed that weight training made you muscle bound. I started slipping in there and working out, being careful not to overdo it and letting my body tell me how it was responding. I learned how to work different areas of my body for balance and flexibility, taking a day off now and then to recover. I also discovered that even if I was somewhat stiff from lifting, it really had no effect on my ability to pitch. And after I began using the weights consistently, my arm would bounce back more quickly from one start to the next.

A key to my success with the Angels was that my velocity increased in the later innings. Now, this could be attributed to establishing a rhythm, finding a good groove and improving my mechanics as the game went on. But the conditioning program made this possible by increasing my stamina. Once you fatigue, it affects your mechanics and you can’t pitch with the precise timing required for a smooth, compact motion. I was so pleased with my results that I bought a Universal Gym for my home, and it paid dividends. During my first 3 years in the AL, I pitched more than 900 innings. There’s no way I could have recovered quickly, or been as durable, without a firm base of strength from lifting. Lifting helped me be more consistent.

As I got older, things began to change. I found that I had to vary my workouts to make up for longer recovery times. And, I had to work through injuries and pain. I learned to work around some muscle and to concentrate on others. I was fortunate that my genetics allowed me to age more slowly than most, but there’s no secret to what it takes to stay in shape. And that’s hours and hours of workouts. If that sounds boring or not worth the effort, you feel the same way that many big leaguers feel. I can’t swear to it, but it may be one of the reasons most of them leave the game in their early thirties. At the end of my career, I really felt the effects of my age. My back bothered me at times. I got stiffer quicker and I needed to loosen up and stretch longer. I couldn’t run as often, as fast or as far as I could when I was younger. But I still put myself through the paces of a hard workout nearly every day, because it was worth it to me.

I enjoyed feeling good, strong and hard. I can’t guarantee that a pitcher’s fastball will still be with him after 25 years in the big leagues if he works out, but it worked for me. I had to work harder and smarter every year, but the key was deciding to keep with it. Sure it would have been easier to skip it. But at my age I would probably have gotten soft or fat and, for sure, I would have been out of shape.

A lot of people were amazed to see me on an exercise bicycle immediately after a game while my arm was being iced. Did I need to exercise after I’d thrown a complete game? No. I needed to get started on my preparation for the next start. There’s no doubt in my mind that if it hadn’t been for the weight room, I would have been out of the game many years ago. Not only did it help me prevent injury, but it also kept me strong so I could continue to hold up over the long grind.

I believe that you should never lose a game because the opposition is better prepared than you. There are a lot of things that you can’t control. You can’t control the weather, condition of the mound, playing surface, your offensive and defensive support or the quality of the umpiring. A pitcher can no more control velocity, location or movement on a given day than a position player can control the quality of pitches he sees or the hops he gets. My philosophy is to focus on the one thing within your control, your preparation, and ignore those that you can’t. You should never lose a game because the opposition is in better shape, ate better, got more rest or thought more about the game than you did.
Don’t think that you can skip a workout and make up for it by working twice as hard tomorrow. If you have it within your power to work twice as hard, why aren’t you doing it now?

Nolan Ryan

 

Avoiding the Flu

ACHOO, COUGH, COUGH, SNIFF, SNIFF

Intense training and all the activity surrounding workouts and training can affect your body’s immune system which may make you more vulnerable to whatever “bug” is going around. Although researchers are still figuring out all the details, changes in immunity have been shown to be related to elevations in stress hormones such as catecholamines and cortisol which rise during intense training and periods of stress – like off-season workouts, spring training, (more…)

Three Lower Body Stretches to Prevent Adaptive Shortening

Adaptive shortening, i.e., tightness that develops as a result of a muscle or muscle group remaining in a shortened position can occur rather quickly over the course of a MLB season. It is often caused by prolonged exposure to a particular posture, such as sitting on a bench and/or being in a bent over, “ready” fielding position for three or more hours at a time during the course of a 162-game season. With adaptive shortening, one muscle or muscle group becomes tight and hyperactive, while the opposing muscle or muscle group becomes loose and underactive. There is also an increased neural drive to the tight, hyperactive muscle group and reduced neural drive to the functional antagonist. In baseball, adaptive shortening is often observed in the muscles that flex the hip (psoas), extend the knee (quads) and abduct the thigh (tensor fascia lata and IT band), and can lead to pain in the low back, hamstrings and/or lateral knee. 

The key to preventing and eliminating adaptive shortening is to stretch the tight, hyperactive muscles and strengthen the weaker, underactive muscles. While this problem can be addressed indoors by the trainer and strength coach, a committed player can control the situation by performing three, simple, daily stretches on his own. Each stretch is performed from a half-keeling position so there is no getting up and down or frequent changes of position which makes them easy to perform in almost any environment.

bj1

1. Half-kneeling hip flexor or psoas stretch. Stretching the psoas will increase hip flexion, which in turn, will increase the neural drive to the hip extensors (glutes) and reduce dependence on the hamstrings to extend the hip. To perform this stretch, place the knee of the hip you want to stretch on the ground and opposite foot flat on the ground. Extend your trunk upright with both arms straight up in the air and over the head. Set the core to keep the low back flat, tighten the glutes on the down side leg and shift your weight forward onto the front foot, keeping your trunk, shoulders, arms and head upright until you feel the stretch in your hip flexors. Don’t arch your back or lean forward. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 2-3 times, relax and change legs.

bj22. Half-kneeling quad stretch. Assume the same starting position as the previous stretch (psoas stretch), but this time plantar flex the ankle and turn the toes of the down side leg under your foot. Extend your trunk upright with both arms extended straight up. Set the core, tighten the down side glutes and shift your hips forward until you feel the stretch in your quads. Don’t arch your back or lean backwards.

 

bj3

3. Half-kneeling TFL and ITB stretch. Assume the same starting position used in the psoas and quad stretch, but this time planter flex the ankle and turn your foot inward so that the weight is on the lateral side of your ankle. Extend your trunk upright with both arms extended straight up. Set the core, tighten the down side glutes, shift your hips forward and lean your trunk laterally away from the down side knee until you feel the stretch in your TFL and ITB. Don’t arch your back or lean forward. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 2-3 times, relax and change legs.

Although adaptive shortening can occur rather quickly and can have serious effects on your health and performance, it is relatively easy to prevent and correct. These stretches outlined are effective, relatively easy to do and can be performed on your own, in the clubhouse, weight room, dugout or on the playing field.

Brian Jordan, RSCC*D, is Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Colorado Rockies

 

Pitcher’s Barre Program for Glute Activation

During the off-season, I try different activities and think about how I might be able to use a few of these new exercises and drills with my players. Two years ago, I attended a “barre class” that used non-impact, small movement exercises to isolate individual muscle groups. One muscle group that these exercises had the most impact on was my glutes. After doing some of the exercises, I walked out of class feeling like I had just done 1,000 squats and lunges. Although the classes were predominantly filled with women trying to “firm and tone” their bodies (especially their backsides), I found that these exercises were great for activating the glutes before a lower body workout and/or when the glutes are inhibited. Since many of the exercises are performed while standing, they offer a unique alternative to those typically performed while lying on the ground. The following are five exercises that I have had success with. Do 1-2 sets of 15-20 reps on each leg. Start with one set and gradually build to 2 sets of each with perfect form. Do one set of the standing figure 4 stretch between each set of exercises and hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.

1Straight Leg Raise
Set-Up. Stand facing a bar with feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward. Place both hands on the bar with arms fully extended and bend forward at the waist until the back is flat. Retract the scapula, set the core, square up the hips and slightly bend both the support and non-support leg at the knee. This is your starting position.
Movement. Extend the non-support leg until it is parallel to the ground, point the toes (plantar flex the foot) and raise and lower the leg from the hip about two inches at a time in a “pulsing” movement for 15-20 reps and then switch legs.

220 Degrees Out and Raise
Set-Up. Same as the previous exercise.
Movement. Start by extending the non-support leg until it is parallel to the ground with the toes pointed (plantar flexed). Abduct the non-support leg 20 degrees (move leg away from hip), raise and lower the leg about 2 inches and return to the midline. This is one rep. Do 15-20 reps and switch legs.

 

3Open Hip Leg Raise
Set-Up. Same as the previous exercise
Movement. Extend the non-support leg until it is parallel to the ground, point the toes, rotate the non-support leg outward about 90 degrees (open the hip) and raise and lower the leg from the hip about 2 inches at a time. Keep the non-support leg parallel to the ground and return the leg to the midline after each rep. Do 15-20 reps and switch legs.

4Standing 20 Degree Extension
Set-Up.Stand on one leg with one side next to the bar. Grab the bar with one hand. Keep the chest up, retract the scapula, set the core and tuck the sacrum under.

Movement. Keeping a slight bend in the support leg, point the toes of the non-support leg, abduct the leg about 200 out away from the hip and extend the non-support leg backwards about 2 inches. Return to start and repeat in a pulsing movement for 15-20 reps. Switch legs and repeat.

5Figure 4 Stretch

Set-Up.Stand arms’- length away and facing the bar with feet shoulder-width apart and toes facing forward. Grab the bar with both hands and place the ankle of one leg just above the knee of the opposite leg. This is your starting position.

Movement. Keeping the trunk erect, set the core, drop the hip of the non-support leg until both hips are level and then bend the knee of the non-support leg to stretch the glutes on that side of the body. Hold for 20-30 seconds, return to start and repeat on the opposite leg..

 

Ed W. Yong, MS, CSCS
Spokane Indians – Texas Rangers

Fuel Your Game : Pre-Game Nutrition

Research shows that proper nutrition and hydration before competition can improve performance. Try these food and fluid recommendations to find out what works for you!

Food
• Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal with moderate protein 3 to 4 hours before competition. Examples would be scrambled eggs with oatmeal, peanut butter and honey on whole wheat bread
• Choose foods that are familiar to you and well-tolerated. Avoid high fat and high-fiber foods.
• The closer to game time, focus on carbs and fluids.

Fluids
• For optimal performance, enter your competition well-hydrated, but not over hydrated.
• Drink until your urine looks like pale lemonade.
• Electrolytes (primarily sodium) helps your body retain water.  If you are experiencing cramping, try adding salt to the food in your pre-game meal.

Examples
• Cereal with toast and jelly and a fruit and yogurt smoothie.
• Grilled chicken sandwich on a bun with vegetable toppings, mixed fruit cup and a sports drink.
• Spaghetti pasta with tomato and meat sauce, a side salad and a low-fat frozen yogurt cone.

Sports Nutrition FAQ

Why are carbohydrates so important in pre-game nutrition? Carbohydrate stored in your muscles (aka, “glycogen”) is a rapid energy source for your body in both high intensity, short duration and endurance sports. High carbohydrate meals maximize your muscle glycogen stores and keep your blood sugar levels from dropping, which can result in hypoglycemia, loss of concentration, fatigue and weakness. This is why the closer to game time, this is the hero!

Why are high-fat and high-fiber foods not recommended? Fats slow “gastric emptying”, which is the process of food and fluid leaving the stomach. High-fiber foods may cause gastrointestinal upset or abdominal cramping.

Why consume sports drinks or plain carbs when time is short? Liquids are generally more tolerable and empty from your stomach and deliver nutrients to your body faster than solid foods

Roberta Anding, RD

Sports Nutritionist, Houston Astros and Houston Texans

Are Your Workouts Making You Better, or Making You Tired?

Over the years, I have seen a lot of players who have been given well-designed programs by their strength and conditioning staff and then proceeded to do only the exercises that they enjoyed and omit those that they really needed to do. Usually, the ones they liked were a lot easier than those that they needed to. The programs provided were based on valid, scientific principles and proper exercise progressions. The exercises selected and the order in which they were to be performed were intended to produce a desired outcome. When you pick and choose which exercises to do or alter the order, you can’t expect to get max results.

Training is about achieving a balance between work and recovery. Work is the stimulus needed for improvement, but improvements occur during recovery. To get better, you have to first train hard and then recover properly. If you skip the recovery, you are just making yourself tired. Think back to your last workout and ask yourself, “Did I work out to get better, or did I just workout to make myself tired?”

A well-designed and properly followed in-season program should get you in and out of the weight room in 20 minutes or less. Strength exercises should follow a circuit or super-set program in which you perform one exercise and then, with minimal rest, perform a second exercise for another part of the body. Working with minimal rest between exercises and working opposing muscle groups works the primary energy system used in baseball (anaerobic system). When you take two minutes or longer between exercises while you check your text messages, walk across the room to change the music, admire yourself in the mirror, stop to watch Sports Center for the 15th time or talk to your teammate, you’re training the wrong energy system. If your running consists of a slow jog or cycle, you’re training the wrong energy system (aerobic system). Baseball is an anaerobic sport, not an aerobic sport. “The energy system used is the energy system trained.” If you are going to work out, why not train the right energy system?

For max results, train with a purpose and utilize the correct energy system needed to achieve your desired goals. Training without a proper plan makes you tired, wears down your body and provides minimal gains. Make every set, every rep, every run, every jump, every swing and every throw count! Work without a purpose is not training. Work without a purpose will make you tired but it won’t make you better. Following properly-designed, in-season strength and conditioning program can help you maintain the strength, speed and power needed to maximize performance and minimize the risk of injury.

Final thought. Dizzy Dean once said “Throw your best pitcher today, it might rain tomorrow.” If you skip a workout because you have an extra day between starts or an off-day coming up and then get sick, you will end up missing 2-3 workouts instead of just one. Work today. You don’t know what might happen tomorrow. There are no rain checks for a missed workout.
___
Gene Coleman was the Head S&C Coach for the Houston Astros from 1978-2012 and is currently a strength and conditioning consultant for the Texas Rangers.

Pirates finding their (circadian) rhythm

By Rob Biertempfel, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, May 8, 2011

When it comes to sleeping, Pirates right-hander Ross Ohlendorf is a night owl. That can be great when he pitches in a late game on the West Coast but not so much when he starts an afternoon game at PNC Park.

“I tend to not want to go to bed early, and I don’t want to get up (early),” Ohlendorf said. “If I sleep 7 1/2 hours, I usually feel pretty good. Nine, I usually feel better.” The turnaround from a night game to a day game is quick, robbing players of sleep. Travel also disrupts players’ sleeping habits. A two- or three-city road trip usually involves switching at least one time zone, which throws off a person’s internal clock. Making matters worse, teams tend to fly overnight and arrive in the next city in the wee hours.

“Going coast to coast, it definitely messes with your sleep patterns,” Ohlendorf said. To help manage their sleep routines, the Pirates this year hired Bill Sirois, senior vice president of Circadian, a firm specializing in 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions.

The Massachusetts-based company advises construction workers who toil on the graveyard shift as well as globe-trotting CEOs. Sirois’ firm consults the Cleveland Indians and three NFL teams that he declined to identify. ”We’re hard-wired to be daytime creatures,” Sirois said. “But now we work, play and do so much else at night, and that can be difficult. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

Even a small change to a sleep pattern can be disruptive, Sirois said. He cited a study that showed auto accidents increase by 8 percent the day when Daylight Savings Time begins.

“Just an hour’s shift or loss of sleep can have an impact,” Sirois said. “Translate to finely tuned athletes, and you can understand why a guy will hit three home runs one night then strike out four times the next.”

That could explain why Ohlendorf’s career stats in day games are slightly worse than those in night games.

Last year, the Pirates as a team hit better in night games (.245 batting average, .683 OPS) than day games (.234, .663).

Perhaps Sirois is having an effect. The Pirates just took four of six games on a swing through Denver and San Diego. They are 5-2 in day games on the road. Just five weeks into the season, the Pirates already have won more road series (five) than they did all of last season (four). They are 11-8 on the road after winning just 17 of 81 road games last season.

Pirates head conditioning coordinator Frank Velasquez figures that in order to become winners again, the team must first become the Slumber Company. ”Not everyone has to lift weights, but everyone has to sleep,” Velasquez said. “So why not improve our quality of sleep, especially considering how much we travel?” Last season, the Pirates went 2-11 in the Western time zone, 3-3 in the Mountain zone and 8-28 in the Central zone. Velasquez puzzled over that awful road record all winter.

“We’ve researched different areas of recovery,” Velasquez said. “We do cold tanks, we do hydration and nutrition, and we stretch these guys out to keep them feeling good for as long as we can. One area we’d really never covered was sleep.” Sirois addressed the players and coaches in January at the Pirates’ minicamp in Bradenton, Fla. He continues to work closely with Velasquez, charting the players’ travel routines and their sleep patterns at home and on the road. Researchers have identified several different sleep personalities based on factors such as when a person falls asleep and wakes up without prompting and the number of hours slept. The extremes are what Sirois calls “morning larks” (early risers) and “night owls” (those who sleep in past 9 a.m.). Most people are “robins,” meaning they usually awaken around 7:30 a.m. Sirois wants players to remain on their natural sleep patterns as much as possible when traveling. On the Pirates’ recently completed Western swing, Velasquez charted game start and end times and time spent in transit. He also tried to track how each player behaved: Did he go to bed right away or stay up until what would’ve been 6 a.m. on the East Coast? ”When we go from home to the West Coast, usually the second and third days are the toughest,” second baseman Neil Walker said. “Your body starts to adjust, but you’re fighting it. By the sixth inning of that second game, it’s 8:30 p.m. but you’re working on 11:30 p.m. in your brain.”

Sirois told the players to adjust to Pacific Time by going to sleep at a “normal” time (around 1 a.m. after a game that ends around 11 p.m.) and not setting the alarm clock.

There’s a bigger challenge when the Pirates return from California because the time zone change costs them three hours. The effects of jet lag can be more severe the first few days in Pittsburgh than they were in San Diego, Sirois said.

“Traveling west to east, you’re going against the grain of your biology,” he said. “The strategy is to get to bed an hour early if you can and wake up early, get some sunlight in the morning, then try to squeeze in a 20-minute nap in the mid afternoon.”

It’s too early to say whether Sirois’ program will produce tangible, long-term results. But the early returns are favorable.

“We tried to reconstruct their road routines, which can make a difference,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “You can fall into ruts and routines that are completely different than they are at home. We’re trying to keep them fresh, keep them simulated and really just play good baseball.”

 

Fueling Tactics Three Winning Steps to Performance Eating- Step Three-Select A Lean Protein Source

Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS, PBSCCS Advisory Board Member, Colorado Springs CO

Dave Ellis is an accomplished Sports Dietitian and President of Sports Alliance, which provides consulting services to athletics and the food industry.  Dave has earned a reputation as a pioneer and leader in the field of applied sports nutrition and is celebrating his 25th year of practice athletics in 2006.   As the Director of Performance Nutrition support services at the collegiate level (20 years combined – Nebraska and Wisconsin Universities), Ellis orchestrated the most highly evolved performance nutrition and body composition support service models in the country.  Dave also Chairs the Nutrition, Metabolism & Body Composition Special Interest Group of the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is an advisor to the Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning Coaches Society (PBSCCS) Advisory Board, USADA and the Taylor Hooton Foundation.-ed

The second step revealed how carbohydrates are an important part of fueling tactics.  Also presented was the fact that all carbohydrates are not created equal.  In nutrition you have to think about the meals at home and on the road, and be involved with keeping a team or your athlete fueled throughout the year.  It becomes a tactical experience of management.  Fueling tactics is a three-step system.  Every time we write a menu, whether we’re eating at home or on the road, these three steps are accomplished with regard to the food items offered at the meal.   Before moving to step three be sure to review the information presented in step two.  Fueling tactics is all about supporting the athletes through the rigors of the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month training.  If the athletes have less down time due to illness, better energy levels and faster rates of recovery they will have the potential to outwork the competition.  Smart work, and more of it.

This is the step that most Americans are dialed into with the new food labels that focus on fat grams.  Fat has been focused on because it yields about twice as many calories as carbohydrates or protein, not to mention the well documented relationship with heart disease and some forms of cancer.  That is why Americans have been trying to cut fat by selecting leaner protein sources.  We have classified protein sources as “Best Choice Proteins” if they have 10 grams of fat or less per serving while “Third Choice Proteins” have over 21 grams of fat per serving.

Choosing Protein Sources

On active days athletes have more room in their diets to eat a higher fat protein source from Second or “Third Choice Proteins”. On inactive days athletes who are trying to lower their calorie intakes predominately stick with “Best Choice Proteins”. We typically avoid slow digesting Third Choice Proteins at pre activity meals and instead stick with smaller servings of faster digesting “Best Choice Proteins” that are not highly spiced or smoked.

In addition, we typically eat our last meal two to four hours before intense workouts.  Athletes in training have higher protein requirements and need to distribute a variety of protein sources throughout the day.  To make it easier for an athlete to understand how much protein to eat, we have.gunnertechnetwork.comeloped a table that illustrates how much solid animal protein, dairy and vegetable protein they need on a daily basis.  Many of our male athletes tend to over consume animal protein sources and lack the diversity we are looking for from dairy and vegetable proteins like beans or soy protein isolates.

Vegetable Alternatives

The best quality vegetable proteins come from beans, primarily soy beans.  The health benefits of soy protein are quite unique and varied when compared to animal and dairy proteins.  The amino acid profile is also well suited for athletes as it contains a

high concentration of branched chain amino acids, glutamine and arginine.  This critical cluster of amino acids keeps showing up in research that looks at the protein requirements of hard working populations.  The high digestibility of soy protein isolates makes them the most popular way to get bean protein vs. dealing with the combustible nature of whole beans.

Protein Timing

The reason we ask athletes to distribute their protein intake among these three sources throughout the day is to help keep our athlete’s capacity for work high, while helping the efficiency of recovery.  We all know what it feels like to skip meals, then over eat later.  We feel like we need to take a nap, like after eating at Thanksgiving.

Starving all day and then over eating at night will not only lower your energy level, but also set your body up to store fat more efficiently.  Athletes are better off eating smaller amounts of food more frequently to avoid energy lows, while continually supplying the raw materials into the blood necessary for the never ending recovery process that athletes endure.

Putting it all together

All the menus we write for our athletes offer a variety of foods from each of these three steps.  To make it easier for our athletes to select foods from all three steps we actually have three separate buffets.  We group and merchandise Step #1 food first in the buffet, Step #2 foods second and Step #3 foods in the last.  Foods are also labeled so the athletes can see exactly what they are getting with regards to being a good source of vitamins A,C or E or a best, second or third choice carbs or protein. This approach also makes it easy for parents to pull together pregame meal buffets by assigning some parents one item from each step and then building a buffet in order.  Amazingly enough, just the order athletes see the food in a buffet can impact the quality of the meal they build even if they have learned these Three Winning Steps on the Performance Meal Guide Poster.

Maybe it is now easier for you to see the shortfall that constantly eating from vending machines or fast food drive throughs can create for athletes. A number four, at the drive thru diet, just isn’t going to cut it on a daily basis.  Take the time to use the Three Winning Step Shopping List so you can build healthier meals at home or pack them to go.

Article provided by Performance Conditioning Baseball/Softball www.performancecondition.com/baseballsoftball the Official Publication of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating Good Sleep/Recovery Habits on the Road

Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS, PBSCCS Advisory Board Member, Colorado Springs CO

Dave Ellis is an accomplished Sports Dietitian and President of Sports Alliance, which provides consulting services to athletics and the food industry.  Dave has earned a reputation as a pioneer and leader in the field of applied sports nutrition and is celebrating his 25th year of practice athletics in 2006.   As the Director of Performance Nutrition support services at the collegiate level (20 years combined – Nebraska and Wisconsin Universities), Ellis orchestrated the most highly evolved performance nutrition and body composition support service models in the country.  Dave also Chairs the Nutrition, Metabolism & Body Composition Special Interest Group of the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is an advisor to the Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning Coaches Society (PBSCCS) Advisory Board, USADA and the Taylor Hooton Foundation.-ed

After spring training is over and you hopefully came out healthy and with your baseball skills sharpened, the long march towards the divisional championships begin.  Now at the big leagues some long trips await the teams who live in cold climates as they try to avoid bad weather that potentially awaits them back home.  It’s a tough way to start off the season after the relative comfort of day trips during spring training.  Without a doubt travel is over-rated when it comes to sports.

One of the biggest problems is the lack of quality rest that occurs on the road.  For many athletes not sleeping in their own beds can slow recovery as the quantity and quality of their rest is compromised.  When we get to the deepest phases of rest (called non-REM sleep) some valuable recovery occurs as we naturally pulse growth hormone.  Every time these athletes compromise the quality of their rest by 90 minutes they miss a cycle of growth hormone induced recovery that in time takes it’s toll as this sleep-recovery debt accumulates.

It’s a good idea to try and bank sleep when traveling.  We do this by going to bed early knowing that the stresses of travel itself along with the grind of the hours on the field will demand extra rest.  That means setting the stage for sleep by knocking down stimuli in the hour leading up to lights out.

• Pass on any caffeine sources after 4 PM or earlier if you are very sensitive.  This includes soft drinks and chocolate.

• For most athletes this means turning off the video games or checking out of the card game that can have you adrenaline pumping and leave you staring at the ceiling.

• Dim the lights and start dialing down high tempo music for soft melodic tunes, designed to induce relaxation.  You can find dozens of these types of DVD’s in any good book or music store.

• It’s not a bad time to read or journal just before bed.  If you journal reflect on things that you did that support immune health, energy and recovery:

-Rate the quality of your rest (1-5 w/ 5 being the best) from the night before and how you felt when you woke up and how long it took to clear your head and get your motor skills on point when you got to the park.

-Did you eat every four hours and did the meals contain fresh produce for immune health, fiber rich starch for energy and diverse sources of protein (animal, dairy and vegetable) to facilitate tissue remodeling?

-Did you drink 3-4 liters of water/sports drink over the course of the day’s activity?

-Reflect on your performance and competitive drive on the field for the day and your mood when dealing with teammates and coaches.

In time you will start to connect the dots with poor rest, diet, hydration and poorly focused-slow starts, dead legs and sluggish finishes.  You might get away with one reckless day, but two in a row will takes it toll and when alcohol or drugs are involved you can bet one day will put you in the tank.  So be honest in keeping track of how often you use alcohol and how it impacted you mind, body and spirit.  Choose the company you keep carefully if you see a trend where recovery is compromised.  Running with the pack might seem like the thing to do, but when the pack is ridding pine, sick, injured or cut, the pack will not amount to a hill of beans.

Sleeping on planes, buses and in vans is rarely as refreshing as when we are in a quiet room in a good bed so plan on being on your best behavior from a life style and diet stand point.  The stresses of travel demand that you give something back that improves recovery, not add to the stress with an undisciplined social life where those around you dictate everything from your rest to your diet.

Certainly this is easier said then done on the road.  It gets even tougher when you are in the minor leagues and trying to rest on long bus rides and survive on some very limited visiting club house spreads and daily per-diems that only fit the budget at the drive through.  Some teams will work hard to make the best of a bad situation when traveling by designating someone (typically trainer or strength coach) to travel with a portable food supply that athlete can fall back on when the cheap white bagels and cream cheese are the only breakfast items or a vending machine is the only PM snack.

In the end if you just wander through your athletic career living off caffeine in the AM and binge eating when your stomach starts growling after batting practice and again after the game, your baseball career is going to be short lived.  Soon you will look in the mirror and see the body of the guy next door who mowed his yard in his Bermuda shorts and on a boiler hanging over his belt, sweating like he had dynamite strapped to his body.  Sad to say there is not shortage of these old man bodies in the sport of baseball.  I will let you guess at what position we see more of these bad bodies.  So don’t let in-season travel get the best of you this season.  Being average won’t get you much when it comes to travel.

Article provided by Performance Conditioning Baseball/Softball www.performancecondition.com/baseballsoftball the Official Publication of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society