In our recent posts we’ve been covering how to improve cardiovascular fitness for softball and for overall health. We’ve covered stability, mobility, and training zones. Now, let’s chat about some common mistakes that can hold you back from reaching your goals both in the gym and on the field.
We touched on this a bit in the last post, but simply– you have to prioritize recovery.
When you challenge your muscles with weightlifting or your cardiovascular system with bouts of exercise it’s only when your body recovers back to a stronger state that you can access the benefits of the work you did.
Overtraining and under-recovering are two sides of the same coin and are all too common in athletes these days. And it’s too bad because the basics of recovery are the same things your mom has been telling you for years:
Let’s look at these one by one.
In terms of recovery, sleep is one of the best assets you have. We live in a weird culture that glorifies people that can run on little sleep for days with seemingly no impact.
The hard truth: this probably isn’t you.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) guidelines recommend teenagers aged 14–17 aim for 8–10 hours of sleep per night.
That probably seems like a lot!
But getting less than that on a regular basis can lead to reduced physical and cognitive performance. Strength, endurance, speed, and coordination all go down. You’re literally handicapped as a softball player when you’re operating on less sleep than your body needs.
There’s entire books written on getting good sleep but we like to point people back to the basics.
Start with these guidelines:
American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) Recommendations: https://aasm.org/teens-sleep–8–10-hours-nights/
National Sleep Foundation (NSF) Guidelines: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
Mah, C. D., Mah, K. E., Kezirian, E. J., & Dement, W. C. (2011). The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep, 34(7), 943–950. doi:10.5665/SLEEP.1132
Well-hydrated blood is more fluid, allowing more efficient circulation. The better hydrated you are, the more effectively your heart can pump blood to support your cardiovascular performance during exercise for games.
Proper hydration also plays a key role in endurance so you can push yourself harder for longer during workouts or long tournaments.
How much water do I need?
This varies a bit depending on your activity level and climate. Here’s a good starting point: the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommend female athletes take in about 91 ounces of total water per day.
Here’s two strategies we’ve found to be effective in meeting our daily water needs:
Nutrition may be the most important factor in athletic performance, recovery, and overall health. It’s also the hardest to address. The world is full of nutrition gurus who claim to have cracked the code to the “best” diet or way to eat.
What I think is becoming increasingly clear in the world of nutrition and medicine is that every body processes food differently. This means that while general guidelines can be helpful, what we really need to do is figure out “what’s the best nutrition for me?”
You can spend a lot of time and money figuring this out, but here’s where I would recommend you start: get enough sleep, water, and exercise as a baseline. Then, start making conscious choices to fuel your body with things that you know are good for it. Then if you’re not feeling your best or making the progress you want to make, you’ve narrowed it down a bit. At that point it’s about fine-tuning and a nutritionist can be a lot of help.
We’ve had a strong focus on cardiovascular fitness recently. But in terms of mistakes to avoid I think it’s important to call out that we can focus too much on cardio in our training.
I get it. It’s easy to get comfortable doing just one thing. Some people like cardio and hate strength training. Others love slamming weights and hate the thought of a long boring treadmill workout.
But let’s keep perspective– our goal is to improve strength and power for softball.
Softball isn’t a cardio-first sport like basketball or soccer. But a solid cardiovascular foundation enables us to make more efficient gains in our training. And our training helps us get stronger and faster towards our ultimate goal:
Be a beast on the field.
So this is just a reminder to keep your priorities straight. Cardio is only good if it supports our strength and mobility training which is only good if it makes us better at the game.
The last mistake we see holding people back in their training is following a vague plan (or none at all).
To make the most efficient gains and see the best results on the field you must individualize your training. You must become a student of your own body and limitations, and tailor your training to your specific needs.
A simple way to start is the Softball Movement Screen to see where you have strength or mobility limitations. This short video series also gives you actionable steps to start individualizing your training and address any deficiencies you find.
Following a generalized training plan can work, but it’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. It’s possible today with the resources and information available to zero in on what you specifically need to work on and improve to be the best softball athlete you can be.
Until next time, get a little better every day