The Training Corner

Mountain Grit: Training for the Long Haul

Q: Hi Pat! I was just invited to join the local softball rec league with a bunch of my friends. I played hockey and baseball throughout high school, and club hockey and rec soccer in college. Since then, I’ve kept gym-fit, lifting, running, and stretching at least 3X/ week. I also skate and DH ski, hunt, fish, and take pride in my carpentry skills with on-going projects. I own my seasonal chores, with no plans to hire out. I’m 6’3” and hover around 180 lbs, a bit on the wiry side. The guys need someone to play 1B, and since I have a pretty good reach and played 1B in high school, they came after me.

At 43-years-old, a father of two middle schoolers, and co-owner of a small accounting firm, where I am stuck at a screen, I thrive on anything that gets me off my duff and outdoors. Even though I train regularly, I haven’t swung a bat in at least 15 years, and I sure as heck don’t want to pull a hamstring, lock up my back or throw my shoulder out, like too many of the guys I know.

Pat, do you have any tips on being prepped and ready for softball season? I miss that team camaraderie and love the game, but sure as heck don’t need an injury that screws up my daily life. Thanks!

Jeff, 43

A: Hi Jeff. Your mindset is spot on. Gym-fit does not necessarily transfer to sportready. Congrats on keeping fit and active in training, labor and recreation, a good foundation for tweaks and upgrades. Without knowing the details of your current training, seriously consider the following:

“We get what we train for; we keep what we do! We adapt to what we do, and how we do it; we also adapt to what we never do.”

Adaptation is SPECIFIC to the speed, plane, load and (un) predictability of the movement, the skill or the exercise. If I train slow, I am slow. If I train strength [force] and ignore power [force FAST], I’m not ready. If my training is typically 2-legs/2- arms and stationary, as in squats and bench press, I’m not ready. If I train for looks, I’m definitely NOT ready.

Unlike school-college athletics, adult leagues may practice 1X/ week and play 1X/week, making training a non-negotiable cog in the injury risk reduction wheel. There are no guarantees, but we sure can improve our odds.

Now, allow me to wave the YELLOW flag. Male, former athletes in their early 40s are very prone to muscle pulls, Achilles blow-outs and cuff injuries. Personally, I have witnessed THREE cases of ruptured Achilles, two in former soccer players and one in a former linebacker. For real …. 1) A father was watching his daughter play soccer; she scored, and he jumped up in the air to celebrate, landed and blew both Achilles. 2) A father joined a parent-HS-athlete friendly match; on his first cut to the ball, snap! 3) A father-coach accepted the challenge of a sprint relay with his athletes; he passed the baton and pulled up. Pop! Lesson: male athletes still retain muscle-motor-memory at 40, but the soft tissues cannot absorb the stress and strain of explosive forces, if not done regularly. None of these guys were warmedup. They were gym-fit, NOT explosive-sport-ready.

Jeff, you already have the field, catch and throw skills, and are familiar with the 1B demands of reacting, reaching, catching and throwing in multiple planes and positions. You realize that explosive rotation, straight-line and curve sprints, and the ability to put on the BRAKES are all essential.

If your training sessions resemble the format below, you are probably pretty well equipped to ease into softball. If not, consider plugging any gaps with a criterion-based 4-6 week program, 2-3Xweek prior to the season.

Here is a 1-hour Training Session Breakdown:

00-12:00: Mobility [Suppleness]: breath + soft-tissue [foam rolling] work / active stretching and joint rotations, especially ankles, hips, upper spine + shoulders

12-24:00: Stability + Movement Prep: wake up the deep muscles and nervous system with on-your-feet dynamic stretches & speed and agility drills.

Power Plyos and Medball: leaps, jumps and throws [light and fast]

24-36:00: Power Cleans and Swings [heavier and fast]: think kettlebells for a seasoned 35+ athlete

36-48:00: Strength Block A

48-60:00: Strength Block B


So grab your cleats, and “steer clear of the stupid-zone.” For any seasoned athlete, 35+:

• Thoroughly warmup for all games and practices; the prep is similar to the first 18:00 above, before you pick up a bat, ball or mitt.

• Ease into the number, speed and distance of throws and swings; consider going to a batting cage, but not for too long on day 1. Start playing catch with your kids.

• Allow your training sessions to condition you for base-running; remember, BRAKING, slowing down and changing direction [reacting] is a huge factor in lowering injury risk.

In summary, Jeff, assess your training buckets. Restore and refill them as needed. And with all of your activities, continue to train year-round, tweaking along the way with an all-seasons GO approach. “Ramp up or dampen down; just don’t stop for decades to come.”

A new season is upon us. Are you prepped and ready to PLAY? Contact Pat through or See previous editions of Mountain Grit for more training tips from Pat.

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