Preparing for the Long Season โ€” No Matter What Your Game Is

Red Sox Players Warming Up

The baseball season is a long grind. So how do players prepare their bodies for extended stretches of physical activity, and what lessons can you take away as your body shifts from winter hibernation to warm-weather action?

“It starts with a healthy diet,” says Dr. Arun Ramappa , Chief of Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “What pro athletes put into their body is just as important as what they do with their body.”

The rest of us are no exception. Preparing your body for a more active lifestyle means paying attention to what you eat and having a consistent dietary plan.

“A healthy diet is balanced and varied: plenty of greens, fresh fruits, and vegetables," says Ramappa. "It’s as simple as eating what you know you should be eating and avoiding all the processed, high sugar, high salt foods.”

It’s also important to get the right amount of sleep, he adds: “A healthy diet and healthy sleep patterns are complementary habits that can help both professional athletes and weekend warriors optimize their performance.”

The next step in preparing for the more active days ahead: flexibility.

Baseball has a unique rhythm about it. Nine innings of stop-and-go activity — the stark transition from bench to field again and again — calls for all major league players to have a flexibility program built into their training routine.

“All athletes need a flexibility program,” says Ramappa. “Regardless of whether you’re a professional or someone who enjoys working out recreationally, everyone should have a daily flexibility routine. Daily stretching helps lower the risk of getting injured during the weekend. Achieving and maintaining flexibility is an important part of training.”

The third part of getting ready for the major league season is strength and conditioning. Players build strength in ways that reflect game-time situations — not just bulky muscle mass — which improves the efficiency of their movements, and in turn helps sustain their bodies through the long season.

“The key here is that players adjust gradually from offseason to regular season," Ramappa says. "They gradually build up their strength with an eye on sustainability and reducing the risk of injury.”

Dr. Ramappa adds that this is important for individuals, too. He stresses the importance for all athletes of strengthening the whole body, regardless of their sport.

“Comprehensive strength improves and maintains full body mechanics. If we look at the mechanics of a pitcher, for example, pitchers need a strong core, glutes, and hips to reduce pressure on their shoulder and elbow. Runners and other athletes need this same type of total body conditioning. Your body’s muscle groups are interconnected. Neglecting one muscle group can throw off the efficiency of other muscle groups. A balanced conditioning routine is important.”

So whether you’re slugging home runs for the Red Sox or taking weekend runs along the Charles, the key to success is always the same: It’s all about health and consistency.

March 2016