Dedicated to Softball Girls with Big Hearts & Big Dreams
Sep 28, 2018
It was senior year of college; my very last year. I just wanted to do my absolute best. I worked way too hard throughout the course of my softball career to risk it ending with a mid-season injury. I had heard the horror stories of it happening to others and wanted to give myself the best chance at the best year I could. No regrets. I began to think about ways I could give myself the best chance to decrease my risk of injury. The biggest change I made to be as healthy as I possibly could was simply adding 5 minutes at the end of my workout to stretch.
That year I felt better physically than I ever had before and had the best year ever. The goal of this post is to share with you three key reasons why it is so important to stretch after a workout. Coaches so often focus on the importance of getting a good dynamic warm up before practice, but very rarely do we talk about or focus on getting a good stretch at the end of practice. I would like to argue that it actually might be more important to stretch at the end of practice. Below are three reasons why stretching after practice and cooling down your body are going to help you out and make you a better softball player.
Reason #1: It increases your range of motion.
At the end of practice or a workout, your core body temperature is most likely at its highest and your muscles are at their tightest. Coaches design workouts so that you might be doing your most rigorous activities at the end of your workout. Many coaches like to incorporate sprints or conditioning at this time. By taking 5 minutes to do some stretching when your body has the combination of being warm and tight, it is going to loosen up your muscles and work to permanently elongate your muscle fibers which will give them a greater range of motion AFTER your workout. You will be more mobile in a game. Flexibility for a baseball or a softball player is enhanced allowing them to be able to be more agile. If you look at professional softball and baseball players, they usually don’t have the look of the Incredible Hulk. They look toned. This is important because it gives them a greater range of motion, which allows the superman (or superwoman)-like movements in our sport to be achieved.
Increased range of motion is going to allow catchers to get lower in their squats and position themselves better for low pitch receiving. I was never more flexible in my life than when I took 5 minutes at the end of each practice, game or workout to stretch. In fact, our strength and conditioning coach even took notice and gave me a strength and conditioning award at the end of my senior year because I had taken the time to really focus on the health of my body.
Reason #2: Decreases your recovery time.
By stretching at the end of a workout, game or practice it will help to circulate blood back to your heart. Often times if there is no cool down or stretch after the body is put through exercise, blood begins to pool in the muscles. This pooling causes you to be more sore and tight after the workout or the next day. By taking 5 minutes to stretch, it will help to circulate the blood back to the heart and remove the lactic acid out of the muscles. In turn, your muscles will feel looser. The next day you are going to feel better and your muscles will feel like they have more energy. You will notice that your muscles feel less fatigued and you feel as though you have recovered quicker.
Reason #3: Prevents injury.
As a softball player, we all want power. We want to get the maximum potential out of our muscle fibers and the way to do that is to stretch at the end of our workout. When muscles are stretched after they are heated up, they will be looser. They will be less fatigued and less tense. Even the anxiety you may feel as you play may diminish as your muscles will feel more relaxed. You will feel the best you have in a long time and will have less aches and pains in your back, legs and other trouble areas that you have previously felt.
Instead of hustling out of practice to your friend’s house, or watch Netflix or even just to rush home to your bed, honor the work that you put in by doing a good cool down. It only takes a mere 5 extra minutes but could save you an injury, days of soreness and impaired mobility. Take the challenge. Try it for a month after your practices. You will never go back. You will feel incredible.