As a competitive athlete, having a diet and exercise program that is fine-tuned to the sport being played can greatly increase performance, recovery and long-term health. Both the diet and exercise program chosen for a softball player must look at the energy and muscle requirements of players in a softball game. Softball is not a high-intensity, endurance sport, but does require quick bouts of running, hitting, catching and throwing. For this reason, softball players should eat and train to be responsive, light on their feet, and ready to perform accurate motions with great speed.
- Athletes must eat “to ensure that their metabolic needs are managed in such a way that performance is optimized,” as written in Dan Bernadot’s “Advanced Sports Nutrition.” To understand what her metabolic needs are, a softball player must examine her position on the team and the actions required of her on the field. In general, a varied diet is recommended with 55-60 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat and 10-15 percent from protein. Because softball is not a high-intensity, endurance sport, players will need no more carbohydrates than this basic recommendation. Carbohydrates should also be consumed from the best sources, including vegetables, fruits and whole grains. The fat found in nuts, seeds, healthy oils such as olive oil, and fruits such as avocados should account for the majority of an athlete’s fat consumption. Lean meats, dairy products, or protein supplements may be taken to account for protein needs. These foods will provide the muscular fuel for physical activity, as stated by Bernadot. For a softball player, there is no need to carbohydrate-load or consume excessive calories. This type of eating schedule is suited for more intense activity, such as sprinting or long distance running. In general, a softball player should ensure that she is at an optimal weight for her height and body composition. If she feels sluggish, heavy or weak on a diet of the recommended proportions above, she should check for mineral deficiency, namely in iron or calcium. Bernadot says that a multivitamin mineral should take care slight deficiencies in a diet.
- According to Strength Training Woman.com, “…softball strength training works primarily the same as strength training for the average person, [but] there are some key differences.” As with most successful strength training programs, it is essential for softball players to work the entire body, including the arms, back chest, core and legs. Softball requires “explosive anaerobic reactions,” as stated on Strength Training Woman.com, versus long distance or endurance actions. Therefore, the workout outline written on Strength Training Woman.com suggests training two to three times a week on the off season and one to two times a week during the season. It suggests using full body workouts, with one to two sets of eight to 12 repetitions per muscle group. The weight lifted should be heavy enough to cause stress to the muscle, but light enough to lift explosively, as actions would be performed in softball. The Strength Training Woman site also recommends using free weights versus weight machines, as this allows the player to train using her natural range of motion. In addition, Robert G. Price, author of “The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Softball,” notes that strength training for softball enhances the player’s overall strength, makes her less susceptible to injury and increases her rate of recovery.
- If softball requires explosive anaerobic reactions, sprinting will be the most effective conditioning for a softball player. Fielding a ball and running from base to base are about as far as a softball player will ever run, and she will always attempt to do these things at her maximum speed. Sprinting drills should last for no more than 10 to 15 minutes, and should consist of short sprints performed in interval fashion. For example, players may condition by sprinting around the bases as fast as possible, rest for 60 seconds, and then repeat. This cycle can be performed several times, and the amount of cycles can be increased as the fitness levels of the players increases.
- Price notes that common softball injuries occur at the elbows, knees and hamstrings. For this reason, proper warm up, stretching and cool down must be a part of any softball training program. Strength training antagonistic muscles together, such as the biceps and triceps or quadriceps and hamstrings, will strengthen the muscle around these joints and help protect them. Although stretching may seem boring and time-consuming, players should choose at least one stretch per body part, holding each for a minimum of twenty seconds after a dynamic warm up and following cool down.