Athletic trainer offers tips for recreational sports fitness
by Richie Bancells
Whether you’re a professional baseball player or a weekend warrior, spring is an important time for all athletes. You can work out in a gym every day, but expect the intensity level to change as soon as you put on a pair of spikes and step onto the field.
As an athletic trainer, I'm devoted to preparing major league baseball players for the season. My job is primarily the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of athletic injuries, but as a health care professional, I also make sure players safely reach the conditioning level they need to compete at the highest level.
At the start of every spring training camp, we conduct physicals to verify the players are healthy enough for their activities. Every athlete starts the season in a different condition, but with 10 to 13 pitchers on a big league roster of 25 guys, about 80 percent of my focus is on players' elbows and shoulders.
Beyond that, injuries I treat on any given day can range from a simple cramp to a torn rotator cuff.
We're in the gym or on the field seven days a week, eight to 12 hours a day. My guys train at a higher level because that's their job — they're professional athletes. But that doesn't mean it's inaccessible. I've always said that, in its most basic form, what I do with them is the same as what the average person in a weekend softball league can do on their own.
If you're planning on participating in sports this summer, first and foremost visit your doctor for a physical to make sure your body is in adequate condition.
Once you're in the clear, get in shape for the season by working out five to six days per week, alternating cardio and strength days. I recommend light jogging or biking and a comfortable level of weight lifting. Finally, always be sure to include at least one rest day to allow the body to recover.
The biggest mistake is playing the game without doing some type of training during the week. The best case is that you'll be sore all week, and the worst means you'll sustain a serious injury. Ideally begin getting ready for your season three to four weeks ahead of time. That allows you to get past the soreness stage and start making some gains.
Ultimately, the best way to stay fit is to be active at a young age, so even if you're not participating in a sport, I encourage parents to get outside and play with their kids. Whether it's a simple game of catch or an hour of father-daughter basketball, the time you invest will pay great dividends for both you and your child.
One of the biggest initiatives the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society has undertaken is the PLAY campaign. Throughout the year, we hold events at both major and minor league ballparks which are designed to teach kids about living a healthy lifestyle, including stretching, nutrition and ways to have fun outside.
Our hope is that kids who participate in sports and outdoor activities grow into adults who, in turn, advocate with friends and family for a healthy lifestyle. That's one of the best parts of team sports, after all. You get to share a fun afternoon with people you know and all live a little longer because of it.