It’s amazing how General Prepared Fitness can prepare you for things in life out there. The things we do in here make it quite effortless to do things like haul 5 bags of heavy groceries up the stairs or move furniture from one room to the next. But I am a firm believer that, although it is not a sport specific strength and conditioning program, CrossFit can play a large role in increasing one’s athletic capabilities, performance, and recovery in even the most highly skilled sports.
I had the opportunity to put this idea to the test when after 1 year of retirement from playing professional softball (literally did not even pick up a ball for nearly 11 months) I received and offer to play with Team Marousi from Greece in the European Cup Championships on Aug 18-22. I decided that to prepare I would simply continue to CrossFit and with 2 weeks to go I would practice pitching at least 3 times.
Let me give you a quick overview of what it normally takes to prepare as a pitcher for any type of high level competition. Normally, pitchers do their heaviest work in the off-season. It is a very technical skill that requires precision, strength, and muscle memory among many other important factors. Pitchers work hard for months to build these skills in order to be able to complete a full 7 inning game and/or 150+ pitches at a time. A pitcher, combined with traditional strength and conditioning at least 4 days per week, will throw upwards of 250 pitches per practice about 5 days a week. Each practice for pitching alone will last about 1 to 1.5 hours. Although the volume will vary daily, this approximate 5 day per week training will last for 6-8 months building towards a season which will last the remaining 4 months of the year.
Because of the specialization that is required, most pitchers don’t hit in the line up (there is a DH who hits for them) nor do they play other positions. This is not always the case, but it is most common. In my case, I have not hit or played any other positions for 5 years and furthermore, have not even pitched or played softball at all for 1 year since my retirement from the professional league. Naturally, as my tournament date approached, I wondered if I was making a mistake in this CrossFit “test” and began to get a little nervous.
But then, I practice pitching for the first time with the Father of a girl I give pitching lessons too. I felt stronger and more powerful than the last time I pitched in a game 1 year ago. My pitches were also breaking quite well and my precision good.
When I arrived in Greece, however, a funny thing happened. To make a long story short, the catcher that was supposed to come play for Team Marousi did not show up. There was me and one other American pitcher, but no catcher who could handle either of us. Suddenly I found myself being asked to pitch some of the time and play catcher. Now, I am a pretty athletic girl, but I have not caught in a game since I was 12 years old. I was a little nervous, but even more excited to give it a shot.
I ended up pitching two games and catching two games. Catching a softball game is the equivalent of doing 200+ squats over the course of two hours, combined with short sprints, lateral agility, sprinting, jumping, and explosion. I couldn’t believe that with no formal training or previous experience that I was able to successfully catch a professional pitcher with reasonable ease. What blew me away even further was my recover time. After each game my legs felt like rubber and my lower back even worse. To make matters worse, I would then pitch in a game just hours later. I would worry about how I was going to feel the next day but to my amazement I woke up each morning healthy and energetic as ever. I even hit in the no.1 spot in the order, after 5 years of not hitting or swinging a bat, and with only the knowledge of the swing and CrossFit I ended up with 4 singles, 1 double, and 1 triple.
I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn here. In fact, what I really mean to do is toot the CrossFit horn. I was so blown away at how much I could physically give to the game with no specific preparation what so ever. I genuinely attribute all of this to CrossFit. CrossFit does not claim to be a sport specific strength and conditioning program and yet, because it includes all 10 attributes of fitness (unlike other programs who focus on only strength and “cardio”) strength, endurance, stamina, power, speed, agility, accuracy, balance, flexibility, coordination, it sure can prepare you for specialized skills without even meaning too.
How’s that for an oxymoron? General Physical Preparedness… offering athletes top of the line sport specific strength and conditioning.
30 Back Squats (BW)
*Courtesy of CrossFit Football
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