Casey Stangel: A strong case for rebuilding

Casey Stangel is a senior-to-be pitcher at Lake City High School (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) who also plays for the SoCal Explosion. She was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Idaho in 2012 and has committed to play college softball at the University of Missouri. She will blog for ESPNHS throughout the 2012 season.

As my summer season came to an end, it was a very sad time for me because softball was all over for the year. That said, I am coming into one of my favorite seasons of softball (because there is never an offseason). The season I am talking about is what I call my “rebuilding” period. Most players out there are taking some time off right about now. Here are some good tips and things to do to stay at the top of your game without actually playing the game!

Yoga: I have found that as I get older, I get a lot more sore. Yoga is huge for me because while I am letting my muscles heal from the pounding over the whole year, I get to stay flexible and active. I recommend doing yoga up to three times a week to stay functional and flexible. It also gives you a great core workout and works muscles that softball players don’t typically use.

Pilates: As a softball player, the majority of our motions are rotational, so core is huge. I think a lot of players overlook how important it really is. During this rebuilding period, tear up your core workouts, and Pilates is a great way to do it. A one-hour class will leave your midsection feeling stronger, and it will also focus in on muscles that we don’t normally focus on using.

Long-distance running: Nobody wants to do it, but it’s a very important element of your overall athleticism. It will also help break up some of the lactic acid that has built up in your muscles from all the work over the spring and summer. I recommend starting around 25-30 minutes, and then adding 5 minutes every other run. Push yourself, but know your limits.

Swimming: Swimming is such a great workout because it is easy on your joints and it is total cross training from a normal softball player’s workouts. If you are lucky to live by a lake, swim along a shoreline for 30-45 minutes, or in a pool at the gym, and that should be around one mile. It is a fantastic full-body exercise that will leave you feeling tired but not torn up.

Mix up your cardio: Running up and down all of the bleachers at your high school football field, and then around the track continuously for 30 minutes is a different workout that will be challenging but not overwhelming. Sprints up hills are good as well, targeting different muscles that will help with explosiveness. Dynamic workouts in the sand (High knees, high skips, long jumps, shuffles, lateral jumps, karaokes, etc.) are awesome as well.

Working your body out beyond playing catch, taking ground/fly balls, hitting and pitching is huge during this period. Find your weak muscles, and make them stronger. Work on flexibility and break up all of the soreness that you have from the long summer season. Just because you are taking time off of softball doesn’t mean you can drop your endurance and athleticism.

Remember, to be the best, you have to outwork everyone else!

Read the previous installment of Casey's blog -- on playing without fear -- here.