Casey Stangel: Working out works wonders

Casey Stangel is a junior pitcher at Lake City High School (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) who also plays for the SoCal Explosion. Her high school team won the Class 5A state softball championship last season and she has committed to play college softball at the University of Missouri. She will blog for ESPNHS throughout the 2012 season.

There is no better feeling than that last sprint after practice or that last rep in the weight room because you feel so accomplished. Working out is an important part of our sport, whether it’s lifting, running, yoga, pilates, or even swimming.

Lifting: As a softball player, having strong fast-twitch muscles is crucial. We go from being at a standstill to having to react in the blink of an eye, so strengthening those muscles is something that should be a priority. We must also keep strong lower and upper bodies to maximize our power at the plate. Time in the weight room is a must to work on these different muscle groups.

Running: Our sport is not like soccer or basketball, where we have to be running 24/7, but we do have to be in good shape. To be able to keep you legs under you in that nine-inning 0-0 game, you must have endurance. I do a good 30-minute run a couple times a week to make sure I have the endurance to get through a game. In addition to long-distance running, sprint and agility work helps. Try running 40-yard dashes, speed ladders, sprinting football fields, shuttle runs, resistance cord sprints and quick sprints while changing direction.

Yoga/Pilates: Don’t we all just love getting into random positions and holding them until it feels like our muscles are going to snap? Oh yes, the beauty of yoga! But yoga is such a great benefit to us because we have so much more range if we’re flexible. When your muscles have that range and flexibility, you move freer and quicker. Yoga also provides the benefit of learning to control your breathing. For example, when you hit, you should be exhaling, letting it all out and putting all your power into the ball. Knowing how to control my inhales and exhales are something I have really enjoyed and apply to my work on the field every day. As for Pilates, when you ask someone who hasn’t tried it, they will usually tell you it’s an easy thing old people do. If you ask someone who has, they will start ranting about how hard it was, and how the next day their abs hurt so bad that they didn’t think they would ever recover. Pilates is core, core, core and more core. In our sport, we use our core in everything -- hitting, pitching, fielding, throwing, all of it. To get your core to its strongest, I recommend going to a Pilates class, because it will kick your abs.

Swimming: As a pitcher, I rely on my swim work to the extreme. It opens up my hips and strengthens my shoulders and forearms as well. Swimming movements are nice on your body, too, if you’re really sore from a game the day before but need to get a workout in. And, it's not just for pitchers, either, position players can benefit, too.

Remember that there are a lot of different things we have to do to be the best, and hard work is the driving factor. Though it is a lot to do in a day, all of these are important to our success.

Our bodies are a reflection of us as athletes, and we need to take care of them, and make them ready for all the things we put them through.

Don’t be afraid to hit the weight room, or pound the pavement, it can only make you better.

Read the previous installment of Casey's blog – how she knew Missouri was her perfect fit – here.