Long Distance Running

Pitchers should run long distance, right? Especially after they pitch, right? It builds endurance, right?

Endurance

Pitchers were taught to run long distance because long distance is equated to endurance. What everyone failed to understand is that there are two types of endurance: aerobic endurance and anaerobic endurance.

Jogging long distances is aerobic, meaning you’re muscles constantly receive oxygen and fire at a controlled gently pace. If that sounds anything like how you pitch, come see me at once. Slow Twitch.

Anaerobic endurance is sprint endurance. The body fires as fast as it can for a short time, while the muscles don’t have enough time to get a steady supply of oxygen. Then you stop for a little while and sprint again. Does that sound more like pitching? A pitch takes 1.5 seconds, the longest baseball play lasts for only 14 seconds,  and then you don’t throw another for about 20 seconds. Not to mention, most of the time there isn’t even a play so it ends up being 1.5 seconds of all out with 20 seconds of rest. Fast Twitch.

So, yes long distance running builds endurance, but it doesn’t build the proper endurance. Anaerobic endurance is much more effective. This is why we run sprints instead of miles and why our circuit training is designed in short bursts.The worst part is that long distance running is actually helping make you fastball slower.

Intermediate Muscle Fibers

There are fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. What you may not have known was that you also have intermediate fibers. These are muscle fibers that can be trained to act as either slow twitch or fast twitch. Since pitching (and baseball itself) is a fast twitch activity, don’t you think we should focus on pushing as many of our intermediate muscle fibers over to the fast side? The way we do this is to convince our bodies that we are constantly moving fast and not so often are we moving slow for long periods of time. This is also why our program is set up towards short all out bursts instead of having you run for 15 minutes.

Here’s a quick story. Usain Bolt is a world record holding sprinter. After he won Olympic gold, he did not jog his victory lap. He walked. Its not that Usain Bolt wants to make his victory lap last forever, its that he can’t jog. Well, he can physically jog, but its strictly against his training. He doesn’t want to give his body any reason to convert his intermediate muscle fibers into slow twitch. Usain Bolt is the fastest man ever for a reason.

Recovery

As for recovery, the jury is still out. I have a resounding “I don’t know” for you. Some studies have shown that light cardio can reduce swelling, while some studies have shown that it can increase swelling too.  Long distance running does produce more cortisol than sprinting does, and cortisol can reduce inflammation. Some people think inflammation is always bad and some people say its a natural part of the healing process. Also cortisol is a stress hormone and actually reduces inflammation by narrowing blood vessels, meaning less nutrients and oxygen get to the arm, which strikes me as bad. As of right now, we just don’t know so I’ll leave it up to you. But I would rather you run sprints after you throw then long distance.

As for those people who say it breaks up lactic acid, that’s just not true. Instead it simply delays the onset of lactic acid production and actually serves to increase the ill effects. Its much the same way drinking alcohol during a hangover makes the hangover go away but only for a little while then it comes back stronger.

 

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