The question: I'm finally caving to the office pressure and joining the company softball team. But my hand-eye co-ordination and reaction time is terrible! I haven't thrown a ball or swung a bat in ages. How can I improve my game?
The answer: Full disclosure: I am terrible at softball. I have poor reaction time and co-ordination skills, and therefore tend to gravitate toward individuals sports like triathlon. I know I could improve if I implemented my own advice, but I have never prioritized softball enough to be that dedicated. I hope you fair better! At the gym, incorporate exercises where you react to auditory cues.
Try the two exercises below. Start in an athletic "ready" position: Feet hip-distance apart and knees slightly bent. Both variations work best when done with a partner who randomly calls out "go." If you're working out solo, set your phone alarm to go off every few seconds, then react to the beeps.
Squat drops: When you hear the auditory cue, drop quickly into a low squat.
Reaction hops: When you hear the auditory cue, hop so that you rotate your body 180 degrees to one direction. Hop back to the original position and repeat. Randomly switch the direction you hop.
In addition, to "wake up" your nervous system, do single-leg exercises and exercises balancing on unstable surfaces.
However, no amount of time in the gym will improve your softball skills unless you actually practice hitting and fielding the ball. So, as often as possible, in addition to team practices and games, go to the park with a friend and practice on your own.
Trainer's tip: If you have a training partner, add in directional cues and a ball toss to the reaction-hop drill. Partner A starts in an athletic-ready position facing away from Partner B. Partner B calls out either "right" or "left." Partner A hops 180 degrees in the direction that partner B indicated. As Partner A turns, Partner B tosses a medicine ball to Partner A. Partner A tosses the ball back and then hops back to the starting position.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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