Running Poles

By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro

After a pitching session, it is important for a pitcher to do some maintenance work on their arm. A good recuperating exercise is running foul poles. Many coaches require their pitchers to run right after the pitch, as well as the day after an outing. Doing this will ensure the pitcher’s shoulder receives the proper nutrients necessary to remain healthy.

 Running foul poles is an easy task. The pitcher should start at one foul pole and run along the warning track to the other pole. A good goal is to reach the opposite pole in under 25 seconds which should be a brisk jog for most pitchers. Upon reaching the pole, the pitcher should take a few seconds to catch his breath before running back to the other pole. Doing 20 of these after a pitching outing can help the pitcher’s arm begin the recovery process.

An alternative to simply jogging the warning track is to do “bow and arrows”. A pitcher should jog along the warning track to the opposite foul pole. Upon reaching the pole, the pitcher should turn and spring straight towards the original foul pole through the outfield grass, thus making the shape of a bow and arrow. Doing this drill in under 55 seconds is  a good goal to have.

Yet another variation is interval running. The pitcher should start at one foul pole and begin jogging the warning track. After 30 feet (about once large fence section), the pitcher should begin sprinting the next 30 feet. Continue this pattern for the entire length of the fence, and your heart rate should climb at a pretty good rate.

Contrary to popular belief, running poles is much more beneficial than icing your arm. When you ice, the fluids in your shoulder slow down and are ineffective in repairing the damage done to the tissues. However, when you run the fluids are able to circulate more freely and will reach the shoulder better. This will help cut down on the recovery time after a pitching outing.

If a pitcher runs immediately after a pitching outing but is still sore the next day, he should still run a set of foul poles that next day. This will not hurt anything, and may help get rid of some of the soreness from the previous day’s activities.

Not many people enjoy running, but it should be a very important aspect of a pitcher’s training regimen. Running foul poles after a pitching outing can be the key to maintaining a healthy arm throughout the entire season. To make running foul poles more exciting, grab another pitcher to run with and race each other to see who can do a bow and arrow the fastest! Running doesn’t always have to be a bore, and having a competition can make it more exciting. Throw in some iPod headphones with your favorite tunes and you can have an enjoyable run while knowing that your arm is benefitting from your efforts.


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