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Jake Arrieta dominated in 2015, winning 22 games, on his way to receiving the National League Cy Young Award. Outstanding as Arrieta’s performance was, Cubs fans still sadly remember last season for the way it ended: in a sweep at the gloves, er, hands of the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series. That tends to happen when your team hasn’t won a World Series since 1908.
So what does the league’s best pitcher do to help bolster the championship aspirations of baseball’s most cursed franchise? Shake Weight routines? Jazzercise? Nope. Pilates, of course.
“I feel like a student, always trying to put my body in different positions to replicate the way I perform,” says Arrieta, who pitched his second career no-hitter in April.
Pilates is similar to yoga in that it uses low-impact exercises to improve muscle endurance, strength, flexibility, and conditioning. The workout first gained attention among pro athletes when Tiger Woods and Jason Kidd started doing it in the early-2000s.
Considering the intense focus involved, Pilates lends itself perfectly to the skill set required to fire a 98 mph fastball across home plate. The 6’4″, 225-pound Arrieta started doing Pilates in 2014 and now practices year-round, six to seven days a week with each session lasting 11⁄2 to two hours.
“The impact on your joints is very minimal,” says Arrieta. “I can do Pilates and come back the next day and get a solid workout in.”
Before discovering Pilates, Arrieta, 30, had never won more than 10 games in a season. So it’s fair to say that Pilates helped kick-start the Texas native’s career. However, a dedication to functional range conditioning, weight training, cardio training, massage therapy, and a healthy diet relying heavily on pregame smoothies didn’t hold him back, either.
Arrieta now expects to play in the Cubs’ first World Series since 1945.
“The added experiences for our young players and the new players we acquired are going to pay huge dividends for us.”
Well, that and habitual Pilates.