Working Out From Home: How softball star included her dog in workout routines

Part 20 of USA TODAY's Working Out From Home (#WOFH) series. Sign up for Good Sports, our weekly newsletter that will bring you more home workout tips + stories of the good(!!) throughout the world of sports:

It appeared Jade Rhodes held out her left hand simply to pet her dog, Ella. Rhodes also did that to convince Ella to let her pick her up.

With Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey” playing inside her apartment, Rhodes then included Ella for a 30-second home workout video. She wrapped her arms around Ella, squatted and then stood upright. Rhodes then performed four front squats while holding Ella, a 2-year-old German Shepherd that weighs 65 pounds. Ella did not seem enthused with becoming a replacement for a 65-pound bumper plate.

“She doesn’t like being taken off the ground,” Rhodes said, laughing. “She’s not very stable when I’m holding her. But she calmed down. If it was anyone else, she wouldn’t have had that at all.”

Jade Rhodes (Photo: Athletes Unlimited)

Ella obliged for Rhodes, a softball instructor (Pro Swings) who has also joined a soon-to-be launched professional sports league (Athletes Unlimited). That moment captured how Rhodes has become creative with her workout routines amid social distancing rules during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Rhodes filmed herself picking up Ella three different times, including when she performed a series of backsquats and frontsquats.

“She’s learned her tactics to put herself down,” Rhodes said. “She likes to nibble at my ear when she gets up there. I’ve definitely taken her out of the workout routine.”

That is OK. Rhodes has developed plenty of other workout routines.

Pro Swings closed its facility once Florida issued stay-at-home orders about three weeks ago. So, Rhodes cannot go there to perform her usual hitting and fielding workouts. But Pro Swings founder Stephanie Best has allowed Rhodes to work out in her garage, which stores a treadmill, a barbell, dumbbells and bumper plates. After a brief warmup, Rhodes has often performed the following workout:

*a 30-minute run on the Peloton app

*four sets of 10 reps of deadlifts either using a barbell (25 or 45 pounds on each side) or two 40-pound dumbbells

*four sets of 10 reps of bicep curls using 25 or 30-pound dumbbells.

*four sets of 10 reps of an overhead press using 40-pound dumbbells or the barbell

*four sets of 10 reps of a chest press using a 45-pound bumper plate

*four sets of 10 reps of pushups and then pushing off a stack bumper plates to increase explosive movements

*four sets of 10 reps of resistance band exercises

*four sets of 10 reps standing on a bucket filled with softballs and then jumping off of it

For those that do not have the means or space to have workout equipment, Rhodes suggested alternatives.  

She has performed various ab workouts with her mom, Kerry, who was her personal trainer when she played softball in middle school and high school. Rhodes suggested those without equipment to complete “H.I.I.T” workouts (High Intensity Interval Training). Need an example? On her Instagram account, Rhodes posted herself completing part of an exercise that involves jump squats, reverse lunges, pushups and “Superman's" (lie on your stomach and stretch out your arms and legs as if you are the super hero). Start at 15 reps for the first set before completing the next 14 sets in descending order (set 2 = 14 reps, set 3 = 13 reps, etc).

“My biggest thing that I want to do in life in general is to make other people happy,” Rhodes said. “So when I post videos of working out, I’m not just posting videos to say, ‘Here is my workout.’ I really want people to reach back out to me and share how they’re feeling. I’m perfectly fine with that because I like helping people.”

Rhodes has kept that perspective despite going experiencing various setbacks.

She missed her entire freshman softball season and part of her sophomore season at the Auburn University because of various injuries. Yet, Rhodes thrived at first base and with her bat afterward. She became a third-team All-American (2016), made the Women’s College World Series All-Tournament team (2016) and appeared twice on the All-SEC Second team (2015, 2016).

Rhodes’ younger brother, Jordan, died at five years old in 2008 following a two-year fight with cancer. Rhodes had a mostly distant relationship with her father, Arthur, who played in Major League Baseball for 20 years and currently lives in Waco, Texas. Rhodes' older brother, Trey, lives in New York.

“My mindset has helped me push harder,” Rhodes said. “I have something to work for, in general. Whether it’s the end goal of my season or the trials and tribulations that I’ve been through, I know what it takes to push harder.”

Anytime adversity struck, Rhodes’ great grandmother, Lillian, would tell her, “This too shall pass.” Rhodes has repeated that on various Twitter posts. She has urged her followers to “find the good in each day”  and suggested  they take advantage of this downtime to connect with close friends and family.

“This whole pandemic is crazy and how everything has happened at once,” Rhodes said. “But I’m also a very positive person. I always try to find the good in something.”

Rhodes has kept that same attitude about her current circumstances.

She normally provides private lessons to about 80 softball players in elementary, middle and high school. With the Pro Swings facilities closed, she can only give lessons remotely. Yet, she said has not lost any clients.

“When we open back up, I have no doubt in my mind we’ll be jam packed,” Rhodes said. “People are going to miss that connection that we had.”

After playing softball professionally with National Pro Fast Pitch the last three years, Rhodes joined Athletes Unlimited for two reasons. The league's 56 players will each earn a base salary of $10,000 and be entitled to a share of the league’s profits. With each player in the four-team league earning points based on team wins and individual play, the top-four point earners can draft their teams on a weekly basis. That will result in fluid player movement. The six-week league scheduled to start on Aug. 17 at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Ill., but that timing depends on how the pandemic evolves.

“We’re holding off a little bit longer to make that call if we’re going to play this year,” Rhodes said. “If we don’t, it gives us another year to build what we started. It’s not even a negative. If we don’t play, it gives us this whole time to get this brand out and get more people on board.”

So for now, Rhodes has embraced finding creative ways to exercise. Even if that entails lifting her dog both to break a sweat and to make her friends laugh.

 “They think it’s hilarious,” Rhodes said. “A lot of my friends have smaller dogs. So when they see me holding my big dog on my back, they laugh. They don’t expect anything less.”

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

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