MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is devoted to Pilates. First baseman Anthony Rizzo has added yoga to his routine. Jason Heyward? He has a "movement coach," who works with him to get faster.For the last three offseasons, Heyward has trained with Lilian Abdelmalek, 33, owner of DSA Training
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is devoted to Pilates. First baseman Anthony Rizzo has added yoga to his routine. Jason Heyward? He has a "movement coach," who works with him to get faster.
For the last three offseasons, Heyward has trained with Lilian Abdelmalek, 33, owner of DSA Training (Dynamic Speed Agility Training) in Atlanta. They begin in November, spending two days a week together for three months. Heyward arrived in Arizona for Spring Training last week -- position players don't have to report until Feb. 23 -- and Abdelmalek was at his side, posting a video on her Instagram account of the outfielder and part of his workout.
Last Wednesday, for example, Heyward spent about two hours hitting, then followed with a tough series of sprints and drills with Abdelmalek. The goal is to improve Heyward's speed, his explosiveness and agility, which will definitely come in handy this season as he moves to center field for the Cubs. Because the 6-foot-5 Heyward has such a long stride, he can handle all the new territory.
"Jason's really tall, so he has a nice stride length and can cover ground really well," Abdelmalek said. "What we focus on is his acceleration and his power and his quickness. We want to increase his quickness."
The workouts also help Heyward, 26, keep in top shape.
"Staying healthy is the No. 1 thing," Abdelmalek said.
Has she seen a difference in the outfielder's speed over the years?
"He's a little faster coming off the bases now," Abdelmalek said. "It will hopefully increase the amount of stolen bases he can get -- if the [Cubs] coaches are OK with that."
Just guessing the Cubs will want to take advantage of Heyward's speed. Chicago ranked sixth in the National League last season in stolen bases with 95, led by Dexter Fowler (20) and Rizzo (17). Heyward swiped a career-high 23 with the Cardinals last year.
Abdelmalek works with some Minor League players and has another pro in Rays camp. She also trains NFL, NBA, high school and middle school athletes.
Heyward will continue to do his routine once Cubs camp is officially underway. Abdelmalek was to leave Arizona on Thursday.
"He always incorporates the stuff that we've done just for maintenance work," she said. "Jason does a good job to work on his stretching and doing his drills to stay healthy throughout the season."
Which is good news for the Cubs.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.