Athlete Running

I just back from a conference in California and while I was down there Iwanted to try something different for a workout. Specifically I wanted to try out the Manhattan Beach sand dunes. I’ve written previously about running sand dunes and had heard about these ones down in LA. And although we weren’t able to get a workout in as the dunes are closed it did get me thinking about some key principles that you should keep in mind when it comes to your off-season hockey conditioing workouts.

So with this mind I’m going to fire a number of tips your way regarding the conditioning phase of your off-season training program. So here is Part 1 of your off-season hockey conditioning tips.

Tip #1 – More is not better. It used to be that hockey players didn’t do a whole lot in the off-season to prepare for the next. Before the contracts were that good players would return home and help with the family business, which if from Saskatchewan meant farming, before returning to training camp.

As the money got better players didn’t need to work during the off-season and now were able to relax a little bit. This may have included some fishing, a little boating, a few rounds of golf and the occasional pilsner.

But as exercise science passed along new findings and the league became more competive players recognized the need to get in shape during the summer prior to training camp. Initially these efforts to pick up the training may have been just a few weeks out from camp. Later this training period was expanded to run almost the entire off-season. And what were players doing to get in shape?

They were going for runs. And riding the bike. And the more the better. At the time it was as though the more time invested running and riding the better.

There was no consideration of heart rate. There was no thought put into recovery times. It didn’t matter what you did yesterday. All that mattered was that you were going to do more than you could previously, push yourself, get a good sweat and make it hurt a little bit. Then you would wash, rinse and repeat.

Today’s hockey player knows it’s about the quality not the quantity of the training. He or she knows that more is not necessarily better and that long, steady-state training can actually impair performance. They also know that off-season conditioning is about total energy system development not simply about aerobic capacity. And lastly they know that have to be able to accelerate quickly in all directions and repeat their efforts multiple times to succeed in hockey.

A colleague that is a strength and conditioning coach for an NHL team mentioned that the younger players coming to camp understand what conditioning for hockey is and what it isn’t. It is the veteran players who have been in the league for a while and have been using the same method of preparing for the upcoming season, year after year, without incorporating the new science that will benefit them. Their antiquated training methods combined with added years puts them at a double disadvantage when it comes to the younger, smarter trained players.

As you get going on your off-season training make sure you keep the above points in mind. Look to develop all three energy systems i.e.  the aerobic, anaerobic-lactic and  ATP, to ensure no gaps in your ability to perform. Invest in a heart rate monitor and be smart about your training.

In the next post I’ll talk about why the type of surface you perform your hockey conditioning drills on is an important consideration.


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