Posts Tagged ‘fitness’

In the last post I talked about how more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to performing conditioning workouts during the off-season. To continue with this series we’ll look at the how the type of surface factors into your off-season conditioning program.

As a hockey player imagines performing an off-season conditioning workout what type of workout comes to mind? Do you envision riding the bike? Is it running at the track? Or maybe it’s doing drills on a soccer field? What about getting some on ice sessions? Is there anything else you do to develop your energy systems and improve your fitness for hockey?

With each of the options listed above there is a different surface from grass, to track to ice. And you know from a previous post I’ve also mentioned the possibility of running sand dunes. So is one surface better than the other? Does it matter which surface you train on? And what about the order of surfaces used, does that matter?

When we structure our off-season training programs we want to consider certain factors. These include the health of the hockey player, the rate of response when the foot contacts the ground as well as the specificity of the movement. When we consider these factors we then have some rationale as to the type of training surface.

The health of the athlete is an important consideration when selecting the training surface. If an athlete has a lower body injury they are rehabilitating at the beginning of the off-season we may not want to do a lot of high impact conditioning. In fact we may want to minimize loading through the vulnerable joint and put the athlete in the pool.  Being in the water takes much of the load off the body yet still allows for some non-specific conditioning. As the athlete rehabs to 100% they progress from loading in the pool, to riding the bike, eventually running in sand, grass and then the track.  Each of these surfaces add progressively more loading to the joint in question.

In terms of the rate of response when the foot contacts the ground we want this to increase over the course of the off-season. What this means is as the hockey player moves through the various phases of their training we want the rate of contraction to increase.  In other words the foot speed should increase through this continuum.

When we consider the previous example of pool, sand, grass and track the surface is firmer in each condition. While the bottom of the pool is the hardest the surrounding water provides support as well as resistance to slow down the foot speed. If you visualize someone performing tuck jumps in each of these conditions you can see how the ground contact time is lessened in each and the foot speed thus increases.

Lastly we must consider the speficifity of training.  Early with the off-season training program the training may be quite general.  There may some time spent correcting compensatory movement patters.  While these drills may look nothing like what a hockey player needs to be doing during their off-season training they are vitally important.  Compare this to the ice sessions many players try and schedule towards the end of their off-season training program and you can see how the training becomes very specific.

With this in mind the surfaces selected should also progress from general to specific.  The continuum in this regard would be water, to bike to land to ice.  With aquatic training the hockey player doesn’t have to support their body weight if swimming or standing in deep water.  On the bike, again there are not the same ground reaction forces that are developed when striding on solid ground.  And lastly the progression to skating on ice loads the hockey player very specifically and allows development of the skating stride.

Whatever you select for your off-season conditioning drills for hockey keep the above points in mind so that you make the healthiest, most effective and specific choice possible.


On the weekend I joined a couple of friends and we ran some sprints on some sand dunes here in town. Now running sprints are hard to do at the best of times but these dunes were crazy. There were three of us doing the workout and after warming up properly we set out to climb to the top. We took turns with the first guy going as far as he could, then the second guy to the same point and the third guy joining the pack. You may advance 30-50 meters at a time depending on which segment of the climb we were on, the steepness at that point plus how deep the sand was. You have to picture a very fine, silty sand where your entire foot sinks with each step. And as you fatigue and the time your foot is in contact with the ground lengthens your foot sinks more.

As you are doing the climb the discomfort is divided between your lungs and legs. It’s hard to distinguish which is more compromised between your fitness and your strength. As you finish each segment your lungs are on fire and your legs have difficulty doing what the mind is requesting.

So what does this all have to with hockey training? What lessons can be learned here that can help you? Well here are a couple of insights I gained which should help you as you begin your off-season training program.

1. Your off-season training program is about you. When we arrived at the dunes my friends were pulling on weighted vests to do the workout. When I saw this I decided I would pull out some of the weights from my vest. Why would I do this? Well I had never done this climb before. Actually I hadn’t done any hill, stair or sand dune climbing of any kind yet this off-season so I wasn’t about to do the first one as the most aggressive one with the added load of a weighted vest.

Could I have done the climb with all the weights in the vest? Maybe. Might it have been too much? Hard to say. What I do know is that by easing into this training I will give my body a better chance today, tomorrow and the next time I challenge the dunes.

2. It’s better to do 10% too little than 1% too much. Training is about creating a stimulus that the body reacts to and improves as a result. We have thresholds related to the amount of stimulus we can handle. Too much stimulus and the body reacts in negative way and impairs future training. Not enough of a stimulus and there is an insignificant response which results in minimal improvement or none at all. We need to be smart about our training to determine what our thresholds are. We can do this objectively through assessments such as a lactate threshold or VO2 max or subjectively through a rate of perceived exertion.

Determining your threshold is a difficult thing to do because it involves assessments, tracking workouts and being honest with yourself during training. There is a difference between holding up during training because you don’t like hard work and want the easy way out and holding back on a set because you know it is simply too much for you at that time.

That’s where the concept of 10% too little and 1% too much comes from. By doing 1% too much you will exceed the capacity of the system. You will push the training to the point where the physical demands exceeds the ability of the body to recover. As a result the body will respond accordingly which will compromise future days of training. And with off-season training you are looking to accomplish the bulk of your gains, growth and improvement during this time so any interruptions in training are that much more costly.

So as you begin your off-season training remember your training is about you, your needs and goals and your abilities. There are times where competition during the training process can be healthy and bring out the best in you. But remember to listen to your body, take some time for thorough assessments, chart your progress and to push to the limits your body will allow.