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How To Keep In Shape Off The Ice

Jan 26, 2008
The rinks are full of hockey players loaded with natural talent who know little and care less about being in top physical condition for their sport. They don't realize that you just cannot be a top hockey player unless you intelligently condition your body to the increasing demands you make on it.

About a month before the ice is ready, you should start on a daily exercise program that will improve your strength and stamina. Whatever exercises you choose, do them daily and make them progressively harder.

You improve your strength by working your muscles, even after they hurt. You build your stamina by doing work that makes you breathless - running, for example. Working with weights is valuable in producing the grip, wrist, and arm strength used so often in hockey.

Your legs, ankles, and feet should get some special attention. Any exercise that will stretch and put strain on your ankles will help to get them ready for the stresses of skating. Walking on the outside, or on the inside, of your feet is an example of this kind of exercise. Jogging and striding are excellent for building both leg strength and stamina. Start with short distances and slow speeds, gradually building up both.

If you devote just 20 minutes a day to a well-designed training scheme, you will be in good physical condition in a month's time.

The thing to remember about the endurance needed in hockey is that you must go at top speed for very short periods of time. Then you rest for a longer period than you worked. During a game, forward lines are usually on the ice for about 60 to 90 seconds. They may rest for two minutes or so before returning.

Test your endurance in practice from time to time. Can you go up and down the ice at top skating speed for 20 seconds? 30? 60? Build gradually to this peak, using regular rest times between bursts. This is a well-known technique of track conditioning - a form of interval training.

Before leaving the topic of exercises, it might be good to remind you that a medical examination is necessary before you take to the ice, if you have not had one within the year. This is a wise precaution to take before placing vigorous stresses on your body.

Eight to ten hours of sleep are absolutely necessary throughout the hockey season. This cannot be stressed too heavily. If you do not get this much rest, fatigue will surely hit you - probably around play-off time, too.

Maybe you think you should hide injuries from your coach because you are afraid you will be considered a sissy or will not be dressed for the next game. Actually, you are not being tough, just stupid, to try to keep going when you are hampered by a bad knee or a Charley horse. And the team is hurt, too, because you cannot be effective when playing with a handicap like that.

Minor cuts and scrapes, especially on the elbows, hips, or knee caps, should be cleansed and treated at once. You cannot do much about bruises, except let them heal by rest.

A twisted knee is a much more serious matter, however, which should be examined and treated by a doctor. Do not fool around with this type of injury; it can bother you the rest of your life, if not treated early and properly.

To prevent such mishaps, get off the ice at the first opportunity when you get tired. You will not always have a play stoppage to help you do this, so arrange with your coach a system of "changing on the fly." If you tire while the play is going, look or call to your bench first. As soon as the puck is harmlessly shot into the other team's end, race for the boards and let your next linemate replace you.

When you are in really good shape as a result of carrying out these exercises, and have looked after yourself in the ways described, you will be of much more value to your team. The results will speak for themselves. Good luck!
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