A pre-season hockey tune-up is a must for all hockey players
By Evan Tabachnick
(Previously published content has been updated.)
The “official” start of the hockey season is almost upon us. This is the time of the year when hockey players wind down from their off-season workouts or training—whatever they may be. Your goal now should be on getting yourself into game shape, both physically and mentally.
Here’s what every hockey player should do to prepare for the new season.
Get in Game Shape!
If those summer barbecues caused you to put on a few pounds, now’s the time to start trimming down. Playing hockey is hard enough, but when you’re carrying around some extra freight it’s even more difficult. That’s why a pre-season hockey tune-up is important for players of all ages and abilities.
Weight training can always be a plus for those who play hockey. Of course, body-weight (calisthenics) workouts will do fine as a pre-season hockey tune-up, as they are also seen as less strenuous than weight training and more feasible for the average Joe. Simple home solutions like a pull-up bar can work wonders if you don’t have the time or money to commit to a gym membership.
Obviously, your focus should be on working on your legs and strengthening your core. That will help improve your skating, which is a skill that is vital for the game. But it’s especially important to keep in mind that whatever your pre-season training method may be, you should not proceed with it at the same level as you may have done during the off-season. Chances are that will not improve your game, and the last thing you want to do is sustain an injury from training too hard, too fast.
Get some cardio in. This doesn’t necessarily mean you must stick to aerobic exercises in the classic sense of running or bicycling for hours on end. Studies have shown that biking works the same muscle groups that skating does. Choose an exercise that you enjoy doing; one you could see yourself getting into a good routine with.
I’ve always preferred to stay fit for hockey by choosing good complimentary sports. Soccer, for one, carries many of the same elements of footwork, agility, and speed that a hockey player needs. There are pick-up leagues everywhere—many of them are free to join, and the start-up costs are usually affordable. You may also find that they offer some of the same benefits of camaraderie and networking, which DO exist outside of hockey!
Climb the Walls!
From personal experience, for a good pre-season hockey tune-up I’d also recommend that hockey players try indoor rock climbing. This activity allows each and every muscle of the body to be worked individually—including the brain.
The mental challenge of “problem solving” while on the wall keeps you coming back for more, plus it’s a great activity to turn off-season pudginess into well-toned muscle. Getting fully outfitted once cost me about $150, which is about the price of the average composite hockey stick these days. I could feel the difference in the very first game I played in after solely climbing for a few months. I was much sturdier on my skates, stronger on the puck and way less apt to be bumped off by opponents. If you’re not afraid of heights and you have the means, give it a shot!
Be Sure to Eat Right
When you know you’ll be less active, avoid the simple carbs. If you work at a desk job staring at a computer screen all day, opt for the salad with grilled chicken instead of the pizza and Coke for lunch. Save the heavy carbs/high-calorie “cheat” days for when you’re most active: game day, gym day, helping a friend move, going hiking, etc. (Just remember to void those greasy, high-fat foods before game time!)
The reverse is equally important. Don’t skimp on carbs on game days (I tell this to my hockey player buds all the time!). If you eat nothing but protein and veggies on a day when you need the extra energy boost, you’ll find yourself dragging and sluggish during your game. Modern nutrition wisdom says that carbs are the enemy; that’s because modern exercise consists of 8 hours of keystrokes and “12-oz. curls” at the bar after work.
As athletes (yes, even beer leaguers are athletes on game day), we need carbs to help us get energized enough for our bodies to perform at their fullest potential. For best results, go for complex carbs like whole grains, fruits, nuts, etc.
Pre-Season Hockey Tune-Up Equipment Check
Now for the fun part. Your body and mind might be ready to play hockey, but without the right gear or equipment that’s not up to par, you’ll be riding the pine in no time. Before you head out to your first game, follow this checklist:
Helmet Check for proper fit, cracks, loose screws, etc. This is especially important for goalies!
Stick Is your twig in good shape? Watch for nicks, cracks, etc. For those of us without a seven-figure endorsement deal that provides a lifetime supply of free $300 hockey sticks, we recommend wrapping some tape around the area where the shaft meets the blade. This area is very prone to nicks, which can escalate to cracks and full-on stick snaps over time.
Gloves Patch up holes. Get them re-palmed if necessary; otherwise score a new pair.
Pads Be sure your shin guards, shoulder pads, and elbow pads can still provide you with the proper protection you need. If your spot is between the pipes, make sure your chest protector and leg pads are in good shape so you can do your job of stopping pucks.
Skates Check for proper fit, excessive wear, and unraveling laces. Also check rockers for cracks or loose rivets. And get those blades sharpened!
Here’s to a great season ahead.
Evan Tabachnick works in the video streaming industry. He plays on two teams, year round.
Check with your healthcare provider before undertaking any fitness regimen.
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