With this being the last day of July, we are officially about month out from the start of the hockey season for youth players, training camps for professional and junior players and collegiate athletes returning to school. So what should a player do in this month of off-season training to prepare themselves for the following season?
If you have waited until now to consider training for the upcoming season, I won’t lie, you will be behind the eight ball. Sure you may have cross-trained and participated in another sport, building athleticism, but your hockey skills will be a bit behind in comparison to some of your peers who have been training for the past two months.
If you are one of these players, the good thing is you probably do not have to build much endurance. You will have to get on the ice and get your legs back under you, but if you are in good athletic condition, you can accomplish this in a month’s time. Secondly, you will have to work on improving the fundamentals of each specific skill. You can do this with a designed off-ice training program where you can work on your stickhandling, passing and shooting. Really break down your mechanics and work to build proper form in each skill. This will allow you to understand your weaknesses and help you improve on them before and during the season.
If you have been training, especially intensely all summer long, evaluate yourself. If you are weight training, has your training plateaued? Do you have a nagging cramp, pain, or tightness in your muscles? Are you recovering properly?
These are all very real and often overlooked issues that many players do not pay attention to. If you are ‘limping’ into the season and have not properly recovered, you are at a higher risk of injury. I suggest that these players change up their training routines, focus on maintaining their strength gains, while also incorporating an extensive recovery and mobility routine into their program. Some options for recovery and mobility include foam rolling, dynamic stretching and yoga. These things will help aid in muscle recovery and improve your flexibility. Although you may not see an increase in strength over the next month, you will maintain this strength and have added mobility which is overall an improvement to your fitness.
For those players who have been on the ice all summer long, now is the time to hang up your skates for a bit. You will not lose your legs by taking a week or two off. Focus on some stationery off-ice drills, again focusing on the fundamentals of the game. Go for a run, a hike, a bike ride instead of being so insistent on putting those skates back on. Allow your muscles to be stressed in other ways. Remember it is much easier to teach an athlete how to become a hockey player and much harder to get a hockey player to become an athlete.
Lastly, regardless of how you have been training, whether you have been intense in your hockey training, cross-training with another sport, or not training at all, it is likely that your diet has probably suffered. The hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, ice cream and pizza, to name a few are staple foods in the summertime and admittedly is it very hard to maintain a healthy diet. Use this month of training before the season starts to lock up your diet and get your nutrition where it needs to be. If you have the willpower to do this now, it won’t be as much of a ‘system shock’ to your body when the season comes around. If you are going to grill out, throw some chicken or steak on instead of hamburgers or hot dogs. Increase your water intake. If needed, buy a water bottle that allows you to put lemons or fresh fruits in your water. That will help curb your cravings for sugar and make the water more enjoyable and refreshing during the hottest part of the year. Most importantly evaluate yourself and see what progress you have made thus far during the off-season. Tweak things that aren’t working, improve your endurance, and focus on mobility and proper recovery to prevent injuries during the season. How bad do you want it?