If you are serious about your hockey it is important that you plan for the off or post hockey season as much as you plan for the hockey season when it comes to hockey fitness. An off season hockey fitness program should focus on rebalancing the body
Post season hockey fitness training should have two important objectives;
- Physical recuperation and mental respite from a strenuous season
- Minimize any losses in strength and conditioning built up over the year.
In fact one of the World’s leading strength experts Tudor Bompa, suggests that “off season” is an inappropriate name. Instead he calls it the “transition phase” between two 12month programs.
The worst thing you can do during this time is nothing – especially if you have worked hard to build up your strength and fitness levels over the season. Remember, maintaining 50-60% of your peak fitness level takes less effort than starting from scratch.
And if you do nothing for just 5-6 weeks you will be starting from scratch.
Just as detrimental as doing nothing is maintaining your routine through the post season. You MUST give your body (and mind) a rest. Even if you feel fresh enough to continue through the off season months, do so and midway into the following season you could feel completely burnt out.
So what can you do for fitness during the hockey off season that is different yet beneficial?
Swimming ticks a lot of boxes. Here’s why.
Bones, Muscle, Blood & Lungs
In order to propel yourself through the water, not only do you need muscles to push and pull against the water, you need a heart and lungs to provide oxygen and blood to your limbs. Your cardiovascular system is tasked with sending oxygen to multiple places at once so you can kick, keep your core engaged and move your arms.
Low Impact Training
The hockey body takes a lot of punishment not only throughout the regular season, but in offseason skating sessions and workouts as well. It’s an impact sport that requires impactful training regimes. In the pool, however, that impact is limited to the limits of your body. Water is naturally resistant. As you pull through the water, muscles, joints and tendons share the exertion so injury is far less likely. Running in the pool, whether slow and/or fast, is beneficial for strength work. Also the pool is an ideal place to do stretching because of the buoyancy factor.
There are different approaches you can take to swimming training.
- Swimming for distance at a predetermined pace .The aim is to keep improving the distance you swim
- Swimming shorter distances but varying speed and recovery times
- Choosing different swimming strokes to work different muscle groups
- Using swimming training aids. For example using short fin flippers are designed to build leg muscle, and increase your flexibility. Training paddles add surface area to your hands. In doing so, they place increased resistance on your muscles as they work to catch and pull the water. By adding a variety of paddle-assisted drills to your workout, you can increase arm and upper body strength. You can also use resistance bands, pool boys and kick boards as training aids.
- Pool running
Those that do it as a cross training method swear by the benefits – low impact, strength building as well cardio vascular benefits depending on the type of training. For cardio benefits it’s important to keep your heart rate up or else you’re not maintaining much fitness. To do this, you implement a fartlek style workout to almost all of your pool running sessions.
These workouts are all based on effort. Ideally use three effort levels when designing your workouts: sprint (100% effort), hard (90% effort) and tempo (80%). Sprint efforts lasted 15 – 30 seconds while hard efforts lasted 2 – 5 minutes. Tempo efforts could last 5 – 10 minutes.
If you are considering pool running ensure your running technique is correct .