The warm weather months mean festivals, cookouts and long holiday weekends.
But for plenty of you, thinking about hockey doesn’t end just because summer begins. It’s a lifetime, year-round obsession, and it’s important that you stay in shape for it. And you’re in luck because Mike Boyle has several tips to improve your habits this summer.
Use Your Head
Boyle is the strength and conditioning coach for the United States Women’s Olympic Team, as well as numerous other professional and college teams. Throughout the course of our conversation, he kept returning to main points of using common sense and keeping things simple when trying to stay in shape for summer hockey.
“I think what a lot of adults do when they exercise is they don’t use any common sense at all,” Boyle says. “You realize hockey is a high-speed, sprint-oriented game, and you see people who do walking or jogging like it’s going to benefit them. Obviously those things are not going to help much.”
Boyle even sees elite hockey players training improperly, so it’s natural to see an average Joe doing the same.
“For years, we saw players who would ride stationary bikes for 45 minutes with the idea of getting in better aerobic shape. And do they do anything in a game that lasts for 45 minutes? No,” he says. “In the recreational game, maybe you’re doing every other shift, but you are certainly not doing anything continuously for an hour. Use the K.I.S.S. principle. Keep it simple, stupid. Try to get your training to prepare you for what you are actually going to do.”
Don’t walk on a treadmill. Don’t ride a recumbent bike, which Boyle calls “the ultimate in laziness” and “the lowest form of exercise.” Instead, he says, interval training is the way to go.
“What I would tell someone who wants to stay in shape for hockey is stride the length of a football field and walk the width,” Boyle says. “Or go to a track and stride the straightaways and walk the curves.”
Striding, Boyle says, is something between jogging and a sprinting—a comfortable but challenging speed that mimics the short bursts needed in hockey. An upright stationary bike can also deliver the short bursts of cardio exercise beneficial to hockey players, while a slide board helps with both explosive movements and agility.
In terms of weight training, the same rules apply: don’t just work traditional upper body areas. Work the core and the lower body as well.
“The average guy will go to the gym and not do any lower body strength training at all,” Boyle explains. “He’ll do bench, curls, sit-ups. But are any of those muscles really actively involved in a non-contact game of hockey? No, they’re not. If you’re going to go to the gym, you need to do leg work.”
Not Kids Anymore
On game days, it’s just as important to be both vigilant and practical in order to maintain health. You might think you can go straight from work or the beach to a game, but your body will tell you otherwise.
If you don’t properly train and combine that with an improper warm-up, you’re a groin pull or sprained ankle waiting to happen.
“Every year you get older, it gets more dangerous,” Boyle says. “When you’re a kid, you’re like filet mignon and when you get older, you’re like beef jerky. You’re old and dehydrated and brittle. The body doesn't do as well just jumping in.”
“Every adult player should have a foam roller in his bag and should sit down for five minutes before he goes on the ice to roll his groin muscles, take a couple minutes to stretch. But guys don’t do that. They show up late because they’re working, throw their stuff on and hop on the ice and almost use the initial parts of the game as a warm-up. We would prefer people warm up before they get on the ice.”
12 Months? Sure.
As long as you’re getting the interval training combined with proper weight training and the right warm-up routine, there’s no reason to take a break from hockey in the summer, Boyle says.
“I think it’s fine to play year-round,” he says. “You’re not in the same situation you are with a kid where you’re worried about overuse. An adult recreational player is probably playing two hours a week. No problem.”