This pre-season hockey tune-up will help get you ready for your season
By Evan Tabachnick
(This article was previously published in September 2017. The updated version appears below.)
The “official” start of the hockey season is almost upon us. Here’s what every hockey player should do to prepare for the new season.
If those summer barbecues caused you to put on a few pounds, now’s the time to trim 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.
Diet When you know you’ll be less active, avoid those simple carbohydrates. If you work a 9 to 5 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.
The reverse is equally important: Don’t skimp on carbs on game days (I tell this to my hockey player dad 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, etc.
Exercise Get some cardio in. This doesn’t necessarily mean you must stick to cardio 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 (personally, I can’t stand running on the treadmill or biking for any longer than the recommended minimum of 15 to 20 minutes—I just find it so boring). 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 very low in general. You may also find that they offer some of the same benefits of camaraderie and networking, which DO exist outside of hockey!
From personal experience, for a good pre-season hockey tune-up I’d also recommend that all hockey players try rock climbing (if you have the means). While not necessarily the cheapest hobby (still much cheaper than hockey!), each and every muscle in the body is worked individually, including the brain. The mental challenge of “solving problems” 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 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!
Weight Training Always a plus for those who play hockey, for some of the reasons mentioned above. Of course, body-weight (calisthenics) workouts will do fine as a pre-season hockey tune-up, as they are also seen as much safer 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.
Helmet Check for proper fit, cracks, loose screws, etc.
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 $200 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.
Pads Be sure your shin guards, shoulder pads, and elbow pads can still provide you with the proper protection you need.
Skates Check for proper fit, excessive wear, and unraveling laces. Also check rockers for cracks or loose rivets. And get those blades sharpened!
Evan Tabachnick works in the sports industry. He plays on two teams, year round.
Before undertaking any fitness regimen, check with your healthcare provider.