Most of you are looking at the end of your hockey season in the near future or the recent past. You know you get to take some time off after the season, but do you know how much time you really should take off or do you just wait until you feel like starting to train? Let me try to shed some light on the topic.
You should take a minimum of two weeks off after the season. This does not mean you have to lie on the sofa and surf the TV channels, but it means that you will not do any structured training. Maybe you will do some mountain biking, enjoy some spring golf or play a little beach volleyball. Not only does your body need the rest, but your brain also needs a break from the structure. Imagine working your job 52 weeks a year without a vacation year after year!
What if you have injuries from the season? If you have lingering injuries from the season that you were able to play through, do not be fooled during your two hour break from training. Your injured area may feel much better, it may feel all better, but the underlying cause has not been addressed. Start seeing a qualified sport physiotherapist during this time to get a complete assessment and some treatment. They may also be able to tell you when it is safe for you to return to structured training. Please do not shortcut your rehab for the sake of getting into your heavy off ice hockey training. You would never see a Formula One racer trying to drive his car with a wheel out of alignment – that will ruin the car right? Same goes for your body; if you are trying to squat with a sore back or find a way to squat so it does not irritate your sore back, you are not fixing the problem and you are not making yourself a better hockey player.
If your season starts in September, then you should be into your off ice hockey training by May 1st. Now if you are lucky enough to be playing beyond May 1st, you still need to take time off after the season, you will just need to modify your off season calendar. I remember the year Andy McDonald won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim. My first thought was “Wow! So happy for Andy – how amazing!” My second thought was…holy crap, we are not going to be able to start training for next year until July 1st – YIKES!!
For most of you, starting your off ice hockey training May 1st will allow you to train consistently for about eight weeks and then take a long weekend off, then train another eight weeks or so and head into your try-outs/training camps. You cannot start in August and be in top shape for the season. Most players lose fitness during the season, you need to build up your strength and conditioning reservoir during the off season so you can perform throughout the entire season.
Watch for my next post where I will break down the exact components your off season training program should include.