GTP TV: Ep 13 – Goalie Cardio

What’s shaking? What is shaking, I say. How’s your week going so far? Welcome to Goalie Training Pro TV. This is actually episode 13, even though if you were here and keeping track, I said that last week was episode 13. I got a little excited, carried away, and I thought it was episode 13.

Sarah, my assistant, was like, “You said it was episode 13 and it was only episode 12.” I didn’t mean to embellish. I just got excited. I apologize. Please forgive me. Let’s never talk about it again.


You can find the video for this here >>
(The audio pops in the beginning but I fix it, I promise)

This is legit episode 13. It’s the episode all about cardio training for goalies. Before I get started, episode is brought to you by If you’re a goalie coach, you can put your availability, your blocks, your locations all up there. If you’re a goalie, you can see what’s available, who’s available, how much it costs. You can book your session, pay for your session, and then it’s all set up and all you guys have to worry about is getting on the ice and being awesome.


Let’s talk about goalie cardio. This is a good topic because actually one of our goalies, his coach started having him ride the bicycle for like 40 minutes after practices every single day, just because, “I think you’re a little out of shape, or you’re fat,” or something like that.

It’s like, “My weight actually hasn’t changed and I’m in better shape than I was eight weeks ago and my performance on the ice is better.” Sometimes that just happens. I’ve spent enough times with professional players, professional coaches, and still, even in the NHL, there are coaches that will just be like, “He’s fat,” and the strength coach will be like, “I know. I measure their body composition. He’s actually leaner than he was …”

It’s one of those weird things. We have to kind of try to manage it.

Sometimes people think, “Okay, yeah, coach says I’m supposed to ride the bike.” I remember I had an argument with an NHL goalie one time because (this was years and years ago) I split up his cardio into sort of two 20-minute sessions instead of one 40-minute session because we were going to do intervals.

I got a big lecture about a fat-burning zone and how you had to be in the fat-burning zone to burn fat, so let’s just right now … I’m getting so ahead of myself because I’m getting excited … Throw that out the window.

The fat-burning zone was basically… where do you see fat-burning zone? Think, in your life, “Where have I ever seen a graph of a heart rate with a red bar in the middle that says, ‘This is your fat burning zone.'” You’ve seen it at the gym. It’s on a treadmill or a bicycle or something like that.

If I said, “Yeah, you’re going to come to my gym, you’re going to work so hard that you’re probably going to barf or want to barf and that’s sort of what we’re going to need to do,” you’d be like, “Well, that’s not fun. I think I will take my money and go buy diet pills.” Something like that.

They put this fat-burning zone that’s really low, like it’s a very low threshold, which is true. That is where your body burns fat. But it shifts, they overlap, so you can’t say, “Oh, you start burning fat at this stage,” but you’ve got to be going for like an hour before your body’s really like, “Okay, let’s start metabolizing fat, just to make it easier on ourselves.”

So they put in that fat-burning zone because it’s low intensity, people can get into that fat-burning zone and sit there and plod along and watch the Young and the Restless while they do it, and then they feel good because they’re like, “I did the fat-burning zone.”

This might be politically incorrect, but I’ll say it anyway. You’ll see a lot of fat people on the treadmill, on the bike, in the fat-burning zone, AND god bless them for doing it, for being there, because there’s lots of people that should be there that aren’t, but you don’t see them getting skinny in a hurry from working in the fat-burning zone.

I think maybe the reason some coaches, “You’ve got to go for 40 minutes,” is because that’s what they did 15 or 20 years ago when they played, or that’s what the goalie did 15 or 20 years ago when they played, so that’s just what they know.

We talked about trying to say to the coach, “Okay, I’ll do cardio, but can I do interval cardio,” or some of the things we’ll talk about here, “because it’s going to benefit me more. I don’t really want to do it, but if I’m going to do something, at least I can get a little more benefit.”

So you can always try having that conversation. Sometimes you’re not going to win and sometimes you know when to pick your battles. If you’re a new kid and you’re in the pro team or college team, the coach says, “Do that,” you’re probably going to do that and not be like, “Actually, I was watching Goalie Training Pro TV and they said there’s no such thing as a fat-burning zone.”

No. Don’t do it!

The other argument I hear is, “I know goalies have to do at least 60 minutes of cardio because we’re on the ice the entire game.” Well, yeah, you’re on the ice the entire game, but you’re not skating laps. It’s not a steady state type of exercise. You’re like a repeat sprinter. So that’s the way that we need to train you.

Now… There’s a difference too because there’s training you for games as a goalie and training you for practice as a goalie. We’re talking about practice. They’re both very, very different. During a game, and this is based on heart-rate data, I’m not making it up. Also, don’t take it as a knock that I’m saying that you guys don’t work hard in a game. You’ll be like, “I get so tired in a game.” I know. I know exactly.

I’m not saying that you don’t work hard, but when we look at actual heart-rate data, and this is mostly from college and NHL-level teams, at that level, they’re not getting into the red zone. They’re not getting 90% plus of their heart rate max during games. They still have peaks and valleys, but overall, it’s actually quite a bit lower peaks and valleys than a skater, for example.

But, when you look at practice, it’s almost the opposite. They’re like sustained, they’re high, they’re working right at their threshold, because that’s the way practices run.

The good news of all the data that especially college and some pro teams are collecting, although it’s hard a little bit for pro teams because the Player’s Association, doesn’t want teams collecting those metrics and that data on them, because they think they could be used to say, “Hey, this player has worked at way too high a threshold over the last three days. They need to take a day off, or they need to do something a little bit easier.”

The players are concerned, perhaps rightly so, that a team could also look at it and be like, “Oh, last week your acceleration was this and in this game your acceleration was slower. You were dogging it, you weren’t trying hard.” Again, it gets kind of funny.

I think when we get more of this data, it will help, hopefully … Again, it’s very slow and especially slow when it comes to goalies, which is crazy because it’s like the most important position on the ice. But hopefully we can see how, geez, a lot of the energy system training for goalies during the season comes from practice. And the way we practice does not in any way reflect how they have to perform on the ice. Hopefully it will change.

So practice has sustained, peaks, upper round threshold, games, still up and down, but not really very often getting into that red zone. We need to look at that when we train.

This is what I call kind of the goaltenders dilemma. Are you training to be practice-fit or game-fit?

Well, the good news, I guess, is that the practice fitness, working at that threshold, can be helpful. Helps you tolerate that fatigue, that lactate, kind of boost your threshold, so that kind of training is looked after. Neither one requires 40 minutes of steady effort. That will be kind of the take-home message. Even when we do those practices, there’s still hills and valleys.

Basically, when we’re training goalie cardio off the ice, we use intervals, and we can use different types of intervals. We mix it up to try to get these different kinds of characteristics.

One that I like is just a Tabata interval. Tabata was a scientist who studied this type of interval training. He actually was looking at fat loss and then they went on to look at VO2 max improvements and that kind of thing. It was really promising. Basically, a

Tabata, by definition, is 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. That 20 seconds on, though, is FULL ON. It is running for your life, on, not just like, “Oh, this is hard.” It’s crazy hard, then 10 seconds very, very easy, or just stopping, or just barely moving, and you do that eight times. That’s a Tabata. Eight times, it finishes there.

I think that has value. Again, I haven’t done research on it myself, but just intuitively it’s like, I’m not a huge fan of just adding more, but I just don’t think that’s really enough to get the types of changes that we want.

What we do is we do eight of those and then a three-minute rest. Then we do six more, and a two-minute rest, and one more and then we’re done.

Even then, I’ll trick some of the players that I train online in the Turning Pro Coaching program. I’ll put it in there and I’ll be like, “Hey, how was that energy system you did yesterday?” If they’re like, “Yeah, it wasn’t bad,” then I know right away that they didn’t do it right, that they didn’t read the instruction or they didn’t push themselves hard enough.

The suggestion is, “I’m pretty fit, so it wasn’t very hard.” There’s no way, physiologically, if you’re sprinting full out for 20 second periods with only 10 seconds of rest, and you’re doing that eight times, there’s no way you aren’t maxing out your aerobic system, your anaerobic, and alactic system.

There’s no way you won’t be just completely bagged.

Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world, he runs 200 meters, he couldn’t do them and not be dead. He would get way further than we got, if we were doing it on a straight line, but he would still be just smashed. Really, at the end of that first day you probably will feel like you’re going to throw up or die. Throw up or die. That’s one way we do it.

So that gets that repeat sprint ability. But then there’s also times where the pocket is just stuck in your end, your team cannot clear it, I feel the same way at Sunday hockey. It’s like, “Would somebody please just get the puck and shoot it outside the blue line? How would that be? Just from here to there, outside the blue line, so that I can stop being dizzy and everything will get dark.”

I don’t know if you guys do this, but I’m pretty sure I hold my breath when the play is right around the net, because pretty much every time the puck goes outside the blue line and I get to just stand up, I feel dizzy, like I’m going to pass right out. Is that normal? Should I feel that way? I’m not sure.

So we want to train for that too. We could do 30 seconds at about 80% of our max intensity, then go for 15 seconds full out. Already at 30 seconds we’re fatigued, but now we’re going to push hard to go for 15 seconds as fast as we can.

Then we’re going to take our foot just a bit off the gas and go back down to 80%. Not just completely like, “Ah,” but we’re going to just cut off a little bit. That’s a minute and 15 seconds.

Even if you’re on a penalty kill or a five-on-three, not that often are you going to be just going for more than a minute and 15, taking shots without a break in play, BUT you could be. We just work the variables.

Another thing we could do, 30 seconds at 80%, then pump it up to 30 seconds at 90%, and then 15 seconds as fast as we can go. Then we would go easy for three minutes.

Then some of you would be like, “Oh, well, I don’t really feel like I need three minutes of rest.” It’s not for you, it’s not for your soul, it’s for your energy system. We want to restore that initial start-up energy system, that creatine phosphate system, so that you have that punch.

Your cardio training is all about quality and getting you going as fast as you can, as long as you can with great quality. Then when it’s pooped, it’s about easing back and letting you recover and recharge. We would even do some 60 seconds on, 120 seconds off, for a longer duration interval. We don’t really go much longer than a 60 second interval.

Then the next step would be winding those into some more functional type of training. Again, running, riding the bike, jumping rope, stairmaster, elliptical. During the season, I don’t mind some of those things. If your team practices are good, you don’t really need to to be doing a whole lot of extra energy system training. Maybe the Tabatas or something if you don’t practice that much and you don’t really get that high up and down in practice.

One of the things that’s most exhausting about being a goalie is the up and down, the stops and starts, the changes of direction, trying to see around people. We also try to integrate functional circuits like that, that could be using the same durations and varying the durations, but different things.

Maybe we would do a ladder drill for 30 seconds for coordination and what you would call foot speed. Then you might go to something like a low wide out, which looks like you stay low and then you do out and in short jumps, sort of working the inside and outside of your hips.

We might do an agility ladder drill to work on your footspeed and coordination and it’s going to be a little fatiguing, 30 seconds you’re going hard, you’re going fast, you’re moving side to side, depending on the pattern there’ll be starts and stops. Then we’re going to go low wide out, so it’s like you’re holding that low stance and your legs are burning, but you’ve got to keep going, and you learn to keep going.

Then we could do a hand-eye drill, ball on the wall, but then has a movement tied into it. You’ve seen the one that I do where I number the balls, like one and two, or one, two, three, four, whatever. You can even use ping-pong balls. You determine ahead of time, “Okay, if I get an odd-numbered ball, then I’m going to, whatever.” Maybe I’m going to shuffle to my left, put a knee down, as if I go into a VH or an RVH at the post, then come back. Don’t do an RVH and lean into it, just drop the knee and come back to centre and throw the next ball. If it’s an even number, I’ll go the other way, whatever it is.

Then you would throw the ball, and then you’re also trying to read the ball before it gets into your hand, or as soon as it gets in your hand, so you’re tracking, then you’re going to respond with a movement pattern. Then you could do that for maybe 15 seconds or 30 seconds again.

So you get that interval, it’s a little more functional, it’s never going to replace being on the ice. My life is off-ice training, but it’s never going to be better or the same. You’re always going to get on the ice and be like, “Oh my god, this is so hard.”

Live with it.

Again, don’t think you need less recovery because you’re super fit. It’s a physiological thing, so your body needs to recover. You can’t train with the speed and the quality once you get way beyond threshold.

You can do some steady state, so again, there’s a big pendulum. The pendulum is swinging back a little bit. We can’t just thrash our body every single day, which is why some of those intervals were sort of 80%, 90%, some were taking you to 100%. You need to temper it a little bit. You can’t just smash yourself everyday. “I’m just going to go out and run as hard as I can every single day.”

We’ve started using, we call it category-two workout. It’s a workout that would be, yeah, you could go to the gym and ride a bike and read a magazine. It’s very low intensity. Actually, it’s probably fat-burning zone, to be honest. It will feel too easy and you’ll want to actually go harder, but we want to just go slow at that steady pace. We use it as a recovery, but also there are some physiological benefits.

The little, teeny arteries that take fresh blood to your muscles and the little teeny veins that remove waste products, those are called capillaries and that type of training kind of increases your capillary density, so it makes it easier to collect more waste products from your working muscles, it makes it easier to deliver fresh, oxygenated blood to your working muscles. It also increases something called mitochondrial density.

If you learned mitochondria in high school, they probably described it as the powerhouse of the cell. It’s where aerobic metabolism takes place, so it’s important, too. If we get more density of those, again, we have a few more powerhouses in the muscle to deliver energy to the working muscles a little more quickly.

Lately, actually, I’ve been prescribing swimming because I think I like the flutter kick or even in the breast stroke, the whip kick on the hips. I think it gets some nice hip stabilizers. I kind of like the thoracic rotation you need when you’re doing a front crawl.

It’s non-impact. There isn’t any big abduction type movements, where it’s going to really pull on your groins in the lengthened position. And it’s just kind of a 20-minute, easy peasy, legit recovery kind of workout.

So that’s that.

I guess the final point is, remember that speed is an altogether different thing.

When we say cardio, I call it stamina, but I know you guys think of it as cardio, so that’s why I called it cardio. Speed is trained a completely different way, so don’t think that this is like, “Oh, this is how I should do any of my energy system development.”

This is just talking about your stamina development. The speed we do … Actually, I did a Goalie Training Pro TV on this. I think it might have been episode six (it’s episode 10). I did one on speed and quickness, so you can go check that out.

Otherwise, that’s Goalie Training Pro TV, legit episode 13, not the fake episode … Next week, I’ll probably be like, “Hey, welcome to Goalie Training Pro TV, episode 98.” Sorry, I can’t count very well.

I will catch you next week.

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Or if you want to wait, I’m going to send it out to my email list at some point. I’ve worked on these programs for the last three months. I’m going to share them, but I’m sharing them in the Goalie Training Lab first, so that’s where you can get them first, if you’re one of those people that likes to get things first.

Otherwise, this is Maria from I will catch you next time. Cheers!