How To Have Your Best Off-Season Ever (almost too late)

How To Have Your Best Off-Season Ever

If you have ever been an athlete, you are familiar with the quote ‘Failure to prepare is preparing for failure’ or something to that effect.  It applies not only to sport, but to most things in life.

The only way to have your best season ever is to have your best off-season ever and for you skaters out there who are still ‘thinking’ about how hard you are going to work this summer, you are quickly running out of time.

So what are the key ingredients to having your best off-season ever?

I am going to assume you already have the right off-ice training program or a hockey strength and conditioning coach that you work with on a regular basis.  That of course is the key ingredient.  So beyond THAT, here is what you need…

You need to show up ready to work every day.  Walking through the doors of the gym does not instill magical powers to your legs, it will not chisel out your mid-section and it will do nothing to your stamina.

I remember a player I trained years ago.  When I first started working with him I was pumped! As a teenager he was about 6’1” with broad shoulders and he probably weighted 200lbs at the time (before we even started training.  He was quick too!

I knew we could easily add 10+lbs of pure muscle to his frame and improve his movement efficiency and stamina – it was a no brainer, this kid was going to have a career in hockey.

Then we started training…

There were mirrors all over the gym where he trained with the rest of the HockeySTRONG group (before I had the RevCon gym), so I could literally see around the corners by using the mirrors.

I would see him standing there holding the dumbbells at his sides, looking over his shoulder for me to come around the corner when he would then start to grimace and actually do the exercise “fouuuur, fiiiiive, siiiiiixxxxx – whew! That was tough”.  This is not an exaggeration.

So after a couple days I said “Joe, I can see you standing there doing nothing until I come around the corner and then you do a few reps.” I thought the kid would be so embarrassed that he would stop and get down to business.  Nope – he kept doing it.  He was an early cut from training camp and never went on the level he should have played at.

He did not show up ready to work. 

It isn’t even enough to just go through the workout.  I cannot tell you how many emails I get from athletes who start one of my hockey training programs telling me that the workout was too easy for them, they hardly even broke a sweat.

Well, I know that almost all of my off-ice programs start with something like a 3 or 4 second eccentric Split Squat for 12-15 reps on each side.  You go give that a try with a good weight (keeping strict form and tempo) and tell me how easy that is for you.  I will wait…

…that’s right… it is brutally hard when you show up to work, rather than just meet the minimum requirement.  Show up ready to work.

Take Care Of Your Body

Think of your body as a Formula One race car.  They would never even take one of those out of the garage if the wheels weren’t perfectly balances and the engine perfectly tuned.

If you are feeling a squeak or tweak or strange tightness that wasn’t there before, then go get it checked out.  It is well worth the investment even if the physio tells you – ‘you just need to stretch this muscle a little more and give that one a little more strengthening’ – the alternative is letting it go until one day either soon or in the future you get the dreaded ‘paaaaTOING’ which is typically accompanied by stabbing pains and many uttered curse words!  Then there is time missed from training or games and much misery.

Take care of little things before they become big things.

Train Like Goldilocks

Not too much, not too little, just right.

Some athletes pride themselves on training for 3-hours per day in the gym.  That is not necessary; in fact it is counter-productive.

You can put in 6-hours per day working on your craft if you wish, but your time in the gym should be limited to 60-90 minutes.  If you are taking longer than that, my suspicion is that you have either pieced together your own training program from ‘stuff you have read online’ or your trainer is taking a shot-gun approach to your training.

The goal in the gym is to find the minimum effective dose.  If I can accomplish the task with seven exercises, there is no benefit to doing 12 exercises.

Get in, do your work (without sending your cortisol through the roof) and move on.  You can spend extra time working on your stickhandling, skating technique, doing yoga, watching film of successful players, etc.

If you are 16 years of age or older and looking to play at a high level then you should be training 5-6 days per week minimum.

Sleep Like A Beauty

Your body does not get stronger when you are training – PERIOD.  In the gym, you are actually tearing down your muscle and causing damage.

It is when you leave the gym and get rest that your body can repair the damage. Just to be sure it makes the repair a little stronger than last time, which is how we get stronger over time.

If the rest is missing, then the repair does not happen and instead of getting stronger and stronger, you get weaker and weaker and likely start getting recurring injuries.

You cannot train like an athlete and live like a rock-star.  It won’t work.

Eat Like The Athlete You Plan To Be

We all had a friend growing up who ate three Big Macs and a large chocolate shake as his pre-workout meal.  He had a chiseled physique – he was (or is) your role model 🙂

Those of us who are over 40 and bump into that guy at the grocery store, know that the good times will not last…

So eat like the athlete you plan to be – eat like Sidney Crosby.  Does this mean taking stacks of supplements?  No.

It means eating real food, preferably food you have prepared yourself with ingredients that are recognizable, that you could grow yourself.

I have no problem with a protein and carbohydrate shake during or after workouts and perhaps in the morning for teenage players who really do have trouble getting in enough calories to support their training, but otherwise load up on lean protein – fish, chicken, pork – veggies, fruit and water.

I bumped into an athlete the other day a few hours after his workout and asked – did you get some food into your muscles?  “Yep” he said, “I had a turkey burger” Okay; that could be fine.  Then I asked if he had any vegetables with that…”Yep, um, well, I put a slice of tomato on it” – – not exactly what I had in mind.

I would have liked to see him have a turkey burger, maybe another plain turkey patty, a sweet potato, rice or quinoa and some raw veggies (it is summer as I write this and the veggies are great).

So constantly ask yourself WWSCE…What would Sid Cros eat?

Record Your Workouts

This is what successful athletes do.  It helps you document your progress and it helps you know where to start next year, see what worked and what needs fine-tuning.


Model what other successful players do – not your peers, but the ones who are truly great at the game, the Steven Stamkos’, Sidney Crosbys, Jonathon Toews


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