The first week of training has come to a close, and a successful week it was. Everyone who tested on Monday, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. You were part of the 80 athletes who tested that day. Let’s rehash that, 80. 80. 80. Now, I don’t know this for certain, but I’d be willing to bet that Monday was the single biggest testing day we have ever had…… and I’m not a betting man, so you know what that means (note: combines excluded). Wednesday and Thursday saw the first two workouts of the year, and as far as I’m concerned, they did not disappoint. I feel as though everyone learned a good amount on Wednesday and Thursday. Whether it was technique cues, new exercises, how much you can push yourself, or how out of shape you are, there was enough learning to go around a few times.
A few highlights of the week:
The squat technique of the group as a whole was awesome
Conditioning day 1 was a success, lots of sweat and heart left in the weight room yesterday – for those who had the sleds, you killed it. For those who did not do the sleds yet, your time is coming.
Lots of haircuts happened this week – if this was one of you, congrats, you are no longer a heathen.
Getting back on topic, I had a lot of questions on when we will start using weights, and when workouts will start to be really tough and challenging (outside of the conditioning, of course). I spoke with some who asked, but this post is all about clearing up why we are doing what we are doing.
As a strength and conditioning coach, I have two main jobs.
1) Get athletes ready for the upcoming season
2) Do so without hurting any athlete, or putting them into a position where they will more than likely get hurt when the season starts.
Those are not necessarily in the correct order, but they are my main two jobs. The both follow the same principle of the more an athlete trains, the bigger the gains will be. It is imperative then, that I keep all my athletes healthy because they (you!) cannot afford to miss any time in the off-season rehabbing an injury. I believe Sweet Brown said it best.
Starting slow and light with the off-season workouts is the best way to keep athletes healthy during the training season. Why? For a couple of reasons.
1) An athlete is completely detrained and overreached after a season.
The hockey season is long and grueling by itself. Combine that with the cold winter weather and the grind of school and you have yourself a trifecta of stress. All of that stress wears on the body, like rust on a pole. Eventually, the rust becomes too much and completely eats away at a spot on the pole, causing it to break. During the season the stress wears away at your body, and makes it weaker and weaker. In-season training is performed to slow down this process, but it cannot completely stop the wearing away of your body. At the end of the year your body is at its breaking point. Spring testing scores are a great example of this. Almost every athlete is going to test lower at the very beginning of the off-season than at the end. And yes, much of that is attributed to hard training during the off-season, but some of the gain is because an athlete is not exhausted and overreached at the end of the off-season. Upper level athletes often take 2 weeks or more off after the season to simply rest. They do this simply because they are exhausted, and rest is the best thing they can do.
2) Bad habits develop during the season
Another reason for starting slow is that it offers a perfect time to work on the little things, like technique and muscle activation. We can’t lift heavy weights without frying our bodies, but we can nail down form, make sure our muscles fire correctly and make sure the right muscles are firing when they should. Perfecting these small tasks seems minimal, but it will make a world of difference when we start to lift heavy later on in the year. When your body moves the way it should, it moves faster and more forceful while working less hard. Higher efficiency=higher performance.
3) Building a base
Being detrained and overreached is a fancy way of saying “out of shape,” (many of you found that out this week). This means that the amount of stress our body can handle is minimal. In general, increasing the amount of stress our body can handle is a good thing. It will lead to being able to perform longer, more intense workouts. As you can imagine, if you can train longer and harder, you will see bigger gains. It’s the principle of, you get out what you put in. For that reason, we need to dedicate a good amount of time at the beginning of the season on re-building our base. Our base is considered how good of shape we are in, meaning how good is our aerobic conditioning. Having a good base is synonymous with being in good shape, and vice versa. Conditioning becomes keys at the start of the off-season as it allows us to build up our base and get in good shape. Think of your training as a pyramid. The most vital part of the pyramid is the base, it’s what the rest of the pyramid relies on for support. Our base helps our body recover after workouts and injuries, and it allows us to repetitively perform at a high level.
Patience with off-season workouts is key. After all, Rome was not built in a day.