It’s winter break for college and junior teams right now, which means many players will be returning home with hopes of celebrating, seeing family, recovering a bit, and maybe even getting a few workouts in. Personally, I have had a few athletes come up to the gym for a workout, and over these past couple of days it became abundantly clear that there is a right way, and a wrong way, to approach the winter hockey break. So, in this post I point out 3 main tips to surviving the winter break and coming out in better shape.
Continuing to train over break is one of the most important things an athlete can do to help their post break performance, and specifically their performance down the final stretch of the season. The break allows a perfect opportunity to work on aspects of performance that get particularly bogged down throughout the grind of a season. An athlete’s overall strength is probably the most important aspect of performance that is hindered during a season. A hockey season provides many opportunities to increase an athlete’s conditioning level – high tempo practices, minutes played in a game – as well as lots of opportunities to become more explosive – repeated sprints, stops and starts. The nature of in-season workouts in that they must be quick and efficient, and thus focus on rehab/prehab, recovery, and explosiveness. Strength is a piece that is left out because of it’s toll on the body and the slightly higher chance of injury (think heavy squat compared to squat jump) that comes with strength based exercises. Winter break often features a full week or more without a competition or structured practice, allowing the perfect opportunity to get under a heavy load and push it for 3-4 reps. Including heavy loads on major exercises (squats, deadlifts, bench, pullups) in your winter break workout will do wonders to keep your body strong through the remainder of the season. Strong bodies can produce greater force (explosiveness) and absorb more force (injury prevention).
The winter break means athletes returning home to their families, and parents doing what they do best when their son or daughter returns home – feeding them. There are many opportunities to completely throw healthy eating out the window during winter break. Ham, pie, and cookies are just a few of those opportunities. However, it is important to keep in mind that diet is a huge piece of recovery, and even though it’s day 4 or 5 of break, the body is still recovering from the grind of the season. Complete recovery is a long process, and in certain circumstances can take weeks before it is achieved. Remember to utilize the 80-20 rule when gorging on the feasts of winter break. Make 80% of your food intake healthy and within the bounds of your high performance eating diet, and feel free to splurge a bit on the remaining 20%.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY
Winter break is the perfect time for some recovery and relaxation. Winter break is also time to see friends and family. Make sure those two aspects have a happy marriage. Getting together with friends and family is fun, but it should not be done at the cost of ruining your body. Prioritize sleep, as it is maybe the most important aspect to recovery. After logging 8+ hours every day (learn more about sleep here), feel free to go about being a social butterfly and enjoying the break. Just, take it easy when going out with friends, and don’t do anything that may jeopardize the remainder of your season. Going big mountain skiing with buddies may sound like an awesome time, but if you are not a good skier is risking injury worth it? Celebrating your friend’s 21st birthday can be a great time, but is it worth pillaging your body (not to mention drastically increasing recovery time) with excessive alcohol? Winter break offers the perfect time to step away from the game for a few days, refresh and refocus your mind, and come back with a renewed energy to finish out season. However, in the midst of your break, make sure you do not throw away all that you have worked for. Have fun, but take care of your body, and it will take care of you during the second half of the season.