The end of the hockey season is upon us, our bodies are starting to feel the accumulation of all the hard work put in. Mentally and physically fatigue is starting to show, now is the time to allow yourself to recover and address any niggles or injuries picked up.
Recovery is often overlooked by many athletes but is the key to making gains in physical and mental performance.
” Train smart not hard”
is something I say regularly to athletes I have worked with, especially endurance athletes. Often athletes believe that poor performance is due to not training hard enough, but often its because they don’t integrate enough recovery time into their training. Due to this athletes become stale and progress does not occur. However, by making sure recovery occurs in training on a regular basis will allow the body to adapt and adjust to the stresses placed on it during training. Further to this training volume and intensity need to also be adjusted to create stress on the body. If we did the same all the time the body would not get fitter and performance levels would not improve. This means that during the off season, in any sport, not just hockey, a good amount of recovery time needs to be scheduled in before training commences.
Once the season is finished it is okay to take a week off and not doing any physical activity. Yes you might loose some fitness but this can easily be retained in no time from a well constructed training plan. Low level activity can be reintroduced after a week to allow a gradual increase in volume with the intensity being relatively low. This begins to build a base for the rest of your fitness and it is always a good idea to build a broad endurance base. Taking up other sports like cycling or swimming are great for this. They have less impact on joints but build cardio fitness.
I slightly digress, so a bit of time out allows the mind and body to recovery from the high intensity hockey season. It reboots and refreshes the system, it is also a good time to see your sports therapist or physiotherapist, to address any injuries or niggles and allow them time to recovery.
Addressing injuries or niggles
During your down time it is good to pinpoint any injuries or niggles that have occurred throughout the season even if you feel you have recovered from them. Once pinpointed you can develop a strength and conditioning training plan, which you can implement during your off season. This will allow you to return to pre-season training with any weaknesses or imbalances addressed reducing your incidence of injury during the season.
Key areas to address in hockey players
Through my time working with hockey players I have identified three areas, that if worked on during the off season could help prevent injuries during the hockey season.
- Develop a deep core through specific exercises such as Pilates. I specifically haven’t used strengthen as developing deep core muscles is more than just strengthening them, it is often down to learning how to activate these muscles (transversus abdominis, pelvic floor and multifidus), and not using global muscles groups to perform these exercises. By developing the deep core allows the body to stabilise for any activity. This in turn allows you to develop stronger global muscles increasing global strength, power and speed. Without a well developed deep core you will sustain injuries as you increase the intensity of training.
- Work on releasing your hip flexors (Iliopsoas). So often hockey players come to me complaining their hamstrings are tight or their gluteals hurt. This is more often than not down to tightness in the iliopsoas. Hockey has a large amount of hip flexion causing the iliospoas to be in a contracted position, encouraging it to shorten. This causes anterior pelvic tilt, which subsequently puts the hamstrings on stretch as well as the gluteal muscles. This gives the perception that the hamstrings are tight when in fact they are not. In regards to the gluteals they feel tender because they are also in a stretched position. This causes the gluteals to not activate as well and therefore make it difficult to strengthen them. This creates more work for the hamstrings as they will compensate for the gluteals not activating. So the hamstrings have a pretty hard time playing hockey. By stretching and releasing the iliopsoas regularly you will keep the hamstrings and gluteals a lot happier.
- After releasing the iliopsoas the hamstrings and gluteals can then be strengthened. By doing this you will increase hip stability, reduce injury and allow a good foundation for speed and power to be built on. Including gluteal bridges and nordic hamstring curls can go a long way in reducing your injury risk.
The off season is a great time to get on top of everything so that you come back into the season stronger and better prepared that the previous one. This will help your performance and reduce your injury risk. So go out there enjoy the warmer weather and work on yourself.