Written by: Strength & Conditioning Coach, Mark Nemish
As the lockout drew to a close in the beginning of January it was time for all of us as coaches to get back to doing what we do best, coach our players. Along with the excitement of once again training our players, the conclusion of the lockout also brought with it some very interesting challenges. The coaching staff was faced with the challenge of implementing a new system of tactical play and I had the challenge of assessing the strength and conditioning levels of 25 or so players who were now coming back from a variety of different situations, both mentally and physically. Some of our players had been playing over in Europe and others hadn’t played a game in 7-8 months. As a strength and conditioning coach, having 1 week to get everyone in shape and on the same page to play at the start of the season was a daunting task.
While we did have a variety of strength & conditioning levels, no one player was grossly out of shape. In a situation such as this, for some players off-ice training needed to be scaled down and others slowly ramped up. For those who had been strength training regularly during the lockout, I approached the week before the season as more of a back down week as I would have if we had a normal training camp. With the main focus of getting players back into some form of NHL game shape in addition to learning a new system of play, off-ice training took a back seat to on ice activities and to recovery strategies. One of the main determiners of injury in pro sports is conditioning. Being in better on-ice shape will lead to less of a decrement in performance and thus a reduced potential for injury in the latter parts of a game.
It is important to understand that physical and mental stress all add up and contribute to a player’s overall stress that is placed on the body. During the time like we faced in the week leading up to the start of the season, management of other stressors such as off-ice training, family stress, etc. is crucial in not overtraining the professional athlete. As a result, proper sleep, nutrition, and other recovery strategies took precedent.
The weekend warrior fitness buff should also follow the same rational when it comes to his/her training. Whether we are professional athletes, work in business, or as teachers, we all go through times in which we are stressed very heavily. It is extremely important that during those stressful times you listen to your body and take the appropriate measures to not over tax yourself. When physical and mental demands are high, resources to deal with those demands must be implemented to balance things out.
More specifically, if you are going through a very stressful time with high work demands, it might be prudent to have a back down week in your own training. Cut the amount of volume you normally do in the gym by 50% or more. For example instead of spending an hour in the gym 4 days/week, cut it down to 2 days and have your workout done in 40 minutes. In addition, take relaxing baths or showers to unwind at the end of extra stressful days. Make sure that the quality of your sleep is at a high priority in addition to taking the time to eat properly. It is during these stressful times that your mental energy must be directed in planning your recovery strategies and allowing yourself to train a little less especially if you are a very dedicated weekend warrior. Dealing with stress through fitness is important, however if your volume of training is too high and it becomes another physical demand on your body during stressful periods of your life then you will end up burning out and eventually getting sick somewhere down the road. If you sometimes fall into the category of the addicted trainee, you must mentally let go of your training for a while until other stressors ease. If you can’t do this then the self-imposed stress of not going to the gym will become just another additive mental stressor contributing to your overall bodily demands!