One of the best cross-training activities I can think of is hiking. Whether it’s the famous Grouse Grind in Vancouver or any other challenging climb, hiking keeps the legs, lungs and heart in great condition. Incorporating the whole body into a cross-training program — with activities such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats and core strength exercises — is ideal for overall conditioning.
After 12 years, I still apply the principles I learned in college, and one of the most important is described by the acronym “N.A.I.L.” Hockey players in different age groups require specific types of training that have to be suitable for their Needs, Abilities, Interests and Limitations. A strength coach or trainer must know how to use N.A.I.L. before prescribing a progressive fitness program. You have to know who you are working with and what they need from a training program so they can produce results.
After the hockey season, players need a break to rest their bodies. They need to go through what’s called a re-generation phase — fixing any imbalances and correcting any posture issues or mobility and flexibility problems. Once a player has taken some time off to heal up, they should be ready to start an off-season training program.
After some due rest, athletes should enter a training phase that emphasizes strength and power before starting a conditioning phase of cross-training activities. After an athlete reaches peak power and strength, they must have adequate time to start a conditioning phase that will require a cross-training style of exercise. My top 6 cross-training activities for peak conditioning are listed below.
1. Hiking at the intensity level of the Grouse Grind or any other similar, challenging hike.
2. Swimming is not just a fun activity but it’s a great addition to any cross-training program.
3. Wakeboarding might not seem like part of a training program, but it’s fun and works on balance, so I would consider it a very important part of cross-training.
4. Running in a trail park that has exercise stations is ideal — during a run you can perform push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, planks, squats, jumps and any other full-body cross-training exercises.
5. Kayaking, canoeing and rowing are excellent for conditioning, and are great cross-training activities that are fun for the whole family.
6. Biking is one of the best cross-training activities for ultimate conditioning of the legs, lungs and heart. Whether it’s mountain biking in Whistler or long-distance biking on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, you can’t go wrong with a good bike ride.
Remember that cross-training means to incorporate a variety of activities into one program or as parts of a conditioning program. I would recommend starting a conditioning program that involves cross-training activities about eight weeks out from hockey training camp. Cross-training is not strength training, and it should be designed specifically for the demand of the sport. Athletes need overall, functional strength training that requires enough intensity to produce results during this phase.
When it comes to conditioning, hockey players need to involve cross-training activities that mimic the workload of an on-ice shift. Remember: If your on-ice shift is approximately 45 seconds, then perform a hard cross-training activity at the same intensity for about 45 seconds. This sequence can be repeated numerous times with the same activity or with a variety of activities performed back to back.
Be creative and have fun when designing your own cross-training program. Good luck!