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A submerged swimmer flipping over in the water.

Why Swimming is the Perfect Compliment to Offseason Hockey Training

08/05/2015, 6:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Swimming and hockey: a beautiful combination.

 

Hockey in North Vancouver never seems to stop. 

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People are obsessed with not only the game itself, but with the simple, pure feeling of those first two strides out onto a clean sheet of ice. 

Hockey players are built to constantly improve themselves, to build on their strengths while addressing their weaknesses. 

Occasionally, neither ice nor fitness centre is required. Your friendly neighbourhood swimming pool is an excellent compliment to existing offseason training programs. 

Here’s why. 

Bones, Muscle, Blood & Lungs

In order to propel yourself through the water, not only do you need muscles to push and pull against the water, you need a heart and lungs to provide oxygen and blood to your limbs. Your cardiovascular system is tasked with sending oxygen to multiple places at once so you can kick, keep your core engaged and move your arms. This complete-body training will make you faster and more agile once you get back on the ice. 

Low Impact Training 

The hockey body takes a lot of punishment not only throughout the regular season, but in offseason skating sessions and workouts as well. It’s an impact sport that requires impactful training regimes. In the pool, however, that impact is limited to the limits of your body. Water is naturally resistant. As you pull through the water, muscles, joints and tendons share the exertion so injury is far less likely. 

A Watery, Unfamiliar Habitat

Everyone knows playing hockey 12 months a year does more harm than good. Jumping into a chilly pool of water on a hot day takes the hockey player out of the rink, refreshing both the mind and the body. Hockey players are creatures of habit. Taking them out of their natural habitat develops mental strength because it shows athletes another side to training, a foreign element (literally) they need to deal with. Expanding to different areas, such as a pool, expands a person’s knowledge and intelligence, and smart hockey is successful hockey. 

Hockey players are accustomed to wearing gear from head to toe. When you swim, there’s no hiding behind a cage or a jersey - the body is on display. This can have a powerful effect on young athletes accustomed to feeling invincible when they compete. An athlete can learn a lot about him or herself when they take a good look at themselves in the mirror. 

Individual Training

Below the surface of the water, it’s impossible to hear coaches barking orders. Hockey players who swim are truly left to their own devices. There’s no one to pass pucks to and no goalie to shoot at. Hockey players have a bad habit of comparing themselves to their peers - this is difficult when you’e on your own in a pool. 

The true measure of a hockey player’s heart can only be taken when no one is looking. How hard does the player work in the summer, away from the rink, when no one is watching? Not only does swimming drown out the noise caused by expectations of the season to come, it allows the athlete a chance to train as hard as they want. 

Cruising through a swimming pool exposes hidden areas of the hockey mind and body. It’s tough, it’s challenging, it’s healthy and it’s fun. 

Oh yeah, and it’s good for hockey. 

 

photo credit: Camp Humphreys Youth Sports Invitational Swim Meet - U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea - 20 July 2013 via photopin (license)

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