Don’t Let These Three Things Sabotage Your Off-Season Training Success

Hockey Player Working Out

Off Season Training Has Never Been More Important 

Now that the hockey season is over, spring camps and tournaments have wrapped up and tryouts are complete, most players are taking a much needed break from the ice and jumping full speed into their off-season training programs. It’s well established among elite level hockey coaches that off-season training is critical to player development for the upcoming season. Whether your goal is to become stronger, faster, more explosive–you name it–the time to make that happen is right now—the off-season. 

Most players get a workout program given to them by their coach or a strength and conditioning coach; some follow programs they see on YouTube or stuff being taught by “hockey training experts” on social media. No matter which program you decide to follow, your results will be determined by your ability to create the optimal environment for your body to both perform and recover at maximum levels to reach your desired goals in the shortest time possible because let’s face it, the hockey off-season isn’t all that long. 

Hit the Sack to Accelerate Recovery 

For the purpose of this article, it makes no difference which program you follow or what exercises you’re doing; if done correctly and with proper resistance you will be creating a positive stimulus for your muscles and nervous system to adapt. Most athletes understand the “exercise is a stimulus” concept quite well and make sure to get in the gym when they are supposed to and get their workouts completed. The adaptation part of the process is where some athlete’s understanding begins to break down. Adaption aka “growth” doesn’t happen in the gym while you’re training—it happens while you are resting. 

Proper recovery is a must for growth to take place. Recovery requires consistent and sustained periods of quality sleep. Not only is sleep an essential component of health and well-being, but it has a significant impact on recovery, physical development, emotional regulation, cognitive performance, and overall quality of life. If you’re up all night playing video games then chances are your body is not going to recover properly to achieve the growth you desire. To the contrary, without proper sleep and recovery, your body can and will begin breaking down muscle tissue making you weaker not stronger, as well as putting you at a much higher risk for injury or illness that could completely sideline your off-season training. 

Water Isn’t Just For Cooling Off This Summer 

Another critical piece necessary for your off-season training program to succeed is hydration. As a hockey athlete you know the importance of drinking lots of water and staying hydrated when you’re on the ice. But now that you are in your off season and aren’t on the ice so much, it’s easy to start neglecting your body’s hydration needs. The type of training that you’re doing is certainly different from your on ice training but adequate water intake and maintaining proper electrolyte balance is still essential for your body to function and recover optimally. 

Water makes up a large percentage of your body and when you workout you can lose a lot of it which you need to replenish. Muscles are made up of 80% water and blood is more than 90% water. Water is the main transport agent that delivers nutrients into your cells and removes waste from them. Not only is water necessary for proper joint lubrication but muscle growth is nearly impossible when your body is in a dehydrated state. As little as a 1% depletion in hydration can adversely affect your energy, muscle endurance, strength and cardiovascular function. Unfortunately most athletes don’t experience thirst until they’re already at a 2% depletion level so don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start hydrating–it’s already too late and your body has gone into conservation/preservation mode making it much more difficult to quickly get back to full hydration.

Eat To Be Elite 

The third and arguably most important factor that will affect your off-season training program success is your NUTRITION. If you’re serious about being an elite hockey athlete, a hockey performance nutrition program is a must year round. Some hockey players are under the misconception that nutrition is only important during the season and they can take a break from eating for performance in the off-season. Nothing could be further from the truth!  

Shifting your focus to weights, plyometrics, HIIT, even playing another sport changes your body’s protein, carbohydrate and fat requirements from what they were during the season. Failing to properly adjust your nutrition to meet your body’s new demands can have a devastating effect on your progress. 

Don’t let your hard work go to waste this off-season because you’re not properly fueling your body for optimal recovery and growth. Treat your off-season nutrition just as serious as you would during the season. Keep your protein intake high throughout the day so your muscles have the building blocks (amino acids) they need to repair and get stronger from your workouts. Focus on low glycemic carbohydrates both before and after workouts to ensure your muscles have the fuel (muscle glycogen) they need to power through workouts and prepare for the next workout. Getting properly timed good fats (unsaturated fats) in your diet is essential for your joint structure, cell health and vitamin absorption. Muscle growth is also dependent on a fat-based steroid hormone, so if adequate intake of fat is not met you will not build as much muscle as possible. Don’t forget the fruits and vegetables–not only do they play a key role in hydration but they are also a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They also contain fiber which plays a key role in digestion and nutrient absorption, two functions crucial to muscle growth and recovery.  

Skip The Junk 

It goes without saying that you can’t be stuffing cheeseburgers, pizza and candy in your mouth and washing it down with soda and call yourself an athlete, but many athletes are fooled into believing that what they are eating is healthy when in fact it’s nothing more than disguised junk food that’s been cleverly marketed. As a rule, when it comes to food choices, the closer you are to a food’s natural form, the more healthy it will be. As foods are processed they are stripped of beneficial nutrients that are replaced with unhealthy additives to make them less costly, last longer and taste better. Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as simply choosing fresh over processed foods. 

Foods like cereal, smoothies, sub sandwiches, fruit juices, sports drinks, whole wheat, protein bars, fruit and veggie chips can seem like good choices but most are heavy on calories (mainly from sugars…an athlete’s worst enemy) and light on quality nutrients.

Choose carefully when you see terms like fat-free, lowfat, natural, sugar free, heart healthy, gluten free. Again, these are usually a sign that you are looking at a calorie dense food packed with sugars and chemical additives. 

Vegan and Organic are two very common words thrown around that are associated with healthy food but beware, just because a product says organic doesn’t necessarily make it any healthier if it’s still been processed and stripped of its “organic” nutrients. There are also a lot of processed vegan foods on the market, often sold as convenient substitutes for non-vegan foods. It’s important to remember that these are usually highly processed, factory-made products which are bad for almost anyone, including vegans.

By no means am I saying that some of these foods can’t be eaten in moderation, I’m just trying to make you aware so that you don’t become reliant on them for your nutritional needs. As an athlete, it’s important for you to not only read labels but also consider all of the ingredients and preparations of the foods you eat. 

It’s Time To Get To Work 

Now that you know what it takes to make your off-season training a success, your next step is to get started. Due to the limited time of the hockey off-season, there’s no time to waste and definitely no time for mistakes.  

You likely already have a workout schedule provided by your coach that you can perform at home or in some cases you may be working with a strength and conditioning coach or athletic trainer at your local rink or training facility.  

Getting proper rest and keeping your body hydrated are fairly simple things to achieve that don’t require a whole lot of resources or preparedness, No hockey athlete that is serious about off-season improvement should have a problem keeping water with them to drink  throughout the day and turning off their devices at a reasonable time in order to get a good night’s sleep.  

Not only is nutrition the most important component for off-season training success—it’s also the most difficult one to get right. Unfortunately most of the nutrition advice you get from coaches and trainers isn’t based in science but merely on what they did back in their playing days. Nutrition information on the internet or social media is even less reliable with most of it not even pertinent to hockey players–just irrelevant information modified from another sport. For a nutrition program to be effective, it can’t be generic or one size fits all. It needs to be designed for YOU—for your individual biometrics, your specific goals, your particular schedule and your personal likes and dislikes.  

When working on your nutrition program, you must be willing to invest time and resources to create a program that will be right for you. Nutrition is an on-going process that requires you to take off your hockey helmet and put on your scientist lab coat. Studying the basics, conducting research from reputable sources, willingness to test new things and always measuring and adapting are all keys to creating a successful nutrition program. Another approach that can save you a massive amount of time and money over trying to develop your program on your own, is to work with a professional hockey performance nutrition coach. A performance nutrition coach can simplify the entire process and guide you as to exactly what to eat, how much and when based on your individual likes to maximize your recovery and performance needs both off-season and during the season. 

Speed, strength, explosiveness, balance, agility and conditioning can all be greatly improved with an intelligent, consistent and structured off-season training program. Remember, working out is only one piece of the puzzle—to guarantee your success you must include proper rest, optimal hydration and a hockey specific off season performance nutrition program. Train Hard, Recover Fast, Play Faster…Be ELITE! 

Help Is Just A Click Away

Signup today for the HPN Quick Start Program to get access to all of our hockey performance nutrition resources in one easy to use app. 

You’ll get instant access to sample meal plans, recipes, training and nutrition challenges, regular nutrition discussions and performance tips and much, much more!

Once a member, you’ll be able to join exclusive groups and participate in Zoom-like age specific discussion groups, workshops and Q&A events. Attend virtual meetups with other athletes to power accountability, share ideas and motivate and inspire one another. 

Have a question that just can’t wait for the next Q&A event? You can simply use the “Ask The Coach” chat to get advice in real-time. Looking for the ultimate in personalized coaching? Schedule a weekly virtual 1on1, just you and the coach to discuss your performance nutrition plan and progress. 

Click Here To Signup

About The Coach 

Terry Knealing CFT; SPN

ISSA, NASM, USA Hockey Certified Coach

Terry Knealing is the owner and head coach at Hockey Performance Nutrition. Coach Terry has worked with a countless number of athletes from high school to the professional level throughout his 25+ year career. Coach Terry has assisted athletes from MLB, NHL, NFL, PGA, ATP, MMA, NCAA and NASCAR to improve through performance nutrition. 

Hockey Performance Nutrition takes a scientific, long term, sustainable approach to nutrition that focuses on addition not restriction. Bringing to the table an extensive knowledge of not just the game of hockey, but the hockey lifestyle, we help hockey athletes and their families create and implement simple, flexible and easy to follow meal plans We offer 1on1 and group–comprehensive, online, performance nutrition programs designed to give hockey athletes everything they need to take their game to the ELITE level.

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